Climate: Rainy during the summer months (December to March). Sunny from May to September, although showers can occur. Maximum temperatures reach 27°C, while it is rarely colder than 11°C.
Access: A train service leaves Cusco every morning for the Machu Picchu railway station. It is a scenic train journey lasting four hours. Cusco also runs helicopter flights that can reach the citadel in 30 minutes.
Located in the department of Cusco, covering an area of 32 592 hectares, the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary protects unique species of flora and fauna, as well as featuring some breath-taking landscapes and preserving the archaeological sites to be found here. Much of the beauty and enchantment of Machu Picchu, Peru's premier tourist attraction, is due to its spectacular natural surroundings: the cloud forest region of this historic sanctuary.
Machu Picchu is home to some striking species, such as the cock-of-the-rocks (Peru's national bird) and the spectacled bear, the only bear species in South America. The area is also inhabited by the rare dwarf deer called sachacabra and the Huemal deer, plus more than 300 bird species. The area boasts a large variety of flora species, with some 200 species of orchids registered here to date.
Towering over the area is Mount Salkantay (6,271 meters), the highest mountain in the Cordillera Vilcanota range, worshipped by the locals as an apu mountain spirit. Machu Picchu combines a spectacular natural setting with the attraction of the world's most famous pre-Hispanic sites.
The ancient Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu is the star attraction of Cusco. Discovered in 1911 by US explorer Hiram Bingham, the citadel is deemed one of the world's finest examples of landscape architecture. Machu Picchu ("old mountain" in Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas) nestles on top of a mountain saddle high above the Urubamba River in the middle of the cloud forest. It was both a center of worship and astronomic observatory as well as the private retreat of the family of Inca ruler Pachacútec.
Machu Picchu Citadel is split into two major areas: the agricultural zone, made up of terracing and food storehouses; and the urban zone, featuring the sacred sector, with temples, squares and royal tombs which have been carved to an extraordinary degree of perfection. The stone staircases and canals are found throughout this unique archaeological site. Over the citadel looms Huayna Picchu ("young mountain" in Quechua), which can be climbed up a steep stone-paved trail.
Machu Picchu's location, at the heart of the Urubamba Canyon, was ideally chosen. Its construction was obviously well planned and carefully designed to be part of the environment. It is the result of different unique experiences, where nature and human work meet and successfully merge. Its uneven topography was transformed into terraces with agricultural and urban aims in mind, blending with their surroundings. However, some two dozen rocks were placed to represent the surrounding topography.
Due to its impressive buildings and gorgeous natural surroundings, Machu Picchu is among the seven "wonders of the world".