What is the Inca Trail?
At the height of the Inca Empire, their territory spanned from southern Colombia south to Chile and a east to Bolivia and Argentina. To enable such a large, organized civilization, the Incas built an expansive network of roads connecting population centers, military points, agricultural centers, and spiritual sites. Ranging from large highways to small footpaths, the Inca road system connected over 3 million square kilometers of territory with 40,000 kilometers of roadway. Many of the roads were originally roads from the earlier Wari Empire, but the Incas updated them and expanded the network to the reaches of their empire.
The Inca Trail that is famed today is a combination of these ancient roads to Machu Picchu. Historians believe that the site of Machu Picchu was a retreat for the Inca elite and do not believe that the agricultural potential of the area would have been enough to support the population. This means that the Inca Trail that today takes tourists through the isolated lands of the Incas was once used as a transport route for goods from Cusco as well as a path of pilgrimage to the getaway of Machu Picchu. So by hiking the Inca Trail, you will truly be following the steps of the Incas to the majestic city of Machu Picchu.
It is no wonder that this is one of the most famous treks in the world, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The Inca Trail takes you through rugged mountain trails up to alpine tundra, and back down to the lush cloud forest that hid Machu Picchu for centuries. You will pass numerous hidden archeological sites, Inca tunnels, vast scenery, and gorgeous flora before reaching the famed Sun Gate where you will have your first view of Machu Pichhu. Although this hike is not really technical, it is very difficult. Because the area is at a high altitude, hikers who normally would consider themselves in good shape will not be able to hike with as much ease as they usually can. Much of the trail, especially the second day, is vertical hiking up Inca staircases. This does not mean that most people cannot accomplish it, it is simply a challenge that will give you the biggest fulfillment when you get your first glimpse at Machu Picchu.