Peru is synonymous with mountains. Seen from above, Peru's territory resembles a colossal sheet of wrinkled paper. The reason is the presence of the magnificent Andes that, like a giant backbone of rock and snow, cut across Peru from north to south and mold its geography and with it, the landscape and the people.
The Andes spread across Peru, forming the largest concentration of snow peaks of the Americas. They are an intricate system of large and small mountain ranges -approximately 20 of them- crowned by a thousand summits that tower over 5,000 meters and more than thirty that rise above 6,000 meters. Mountains in Peru are so pervasive that it is almost impossible to imagine a landscape without soaring peaks looming in the horizon. Only in the Amazon plain and some areas in the arid coastal desert does the land flatten out.
Such unique mountainous areas are home to an impressive succession of landscapes and exceptional animal and plant wildlife, that include: the Puya Raimondi, a plant with the largest number of flowers in the world (more than 10,000) which blooms only once every 80-100 years; queñual forests that grow almost on the edge of the snow line; century-old yaretas, that grow scarcely one millimeter a year; small herds of graceful vicuña whose wool is considered the world's finest; majestic Andean condors that dominate the skies, and dozens of tiny hummingbirds that feature all the colors of the rainbow.
Several high-Andean civilizations of farmers and livestock herders -who follow millenary mountain traditions of paying homage to the sacred Apus or sacred mountain guardians- add to the attractiveness of the area. So come and see for yourself!
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Part of the 23,000 kilometers (approximately 14,000 miles) of roads built by the Incas in South America, this is Peru's most famous trekking route and possibly one of the most spectacular in the Americas. Every year, some 25,000 hikers from around the world walk along the extraordinary 43 kilometers of this stone-paved road built by the Incas. The Trail leads to the unassailable citadel of Machu Picchu located in the depth of the Cuzco cloud forest.
The journey starts in the village of Qorihuayrachina, at kilometer 88 of the Cuzco-Quillabamba railway and takes three or four days of strenuous hiking. The route includes an impressive variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems that range from the high Andean plain to the cloud forest. Travelers will cross two high altitude passes (the highest being Warmiwañuska at 4,200 meters) to culminate the hike with a magical entrance to Machu Picchu through the Inti Punko or Gateway of the Sun.
One of the main attractions along the route is the web of ancient settlements built in granite rock by the Incas like Wiñay Wayna and Phuyupatamarca immersed in an overpowering natural scenery. Hundreds of species of orchids, multicolored birds and dreamlike landscapes provide the ideal backstage for a route that every hiker should walk at least once.
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