If you’re considering a trip to Peru, the chances are you’d like to visit Machu Picchu, right?
So what’s all the fuss about?
There are literally thousands of Inca ruins throughout South America. But there’s one key difference – Machu Picchu went undiscovered by the Spanish during their conquest in the 1520-30’s, 80 odd years after it was constructed by the Inca Empire. It was then abandoned by the Incas after the Spanish conquest and basically went undisturbed for well over 300 years. Then in 1911 American scholar Hiram Bingham claims to have discovered the site which was covered in jungle (‘rediscovered’ is probably a better term to use – and this is another whole topic!). It’s quite remarkable when you think about it that Machu Picchu is only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cuzco or just five day’s walk and yet it went hidden for so long.
But still, what’s all the fuss about?
History buffs will be staring at their screens appalled by what I’ve just written which is probably fair enough. It is one of the most significant sites in Inca history – whether it was a religious site, an economical center, a prison or even a site for agricultural testing of different crops (with access to various micro climes nearby) remains to be proven. But over and above this captivating mystery, I have a theory as to how Machu Picchu has taken on such a cult status amongst the travel community.
In my opinion it’s the journey to get to Machu Picchu that makes this destination so special.
The four day Classic Inca Trail combines beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest and subtropical jungle. It also offers hikers the chance to view incredibly significant Inca archaeological sites including Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and ultimately Machu Picchu itself.
Those factors alone make this an incredibly appealing hike, but for the trail to be truly world class there needs to be challenges that push you just slightly outside your comfort zone. In this case we’re talking about moderate altitudes and traditional, rustic camping. At the highest point, the 43 kilometer (27 mile) trail reaches 4200 meters (13,780 feet), an altitude that will challenge most people, but which is definitely within grasp. And don’t you think that a few days of camping takes you back to childhood and adds a little excitement?
There’s one other thing that places the journey to Machu Picchu squarely in bucket list territory and that’s the way the Classic Inca Trail culminates on the final day. With an early wake-up call and a sense of anticipation, you’ll find yourself hiking from the cloud forest up and through Intipunku (Sun Gate) where you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of Machu Picchu illuminated by the first rays of morning sun. A photographers dream! And the best part is that you’re there before the day visitors who arrive by bus several hours later.
Still not convinced? Hear it from our guests (when asked about hiking on their Active Adventures 14-day Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’ trip)…
“Hiking the Inca Trail was the best hike I’d ever been on in terms of comfort, views and constant building of pride for making the distance. Standing in front of Machu Picchu after 26 miles/3.25 days of hiking and knowing I’d made it (I’m 63 years old and live at about 800 feet of elevation versus peaking out at 13,700 feet) was a huge burst of pride/accomplishment for me and fulfilled something I’ve wanted to do for more than 40 years.”
– David Colvin, South Carolina, United States, October 2012 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’
“Difficult but manageable. Everyone took their own pace and breaks to breathe. Hiking at altitude is hard but worth it!”– Robbie Fendley, Virginia, United States, May 2012 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’
“All of the hiking was well chosen. Hiking the Machu Picchu Classic Inca Trail was an experience that I will never forget The porters were great and the variety of the trail was outstanding. Passing over Dead Woman’s Pass gave everyone a high.”
– Robert Burton, Norfolk, United Kingdom, December 2012 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’
“AMAZING! Loved the experience and just wished it was longer. The trail was great though – very clean, safe, fun, and definitely gorgeous. The camping was also very positive.”– Angelica Conway, New York, United States, July 2013 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’
“Day 4 of the Inca trail when we arrived at Machu Picchu was the highlight :)”
– Ines Kurtovic, Virgin Islands, March 2012 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’
“Excellent – couldn’t have asked for better. Especially day three of the Inca Trail – it was probably the most enjoyable hike I’ve ever had.”
– Joseph Martin, Minnesota, United States, August 2013 Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’