Explore's James Adkin has trekked the Inca Trail over 20 times and in this blog, he shares his experiences and love of Peru.
The Inca Trail
Despite doing the trek countless time I never tired of it and always looked forward to it. There is a special atmosphere and energy about Machu Picchu that you cannot put into words. For me, the highlights are the high passes, superb vistas and enjoying breakfast under the peaks. Sharing the trail with fellow group members is also a great group bonding experience.
There are always remarkably few other people it seems despite the popularity of the trek, especially on our Peru Inca Trail and Heights of Machu Picchu trips where, through using different timings and campsites to traditional Inca Trail walkers we avoid the crowds.
Day 3 of the Inca trail on these trips is one of the finest day walks in the world – you walk over the two high passes of Dead Woman’s Pass and Runkuraqay, past numerous Inca staging posts, control points and temples (it’s not only about Machu Picchu, there are smaller contemporary sites along the way making the sacred trail); before following a gently ascending perfectly contoured and superbly built Inca stone trail up into the clouds to our campsite at Phuyupatamarka (Cloud-level town), where you gain commanding 360 degree views of the superb mountainous landscape you are traversing, and distant high peaks such as Salkantay as it turns bright pink then iridescent red as it catches the setting sun. A really memorable days trekking with the exciting anticipation that tomorrow you will reach the fabled monkey steps, that climb steeply up to the sun gate culminating in rewarding views of Machu Picchu itself.
The Extended Inca Trail
On our High Trails of the Incas tour, the first 3 days are away from the masses meaning the trail is upgraded in every respect – scenery, effort and reward. The views are spectacular, looking down onto glaciers and up to jagged peaks. Salkantay is an awesome mountain and one of the most sacred mountains in Inca mythology. You sleep at high altitude after passing Salkantay and in the morning you have breakfast under the peak, looking up to the imposing snow peak against the deep blue sky, really memorable, as is the sunrise and sunset here.
Because you are walking part of the trail outside of the protected sanctuary our porters can bring along a goat which is cooked and eaten one night in a traditional way under the earth with hot stones, a pachamanca, really interesting to watch how they prepare it all and delicious to eat along with the roasted potatoes and maize.
Despite the many places I've visited all across the world, I'd always happily head back to South America and trek the trail again.