Thinking about hiking the Inca Trail? (You should be if you’ve yet to.) It’s easy to find a tour that’ll take you up the Inca Trail but more challenging to find one that gives you the opportunity to make the trek your own. We can all watch the feet of the person in front of us and follow wherever it is they’re walking, but we don’t always know how to really make the experience our own. So if happiness really is a journey and not a destination, here are some suggestions to make your own journey up the Inca Trail a happier, more individual one.
If you’re able to schedule your hike for late June, try to catch Inti Raymi, the ten-day Incan Festival of the Sun, held in Cuzco. Tens of thousands of people come here to mark the beginning of winter and to appeal to the Incan sun god, Inti to have mercy on them during the oncoming months of food shortage. The festival lasts ten days in Cuzco and music, food, and ceremony are all around. June 24 is the main date on which festival attendants convene on the tiny ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, in the hills just outside of Cuzco. Your time at this Incan festival will go a long way in making your trek up the trail more meaningful.
Something else you can try to catch before you head upward is the chaccu – a traditional Incan round-up and sheering ceremony of the vicuña – a small, llama-like animal. In high Incan times, the vicuña’s wool was deemed precious and was reserved for the ruling class, because the animal could only be sheered every three years. To this day, the wool remains among the most sought after in the region. The chaccu is an ancient ceremony in which hundreds of Incans line up to help corral the vicuñas for sheering, under the watchful eyes of a ceremonially dressed Incan figure. Specific to the location you’re in, tourists may be welcome to take part in the herding ceremony.
Depending on how much you wish to get in touch with your hidden Incan, you may wish to try chewing the coca leaf. This practice, known as acullico, is done by placing a ball of the leaves in your mouth, along with a small amount of alkaline. Incans swear by the coca leaf to bring awareness, ward off the effects of alcohol, and offer a slight anesthetic for general pain or discomfort. (It will come as no surprise that the coca leaf is the source from which cocaine is created.) The practice has been around for centuries and is highly engrained in Incan culture, so if you’re so inclined, this will be your opportunity.
A final word to help make your Inca Trail trek your very own is to remember to photograph your journey up. Everyone loves that one pic of Machu Picchu from the top, but the trek up is a fantastic journey of centuries-old stone steps and walls that should be seen and remembered. Take pics on the way up and take notice of where you are.
Whatever you do to make your Inca Trail experience your very own, don’t be afraid to take chances. Everyone will have different reasons for wanting to climb the Inca Trail, and that’s ok. Make the most of your time before and while you’re going up. Make your journey anything you want it to be; just make it yours.
G Adventures runs a number of departures on the Inca Trail encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of getting you on the trail today! Check out our small group trips here.