Up there with the best hikes in the world, the Inca Trail in Peru really is a trek to savour and remember. Combining sacred ruins, cloud forests, local villages, wild llamas and alpacas, tunnels, stone paths, tiring steps, lush jungles, soaring mountains, challenging passes, and breath taking scenery, this is one high – in terms of altitude of course! – that you will never forget.
The raging Urubamba River gushes below and distant snow capped peaks provide the perfect backdrop. Wildlife abounds, and the trail leads to the awesome and mysterious Machu Picchu, a spectacular ending for an incredible journey.
What is the Inca Trail?
There are actually several trails leading to the lost city of the Incas. Each one has intriguing ruins and passes by local communities. To hike any of the trails a permit is required, and guides must be used. There are maximum numbers of hikers allowed, so it is wise to arrange your trek well in advance.
Where are the Inca Trails?
All routes leading to Machu Picchu are near to the charming Peruvian city of Cusco. Cusco was a previous Inca capital, and is packed with a great blend of varied architecture. A mixture of Inca ruins, colonial buildings, traditional homes, and modern structures all coexist in the locale. The atmosphere is relaxed and it is a wonderful place for some chilled out exploration.
Do I Have Trek the Inca Trail to See Machu Picchu?
In a word, no. You can get to the old city by road. It is possible to explore the famous abandoned city without trekking to get there. It is still a fabulous attraction, inspiring wonder and awe and steeped in mystery. Retracing the steps of the mighty Incas, however, really does add to the overall experience.
What is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is the name of an old Inca settlement that was deserted and left to the forest for many years. It is nestled between two high mountains and is a vast and intricate complex. There are different areas to the city, and it is widely believed to have been a spiritual sanctuary.
The area is rich in ritualistic elements and there are several structures designed to honour and pay respects to the sun god. Known as Inti, the Intihuatana Stone is one such structure, which is thought to be a type of sundial. In the agricultural zones you can wander through the terraced fields, and in the residential areas you can explore the many nooks and crannies.
What are the Biggest Challenges on the Inca Trail?
Challenged really depend on the individual. A certain fitness level is required to undertake the trek. Some people may find it extra tough because of the high altitude. There are many steps, some rather steep, which can be heavy going at times. Steep drops can lead to vertigo. The biggest challenge is often said to be reaching a certain pass, forebodingly called Dead Woman’s Pass.
What Ruins Can I See Along the Inca Trail?
It depends on which route you take as to what ruins you will come across when trekking the Inca Trail. Some of the most well know include Llaqtapata, which is a town built on the side of a hill, Runkuraqay, an egg-shaped complex, Sayaqmarka, with a fantastic hillside location overlooking the valley, and the ruined town of Phuyupatamarka.
Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a rewarding, although at times strenuous, experience that will fill you with wonder and pride, and create enough memories to last a lifetime.