Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the 1400s about 80 years before the Spaniards plundered Cusco, the Inca capital, in 1533. It is thought it was built for the great Inca Pachacuti, and a self-sustaining population lived there for many years. After the Spanish conquest, it was abandoned but, unlike the other Inca cities, which were largely demolished by the Spaniards, this legendary site was never found and remained hidden in the mountains until 1911 when it was rediscovered by the American historian, Hiram Bingham. After two years of excavation, the full wonder of the city was revealed but its inaccessibility meant that it was visited very little during the first half of the 20th century. However, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
We arrived in thick cloud and were unable to appreciate the famous vista from the Sun Gate. However, the next day, after a rest in a very agreeable hotel, we were able to explore it in relatively clear air. Although it is at 2430m, it was quite easy to negotiate after the rigours of the Inca Trail. On the bus back, a Japanese lady showed me her passport - she was 85 and had just spent the day there, so if anyone wonders if they will struggle, take heart!! It helps to be acclimatised to the altitude but as you can walk around at your own pace, it isn't too difficult.