The Inca Trail – Nature in Focus
Machu Picchu, one of the new 7 wonders of the world, is on almost everyone’s travel bucket list. Synonymous with the ancient Inca civilisation and South America in general, the 15th century structure is thought to have been built for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. However, it was abandoned around the time of the Spanish Conquest and lay ‘undiscovered’ until 1911, when American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to the attention of the Western world. As alluded to previously, the structure itself is now incredibly widely recognised; although what is perhaps under appreciated by most prospective and active visitors is the natural environment in which Machu Picchu sits and the wildlife that inhabits it – something that a trek along the classic Inca trail will bring to light.
The Inca trail weaves itself through the Peruvian Andes. The longest mountain range on Earth provides a spectacular backdrop consisting of dramatic valleys such as the Rio Vilcanota and Rio Urubamba river valleys [pictured above and below] which contain rivers that supply life to large proportions of the region.
With these dramatic landscapes, found all along the inca trail, comes unique ecosystems containing a wide variety of flora and fauna. The first you may encounter is perhaps the most infamous of all South American animals – the Llama. Along with their cousins – the Alpaca, these domesticated camelids can be seen grazing on a variety of Andean grass called Ichu.
Whilst you can be pretty certain of an Alpaca or Llama sighting only the incredibly lucky will spot the spectacled bear. This little creature is, unfortunately, listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to habitat loss. The species, named due to its distinct markings, is the only surviving bear species native to South America. The bear’s favoured habitat is the cloud forests which can be found along the inca trail.
This cloud forest is unique environment which contains an extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity. The Peruvian cloud forest is thought to contain 300 different species of bird including the Royal Sunangel hummingbird and five endemic frog species which are just as picture-worthy of as the infamous Machu Picchu.
To trek the Classic Inca Trail and explore the environments and species mentioned in this article click here.