1 March 2018

Machu Picchu

I have wanted to go to Machu Picchu for as long as I can remember.  It's been very high up my (very long) bucket list, for a very long time, so when we were in Peru last May, there was only one place I wanted to be when I turned 30.

Travel Bucket List - Emma Louise Layla at Machu Picchu - lifestyle & travel blog

We left the charming city of Cusco and hopped on a direct train with glass ceilings and excellent views as we slowly crawled up the mountain.  Three and a half hours later, we pulled into Aguas Calientes, the small mountainside town at the base of Machu Picchu. We were met on the platform by a friendly porter to collect our bags and walk us to our hotel, as there aren't any cars up there, apart from the buses taking everyone up to MP.

Cusco to Machu Picchu train in Peru - lifestyle & travel blog

We stayed at the award-winning five star Sumaq Hotel, which has smart rooms mixing the modern with the traditional: chic dark wood, rich leather chairs, plush claret furnishings, golden lighting and marble bathrooms.  Our room had fantastic, unspoilt views overlooking exotic flora, the forest, and the Urubamba river with its rocky boulders and natural hot baths which gave the town its Spanish name - with no cars, it's so quiet there and falling asleep to the sound of the babbling river each night was blissful.

Sumaq luxury hotel at Aguas Calientes, Peru - lifestyle & travel blog

On my birthday, we woke up early to beat the crowds and get the first bus up to Machu Picchu, which slowly snaked upwards, veering unnervingly close to the zig-zagging edges.  As soon as we arrived, we marched straight towards the entrance of Huayna Picchu, the towering mountain tipped in clouds standing 2,720 metres tall overlooking the valley, and started the ascent.  The way up had some pretty gnarly sections with steep steps and slippy paths without handrails (we had muddy hands from practically climbing up some parts), but the breathtaking views made it all worthwhile.  After hiking to the top, we clambered back down, ready to explore one of the seven wonders of the modern world...  Not even the rain could dampen our spirits.

Wonders of the world - Machu Picchu, Peru - lifestyle & travel blog

Machu Picchu is a 15th century Incan citadel built high up in the Andes mountains, which was abandoned during the Spanish Conquest, and only rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham.  The 'lost city of the Incas' is a series of buildings made with sophisticated dry stone walls, originally built as a royal estate.  It's an icon of Inca civilisation, UNESCO World Heritage listed, and one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Travel Bucket List - Machu Picchu - lifestyle & travel blog

After a couple of hours discovering little pathways, steps, huts, temples and tombs, we had lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge just outside the gates and finished with zesty pisco sours before getting the bus back down to reality.  Later that afternoon, I had a post-hike massage at the Sumaq spa before going for wander in the town - it was pretty touristy, with a main square filled with backpackers, gift shops and market stalls, so we went back to relax at the hotel.

Chandon sparkling wine at Sumaq, Aguas Calientes, Peru - lifestyle & travel blog

We toasted the last night of my twenties and first night of my thirties in the sleek hotel bar with a bottle of Chandon, the sparkling wine from Argentina by the South American subsidiary of Mo√ęt & Chandon (it's a good old world-style fizz, made in the traditional method with golden bubbles and a champagne taste).  Each night, we ate dinner in the polished restaurant, with friendly staff serving a varied menu of creative Andean cuisine.  The fresh ceviche made with local river fish was particularly good.  And the causas.  I'd really recommend staying here - it's the only luxury hotel in the area, so if you're visiting Peru's #1 attraction, there's only one place to stay!  Machu Picchu: you were surreal, mysterious, and as incredible as I'd hoped.  What a memorable birthday.  Next stop on our Peruvian tour: the Sacrey Valley...

Sumaq Hotel, Avenida Hermanos Ayar, Machu Picchu, Peru
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