There are times when you just need to get out and away from it all. Especially now when you’re stuck inside for long periods, wiling away the pandemic. What better place to go than somewhere exotic, different, fascinating? In my search for virtual tours, I found a well known tourist lure that is nevertheless a difficult site to visit on a vacation due to its location in the southern hemisphere of the Americas and its remote situation in the Eastern Cordillera of Peru. It’s difficult financially because it’s a long flight to Peru (if you live in the U.S.) and you have to stay there awhile to actually reach and spend time at the remote site. That costs. To get to it requires a four-hour train ride, a drive down a few miles of road that winds snake-like through the mountains, or by a hike along the Inca Trail for three to six-days. It’s also difficult physically because you have to be fit–or at least healthy and able to walk and climb stairs–to get around the site itself.
I’m talking about Machu Picchu, the ruins of a 15th-century stone city located about 50 miles from the Inca capital, Cusco, which UNESCO designated as a World Heritage site back in 1983. In 2007, it became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World! Now THAT is a place worth seeing…even if you can’t make it there in the flesh.
If you WERE there in physical form, it’s a heck of a place to get around. The ruins are ensconced on a high ridge, bound on three sides by the Urubamba River, which splashes along its tightly curved channel 2,000 feet below, moved to turbulence by mountain winds.
The ruins are a fascinating conglomeration of buildings, plazas, and platforms attached by narrow lanes.
More than 700 stair-like terraces, which served as the agricultural backbone of the city, rise like lofty layer cakes up the sides of the ridge. They’re architecturally awesome.
So…if you have nothing better to do and have an ounce of curiosity about ancient ruins isolated in a mountainous terrain, this is a lovely place to spend a few hours.
There are numerous virtual tours available. The YouVisit’s Virtual Tour is a 360-degree tour that allows you a full circle turn around main locations at the site. The views are stunning. Another 360-degree tour is provided by Air Pano, but these images are interactive. If you click on images of hikers, you’re pulled in close to the scene.
If you click on the question marks, you’ll get a caption explaining the area to which the question mark is attached.
My favorite virtual tour–I mean, this is really complete!–is just a little more twisted to get to. The Guardian has an article called “Do Machu Picchu from your sofa, thanks to Google Street View”. It’s an article worth the read, but the link you want is located about half-way down the article in a great untitled image of an open stadium kind of area. There’s a small black box in the upper left hand corner labeled “View on Google Maps” that takes you to a gold mine tour. However, I’m providing it here so you don’t have to go through hoops to reach the great tour that Google Street View provides.
Take a look at the little greenish-blue map box in the lower left hand corner of the picture above. When you’re on the website, if you hoover your pointer over that box, the blue lines that pop up show you the routes the camera men took, and they went everywhere! By moving the little figure, you can literally move yourself around the entire site, up the mountain, along every street/path, and through the buildings. They even traversed the Inca trail that goes through the jungle areas.
It’s a little hard to navigate exactly where you’re going, but if you like serendipity, you can pop all around and see a tremendous amount of the Machu Picchu. Or, if you prefer, you can click on the ground arrows and move more slowly, but surely, through the site. You can spend a good deal of time enjoying the views, gasping at the heights, enthralled by the scenery.
If you’re interested in reading more about Machu Picchu, there’s a great National Geographic site that offers great photos with information captions. And there is a ton of information available (where else) on Wikipedia that provides history galore. Finally, if you’re curious (as I was) about how on earth the Incas built this incredible stone city high up on a mountainous ridge, there is a great article called “Machu Picchu Architecture Explained”.
Walk the site, read the articles, enjoy the images, and spend a few hours out of the house…virtually. The world is waiting.