With Inca paths, stairs and tunnels to spectacular ruins on high mountain sides and passes, surrounding snow capped peaks, deep gorges, exotic vegetation and a wealth of ecological variety, it is no wonder the Inca trail is one of, if not the, most popular walking trail(s) in the world.

There are more than 250 species of orchid on this perambulatory adventure; lush cloud forests with giant ferns and hanging mosses; rare and/or impressive birds, like falcons, hummingbirds and black-chested eagles; and graceful, athletic creatures, like the puma, Andean fox, Taruka (Huemul deer) and wildcat, that may or may not make an appearance along the way. And, of course, at the end of it all, there’s a day exploring the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, with an alpaca or two moseying at your side. Promptly followed, we would suggest, by a brief sojourn in the hot springs of Agua Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo).

But be warned. Seemingly everyone, who hasn’t already, harbours a dream of trekking the Inca Trail. Recent conservation concerns have limited the number of permits to 500 a day (200 for tourists and 300 for cooks, porters and guides) and zero for the month of February. As such, you need to book your permit way in advance – currently four months before the date of departure.

In addition, you must be fit enough to walk for five to seven hours a days (on the second day, uphill, non-stop, for two to three hours); you will be sleeping in tents; and, you’ll be camping at altitudes of 3,600 meters, so… it gets really, really cold.

It is also recommended that you arrive in Cusco, preferably by land, two days before your departure, to adequately acclimatise to high altitudes.

There are two- and four-day treks available, but the two-day trek is only really one, with the second day consisting of a pre-dawn trek to Machu Picchu (for which everyone is recommended to bring a headlamp). And while the first day takes you to Wiñayhuayna, the most impressive Inca ruins on the trail (other than Machu Picchu), for a true experience of everything the Inca Trail has to offer, you’ll need to go the full four days.

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