Tourism

The Vilcanota Valley runs from the highlands of Cusco to the Amazon of southern Peru, and it is the main location of the film. It is also known as the Sacred Valley, and was once the heartland of Tawantinsuyu, empire of the Incas. Ruins dot the landscape, but many of the original settlements are still lived in. The village of Ollantaytambo, where some of our film is set, is one such town. In 1536 Fransisco Pizarro beleguared the capital of Cusco, and Manco Inca fled through the Vilcanota Valley as the last heir to the empire. He won a battle at the fortress by Ollantaytambo, which gave him time to escape over the mountains towards the jungle retreat of Vilcabamba. Seeing that the war was lost, whole villages were burnt on the escape to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Spanish, and marks of the flames can still be seen on the scorched walls of the ruins at Pumamarca. Manco Inca was eventually slain by Spanish dissidents, and myths started spreading around the lost treasures of his last refuge. 

Many treasure hunters have looked for them over the years, but the best known is perhaps Hiram Bingham - an amateur archaeologist and Yale lecturer who stumbled over what was to become the most visited tourist attraction in South America. He was not the first Occidental to see Machu Picchu but through his exposure of it, and a National Geographic publication, the citadel became a house-hold name. 

The Inca Trail is a narrow mountain path which local farmer Melchor Arteaga brought Hiram Bingham on to show him the ruins of Machu Picchu. It forms part of a great network of roads stretching from Argentina to Colombia, and it is still being explored. The path between the Vilcanota Valley and Machu Picchu is 46 kilometers long and takes about four days with most tourist agencies, but there is also a shorter two day route.

Over a million tourists pass through Leoncio’s small mountain village Ollantaytambo on their way to Machu Picchu every year and approximately 66 000 tourists visit the Inca Trail each year, according to the National Institute of Culture (INC) who used to administer the area. With such high numbers of visitors, a trek on the Inca Trail should be booked several months in advance, and probably half a year for high season.

The quiet months on the trail coincide with the rainy season between October and March, at its wettest in January and February. The trail closes during February for some highly needed cleaning and also because the mountains can be unsafe during heavy rains.

Recommending agencies that fulfill ILO standards and Peruvian law is part of our strategy, because if ethical agencies profit, others will follow. According to the porters' labor union, very few comply with working regulations, but there are some we can suggest if you are interested in walking the Inca Trail. Peruvian Odyssey is a more expensive option which caters to researchers and professionals, Llama Path is normally priced, run by an ex-porter/guide and highly recommended, and Wayki Trek has a good reputation among the porters. Inca tourTambo Treks, EcoInca, Treksperu, and Explorandes have been recommended. More links are available in the Archive page and we add more as we get updates from our friends in the valley. 

We ask tourists to travel as ethically and environmentally friendly as possible. With over a million visitors a year, the valley absorbs much waste and any action, however small, helps. An easy way to help is to avoid excess water bottles in the valley would diminish the plastic beaches of the Urubamba river, and buying directly from directly from locals keeps money local.