If you’re preparing for an Inca Trail tour, you’ll no doubt be excited by the prospect of visiting the famous Machu Picchu, seeing some other Inca ruins as you hike and enjoying the stunning Andean scenery.

Machu Picchu #1

Machu Picchudachalan 

There are, however, some lesser-known facts about the Inca Trail and the civilisation responsible for the path. Here are just five that might capture your imagination.

1. All roads lead to …

Did you know the Inca Trail is just one of many Inca roads? When you stop to think about it, that’s only logical, but are you aware the paths constructed by this civilisation span some 40,000 km collectively? To put that in context, the Inca Trail runs for around 43 km, so you can see there are a lot more routes that were laid down by these fascinating people.

These roads extended to Ecuador in the north and as far south as Argentina and Chile, giving you some indication of just how large the Inca empire was at its height. The main road, called Qhapaq Nan, was estimated to be 6,000 km long and joined up with 23,000 km of trails.

2. Machu Picchu architecture

The ultimate goal of the Inca Trail is, of course, Machu Picchu. One of the most impressive things about this city – aside from its location – is the construction methods used to erect the buildings.

You might be surprised to learn there is no mortar between any of the immense stone blocks that form the walls of the citadel. Instead, each piece of stone is expertly sanded to fit in with its neighbour and they are so tightly packed not even a knife can slide between the blocks. This type of construction is believed to be incredibly resistant to earthquakes, which is backed up by the fact many earthquakes have hit Peru, yet these structures are still standing.

3. Keeping records

This isn’t strictly related to the Inca Trail, but it’s a fascinating fact nonetheless. The Incas had a complex system of recording their history, accounts and other information using coloured cords, different lengths of string and knots. Scholars still don’t fully understand how it works and there are few examples of the system, known as quipu, remaining.

4. Inca Trail marathon

You might think the four-day hike along the Inca Trail is enough of a challenge for you, but just in case you want to up the tempo, you could consider entering the Inca Trail marathon. Yes, that’s right, there are people who head to Peru every year to run along this famous route.

Competitors are given a maximum of one day to complete the arduous race, with this year’s winner completing the course in seven hours, 44 minutes and five seconds. Of the 40 entrants in the 2012 event, only 12 managed to cross the finishing line within the 24-hour timeframe.

5. Who discovered Machu Picchu?

Although American explorer Hiram Bingham is credited with rediscovering Machu Picchu in 1911, there is much debate about whether he truly was the first westerner to lay eyes on the ruins since they were abandoned. Certainly, local farmers were aware of their existence, as it was their information that led Bingham to the site.

There are suggestions German adventurer Augusto Berns trekked to Machu Picchu decades before Bingham arrived, while there are also claims two missionaries reached the citadel some five years before the American adventurer.