Machu Picchu is one of the most notable historical sites in the world, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Discovered in 1911 by explorer Hiram Bingham III, who was looking for the city of Vilcabamba, Machu Picchu is one of the most historically significant places in Peru.
When visiting Machu Picchu, you’ll quickly become familiar with the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail is a small stretch of the nearly 25,000 miles of historic Incan road system in South America. The road system stretches from Southern Colombia to Central Chile and passes through Quito, Ecuador; Cajamarca, Huanuco, Jauja, Huamanga and Cusco in Peru, La Paz and Cochabamba in Bolivia to Salta and Tucuman in Argentina.The Incan Trail is the only way to access the historic site of Machu Picchu on foot, and is the section that runs through Machu Picchu and was once used to provide transportation for the entire Tahauantinsuyo, or Incan Kingdom. When this road was operational, it was exclusively used for Incan royalty.
In order to hike the entirety of the Incan Trail through Machu Picchu you will need to make a reservation through a certified tour company as this tour can be a 4-day trek. Though this hike is long, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. While walking through the Incan Trail you will pass more than half a dozen Incan archaeological sites, as well as take in views of the beautify Andes Mountains that surround the trail.
The Inca Trail is a challenging 27-mile hike, but one that hikers of all levels have been able to successfully complete. As you trek up the mountains you will pass the Inca ruins of Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and before finally arriving at Wiñaywayna at Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is not a normal dirt trail, rather it is paved with boulders, and includes stairs, tunnels, and wooden bridges that will assist hikers in crossing rivers throughout their trek. The nature surrounding the route is also something to appreciate during the hike as you will be surrounded by orchids, multicolored birds, and beautiful landscapes.
The Inca Trail consists of three overlapping trails: Mollepata, Classic, and One Day, with Mollepata being the longest trail out of the three. Not only will you run into ancient civilization ruins throughout your trek, but you will also come across small villages and civilizations of those living adjacent to the Inca Trail. Regardless of the trail you take, you will at some point pass through Warmiwanusqa, or “dead woman”. This is a particularly difficult mountain pass as it is situated at 4,200 meters above sea level. It is important to acknowledge the differing altitudes when hiking the trail in order to account for potential altitude sickness.
The Inca Trail is one of the most significant hikes in the world. The role it played in Incan history, as well as the bits and pieces of early civilization that are still preserved throughout the trial helps land this trek on most bucket lists.