During my three-month backpacking trip through South America, hiking the Inca Trail was a top experience on my bucket list. The only reason I questioned whether I would do it or not is you need to book six months in advance — especially if you go between June and August (high season), as I did — because I hate planning activities in advance. After completing the trek, however, I highly recommend even the most anti-planning travelers add the Inca Trail to their South America itinerary.
While I’ve never been overly interested in history, actually walking the same paths of the Incas, exploring their hand-built stone structures and having guides provide historical anecdotes about such a fascinating culture brought Inca heritage to life in an interesting way. Not only that, but the views along the trail will stop you dead in your tracks with your jaw hanging wide open.
For those who want to visit Machu Picchu but are debating whether to hike the Inca Trail or visit by bus, I highly recommend opting for the trek. Walking 26 miles/42 kilometers (4 days, 3 nights) to your destination — just as the Incas did — helps you appreciate the attraction and the Inca sites you’ll encounter along the way much more. If you really don’t want to plan in advance, you can do the Salkantay Trek, an 5 day/4 night trek that’s a bit more difficult but also immerses you in Inca culture and ends at Machu Picchu. This can be booked a few days in advance as opposed to a few months.
To give you an idea of what you’ll see along the Inca Trail, check out the unedited photo essay below, taken with an Olympus Tough TG320 point-and-shoot camera (Note: Some photos were taken in the camera’s cold pop mode although none underwent any post production). For more information on the Inca Trail, check out my post on Going Back In Time On The Inca Trail In Peru.