On the Inca Trail, you'll walk through Peru's Andes in the footsteps of these ancient people, who used the road to traverse their vast empire some 600 years ago. Ruins dot the trail, but the finale is the mountain-top site, Machu Picchu.
The Inca Empire spread over western South America from 1200 to 1533. Spanish conquistadors and smallpox wiped out much of the population. The Inca Trail is a remnant of the extensive road system.
In four days, you can trek the challenging 25 miles over three mountain passes, peaking at 13,776 feet. You must go with a licensed guide, which requires advance reservations.
The Inca Trail traverses the Andes from high plateau to cloud forest. Next to Cusco and below Machu Picchu, you'll view the Urubamba Valley, or Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Guided tours have local guides, porters and cooks. With some agencies, you will only have to carry a day pack.
The dry season is May to September. All year, night temperatures in the mountains can fall below zero degrees F.
Machu Picchu was hardly mentioned in the writings of Spanish conquistadors. In 1911, a local boy led American archaeologist Hiram Bingham to the site. Its mysteries are still unsolved.