South America Travel

The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail, Peru's best known hike, provides travelers with a stunning mix of ancient ruins and incredible natural beauty. Stretching from the serene village of Ollantaytambo to the sacred valley of Machu Picchu through the mountains above the Urubamba River, the highly rewarding 45km trail is characterized by unforgettable panoramic views and mix of rare species of birds, animals, and plants.

Traveling the Inca Trail can be a truly unique and extraordinary experience. Some of the highlights for visitors to the region are Cuzco, Llaqtapata, Warmiwanusca Pass, and Machu Picchu.

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire from its beginnings in the 14th century until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Situated in a broad Andean valley, the thickly populated agricultural region has developed into a lively urban center with important religious and administrative functions. Cuzco is famous for its ancient ruins, Baroque churches and palaces, open markets, and narrow, winding cobblestone streets. Before starting the inca trail, and after your trek, Cusco will be your base for explorations of the area.

Llaqtapata, Quechua for "Town on Hillside," is an ancient Incan village on the Cusichaca River at the entrance to the Vilcabamba jungle. It once served as a resting stop along the journey to Machu Picchu and part of a network of ceremonial shrines. In 1536, Llaqtapata was burned by the Incans to prevent the Spanish from discovering the Trail or any of their settlements, but well-preserved sculpted terraces of this massive farming complex remain today for passers-by to enjoy.

Warmiwanusca Pass
Warmiwanusca Pass or "Dead Woman's Pass" features the highest point on the Inca Trail at 13,776 feet. Along the trail, there are fantastic views of Mt. Salkantay and Mt. Veronika as well as the site of Sayaqmarka ("Inaccessible Town"), huge fortress ruins resting atop a sheer cliff. The trail then continues through thick cloud forest and jungle, filled with tropical flowers and colorful orchids, as it approaches Phuyupatmarka, "The City Above the Clouds."

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, likely the most familiar symbol of the Incan Empire, is one of the most spectacular settings in the world. The "Lost City of the Incas" is a well-preserved pre-Columbian ruin on a high mountain ridge 70 km northwest of Cuzco. It is thought to have been a country retreat for Inca nobility built around 1440 and inhabited until the Spanish conquest in 1532. Upon entering the Intipunku, or "Gate of the Sun," one immediately encounters a marvelous palace and fascinating, beautiful temples around a courtyard, each of which holds exquisite archeological treasures.
More Machu Picchu Information

South America: Overview | Destinations | Highlights | Trip Planning
Countries: Argentina | Brazil | Chile | Peru | Ecuador

© 2010 All About AR