The Inca Empire at its zenith stretched along the Andes from the very south of Colombia, down through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and northwest Argentina.
It all began in the agricultural region of Cusco, Peru. The iconic Machu Picchu is several days’ trek from Cusco, probably built as an estate for the first Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Never discovered by Spanish conquerors, and thus covered in vegetation when revealed to the world in 1911, its location is undoubtedly fit for royalty.
In the saddle of two adjoining mountains inside a U-turn bend of the Urubamba river, surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides, Machu Picchu was built for security as well as beauty. The distinctive peak of Huayna Picchu is regularly bathed in morning mist from the river below, and having only two access points, the site was easily defended.
Today, visitors can enjoy a number of different trails from Cusco to Machu Picchu. A train line goes almost the full distance, stopping midway in Ollantaytambo (providing the option of trekking only half the total distance).
After a few days exploring the former Inca capital of Cusco and acclimatizing to the high altitude, a bag of coca leaves to chew, and camping/trekking essentials are all you need to begin a scenic journey towards Machu Picchu.
The famous Inca Trail is now restricted to a couple of hundred permits per day, but you may prefer an equally impressive route with less footfall. Whichever option suits best, you’re guaranteed ice-capped mountains, subtropical cloud forests, and Inca ruins!
The Happy Gringo Magic of Peru tour passes through Ica, Nazca, the White City of Arequipa and Colca Valley, sailing on Titicaca Lake, and finally culminating in Cusco and the trail to Machu Picchu!