Although both locales are significant, they are not alike. Located in the mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu is balanced atop a precarious space between two ridges of the Andes, at nearly 8,000 feet high. When the Europeans methodically destroyed the Inca empire, few cities survived intact. Most were destroyed forever, but this city escaped because of its high-altitude isolation.
The site lay hidden beneath a thick layer of greenery until a century ago, when it was uncovered by a Yale University faculty member looking the legendary lost Inca city called Vilcabamba, a regional capital before Spanish incursion. The enormity of this discovery rocked the world of archaeology. When the vegetation was cleared away, the incredibly beautiful setting revealed a remarkable city.
Because of its remote location, Spanish conquistadors were not aware it existed, and today most buildings and hillside terraces remain. All are carefully made from granite stones interlaced expertly without mortar. Some are thought to be temples, but the entire site was spiritually important. Nearly five hundred years later, thousands of people are drawn to the unparalleled and breathtaking natural beauty.
It is hard to ignore the vivid contrast between this Peruvian lost city and the Ecuadorian-administrated Galapagos Islands. The Andean city was thought to be a spiritual compound, but the Galapagos Island ecosystem inspired Darwin to write a book that is still antithetic to many Western religious concepts. Europeans accidentally discovered this archipelago in 1535, which later became a favored layover for whalers.
The unusual creatures inhabiting the volcanic island chain are remarkable. Trusting giant Galapagos tortoises were easily slaughtered by whaling ship crews for their meat, which was ideal for provisioning. Other island fauna exists nowhere else on Earth, a fact which alerted Charles Darwin, who was there in an official capacity as an appointed naturalist. His explanation of evolution has shaped modern science.
Many creatures here show no fear of human beings, allowing visitors to see them close up. Although this is an incredibly rich and important ecosystem, it has enjoyed protection for many years, and has escaped common exploitation. Visitors to the thirteen islands can witness sea-going iguanas, birds with special adaptations not found elsewhere, and even tropical penguins swimming next to cinder-cone volcanoes.
These two worlds can be combined in several tour packages. Most trips take two weeks or longer, to allow enough time for travel between the two disparate locales. Because there is more than one country involved, most people work directly with their travel agent or adviser when making plans. Available packages can be found that fit nearly any budget, making the trip of a lifetime affordable for most adventurous travelers.
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