I'm here to tell you that there is a fake Inca Trail!! And every day hikers will do it unaware that's it's not the real deal. I'll tell you how to make sure you book the real Inca Trail, which is what you want to do. The real Inca Trail is 4 days trekking and then on the last morning a short descent down into Machu Picchu, the amazing Lost Inca City and the highlight of your 4 amazing days of hiking! Firstly - if you are going to South America, do the Inca Trail! It is incredible. Secondly - ensure you do the Real Proper Inca Trail! I could be exposing a travel scam here, but I really want to highlight this point to all future Inca Trail enthusiasts.
You will see (and probably be photographed with) a massive sign that says Inca Trail at the start of the trail.
So what are the tell tale signs that the Inca Trail you did was a 'fake'?? (and what confirms that you have done the real Inca Trail?)
1. You weren't required to show your passport on the entrance to the trail (at the start of the Real Inca Trail there is a mandatory passport check - you also have the option of getting a passport stamp)
The start of the Real Inca Trail means you need to show your passport and register at a checkpoint.
2. There wasn't a sign saying Inca Trail at the official entrance.
3. It cost you less than $150 US Dollars (the real Inca Trail just can't be done for less than that) - the real Inca Trail will cost you much more than $150 US Dollars (dependant on porters, type of tents, size of group, season etc.)
4. Your ticket didn't have a shiny silver hologram on it.
5. You didn't spend your third night in Winay Wayna (a mountain area with a massive campsite deliberately located only 6 kilometres from Machu Picchu - if you're on the Real Inca Trail you will stay here - or at least pass through it and stay nearby)
The visitor's centre at Winaywayna is beside the campsite where you will probably spend your third night.
6. You rode a bicycle during the trail (the real Inca Trail doesn't allow bicycles).
7. You got a bus to Machu Picchu (seriously, I met people who got a bus to Machu Picchu!! Now come on but if you get a bus then you know it's not the real Inca Trail)
8. The night before visiting Machu Picchu you didn't even stay in a tent (on the Inca Trail the only accomodation is tents - if you stayed in a hotel or hostel, sorry but it's not on the trail)
9. The night before visiting Machu Picchu you were staying night in a town called Aguas Calientes (if this happens to you, I feel a bit sorry and upset for you, as you probably didn't do any part of the real Inca Trail - you possibly done the Salkantay Hike instead. Yes you will love it - but it's probably that you were given false information).
10. You entered Machu Picchu by ascending to the top of a hill (Please note - When you reach Machu Picchu at the end of the Inca Trail it is a downward descent and you get your first viewing of Machu Picchu on the way down at a place called Intipunku or Intipata.)
11. You did the trip in three days (apart from special circumstances as the proper hike from Qorihuayrachina along to Machu Picchu takes four days - yes, experienced hikers will do it faster, but this is a set route and timescale)
12. The hike you do is called the Salkantay Trek or Machu Picchu Trek (these are also great hikes by the way, but not the Real Inca Trail).
13. You book it the day before (There are only 400 places on the Real Inca Trail each day and it normally fills up fast so booking the day before sounds suspicious to me).
In closing and not meaning to put a dampener on it, if any of you do another hike, that is also amazing. I'm just trying to let people know that if you want to do the proper real Inca Trail, it will be a four day hike through the hills and valleys of Peru which will end triumphantly at Machu Picchu. There are no settlements, no hotels and no transport at all during the four day hike.
So get to Cusco, get on the Inca Trail and just check it's the proper trail before you pay up and confirm everything.
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