The Machu Picchu Trek has become one of the most popular treks in the world. In terms of shear numbers it rivals classic treks like the Everest Base Camp trek and climbing Kilimanjaro.
It is popular because the Andean environment that one treks through is gorgeous, but more importantly, the ruins of Machu Picchu are incredibly beautiful.
Machu Picchu was built around the mid 15th century (1450s) by the Incas as an estate to their emperor. But it’s greatness was to last long. When the Spainish Conquest arrived a century later, the Incas retreated into the jungle and built their last known city, Vilcabamba, which is in fact the real ‘Lost city of the Incas’.
It was not until 1911 that Machu Picchu was discovered again (although it was known by the locals to exist) by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. He believed the site to be the ‘Lost City’ and broke the news to the world.
Since them tourists have been flooding to Machu Picchu to see the site. In 2000 it was reported that over 400,000 toiurists visted the site, making it the largest and most popular torusit destination in Peru.
Concerns over the impact that tourists are having on the site led the Peruvian government to rethink their tourist strategy for the site, and in 2011 limits were introduced on the number of people allowed to visit the site per day. This now stands at 2,500 visitors a day and 500 permits per day for trekkers on the Classic Trail.
The mountain inside the citadel, Huayan Picchu, is also a popular attraction and climbed by many trekkers, although permits now limit the number of climbers that are allowed access (400 per day).
Alternative Machu Picchu trek routes like the Salkantay, Lares and Vilcabamba are fast becoming popular with trekkers as they other a similar authentic experience without the nuisance of too many people on the trail.