While living overseas for a few years, I managed to cross off most of the places on my travel “wish list.”  I could have crossed all of them off, but I deliberately left a few on there.  After all,   part of traveling is working towards the goal of visiting somewhere–budgeting, planning, and making it happen.  I wanted to leave some unattained goals to work towards later in life.  I also wanted to leave a few places on the list to–hopefully–visit one day with my husband, whether on our honeymoon or a special trip with our future kids (yes, I’m planning on raising little Texan/Coloradan/internationally minded whipper snappers).

Machu Picchu isn’t #1 of the places remaining on my travel “wish list,” but it comes in at a close second.  (For those of you curious about the #1 place, well, some of you already know–but if you don’t, all shall be revealed in time).

I first fell in love with Machu Picchu while studying and traveling around South America back in 2008.  I loved Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, but I wanted to make a point to head up to Peru and see the incredible ancient Inca city that has long fascinated travelers.  I couldn’t find anyone to go up to Peru with me, however, and my Spanish teacher at the language institute in Santiago, Chile, told me, “Mm, no es una buena idea que vayas sola alla.”  It wasn’t a good idea for me to go there alone, she stressed, and even though I was dying to see Machu Picchu, I decided to keep it on the list and hope that whoever I married one day would go there with me. (I knew Leon was game when his response was to chuckle and say, “Of course you want to go there.  Cool. We can hang out with the llamas”).

On July 24, 2011, Machu Picchu celebrated the centennial anniversary of its official discovery.  Now, many historians claim that the city was discovered before 1911, but there is still a longstanding debate about when it was discovered and who discovered it.  In the meantime, July 24, 1911, is the celebrated date.  I didn’t know this, but a Yale professor named Hiram Bingham III is credited with discovering Machu Picchu and became the source of inspiration for the famous movie character Indiana Jones.

Machu Picchu, even in pictures, is breathtaking.  You can imagine the proud Inca people still there, cultivating the land with engineering genius that we wouldn’t have imagined to exist back then.  Apparently archeologists still can’t figure out what the city was used for–some say that it was a royal estate of the Inca king Pachacuti, and others say that it might have been a sacred religious site.

To get to Machu Picchu (not that I’m sketching out travel plans yet…), it does take effort.  Machu Picchu is accessible from the city of Cusco, Peru, which can be reached most easily through Lima, the Peruvian capital.  According to Peruvian tourism sites, it is best to take a three-hour train ride from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo), then hop on a bus for about 20 minutes to the ruins.  There are some really cool looking hotels to stay at in Aguas Calientes–According to Tripadvisor.com, the top ranked hotels to stay at while visiting Machu Picchu are the SUMAQ Machu Picchu Hotel, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, and Machu Picchu Santuary Lodge.  All are pretty pricey, so another option would be to stay somewhere in Cusco if you wanted to save more money to pick up some local Peruvian crafts.

Happy anniversary to Machu Picchu–I hope to see you soon.