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Powerful Places: Machu Picchu, Peru

By December 8, 200913 Comments
by Val Khislavsky

Design inspiration can be found right outside your door, but it’s always fun to travel and discover new landscapes, like Peru’s famous Inca site, Machu Picchu.

An early morning view of Machu Picchu. Photo: Val Khislavsky.

Don’t get me wrong–as a New Englander, I welcome the change of the seasons, but the end of November is objectively not the best time of year. Thankfully, as we descend into winter, the southern hemisphere prepares to welcome summer, so it was a perfect time to head to Peru and take in everything a new landscape has to offer.

Upon arriving, I met up with my college friend Sam in the city of Cusco, a popular starting point for hikers setting off on the Inca or other trails to Machu Picchu, the civilization built in the 1400s and untouched by the Spanish during their conquest of the Incas. After taking a few days to acclimate to the altitude, we took off on the 5-day Salkantay Trek to the famous Inca site.


Scenes from the trail: mountains in the mist, a gate along the way, and the swollen river raging on.
Photos: Val Khislavsky.

Along the way, we saw some of the many faces of the Andes: variations in climate ranging from snow-capped glaciers to papaya and banana groves, rushing mountain rivers swollen from spring snow melt, Andeans comfortably going about their daily errands at altitudes that made our hearts race, and a wide variety of colorful plants that greeted us along the trail. There’s something to be said for the “it’s about the journey–not the destination” cliché.


A few of the flowers and plants we came across. Photos: Val Khislavsky.

Early on the morning of the fifth day, we left the town of Aguas Calientes and set out to be one of the first groups let in to Machu Picchu. As we ascended the seemingly infinite number of steps to the site entrance, the day broke and revealed the figures of tremendous mountains shrouded in mist–quite a site to see! The clouds and rain lingered for most of the morning, dashing our hopes for a perfect photo, but also imparting a sense of serenity amidst all the tourist activity.

Terraces once used for growing crops, intricate stone work, and a local llama mingling with tourists.
Photos: Val Khislavsky.

The sun finally did break through later that day, but by then we were soaking wet and slightly disheartened, and had decided to return to town. We contemplated taking a bus back up to Machu Picchu just to get a few nice photographs, but knew that even those would not do the site justice. As with any powerful landscape, the experience of being there is more meaningful than any photograph we could have taken.

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Bill Sumner says:

    I’m very jealous! I don’t think I could do the hike up. Hopefully there will be a bus when I go. Nice photos!

  • stacy abernathy says:

    My sister and I backpacked the Inca Trail years ago, before you needed permits. Had sunrise breakfast at the Sun Gate. Clouds parted and there was the traditional view of MP…It’s big. And those lovely clouds! So unique to South America.

  • Lisa Bailey says:

    Thank you for the inspirational armchair travelling on a sloppy, snowy New England morning! I hope to go to Machu Pichu too!!

  • Frederick J. Perez says:

    What an incredible part of the world. God’s handiwork,the master designer,is just awe inspiring. Glad you had this great experience and get away.

  • martha schwartz says:

    Great photos and commentary, Val. You put me right back up there, even though I rode the train instead of walking it. I agree that it’s the experience and lingering memory, not the photos, that truly matter.

  • Margie Moreau says:

    I can not tell you how proud we are of you! This article and photos are amazing. We are fortunate to have been there 4 times now and are in awe each time. You have captured so much and so well! I am forwarding this to Chad. With love and hugs to you…

  • Bill Healy says:

    Thanks for sharing your impressions of Machu Picchu. I loved your photo of intricate stone work.

  • Val says:

    Thank you all for your comments–it’s fun to be able to share this experience with you! Machu Picchu, and Peru in general, is worthy of anyone’s “places to go” list. And yes, Bill, there is a bus you can take (although I’m sure you’d do fine walking up)!

  • GrandUncle David says:

    Hello Val! As a former tourist, I’ve enjoyed the miracle of transition back in time into the world of mountain trails, which became possible through viewing the photos and reading your expressive brief comments. Wishing you a happy, progressive, and healthy New Year, yours David and Raia.

  • Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing places in the world, so it is considered one of the 7 Wonders . some say they lost city of the Incas, but you must visit this amazing Inca citadel to see its majesty.

  • Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing places in the world, so it is considered one of the 7 Wonders . some say they lost city of the Incas, but you must visit this amazing Inca citadel to see its majesty

  • Inka Trail says:

    Tickets to Huaynapicchu and Machupicchu Mountain are limited by the Peruvian Culture Institute.