Friday, 11 June 2010 12:00 AM
With the height of the trekking season about to get underway in Peru, travellers’ are being offered an ‘alternative Inca Trail’ from specialist overland and small group adventure tour operator, Dragoman.
Dragoman’s Community Inca Trek is a unique trekking route that not only involves trekking through pristine mountains along ancient Inca trails but also allows travellers’ to stay within local communities and get involved with the company’s pioneering community-based tourism project, Tarpuy Yachay.
It’s a community-based tourism project for which the company has been recently awarded the Sustainable Tourism Achievement Award by the AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators).
“This trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfare of the classic Inca Trail and exploring the real, unspoiled Andes,” says Charlie Hopkinson, Dragoman’s managing director.
“Rather than starting the trail with 500 others each day, travellers’ will only encounter a trail used by locals and Dragoman – most groups see no other westerners during the entire trek. It also gives travellers’ a unique opportunity to directly benefit the host communities we travel through by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects.”
The Alternative Inca Trail has already proved a big hit. Although travellers’ have the choice between choosing between the classic Inca Trail and the Community Trek, 70 per cent of Dragoman’s Peru travellers’ now choose to participate in the Community Inca Trek. As a result, Dragoman and passenger donations now amount to approximately $US10,000 per year.
So how do you make up your mind which Inca Trail is for you? Here are some pros and cons of the classic Inca Trail vs the Alternative trek:
Pros of the ‘Alternative’ Inca Trek
- Unspoiled and absolutely spectacular mountain scenery
- No visas required, so trips can be booked at the last minute, depending on availability.
- Hands on involvement with local communities, including a variety of projects to provide infrastructure for the community. A proportion of the costs are going back into the local community and the guides, pack animals and trekking staff are all from the local community. The community really benefits from your trekking. Trekkers stay for two nights in local communities.
- Virtually deserted routes, used only by locals and Dragoman Overland, most groups see no other westerners while trekking.
- Llamas, mules and horses are used instead of porters to carry equipment. The local communities we stay in provide these. This is Responsible Tourism in action. Horses and mules provide a much needed safety valve if people suffer from altitude or exhaustion… you can always swallow your pride and hitch a ride.
- Altitude Sickness, although we will trek higher than the Classic Inca Trail (4800m), we can always get you down to a lower altitude and into a local community if necessary. This is not possible on the Classic Trail.
Cons of ‘Alternative’ Inca Trek
- The Sungate & Machu Picchu, yes, we certainly will visit Machu Picchu after the trek, but we will not trek through to the Sun Gate as you will on the Classic Inca Trail. However, many group members in the past six months have trekked back up from Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate to see the famous view.
- The Inca Roads that the Classic Trail takes are the King’s roads and therefore are better preserved that the Inca trails across the valley.
- The ruins along the way on the Classic Inca Trail are more numerous, however you will see Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Pisac and other remote Inca sites on the Community Trail.
Pros of the Classic Inca Trail
- This “original” route is still the most popular route because of its history.
- The Classic Trail is not quite as challenging as the Inca Community Trail and and the passes are not quite as high. That said, it is still a pretty tough and you will need to be reasonably fit.
- The Classic Inca Trail finishes at the “Sungate” to Machu Picchu on the final morning of the trek, and you arrive at Machu Picchu by foot. On the Community Trek you will finish your trek the day before visiting Machu Picchu – and whilst we still arrive very early in the morning before the crowds, this is not a trekking day.
Cons of the Classic Inca Trail
- The crowds, unfortunately often as many as 500 people a day start the Classic Trail and it has become very overcrowded, especially during the peak months. Rubbish, dirt, sanitation and over crowding are a real issue now. The hordes of people trekking this route is unsustainable and the Peruvian Government are being forced to limit numbers. This now means that at certain times of the year, not only is the trail overcrowded but also it is hard to even get permits to trek.
- The Classic Trail gives you no community involvement and you will be a trekking tourist in a national park.
Travellers’ wanting to participate in the alternative Inca Trail can do so on the following three trips:
The 11 nights Machu Picchu, Inca trail, Lake Titicaca trip between Cusco and La Paz. The 16 nights Incas, trails and condors trip between Lima and Cusco. The 21 nights Inca Heartland trip between Lima and La Paz.
For bookings call Dragoman on 01728 861133. June – September are the best months for trekking in Peru.
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