Local News

August 15, 2009

The Lost City of the Incas

Machu Picchu offers breathtaking glimpse into Inca past


Most visitors to Machu Picchu fly into Lima, then connect by air to Cuzco. From there, trains go to Aguas Calientes. Rail options range from low-budget to the luxury Hiram Bingham Train. Sanctuary Lodge stands adjacent to Machu Picchu itself; all other accommodations are down at Aguas Calientes.

Tours can be arranged in Cuzco and Aguas Calientes, but we opted to make our plans well before departure through Southwind Adventures in Littleton, Colo.

One can also approach Machu Picchu via a hike on the Inca Trail. Trains allow passengers to disembark at trailheads for three-day and one-day treks.

The majority of visitors leave from Cuzco in the morning for Machu Picchu, then return that afternoon. Don't do that. There's simply so much to see and absorb.

Advance reading pays off. John Heming's "The Conquest of the Incas" provided the necessary background for the trip. Subsequent scholarship has shown flaws in some of Hiram Bingham's speculations, but it's worth experiencing Machu Picchu's discovery through his still-in-print book, "The Lost City of the Incas."

— Richard Frost

When former colleague Duane Record urged me to put Machu Picchu on my lifetime to-do list, I hardly knew anything about it.

Now that we've traveled to Peru, South America, and seen this remarkable site, I can report that few visions are more indelibly etched into my mind.

My grasp of South American history was admittedly weak. I did vaguely remember how Francisco Pizarro and his group of Spanish conquistadores arrived in Peru about 1530. I didn't realize how developed a society they found in the Incas.

Over the previous century or so, the Incas had conquered or annexed multiple other native tribes. It's estimated that the land under Incan rule matched the extent of the Roman Empire. When the Spanish arrived, they found a stone-paved road system encompassing more than 3,000 miles, many small villages and a formidable capital in Cuzco, an agricultural system of remarkable sophistication and an absence of poverty or slavery.

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