Let the Trek on Inca Trail change your life, according to CNN

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Peru’s Inca Trail was recently named as one of CNN’s 49 Journeys that will Change Your Life.

The Inca Trail – which came in third on the list – was joined by other stunning adventures like a 10-week trip from Cape Town to Cairo or an elevator trip from the ground floor to the 89th of Taiwan’s Taipei Tower.

Built more than 500 years ago, the Inca Trail was part of the most extensive and advanced road system in Pre-Columbian South America. The Inca road system linked together some 25, 000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of roadways.

Traversing the Andes Mountain range, the Inca Trail offers travelers several different routes, each one passing through some of Peru’s unique ecosystems, ranging from cloud forests to alpine tundra.

Inca ruins along the way act as teasers for the final destination: the world-renowned ruins of Machu Picchu. Some of the routes take travelers as high as 4,200 meters above sea level – offering breathtaking views. Depending on the chosen route and stops made along the way, the trek can take anywhere from 2-5 days.

Other South American destinations named on CNN’s list included: a road trip from Turbo, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina and a train ride from Esquel to Ingeniero Jacobacci, Patagonia, Argentina.

Amazing facts about Inca culture you probably never heard of

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The Inca civilization was amazing in many ways. In little more than 300 years, the Incas created an empire that stretched from present-day Colombia through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia to northern Chile and Argentina. In the 15th Century the Incas ruled over 250 separate peoples, and nine million people! Even more astonishing is that the Incas constructed 30,000 km of roads and all their majestic buildings without using animals, or even basic technology such as pulleys or wheels.

Quite something, I’m sure you’ll agree. And now, 15 more curious facts about the Incas:

Skull deformations

Did you know the Incas considered deformed skulls beautiful? They would wrap bandages tightly  around the heads of their children to purposefully deform their skulls by limiting growth in one direction. The Incas were not alone in this practice: ​​other cultures such as the Mayas, Makrokephaloi, Huns, Alemanni, Thuringians and Burgundians also deformed skulls for aesthetic purposes.

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Worn once, then burnt

Once upon a time the Sapa Inca, the king of the Incas, was traveling in a sedan chair through his kingdom. All those who appeared before him had to be barefoot; even the highest dignitaries had to bring symbolic gifts, to show deference. The Sapa Inca showed his indifference by sitting behind a barrier and refusing to address his audience directly. He only ever wore the same clothing once: After wearing, the used garments would be burned in a ceremony.

Guinea pig – an Inca speciality

Did you know that in addition to llamas, alpacas and ducks, guinea pigs were also kept as pets, and eaten too? This traditional dish has survived to this day: Cuy, grilled guinea pig, is still a popular dish in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

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Skull surgery

In 15th Century Europe, kills were often quick and clean. Death by the hand of an archer was often so swift, the victims never felt a thing. Likewise, a powerful blow with a sword could lead to a quick demise, assuming the swordsman knew his craft. In South America, however, the forging of iron was still unknown: Death came mostly via clubs or slingshots. Often a dispute between Inca warriors ended not with death but severe head trauma, leading to prolonged agony. For this reason, the Incas developed the practice of opening skulls of the living to heal wounds.

Interesting fact: A study examining Inca skulls revealed that every sixth skull had a hole! It seems that most patients survived this surgery without major complications, thanks to the Incas’ remarkable skill in this unique type of treatment.

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The Inca bone

Another interesting bit of trivia: Did you know that there is a bone in the human body that not everyone has? It’s called the Inca bone.

Loyalty through education

In order to retain the loyalty of subjugated tribes, the Incas implemented a similar policy to the Romans: Children of the conquered tribes’ leaders were moved to the capital, Cusco, where they were educated in elite Inca boarding schools.

Skulls as drinking vessels.

Did you know that the skulls of defeated chiefs were used as drinking vessels? The best known victim of this practice is Atahualpa, who after a long and violent power struggle against his brother Huascar in 1532, had his skull transformed into a drinking jar.

Earlobes to the shoulders

Did you know that Incas stretched their earlobes so much, they hung down to their shoulders? Interestingly, the Spanish name for the Incas at the time was Orejones, which means “big ears”.

Polytheism

The Incas were polytheists, which meant they had several gods. The most important was Inti, the Sun God. His wife, the Moon Goddess, took over his duties by night.

Inca Whispers

Did you know that the Incas developed a sophisticated postal system? They used chains of runners to relay messages. These fast-footed news couriers were stationed in pairs, one sleeping while the other awaiting news, so somebody was always on duty. Since the Incas had no writing system, the runners had to learn the messages by heart, like a story being passed on from one person to the other. You might call it an early form of Chinese Whispers!

