You couldnít find yourself any further from reality when hiking Peruís famous 4-days Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The trail which navigates its way through awe-inspiring Andean scenery, frequently passing by remote Inca ruins and descending slowly into the prime Amazon cloud forest is truly one of the worldís best trekking experiences. And now itís even better, as the trail is now offered with all the comforts of a luxury hotel.
During Inca times the imperial reign stretched along the majority of South Americaís coastline, from what we now know as Quito in Ecuador as far south as Santiago in Chile. The most important cities in the empire were connected by a network of Inca trails, thought to exceed more than 20,000 kmís (12,400 miles) in length. These trails were a vital transport and communication link for the empire, and were frequently travelled by Inca Royalty.
When the Spanish invaded Peru in the 16th Century, they left no stone un-turned as they brought the Inca Empire to its knees. The imperial City of Cusco (Qíosqo during Inca times) and most outlying Inca dwellings were reduced to mere rubble as the Spanish destroyed everything in their path. When the Incaís finally fled the onslaught of the Spanish they destroyed large sections of Inca trails as they went. Many Inca dwellings and cities were never found, lost to the dense Amazon Jungle forever. One of those places was a city of great importance, a royal retreat, a city known as Machu Picchu.
What we now know today as the official Inca Trail is actually a section of just 45 kmís (28 miles) of pathways. Starting from the trail head at kilometre 82 in the Sacred Valley the trail winds through the Andes finishing at the remote and beautiful citadel of Machu Picchu.
Hiking the Inca Trial to Machu Picchu really is one of Peruís best highlights, but camping for 4 days in the cold Andean mountains is not everyoneís idea of fun. However, now there is an elite group of tour operators which offer a once-in-a-life-time luxury Inca Trail package, making the whole experience even more appealing. The package which is akin to staying in a luxury hotel includes services such as a massage tent complete with a professional masseuse, large oversized tents, comfortable beds, eco-friendly portable toilets, a hot water shower tent and gourmet cuisine specially prepared by your personal chef.
And what is the price tag for such an exclusive luxury experience? In 2013, luxury Inca Trail packages are offered starting from around US$ 3,000 per person. And, should you wish to enhance the trip even further, you can include an additional US$ 400 and return to Cusco aboard the Orient Express-owned Hiram Bingham Train!
Paul Jones is Managing Director of†Totally Latin America.