Photos of famous sights can be misleading. The Pyramids of Giza look like they’re in the middle of the desert, surrounded by empty horizons of sand, while they’re actually on the edge of the dirty, chaotic city, a Pizza Hut and KFC just across the road. Stonehenge looks like it’s in an English bucolic paradise, but it’s right next to the highway. You expect to be impressed with the Mona Lisa, one of the world’s most famous artworks, but you don’t realise that the painting comes with a jostling crowd of tourists.
Machu Picchu, on the other hand, is more spectacular than photos can ever portray. The ruins themselves are beautiful, but what is more astounding is their setting. Surrounded by an amphitheatre of steep, forested peaks dipping dramatically down hundreds of metres to gushing rivers below, Machu Picchu is spread out on lush grassy terraces (which are kept neat by resident llamas). In the mornings, thick swathes of clouds envelop the site, covering everything for a few minutes, before sweeping away. While no one knows exactly what Machu Picchu was, it’s easy to see why the Incas chose this place to build it.