Good Nutrition

Did you know that one study found no sign of deficiency or malnutrition in Inca corpses?

Quipu

You may have heard that the Incas developed a form of communication called Quipu, which was woven into textiles. But did you know that it’s still unknown whether it was used to convey information in writing, numbers or both?

No Taxes

Did you know that the Incas and no money and therefore no taxes? Instead, they developed a system to distribute all their resources, and allocated value instead to the hours they worked.

Polgamy

Did you know that while Inca nobles were allowed many wives, farmers had to be monogamous?

Qeswachaka- the 1500-year-old suspension bridge

Did you know the Inca-built suspension bridge, Qeswachaka, is rebuilt every year? All local communities help out, as they did in Inca times – the women weaving the grass ropes, the men using the ropes to construct the bridge. While the bridge is built, women are not allowed nearby, as this is considered bad luck!

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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Alternatives: The Lares Trek (Weavers Way)

One of the most fascinating all round treks in Peru takes you through the Lares valleys near Machu Picchu. These alternatives to the Inca Trail offer an outstanding combination of fine trekking, mountain scenery, and unforgettable real life experiences with local Andean people.

There are a number of alternative treks around Machu Picchu and Cusco; all excellent in their own ways, so why would you chose the Weavers Way, more commonly known as Lares?

The Inca Trail is full; or you’ve already done it
Probably the main reason people chose an alternative trek in the Cusco area. Only 500 people per day can start the Inca Trail and that includes all guides and porters. In the high season around May to September places go fast and many visitors to Peru and Machu Picchu find that they are not able to do the Inca Trail, but would still like to do a beautiful high Andean trek. Lares is therefore a good option.

To Get Away from the Crowds
The Lares area is still much less visited than the busy Sacred Valley and Inca Trail. Lares is not just one trek but the name of a series of mountains and river valleys around the town of Lares. You can therefore choose the trek that suits you. The most popular route starts in Lares town, and goes over the mountains to Patacancha and then down to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu.

For a more authentic experience, though, you could take the route up to Cancha Cancha and finish in Lares town. On the Cancha Cancha route you can easily spend 4 days seeing only a few locals. It is generally a surprise to arrive in Lares town at the end of the trek and meet your first tourist!

For Gorgeous Mountain Scenery
The Cancha Cancha trek starts in greenery and gradually ascends to the high Andes, past turquoise lakes, snow capped peaks and large open valleys. When the sun shines down it is just breathtaking.

For any Lares trek you will have to cross passes of around 4, 000m (13, 120 feet)affording spectacular views of mountains such as the snow covered Pumahuanja at 5, 318 (17, 443 feet). The Lares area is characterized by wide, glacial valleys and Andean paramo, or moorland.

Lower down in the valleys and as you descend to the lower elevations near the Sacred Valley there is more greenery. People here make a living from growing potatoes, corn and quinoa or keeping alpacas and llamas, much as they have for generations.

For a Real Taste of Daily Life and Culture
Despite its proximity to the busy city of Cusco and the tourist Mecca of Machu Picchu, the Lares area still features a very traditional way of life. Enter the valleys and step back in time.

On your trek you are likely to meet children perched on the mountain sides tending their llamas. At the end of the day they will herd the animals up and take them down to the corrals for the night. Other chores include looking for firewood to cook the evening meal, or weaving small belts and scarves. You might meet locals on the trail carrying goods on horseback; the only form of transport in this area.

People speak the local language of Quechua and women wear a distinctive king of round red hat. Houses are as they would have been 100 years ago; stone built with a thatch on top. If you want to really see how people live in the Andes then one of the Lares treks is an excellent choice.

Hot Springs
Where possible, every trek should of course end with a soak in natural hot springs, surrounded by mountains and with pools of different temperatures to suit all tastes. Locals regularly come to the hot springs in the afternoon but because of the distance from Cusco, at night there will be very few other people there. Finish your trek at Lares hot springs. They are not so easy to get to, and even harder to leave.

To Travel Responsibly
Part of travelling responsibly means having close contact with local communities; with people who then benefit from your visit. In the Lares area you will have ample opportunity to interact with local people, share experiences and learn about each others’ lives. Locals produce fine hand-crafted weavings you can buy directly from the weaver.

Importantly, any decent agent or operator for the Lares area will contribute something to the local communities there. Check their credentials before you book.

Trekking adventure Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is doubtlessly Peru’s most popular trekking route.

