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The top tourist destination not only in Peru, but all of South America, is the mountain-top Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. At these ruins recovered from the jungle during the early 20th century, archaeological excavations have raised as many questions as they have answered. Why this ancient stone city was abandoned remains a mystery, but the spectacle is awesome. Even if you don't catch a sunrise from the Intihuana ("Sun Gate"), a tour of the ceremonial baths, temples, and sacred plaza are a must-do. Most tourists arrive in Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) via a scenic rail trip or after trekking the crowded Inca Trail, both journeys ...

The top tourist destination not only in Peru, but all of South America, is the mountain-top Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. At these ruins recovered from the jungle during the early 20th century, archaeological excavations have raised as many questions as they have answered. Why this ancient stone city was abandoned remains a mystery, but the spectacle is awesome. Even if you don't catch a sunrise from the Intihuana ("Sun Gate"), a tour of the ceremonial baths, temples, and sacred plaza are a must-do. Most tourists arrive in Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) via a scenic rail trip or after trekking the crowded Inca Trail, both journeys that start from the Sacred Valley. Back in the valley, the colonial town of Pisac is famous for its own Inca ruins and its Sunday market. The agricultural terraces of Moray and salt pans of Salinas are worth a detour. But it's the courtyards and cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo — continuously inhabited since the 13th century — that charm. Look into mountain biking, river rafting, horseback riding, and hot-air ballooning trips around the valley.

Sara Benson
About the Expert

Sara Benson was the coordinating author for Lonely Planet's Peru and wrote the Peru chapter for South America on a Shoestring.

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Sara Benson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late May through early September