Machu Picchu is an incredible archaeological site. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted as a finalist in the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Inca site is thought to have been built in the mid 15th Century as an estate to the Inca emperor at that time.
The site was abandoned by the Incas about a century later due to the Spanish Conquest, and only later discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Since then Machu Picchu has received world prominence and is visited by 100,000s of tourists every year – so many that the Peruvian government have implemented regulations that restrict access to 2,500 visitors a day.
There are a number of trails to Machu Picchu. The most popular and famous is the Classic Inca Trail that lasts between two days at the shortest to five days at the longest. Permits on the Classic Inca trail are limited to 500 a day (half of which are taken by guides and porters who support trekkers).
Alternative routes to Machu Picchu are fast becoming popular though. The Salkantay is probably the second most popular trail, that also offers trekkers the opportunity to intersect and join up with the Classic trail. The Salkantay typically takes six to seven days.
The Lares and the Vilcabamba are less popular routes, but just as authentic. In fact the latter is the route taken to the real ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Vilcabamba.
Lares provides trekkers with a great opportunity to see local Andean communities that have managed to maintain the authenticity of their ancient cultures.
Once at Machu Picchu you might want to consider climbing Huayna Picchu, the large mountain behind the ruins, that provides an incredible view over the city and the Sacred Valley below. The climb is steep and tough, but totally doable. Make sure to get permits early for this opportunity as there are only 400 available per day.