The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the best known hiking route in the Peru, yet it is just one of a complex network of paths that once snaked their way over the Andes, connecting the far flung corners of the now defunct Inca Empire.
When it was at its full glory, the Inca road system ran from Mendoza in Argentina to Quito in Ecuador, and then from Quito on to Santiago in Chile. Such was the extent of this ancient infrastructure system that it amounted to around 40,000 km of roads and tracks helping the Incas to preside over an impressive 3,000,000 square km of rugged terrain.
These days, the Inca Trail is one of the must-see sights of any trip to South America and it is an unforgettable way to get a taste of the spectacular Andes Mountain range – wreathed in mist and shrouded in mystery. Many visitors to this part of Peru choose to book a spot on one of the superb Inca Trail tours that run from Cusco.
Inca Trail treks are a fantastic way to immerse yourself the beauty and majesty of the Andes. This is a magical place where the peaks of the craggy mountains touch the clouds and the rainforest buzzes with exotic wildlife.
However, the highlight for even the most jaded of hikers must be the culmination of the trek as most Inca Trail tours finish up at the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu, high above the Urubamba Valley.
For many tourists, trek king the Inca Trail is the only way to arrive in Machu Picchu and it is certainly a once in a lifetime experience. The walk itself it quite tough, and it is best to only embark on such a trip if you are fairly fit and used to physical exercise – many treks involve 8 hours or more of strenuous hiking each day. Remember also that you are heading up into the mountains and so altitude is also a factor that should not be dismissed lightly. Having said that, most organized tours divide the climb up to the famous Inca site over at least 4 days, allowing at least some time for participants to recuperate along the way.
Departing from the wonderful Sacred Valley and winding your way up through the cloud forest into the ancient world of the Incas is a memorable journey in its own right. However, many Machu Picchu tour companies have learnt to maximize the ‘wow’ factor inherent in the natural beauty and drama of the site’s lofty setting to great effect and plan their arrival at the ruins of the Sun Gate up above Machu Picchu for early in the morning. This means that you get the opportunity to stand above the abandoned settlement and watch the ruins slowly reveal themselves as the morning mist rolls away. It is a truly awe-inspiring sight and well worth the long climb, as we are sure you will agree!