View from the Inca Trail. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
For many people, seeing Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime opportunity. When visiting the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, make the most of the experience and get there by hiking through the Andes along the Inca Trail. Here are the ten best reasons why you shouldn't skip the four day, three night Inca trek when visiting Machu Picchu.
The Andes Mountains
Hiking along the Inca Trail. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
The Inca Trail goes through the Andes and has a diverse array of scenery. You’ll enjoy stunning vistas of rugged landscape followed by tall green peaks framed by the clear sky. You’ll walk along ancient stone paths and through the rainforest full of bamboo and exotic birds.
Exercise like the Incans
Hiking the Inca Trail will definitely help any “get in shape” New Year’s resolutions you made. You’ll hike up and down hundreds of stone steps, most of which are still the original ones laid along the trail by the Incans.
You won’t be Roughing It
Camping on the Inca Trail. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
Surprise! Camping in the middle of the Andes Mountains doesn't mean you have to go without certain comforts. Most guide companies have your tent already set up for you when you arrive to the camp spot at the end of the day. You’ll be brought hot water to wash up in your tent before having dinner served in the food tent. You’ll also be woken up each morning with a cup of coffee or tea. Porters will carry all the equipment and any non-day pack luggage you have.
Eating Peruvian cuisine in the food tent. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
You'll eat some of the best Peruvian food you'll have during your trip to Peru while on the Inca Trail. Most guide companies provide top-notch camp food cooked by a group chef and you'll dine on multi-course hot meals.
Make New Friends
You’ll get to know your fellow hikers in your group well during the few days you’re traversing the Inca Trail together, giving you the opportunity to forge new friendships.
See Local Culture
Along the trail you’ll encounter local people living in the mountains and you’ll be able to observe their way of life, from riding llamas to farming the land of the Andes.
Inca Trail llamas. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
Animal lovers will enjoy seeing the amusing and cute llamas that live along the trail. If you’re lucky you might also see an alpaca.
Learn the History
When hiking the Inca Trail, you’ll see several old Inca ruins along the way, such as the site where most of the food for the people of Machu Picchu was grown. Your guide will teach you about the history of the Incans, followed by an in-depth tour of Machu Picchu once you arrive.
The View from Sun Gate
Inca ruins seen from the Inca Trail. — Photo courtesy of Gina Tarnacki
Your first view of Machu Picchu when hiking the Inca Trail will be from the Sun Gate lookout point for the quintessential view of Machu Picchu.
A Sense of Accomplishment (and a Bit of Superiority)
You'll feel a huge satisfaction in conquering the Inca Trail once you reach Machu Picchu. Also, you may find yourself feeling a bit smug and that you got a more authentic experience when you see the piles of freshly showered and made up tourists getting off the tourist buses while you've been up since 3 a.m. to reach Machu Picchu and haven't showered in four days.
Ultimately, while it may be quite exhausting at times, you’ll find the memories of hiking the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu are well worth tired legs. When planning your trip, book the Inca Trail portion early; only 500 people are allowed to start the trek each day and it fills up months in advance.