Thousands of people visit Peru every year for a chance to hike one of the world’s most famous treks — the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. In order to plan a great trek and memorable experience, here’s an insider’s guide on what to expect, what to avoid, and how to get started in organizing your trip.
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Most travelers come to Peru to see Machu Picchu, the iconic ruins perched high above the Urubamba River. Most arrive by the ancient stone-paved route of the Inca Trail which passes through the Sun Gate after four days of arduous trekking. One could spend a week alone exploring the other ruins of the Sacred Valley, a corridor of villages, mountain peaks, and hiking routes above the Urubamba River.
Yet, this is just a small glimpse into what Peru has to offer. The Peruvian Amazon along the border of Brazil gives birth to many of the mighty tributaries of the Amazon River, full of wildlife, indeigenous cultures, and pristine wilderness. The north of Peru, still undiscovered by mainstream tourism, rewards any traveler who ventures off the beaten path with untouched ruins and vistas. Then down along Peru's West Coast, past beautiful beaches with year-round surfing, you'll arrive at the mysterious Nasca lines, immense geoglyphs carved into the desert sand.
Peru — a nation with abundant natural diversity, from coast, to mountains, to jungle — has long attracted lovers of the Great Outdoors. The Peruvian Andes, running like a backbone down the centre of the country, contain mesmerizing variations in landscape that make for some of the best trekking in the world. Cloud forests, 5000m+ cordilleras (mountain ranges), the world’s deepest canyon and the striking remains of ancient civilizations all await.
A visit to Machu Picchu is the highlight of most people’s trip to Peru. In fact, this ancient Inca Citadel attracts over a million visitors each year. Many visitors get there by way of the classic Inca Trail. Yet, there are numerous treks that take you there, each unique in their own right.
Southern Peru has a long list of both natural and man-made wonders. Come for Machu Picchu, but depart with the memories of the beautiful places scattered across the high, southern altiplano: countless ruins, vibrant local communities, and natural wonders that will open your eyes to the beauty of Peru.
If you’re looking for the best way to hike the Inca Trail, this classic route offers a unique approach which avoids the main crowds, and follows the ideal schedule for timing your visit to Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay trek is one of Peru’s best alternatives to the Inca Trail. Trek over a beautiful mountain pass at the foot of Mt. Salkantay before stopping in at a local organic coffee plantation, followed by a visit to the Llactapata ruins. Finally, get up early the last day to catch sunrise at the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
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