Travel Myths Busted: Part 3 – The Fake Inca Trail

Our Group doing the Real Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in PERU in 2010

What? There’s a ‘FAKE’ Inca Trail?? Yes, there is and every single day unaware travellers sign up for it and do it without even knowing. I’m here to tell you how to make sure you do the real Inca Trail, which let’s be honest is what you want to do. You want four days of hiking and camping in the gorgeous valleys of Peru and then on the last morning a 6 kilometre descent down into Machu Picchu, Lost City of the Incas and the highlight of the four amazing days of hiking! First up – if you are going to South America, please DON’T MISS THE INCA TRAIL. It is amazing. Second up – make sure you do the Real Proper Inca Trail! This could be more of a Travel Scams Exposed rather than a myth, but I really want to highlight this point to all Inca Trail enthusiasts.

At the start of the proper Camino Inka / Inca Trail you will see (and probably be photographed with) this sign

So how can you tell if the Inca Trail you have done was a ‘fake’?? (and what proves you have done the real Inca Trail)

1. You didn’t have to show your passport on the entrance to the trail (at the start of the Real Inca Trail there is a compulsory passport check – you also have the option of getting a passport stamp, which I took)

The start of the Real Inca Trail means you need to show your passport and register at this checkpoint

2. You didn’t see the sign saying Inca Trail at the official entrance (the one I’m photographed in above and about 3 other signs on the way in)

This sign is also at the passport and registration point in a place called Qorihuayrachina

3. You paid less than $150 US Dollars (the real Inca Trail simply cannot be done for less than that) – the real Inca Trail will cost you more than $150 US Dollars (depending on porters, quality of tents, size of group, time of year etc.)

My ticket for the Inca Trail – the entire trail package all inclusive will be more than $150 US Dollars

4. Your ticket doesn’t have the silver hologram on it (see my ticket above)

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 used a bicycle on any part of the trail (the real Inca Trail doesn’t permit bicycles)

The Inca Trail is a walking trail!! It’s a hike, if they give you a bike, you are on a fake Inca Trail

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)

Arrival at Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail is entirely walking – you will not see a bus, car or bicycle on the trail. If you came by bus, you did a fake 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)

The Inca Trail is all about camping – no hostels or hotels in sight

9. The night before visiting Machu Picchu you spent the night in a town called Aguas Calientes (if this happens, I feel a bit sorry for you, as you won’t even have done any part of the real Inca Trail – and possibly done the Salkantay Trek instead. Sure you will love it – but remember you may have been given false information)

The gorgeous gushing river village of Aguas Calientes – you will only visit this AFTER you have done the Real Inca Trail

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.)

On the Inca Trail, your first view of Machu Picchu will be from here (those zig zags are actually a bus route!)

11. You did the trip in 3 days (unless under special circumstances as the proper hike from Qorihuayrachina to Machu Picchu is four days – yes of course experienced hikers can do it faster, but this is the set route and timescale)

12. You 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)

On a final note and not to put a dampener on it, if any of you did another hike, that’s also amazing. I’m just trying to highlight that if you want to do the Original Real Inca Trail, it’s a four day hike through the hills and valleys which ends at Machu Picchu. No settlements, hotels or transport at all during the four days.

So get to Cusco, book the Inca Trail and just check it’s the proper trail before you pay up and confirm everything. For the record I used the company Cuzco Explorers and my guide was Sonja. Recommended. Click here – Cuzco Explorers

 

I have over 30 videos I took from the Inca Trail and about 24 posts on here, here’s a quick video I took on Day 1:

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4 thoughts on “Travel Myths Busted: Part 3 – The Fake Inca Trail

  • If someone tries to sell the Salkantay Trek as the Inca Trail then that’s definitely a scam but most agencies including the dodgy ones on the plaza sell the trek for what it is – an alternative to the Inca Trail.

    The Salkantay Trek isn’t a bad trek, the views on it are amazing and it’s much quieter than the Inca Trail. There is also the option to visit Llactapata (an Inca site close to Machu Picchu) which provides you with amazing views of Machu Picchu across the valley.

  • Thanks for the comment Matt but I spoke to someone who did this “Salkantay Trek” and they told me they took a BUS to Machu Picchu, which even if its a good hike totally ruins the entire magic of it all. You don’t hike for 4 days then get a bus to the main attraction! Unless the hike involves walking for 4 days to Machu Picchu, it’s not the real Inca Trail in my opinion. Safe travels, Jonny

  • If I was to do the hiking on the Trail at least the real one then where do travelers that have a luggage with them keep it?

  • Hi Joe, I carry two backpacks with me. One of them with the stuff I didn’t need on the hike – books, laptop etc. I left it in Cuzco. Most backpackers leave their backpack in Cuzco, Ollantaytambo or Aguas Calientes. You don’t want your laptop getting soaked or destroyed on the Inca Trail, only take what you need! Safe travels. Jonny

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