By Elizabeth Gregory
The ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru has been on my "must see" list since I was little and first saw the pictures of it. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to finally see them. In all honesty, pictures do not do them justice. Going from Cusco, it is about a 3-4 hour train ride. Why so long? You're actually going around the bases of the huge mountains in the Andes. There are different classes of trains which range in price and comfort. My train was the "backpacker train" and was pretty basic. Although I must admit it reminded me of an old version of what the orient express train must have looked like in its heyday (complete with small crystal chandeliers overhead and drapes on the windows).
After exiting the train, you walk a little ways to a bus that takes you up the mountain where the ruins are. Up steep switchbacks you climb until you reach the top. There you will depart from the bus and hike to the entrance. When I went, it was rainy out and we were up in the clouds practically.
Once inside, the views were spectacular. The grass was so green and alpacas were sitting on the lawn just enjoying the peacefulness. Although the tour group itself was rather large, the leader was very informative and kept the tour interesting. The ruins are quite extensive and it's hard to believe that this was once an entire city perched on a mountain.
I absolutely loved this experience. It was one of the most magical, breathtaking combinations of natural and man-made beauty I have ever seen.