The Inca Trail is located within the so-called ‘Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu’, an area full of a diversity of flora and fauna worthy of admiration. Due to this, the Peruvian authorities have implemented various rules to protect and conserve this fabulous natural area. Tourists, for their part, should avoid leaving waste during the route. Learn what these rules are and how we can help avoid environmental impact on this hiking trail.
Currently the Inca Trail only allows the entry of 500 people per day. Of this number only 200 correspond to tourists. The remaining 300 are the support staff (tour guide, cooks and porters) who will accompany the visitor. Only Machu Picchu, the final destination of the Inca Trail, accumulates about 14 tons of garbage a day. The solution to this problem is in the hands of the Peruvian authorities but also of the visitor himself. Learn how to avoid environmental impact during this adventure.
Why should we take care of the environment on the Inca Trail?
One of the best hiking trails in the world is the Inca Trail, a 39-kilometer route that ends in Machu Picchu.
Because the route runs through part of the famous network of qhapac ñan (Inca trails) It is considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
Likewise, the route crosses important Inca archaeological sites such as Llactapata, Runkurakay, Saycamarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñaywayna. In addition, the final destination is the Inca city of Machu Picchu, considered one of the wonders of the modern world.
The geography that surrounds the Inca Trail is mountainous and full of vegetation typical of the high jungle region. Along the route it is possible to see different species of trees and flowers. The orchid and its more than three hundred varieties stand out. It is also possible to hear the song of the cock of the rocks and many more birds. Although it is difficult to run into one, the spectacled bear or the Andean deer also inhabit this area.
For all these reasons, it is important to take care of the environment on the Inca Trail.
Is it dangerous is the environmental impact on the Inca Trail?
Like any major tourist destination, the environmental impact suffered by this tourist attraction is, many times, irremediable.
The impact is gradual, slow and progressive. It can reach its total alteration, affecting the locals and their natural environment. It can even affect the safety of visitors.
The environmental problems on the Inca Trail are caused by camping activities, the deterioration of the soils, the loss of exotic vegetation and the isolation of natural fauna. Due to the increase in visitors, solid waste, deforestation, environmental pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, erosion of slopes and even landslides are generated.
For example, in 2013, SERNANP (National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the Peruvian State) collected 1,360 kilos of waste. The 136 workers and young volunteers from Cusco who participated in this campaign to clean the Inca Trail, contributed to cleaning the hiking route. They also helped with the care of the ecosystems and biodiversity of the flora and fauna species that inhabit there.
In 2014, SERNANP again organized the cleaning of the Inca Trail and was pleasantly surprised that the inorganic waste collected by park rangers was reduced to 950 kilos. According to SERNANP, this was due to constant awareness campaigns on the negative impact caused by dumping solid waste on the Inca Trail route. Furthermore, this demonstrates the commitment of local people, visitors, public and private institutions.
How is the environmental impact of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu controlled?
SERNANP is responsible for protecting the natural environment and landscape of the Inca Trail. It also has the function of conserving natural ecosystems, native flora and fauna species and proceeding with their restoration intervention, if required. Finally, it seeks to conserve the use of ecosystems, soils, water and constructions from the Inca culture and its predecessors.
As part of the control of the environmental impact suffered by the Inca Trail, it has the objective of:
- Promote scientific and biological research on the Natural Heritage of this historical, natural and cultural attraction.
- Maintaining the ecological balance and natural beauty is another task that you have to fulfill. The objective is to ensure that visitors enjoy, respect and obtain greater knowledge of the natural resources that are found on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
- Permanently guide the users of the Inca Trail on how to behave in this important natural site, how to respect the flora and fauna of the place, how to ensure the conservation of the ecosystem and not leave a trace of their passage through the place.
For this purpose, there are park guards and security personnel whose instructions must be obeyed. In this way we will be collaborating with the conservation and control of the environmental impact suffered by the Inca Trail.
How to collaborate so that biological diversity is not affected on the Inca Trail?
To reduce the environmental impact on the Inca Trail, the tourist must comply with the following regulations:
- Reduce to the maximum, the option of generating garbage, from the moment you prepare your walk, along the Inca Trail.
- Bring back all the garbage you generate.
- Avoid leaving any remaining food on the floor.
- Do not throw cigarette butts on the ground.
- Bring canteens, not plastic bottles of water.
- Do not start wild flora.
- Do not eat wild fruits.
- Walk, on the allowed trails.
- Don’t innovate, new trails.
- Check that the camps are set up, only in permitted places.
- Leave the site clean, without a trace of your presence.
- When walking in a group, do not separate from the group, so the impact will be less severe.
- Do not step on plants or mosses, they are very fragile and slow to recover.
- Do not use soap or shampoo, unnecessary and contaminates the water.
- Be careful that the kitchen staff do not use detergents for washing. Hot water is a very good substitute for detergent.
- Do not capture or chase animals.
- Do not extract archaeological evidence (ceramic fragments, rocks and others).
- Do not paint, on the Inca walls.
- Do not step, or feel, or climb the walls of the Inca constructions.
- Do not camp in the archaeological remains.
- Let’s be silent, in our journey, noise alters the transit and flight of animals.
- Don’t follow the animals, just watch them as far away as you can so you don’t disturb them.
- Avoid leaving food residues on the way, thus not only keeping the place clean, but also preventing the animals from altering their diet.
- Help protect the natural flora and fauna, refraining from buying their skins, handicrafts of their parts, medicines, etc.
- Don’t make bonfires.
- Do not buy wooden poles, this way you avoid unnecessary felling of trees.
- Check that your operator uses only the red and green bags, required by the Regional Directorate of Culture and SERNANP.
By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 11-11-2021
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