THE INCA TRAIL
Since 2001, the Peruvian government requires that all who hike the Inca Trail do so with an official guide. As such, Inca Trail tours are the only way to go. In the past, it was possible to pick up the trail whenever and wherever you wanted to. However, over time, trash became an issue, and the overall impact on the historic “road” was leaving it distastefully altered in spots.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of those travel delights that is hard to sum up in words. It’s the kind of experience that even the most seasoned of travelers would brag about. Once a sacred Inca footpath through the Andes Mountains, the Inca Trail is today a World Heritage Site, and it is undoubtedly the most popular and famous hiking trail in all of South America. If you are heading to southern Peru and thinking about hiking the Inca Trail, it’s a good idea to first acclimatize yourself to the altitude. You can do this by spending a few days in Cusco, or in Sacred Valley towns like ollantaytambo and pisaq.
Inca Trail hiking tours are rewarding on a number of different level. Trekkers who come here marvel at the surrounding mountains, and the Inca ruins along the way give insight into their reverence for nature. If you are in it for the longer hike, you’ll start at an exceptionally high altitude, making your way over high mountain passes. After that, it’s on to a cloud forest, where you will often find yourself shrouded in mist. Finally, you’ll enter a region of subtropical vegetation, with the end goal being the famed ruins of Machu Picchu. The two most popular Inca Trail hiking tours are the 4-day route and the 2-day route. You can arrange these tours at travel agencies in Cusco, of which there are many, and you can also find various travel companies around the country that can help you plan your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu adventure.
Once you are actually hiking the Inca Trail, you will usually have the option of paying a porter to carry your bags. There is a limit as to how much they’ll carry, so bringing a wardrobe equivalent to that of a movie star is not a good idea. You will want to make sure you have waterproof clothes and boots, or at least water resistant. The 4-day route is preferable for those who are fit are armed with time. If you are tight on time, or just want to spend less days hiking and camping, then the 2-day route is more ideal. The 4-day Inca Trail hiking tours begin in the town of Ollantaytambo, where it’s on to some pretty challenging mountain passes. You’ll eventually reach an altitude of some 13,800 feet, and on the fourth day, most groups make a sunrise push for Machu Picchu. The 2-day trail hikes are less strenuous, and the maximum altitude you’ll hit is around 9,000 feet. Inca Trail starts approximately 8 or 9 miles outside of Machu Picchu, and you’ll be treated to some of the best mountain vistas imaginable. Keep in mind that camping is the only lodging option when hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but you can always pamper yourself once you arrive at one of the upscale Machu Picchu hotels.