Holidays to Peru are one of a dream for nature and history lovers. Actually, there are many history sites in this country, but the most famous and challenging destination is Machu Picchu. The words “Machu Picchu” in Quechua language means Old Peak. It is an ancient Inca site high atop the cloud-shrouded Andean mountains of Peru. It is near the town Aguas Calientes in the department of Cuzco and has been built for Pachacuti Inca between 1460-1470 and also called City of the Gods that was lost for nearly 400 years, but rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham. This old site is located 2,430 meters above sea level, overlooking the Urubamba River in the Andes Mountains. At an elevation of 9,060 feet (2,761 m) the 5-mile-square (13 square km) site of Machu Picchu holds the ruins of palaces, temples, baths, and about 150 dwellings. The site includes terraces for agricultural purposes that watered by natural springs. Mortarless stone buildings are an architectural wonder even today, with some blocks weighing up to 50 tons.
There are theories, but nobody knows exactly how the Incas constructed the site. Huge stones were used that had to be taken to the area over difficult mountainous terrain and the stones fit so perfectly together that in some parts a knife blade can’t fit between them. Machu Picchu is built to withstand earthquakes, as the stones move slightly when the ground shakes and then settle back into their original positions. The Inca Pachacuti, founding father of the Inca Empire, probably built the citadel as a ceremonial center to worship the Sun God and as an observatory for the solstice sunrise. It also has an agricultural area. These slopes not only harvested crop, but also helped to defend the site from intruders and also located that any military attack would be very difficult to execute.
Machu Picchu is one of the few major Incan cities left untouched by the Spanish. Nowadays, it is the most visited site in Peru and one of the top tourist destinations in all of South America. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Historic Sanctuary and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is known for its superb architecture, ancient mysticism and breathtaking scenery. The best way to fully appreciate the history and mystery of this site is by taking a Machu Picchu tours.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is only one in the gigantic system of roads that connected the immense Inca Empire that was built by the Incas to make access easier. Although most travelers choose Machu Picchu tour for one or two-day trip, the most adventurous take the long way via the Inca Trail. Along this route there are unforgettable views of the Andes and the Urubamba River below, a diversity of wildlife and also several Inca ruins. As it is becoming ever more famous with thousands of trekkers visiting Peru to hike this famous road, the Classic Inca Trail is now strictly regulated. Only a few authorized tour companies are allowed to operate on the trail and there no independent traveling is allowed. All guides must be licensed and trekkers must be in possession of a permit to complete the hike.
There are numbers of excellent hike for Machu Picchu tours, one of the most popular which is called the classic 4 days Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is starts in the Sacred Valley and winds past beautiful scenery until it reaches Inti Punku, the Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu. But for those who have short time or looking for an alternative to get experience without the fatigue, you can choose the 2-day option which starts a bit further along the road. For the most fit you can also hike the trail in 3 days, although this is recommended for experienced trekkers only as the high altitude can be hard to get acclimatized to. In addition there are also four alternative options for the eager hiker who want to explore further such as:
This 4 day tour includes 2 days of hiking through the Lares Valley, well-off the beaten path in the Sacred Valley. From Cusco, the trek passes the Lares Hot Springs, heads to Wacawasi, an Inca town, and then ascends to Puma Abra, from where you can see the Aroray and Mantanay lakes. Then second day of hiking takes you to the village of Yanahuara and then to Ollantaytambo. Explore the ruins, and then take the train to Aguas Calientes. The final day is spent exploring Machu Picchu and then returning by train to Cusco.
This challenging, 5 day trek follows 88 km along the Salkantay trail. From Cusco, you’ll drive to the Apurimac Valley, where you’ll spend 3 nights hiking through gorgeous river valleys and mountainous terrain. Finish hiking past the Hydroelectric Plant in Aguas Calientes. The final day is spent exploring Machu Picchu and then returning by train to Cusco.
For those who want to hike the Inca Trail in style, the Lodge-to-Lodge trek is the perfect fit. This 7 day tour includes 6 days of part-day hiking, with lots of opportunity to rest and relax at high quality mountain lodges along the way. The final day is spent exploring Machu Picchu and then returning to Cusco by train.
The Choquequirao Trek
This 4 or 5 day trek takes you to many isolated Inca ruins in the Apurimac Valley. Covering some steep inclines, you’ll see awesome views of the river valley, pass quiet villages, and will be able to explore the Inca ruins of Choquequirao itself. You can add a trip to Machu Picchu as well.
The reasons that make people take these alternatives because Inca Trail is limited for 500 hikers per day only that includes porters, guides, and cooks. During the busiest months of June-August, Inca Trail is often fully booked in advance. So, there are several nearby hikes that offer great alternatives. It is necessary to book Machu Picchu tours with an official travel agency who provides you with an official guide and best time to get reservation well in advance. Sometimes the Inca Trail is booked for an entire year. Your tour agency will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the train station and guide should have almost everything you need like camping equipment, food and sometimes horses or donkeys. The agency should also give you a list of recommended things to take with you. On the last night of the Inca Trail there is a hostel, you might stay there for the night or camp out again depend on what type of Machu Picchu tours you are taking. In the morning the Inca Trail trek ends with a magnificent view of Machu Picchu below. You will then have a full day to explore this amazing site with your guide. In the afternoon you will be taken to Aguas Calientes for lunch and to browse the handicraft stores. Afterwards you will return to Cuzco by train and be taken back to your hotel.
The best time to hike the trail is from May to September when weather is mild. These are the driest and sunniest months. However, nights can get really chilly in the Andes so make sure you pack accordingly. January through March is the rainy season and probably the worst time to hike, unless you don’t mind to get wet. In February, the peak of the wet season, the trail is closed for maintenance. If you take an alternative Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, make sure to schedule your trip to arrive early in the morning, and give yourself plenty of time to explore Intipunku, Watchman’s Tower, Huayna Picchu, the terraces, and the other wondrous of Machu Picchu tours.