Suggested for the physical fit only it runs for a minimum of 40km and reaches 4,200 m.a.s.l. The stone-paved trail, discovered in 1960 and part of the more than 23,000 km of roads built by the Incas across South America, crosses a notable range of natural landscapes and eco-systems, from thick tropical jungle to the bear, unwelcoming rocks of the Andean mountains. Actually it’s likely the most beautiful walk in South America. The Trail takes 3 to a couple of days of troublesome hiking, and can be started at Chillca ( Kilometre 76 of the Cusco-Machu Picchu train line ) or, most frequently, at Qorihuayrachina, Kilometre 88 of the train line. The first day is comparatively easy, and includes along the route the Inca ruins of Cusichaca, Q’ente, Pulpituyoc, and Llaqtapata, a site employed for crop production stayed well saved. The 2nd day is the hardest of all, often because the ascent becomes more steep. The trail follows original Inca stonework that climbs uphill, ending a little shy of the exact Warmiwauska or Dead Woman’s pass, at 4,200 m.a.s.l. The crossing of the pass opens day 3, after camping in the Pacaymayo valley.

From here it’s downhill.

The Trail descends into the valley and heads to the revived position of Runkuraqay, a miniscule Inca watch post, and then to Sayaqmarka, perched on top of a sheer cliff, from where one can see the start of the giant Amazon rainforest, stretching to Brazil. The final day is another straightforward day, frequently descending and passing thru lush jungles and cloud forests before reaching Machu Picchu, Peru’s most critical holiday maker site, thru the Inti Punku or Gateway of the Sun. Before going for the trail, you need to spend at least 48 hours in Cusco acclimatising, as it features some hard hiking, including 1 or 2 hours above 3,500 m.a.s.l. Otherwise, Acute Mountain illness ( altitude illness ) could make your first few days pretty uncomfortable. In the summertime season, from June to August, you must book far ahead -at least three months-, as the quantity of trek authorizes issued is constrained to five hundred every day ( including tour guides and porters ). Other trekking routes : The Royal or Holy Trail Just before arriving to Aguas Calientes, at km.

104 of the train rails, this trail takes the direction to Phuyupatamarca, climbing up patios and stone steps. After two hours of hiking you arrive to the recently discovered and superbly Wiay Wayna ruins. Found on a steep mountain slope and looking over the Urubamba stream, Wiay Wayna is a pleasant example of Inca terrace design. The name means ‘forever young ‘ in Quechua but masters still disagree on the meaning : some consider it refers back to the ornamental orchids that populate the environment, while others say the name alludes to the Inca rites and rites celebrated in the complex. The trail then converges in the Inca Trail, arriving to Machu Picchu thru the Sun Gate, Inti Punko. A permit is necessary for this route.

Purification Trail Part of the Inca Trail system, this route has been recently discovered by archaeologists. 107 of the train line track ( 3km upstream from Aguas Calientes ), near to the hydroelectric exit pipe. The name, Purification Trail, alludes to the descending pools formed by the stream that runs next to the trail. Putucusi Hike This deadly and demanding 3-hour hike ( round trip ) involves a great reward : the provoking view of the Machu Picchu landscape.

Putucusi ( ‘happy mountain ‘ in Quechua ) is a round-shaped mountain that reaches 2,600 m.a.s.l. At the apex, and is located across the valley from the Inca castle. This is a demanding hike ( only possible in the dry season, March to Nov ), which involves steep ladder climbs and greasy scrambling. Some ladders, stacked into the wall, even go up for 20 meters in nearly a 90 degree desire. Suggested for people with a good level of physical fitness only.

Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

Can you think of a place that you dream of visiting some day? Everyone has their own idea of a vacation. Some would typically choose a beach to relax at, while others find extraordinary fulfillment through adventure. If the second choice matches your personality then Peru is the perfect place for you. Peru will not let you down in terms of adventure and archaeological places.

Among the great destinations in Peru is perhaps the most well-known: the Ancient, mysterious Machu Picchu. Here, you can hike up into the mountains to visit the ancient ruins of an Incan temple.

Countless museums and historical places in the country makes it an attraction to tourists. Cuzco and Lima are the two most popular cities among tourists. But theres much to see beyond the city life. From oceans to rain forests to mountains, the natural wonder of Peru is a great draw to this South American country.

Who would not be excited to see Peru? Peru is packed with adventurous activities and interesting archaeological facts. You can try your hand at rafting, hike the the Inca trails, or climb the Andes Mountains. You also have the chance to see Peruvian handicrafts, incredible museums and admirable markets.

