The mist- cloaked lost city of the Incas is arguably the most famous sight in all of South Americ. The citadel is built of rock at an altitude of 7,710 ft (2,350 m), on the saddle of a mountain flanked by sheer drops to the Urubamba Valley below. I t was never sacked by the Spanish as they failed to find it, instead Machu Picchu was simply abandoned and left to nature to reclaim. The exquisite Inca stonework has withstood the ravages of time, but its function remains baffling. Experts speculate that it served as a aplace of worship, a sigh for tracking stars, and the ninth Inca emperor, Pachacutec´s country hacienda.
The Inca Trail was a path through the Andes that lead to Machu Picchu. Ruins are lined up along the trail like a connect-the-dots puzzle. It is the highlight of the 127-square-mile national park, the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. The zone is filled with great views of mountains, cloud forests, wildlife, and ruins. The park is home to the very rare Andean spectacled bear (which you are unlikely to see), more than 400 species of birds, and a plethora of orchids and other plants. The trail itself is 43 km/27 miles of almost continuous stone stairs.
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu regulations were established to combat overuse of the trail that had been going on for too long.
Machu Picchu regulations
- An increades entrance fee from US$50 to US$60. Porters must pay US$12 each. For the 2 day inca trail hike the fee is just US$25. Students and children also receive a discount.
- There are only 500 permits issued per day for the machu picchu inca trail tour. This equals about 200 trekkers and 300 guides., porters, cooks, etc. Although this seems like a lot, during the high season they are sold out two or three months in advance. Permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. During the rest of the year it is definetely a good idea to reserve a month or two ahead of time.
- A licensed guide must now accompany trekkers when walking the inca trail. The size of the group must be no more than 16 people and for groups with more than eight, there must be two guides.
- Pets and pack animals such as llamas and horses are not allowed on the trail machu picchu.
- In 2002 a new law was introduced to set a minimium wage for all porters on the Inca trail. This followed years of exploitation. The wage is mpw about US$10 per day, but many companies still try and pay less. That is why tipping is absolutely neccesary. The maximium wieght that a porter can carry is now 55 lbs (44lb load + 11 lbs of personal items), and this is checked at a weight station prior to the start of the trail.
- The inca trail hike tour will be closed each February for conservation projects and to give the vegetation a chance to recover. It is also the wettest month of the year. Other cusco to machu picchu treks remain open, however.
- The UGM (Unidad de Gestion Machu Picchu) now requires companies that arrange treks to meet certain basic requirements, proving that they have professional guides and good camping equipment, radio communications and emergency first aid including oxygen. Licenses are renewed each year.