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Today, I, The Happy Traveler, inviting you to discover the enigmatic allure of Machu Picchu, a place where dreams and history collide. Every year, millions of adventurers embark on a journey to this ancient Incan citadel nestled in the heart of Peru. While the voyage to this UNESCO World Heritage site demands a bit more effort and expense, the rewards are beyond imagination.

Reasons to Visit: Machu Picchu, a place steeped in secrets and shrouded in mystery, stands as one of the world’s most coveted destinations. Dive into the archaeology of the Incan Empire, with fascinating insights into their scientific and religious practices. Delve into a rich tapestry of history that unravels before your eyes.

But the allure doesn’t stop there. This expedition is a gateway to the vibrant tapestry of Peruvian culture and gastronomy. As you explore, you can also uncover the riddles etched into the Nazca Valley hills or wander through a desert oasis that looks more like a work of art than reality. And let’s not forget the tangy delights of ceviche and the sip of pisco sours that punctuate your journey through one of the world’s most naturally beautiful countries.

Taking the Train: Embark on your journey via three enchanting train options: Inca Rail, Peru Rail, and the opulent Belmond Hiram Bingham train. While the latter offers a luxurious experience with gleaming brass and polished wood, the former options provide comfortable passage, some even boasting panoramic windows for a nominal fee. Secure your tickets well in advance, as they tend to vanish quickly, especially during peak seasons.

If Cusco’s train tickets prove elusive, fret not. Opt for a train from the charming town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, which links seamlessly with Aguas Calientes. The journey between Ollantaytambo and Cusco is a scenic delight, offering you the chance to explore the town’s Incan streets and historical buildings. Arriving early at the archaeological site will gift you a breathtaking sunrise, free from the crowds.

The Inca Trail and Other Treks: For the adventurous souls, an organized multi-day trek along the Inca Trail beckons. This awe-inspiring path, part of the vast Inca-road network, is trodden by thousands each year. Numerous tour operators stand ready to lead the way, offering a range of comfort levels and durations. Do note that the Inca Trail closes for maintenance throughout February each year.

For a distinctive Peruvian experience, some tour operators combine Machu Picchu visits with thrilling activities or less-traveled routes in the Peruvian highlands. Try the Inca Jungle Tour, blending hiking, biking, rafting, and zip-lining on your path to Machu Picchu, or explore the offerings from luxury tour operator and beyond.

And for the adventurous, there’s even a route by road, driving most of the way to Machu Picchu from Cusco to Hydroelectrica, followed by a rewarding hike through Aguas Calientes and on to Machu Picchu.

Best Restaurants: When at Machu Picchu, savor a casual café with a delightful deck just beyond the entrance gates, or opt for the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge’s buffet lunch, a splendid albeit pricier choice. Alternatively, pack your own lunch for a scenic picnic at Machu Picchu, saving your appetite for a celebratory meal upon returning to Aguas Calientes or Cusco.

Where to Eat and Drink in Aguas Calientes: Aguas Calientes, while not renowned for culinary innovation, boasts hidden gems along Av. Pachacutec, offering a taste of Peru’s burgeoning craft beer scene. High-end dining can be found in the luxury hotels, Inkaterra and Sumaq. Don’t miss Restaurante Indio Feliz, serving up tantalizing French-Peruvian fusion, or Mapacho Craft Beer Restaurant, where local specialties pair exquisitely with craft beers from across the country.

Where to Eat and Drink in Cusco: Cusco, a city larger than Aguas Calientes, boasts a cornucopia of dining options. Dive into the local scene at Cicciolina, a classic tapas bar offering international and Andean flavors. Kion, an elegant venue, serves Cantonese cuisine with a festive ambiance. For haute Andean cuisine, Chicha is a must-visit, offering delicacies like alpaca carpaccio and quinoa with duck. Afterward, head to Cholos pub near the main plaza, a craft beer haven boasting an array of Peruvian brews.