Yeah, we love it too. This photo got some lovin' on our #travel focused Instagram this week. Machu Picchu is one of those instant guaranteed winners for us. It evokes such a feeling of adventure, mystery, exploration, and history, that we hardly need to add a caption. The formula is pretty simple: 1) Post a picture of MaPi in the clouds. 2) People dream about travel.
1. Hiking the Inca Trail is the only way to get to Machu Picchu.
Thousands of travelers visit Machu Picchu every day, and only a fraction of these visitors got there via the Inca Trail. After hiking for four days through sparsely populated mountains, many Inca Trail hikers are surprised to find a small but bustling modern town at the base of the mountain, complete with a crowded train station. The Peruvian train system is extensive, and has been shuttling travelers to the base of Machu Picchu mountain from the Sacred Valley for years.
You’ve been told for years that you need to get there. That there’s nothing like it. That it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The mystery. The history. My goodness, the beauty. Any traveler worth their salt wants to get there, period.
After years of dreaming, months of planning, and days of hiking, you finally turn the corner and see it. Machu Picchu.
Though it may seem inaccessible and exotic to some, the truth is that the Inca Trail is hugely popular, and receives a metric ton of demand from travelers from all over the world every year. In the 80’s and 90’s, what began as a small number of companies offering guides to hike this four day trek quickly turned into an avalanche of tourism that ultimately threatened the health of the environment, and the priceless Inca ruins along the route.
The Peruvian government quickly saw the risk of destroying its natural and cultural resources. Today, Peru’s Ministry of Culture caps the number of people allowed to hike the trail at 500 per day. Of that number, only 200 are actual tourist hikers, the rest being accompanying guides and porters. Predictably, snagging a permit to hike the trail is a hectic affair. Only a select number of companies are allowed to buy them directly. They are assigned to a specific hiker’s name to prevent a black market of permits. And they sell out quickly. In 2013, Inca Trail permits through July were completely sold out by March.