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The Orchids of Machu Picchu

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Orchids of Machu Picchu

The country of Peru has 84 of the 103 biodiversity zones found on earth, 
is home to more than 3,000 of the 30,000 known orchid species, but it is 
estimated that only about 50% of the Peruvian species have so far 
been discovered.

If you like orchids and adventure, and you are not afraid of heights and 
walking then I recommend you visit the Machu Picchu sanctuary. 
The starting point is the city of Cuzco, where you take a train to 
Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes you can visit the Thermal Baths 
that are situated about 800 meters from the railway station, on the 
way you can find three different orchids in flower, Alstenstenia fimbriata, 
a pink Epidendrum secundum and a Lycaste trifoliata. 
At the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel you can admire their gardens where 
they claim to have over 140 species of orchids from the region although 
not all are from the sanctuary. The gardens consist of a native forest where 
a lot of orchid plants can be seen, the best months for floration are 
October and November, during the month of April you can see the 
following species: Phragmipedium caudatum, Hofmeisterella eumicroscopica, 
Oncidium scansor, Encyclia fusca, Oncidium pentadactilon, Pleurothalis 
ruberrima, Scaphiglotis leucantha, as well as various unidentified species. 
On Machu Picchu itself there is also an orchid garden that visitors can enjoy.

From Aguas Calientes if one walks 300 meters down the railway line there 
is a path that will take you to the "Mirador", recommended only for young 
adventurous people, since in three places along the path one has to climb 
150 feet of ladders that are stuck against the rock. Nevertheless, in the first 
half of this path, besides the good view of the river, one can see Sobralia 
dichotoma, which by itself makes the effort worthwhile. The Inca Trail is an 
exciting experience that takes on average four days, the highest point is 
the pass at Warmiwanuska at 4800 meters (14500 feet). There also exists 

the possibility of doing the Royal Inca Trail, and takes only two days, it 
starts at Km.104 and climbs from 6500 feet to 10000 feet at Winay Huayna 
(which means "always young" in the Quechua language) this is also the 
name given to Epidendrum secundum that grows throughout the year in 
this region. This is where they usually spend the night. The ruins at 
Winay Huayna are worthwhile visiting, they are surrounded by lush forest, 
and of special interest are the row of baths which still have water running 
between the stone masonry. For the orchid lover, the walk from Winay Huayna 
to Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience since it is full of bromeliads and
orchids, you can see Epidendrum secundum, a pink and a white variety, 
Lycaste longipetala, Masdevallia veitchiana, Pleurothalis stenophilla, two 
types of Elleanthus, one Odontoglossum, Maxillaria gigantea and the ever 
present Sobralia dichotoma. The distance from Winay Huayna to Machu Picchu 
is six kilometers that will take from three to six hours, depending on the amount 
of orchids you come across.  See orchids of Peru on our website

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