The architectural designs in Peru are simply awesome! When you enter the city of Lima or Cuzco you will be amazed by the structures. Did you know that Cuzco is one the most beautiful cities in South America? Well that could be the reason why many would pay a visit to the city. Tourists often spend some time in the city before going to the mountains and hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu.

As you can see, there is a lot to experience in Peru. Even if your main reason for visiting is to see Machu Picchu, youll want to broaden your itinerary. In addition to the ancient mountain city of the Incas, youll be able to round out your vacation nicely with a complete Peru experience.

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The Inca Trail – A Peru Holiday

Situated in the western region of South America, the Republic of Peru is a beautiful multiethnic country with a vast number of hidden treasures. With Colombia and Ecuador on top, Brazil on the right, Chile at the bottom and the gargantuan Pacific Ocean on the left, it’s no wonder why this country is rich in culture and the atmosphere here is amazing. Foreign visitors have claimed Peru to be the ideal holiday experience, a balance between nature and civilization.

If you’re planning on making a trip to Peru, here’s the list of the top three tourist spots. The first spot that I would recommend which incidentally has the highest number of visitors would be the renowned Inca Trail. This trail is one of the most oldest and sophisticated trail in South America and was built during the Inca Empire ruling. The Inca Trail is also known as the Camino Inca and is divided into three parts. The most famous part of the trail would be the trail to Machu Picchu and an average tour of this trail will consume 4 days. The Inca Trail is also divided into three routes, the Mollepata, Classic and One Day.

Secondly, when in Peru, you must pay Lake Titicaca a visit. This lake is elevated 3810 meters above sea level and is located on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. The average temperature of water in this lake is 12 degrees Celsius and is home to a variety of endangered wildlife. When visiting Lake Titicaca, it would be advisable to stay in the Puno, a small town that sits nearby the lake. During the existence of the Inca Empire, this lake was believed to be sacred and spiritual. The Incans believed that the Gods that the prayed to had once dwelled in the lake.

When in Peru and once you’re done with its nature side, there not better place to unwind than Lima.  Lima, the largest and also the capital city of Peru is home to 9 million people. Home to Callao Port, Peru’s biggest harbour, Lima is filled with museum and mind blowing architecture. A walk through this city will teach you all that there is to know about the people of Peru. Besides its culture and history, walking around Lima has another positive attribute, food! With so many different cultures and flavour, this spot is knows to be a food haven.

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Inca Trail Trek

An Inca Trail Trek is a very popular activity for visitors to Peru. This trek is the best-known route for hikers in this country, and understandably so. Trekkers on this path will experience incredibly scenic mountain vistas, amazing Inca ruins, and a wonderful mix of beautiful forests with their abundant, unique flora and fauna.
Of course, the main purpose of an Inca Trail Trek is to visit the mysterious, mystical Machu Picchu. Visiting this sacred Inca city is the pinnacle of a wonderful trek. To get the full effect of this visit, many trekkers choose to arrive at Machu Picchu at dawn on the final day of their journey.
Most Inca Trail Treks take about 4 days to reach the mountain city. This popular route is a fairly strenuous 45 kilometers, traversing some mountainous terrain at a fairly high altitude. A moderately fit person should have no trouble completing the trek, but due to the altitude it is recommended that any person arriving from sea level spend at least two or ideally three days in the city of Cusco prior to beginning the hike. This will give your body time to acclimatize.
Cusco is the city from which you will begin your trek. Here, you will find hundreds of tour operators offering to assist you on your journey. As you might expect, however, they are not all equal. The Peruvian government awards licenses to operate on the Inca Trail. These licenses based on several criteria to ensure that the tour companies are operating appropriately.
That being said, even after ensuring that your Inca Trail Trek tour company is operating legally, youll want to understand a few other things to make sure that you are booking with a reputable company. While everybody wants a great deal on their travel costs, please be reasonable about this. Expect to pay around $ 500 per person for your trek. If you see any rates advertised lower than about $ 450, the odds are good that the tour operator is cutting corners in some respect. Most likely, they would be unfairly straining the porters, who are the employees assigned to carry cargo.
As you select a tour operator, also keep in mind that trek permits are limited, so youll want to book well in advance of your intended travel time. The busiest season is from May through September. During this period, youll want to reserve your spot at least four months in advance. If you know your plans earlier than four months ahead of time, that is even better. During other parts of the year less advance notice is necessary, but youll still want to make sure you give yourself at least a few weeks in order to ensure your preferred travel date.
Hopefully these technical details wont detract from what is sure to be a wonderful travel experience. Select your tour operator carefully, book your trip early, and then rest easy knowing that youll have a great time on your Inca Trail Trek and your Machu Picchu visit.