The Inca Trail – Famous for a Reason! (Part 1 of 3)

Many an adventurous traveler has this four-day trek on their bucket list. It’s one of those iconic adventure experiences, ending in the mother of all South American archaeological sites, Machu Picchu. I had the privilege of doing this trek with my family in 2018, and despite the relatively high cost I can only recommend the experience to any traveler prepared for the physical challenges involved. Yeah, for me at least, it really was all that.

Why Do It?

Generally speaking, anyone who can get themselves to the Sacred Valley can buy an admission ticket and ride the bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu, walk around and check out the whole site. So why take on a four-day trek just to get to the same place the hard way? Well, to answer this question I can only parrot my tour operator’s slogan: “The Journey is the Destination”. That is an oft-repeated phrase, a bit cliché sometimes, but in this case it’s 100% legit.

Apart from Day 1, when the trail passes through a handful of tiny villages, during this trek you are really in the middle of nowhere. It’s not an uninteresting nowhere, either; in addition to the jaw-dropping scenery, the trail passes by numerous Incan archaeological sites, a few of which rival Machu Picchu itself. And the beauty of getting to see these places in the middle of nowhere: NO PEOPLE. Seriously, it is difficult to describe what it’s like to walk through these ancient sites, most of them extremely well-preserved, with scarcely another soul in sight. It was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences of my life.

The way of entering Machu Picchu is also entirely unique to this trek – you enter the valley through the fortress of the Inti Punku (Sun Gate), well above the site and just as the sun is rising. Unfortunately, Machu Picchu itself was shrouded in thick fog when we passed through the Gate, but it was still a really memorable way to enter the site – certainly more so than sitting on a bus crammed with tourists!

There weren’t too many people around, but plenty of llamas and alpacas! Intipata, Day 2

In the next post in this series I’ll get into some of the basics concerning booking your space and undertaking the trek.