There are many spectacular sights in Peru: pink river dolphins splashing in the Amazon River, cultural festivals with elaborate costumes in Cuzco, and an aerial view of the massively mysterious Nazca Lines. But the Peru experience that lingers in my mind took place during a quiet morning at none other than Machu Picchu.
On this particular day I’d risen before dawn and entered the ancient citadel under the cover of darkness. A sea of mist surrounded the site, seeping between stone structures and hiding all other visitors from sight. Turning left and away from the main ruins, I followed the twisting stone path toward the Sun Gate, which is where the Inca Trail meets Machu Picchu. The Incas called this gateway Intipunku.
For me, the 45 minute inclined walk was undeniably spiritual; I was overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and natural majesty. With the mist obscuring any sign of the ancient complex below, I was alone in the semitropical mountain range, 8,000 feet up in the air and followed only by swirling whispers of the long-lost Incan inhabitants who built this mysterious refuge half a millennium ago. After completing the Inca Trail, a trekker waits at the Sun Gate for the mist over Machu Picchu to disperse.
The Sun Gate is a small ruin, surrounded by mini terracing, that straddles two sides of the mountain: one side offers panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the looming Huayna Picchu, while the other side gives day-visitors a taste of the lush Vilcabamba mountain range. It is also the best place in Machu Picchu to watch the sun rise.
Sitting on the cold stones, so carefully placed by ancient architects, I watched as the sun began to break through the morning’s vapor. Slowly, the veil raised and the outlines of Machu Picchu solidified. The touch of the sun’s morning rays tantalizingly revealed the citadel piece by piece until the entire complex blazed with a golden hue.
A simple sunrise might not sound magnificent in comparison to everything else Peru has to offer. But I guess you had to be there.
To experience for yourself the morning mysteries of Machu Picchu, check out our Mach Picchu & Peru tours here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.
Thanks to Steve Upton for the title image of this blog.