It’s the travel icon on every traveller’s bucket list. Here’s your guide to making the most of your visit to the Incan world's greatest treasure
A trek along an ancient path between soaring mountains to get to a secret city – the Inca Trail is the stuff of travel legend.
Located in southern Peru, not far from Cusco, the Inca Trail is the awesome Andean walk with the ultimate payoff: a path that runs along a sacred valley, via a raging river, intriguing ruins and soaring condors, to pass through a regal gateway from which the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu unfurls before you.
With the Peruvian government implementing restrictions on the number of visitors to the ancient site – and banning independent trekking – it has become vital to plan your trip well in advance.
With that in mind, we present our ultimate guide to Machu Picchu, everything you need to know about one of the world’s great travel icons.
Look no further than Will Gray’s account of hiking the Inca Trail. With the great Incan citadel within easy reach of day-trippers from Cuzco, he reflects on the pros and cons of doing the four-day trek.
“As the first buses disgorged their passengers into the ancient streets of Machu Picchu it suddenly struck me that, for all the spiritual beauty and inspiring architecture of the Inca city, they were only going to see part of the story – the dramatic finale, if you like, that accompanies the individual movements of a long, engrossing symphony,” he says. “During the past four days we’d witnessed the entire master-piece, from the breathless highs to the grumbling lows – and every Inca-paved step in between.”
The Wanderlust team, meanwhile, have put together a list of eight unmissable sites around Machu Picchu, and Alan Murphy argues the case for a number of lesser-known destinations in the region you should also take time to visit.
If you’re looking for something a little more epic, check out John Pilkington’s account of walking the Royal Road of the Incas, following the spine of the Andes from Quito to Cuzco.
Hiking the Inca Trail – Will Gray
Top 8 unmissables at Machu Picchu – The Wanderlust Team
Peru: The Road to ruins – Alan Murphy
Royal Road of the Incas – John Pilkington
There are seven different ways to reach Machu Picchu, each offering particular challenges and advantages. Are you fit enough to tackle the High Inca trail? Or is Riverside Trail more your speed? Check out this handy guide put together by the Wanderlust Team to decide which trail is the right one for you.
Rosalba O’Brien’s account of walking the Inca Trail is worth reading too, offering both advice on choosing a trek and on protecting the environment while you are there.
Finally, Tom Shearman offers invaluable advice on ensuring that you complete your trek with top tips for trekking in this challenging environment.
Top 7 ways to reach Machu Picchu – The Wanderlust Team
Walking the Inca Trail – Rosalba O’Brien
6 tips for trekking in the Andes – Tom Shearman
Did you know that it’s illegal to enter the Machu Picchu complex wearing the national costume of another country? Or that you can run to the ruins as part of an annual race? Neither did we the good folk at Tucan Travel sent us their article on the 10 Things You May Not Know about Machu Picchu. Kilt-wearing marathon runners take note.
Tom Shearman, from Andean Trails, is also a wealth of insider information on travelling in the region and shares tips on health, safety and the best time to visit the region. He has also put together a handy list on what to eat and where while you’re in Peru.
And, finally, after shelling out for trekking fees, money is bound to be a bit tight. With that in mind, the Wanderlust team have put together a list of 7 things to do for free in Cusco after your trek.
10 things you may not know about Machu Picchu – Tucan Travel
Know before you go – Peru Tom Shearman
What to eat and where in Peru – Tom Shearman
7 things to do for free in Cusco, Peru – Wanderlust Team
Keen to take a photo of the iconic ruins of Machu Picchu that stands out from the rest. You could take a (fig) leaf out of Amychay Rab’s book, but may we suggest you take a look at Steve Davey’s article on photographing travel icons instead? It’s full of great advice on looking at famous sites with fresh eyes, and won’t see you getting thrown into a Peruvian jail.
You may also find inspiration in the excellent photos posted by our readers.
Get shot of clichés: photographing travel icons – Steve Davey
If you have a particular question, pop over to the myWanderlust forum where our knowledgeable community is ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. The answer to yours might already be there.
Machu Picchu Travel Guide – The Wanderlust team
Machu Picchu Tips and Advice – The Wanderlust Team
Machu Picchu recommendations – The Wanderlust Team
Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From adventurous treks along the Inca Trail to specialist tours in search of Peru’s distinctive cuisine, there’s something for every taste and budget. You’ll find the full list of tours available here.