Inca trails less travelled
The Incan Empire once covered an area greater than Europe, providing today’s visitors with many other opportunities to walk the efficient road system that spanned the Andes mountains five hundred years earlier.
Peru’s admirable care for their greatest touristic asset ensures also you can only share their Inca Trail with 499 other visitors every day- unless you arrive in February, when it’s closed for cleaning.
But journey further onto the high Andes plateau into Bolivia to encounter Incan roadways that might not get that many travellers walking them all year.
The Bolivian highlands are criss-crossed with ancient paving that served as working highways for hundreds of years. Many trails were walked long before that by the Quechua and Aymara people that still make up most of Bolivia’s population.
Today, many routes have survived and are still plied by the odd llama herd and mules carrying potatoes and corn to isolated mining outposts.
These trails allow hikers to experience Bolivia’s wild beauty, where it’s possible to walk for days without hearing a car or even crossing a dirt road. The paths traverse crystal-clear mountain streams, ancient ruined settlements and offer staggering views from jungle to snow-capped peak.
There are three main Inca trails that link Bolivia’s high plain at altitudes of up to 4,700 metres down to the sub-tropical Yungas region at around 1,300 metres. Each has excellent sections of Inca and pre-Inca paving, vary in difficulty from fairly straightforward to quite hardcore- especially in the rainy season- and last between three and five days.
While each trail has no finale to match the awesome Macchu Picchu at sunrise, each ends near idyllic hideaway towns such as Coroico and Chulumani. Both provide a rewarding opportunity to rest weary limbs, comfortable accommodation and dining options as well as ample options for adventurous exploration of the Amazon headwaters and jungle beyond.
My Inca trail experiences
When I was 16, in my winter break from school, I did my first Inca trail. It was probably the most challenging experience of my life up to that point. The hike was particularly testing and the trail itself was quite arduous. But looking back I realise I was very privileged to get to see such unspoilt beauty.
The following years, I went on five more, but on these occasions I got prepared, kept fit and packed wisely. For my visit journey I was a tour leader of a big group of over 100 people.
Here are my top tips of how you should prepare before you do an Inca trail
1. Pack your bag as light as possible and always put everything in plastic bags.
2. Get fit before the trip: swimming is a good idea to help your lungs get in good condition.
3. Eat food reach in iron, which builds the red blood cells needed to function well at altitude.
4. Acclimatise at high altititude for a couple of days before the walk. So it’s best if you leave the trek for the end of your trip.
5. Never use brand new boots and take at least two pairs of socks per day.
6. Carry water purifying tablets
7. The first day is generally the hardest as you will have to climb to the highest point, get used to your boots and your rucksack will be heavier.
8. Go slow and take it easy there is no need to rush. Enjoy the views, the wildlife and the sunsets!