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Connecting with the Past: Exploring Ancient Inca Communities Along the Inca Trail

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 27-06-2023

The Inca civilization, with its mysterious cultural practices, rich history and fascinating cultural heritage, continues to captivate the imagination of travelers from around the world. Exploring the ancient Inca communities along the Inca Trail is an extraordinary experience that offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past. For those seeking a deeper connection with history and indigenous communities, embarking on a trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu presents an incredible opportunity. Here, we will delve into the various treks that allow us to visit and engage with the ancient Inca communities and indigenous peoples, providing a unique window into their rich heritage and way of life.


Along the Machu Picchu Inca Trail trek are several modern-day indigenous communities. These small  Quechua communities have preserved aspects of their ancient Inca heritage and offer a glimpse into the traditional Andean way of life.

Traditional Andean Weavers

The Classic Inca Trail

Undoubtedly the most famous and sought-after trek, the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu takes adventurers on a mesmerizing journey through stunning mountain scenery and fascinating archaeological sites. Along the way, trekkers have the chance to interact with Quechua-speaking communities, who are the direct descendants of the Inca civilization. These encounters provide a rare insight into their ancestral traditions, local customs, and their ongoing efforts to preserve their cultural heritage.


This is the first village along the Inca Trail is called Huayllabamba. It is inhabited by Quechua-speaking people who maintain traditional agricultural practices. The village is known for its terraced fields and traditional adobe houses.

Child on The Inca Trail


Salkantay Trek

One of the most popular alternative treks to the classic Inca Trail is the Salkantay Trek. This awe-inspiring route takes you through breathtaking landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, lush jungles, and serene valleys. Along the way, you'll have the chance to visit indigenous communities such as Mollepata and Soraypampa, where you can learn about their ancestral customs, agricultural techniques, and traditional weaving. Not only in the Andes but also in the lower regions of the cloud forest as you get closer to Machu Picchu.


The Salkantay Trek is a popular alternative to Inca Trail trips. It is an original Inca Trail and passes through several traditional Quechua communities.  These communities along the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, offer a unique opportunity to experience traditional Andean culture and hospitality. This provides a deeper understanding of the local way of life in the Peruvian Andes.

Collecting Firewood


Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is another remarkable journey that combines stunning mountain scenery with encounters with local Inca communities. This off-the-beaten-path trek offers a glimpse into the lives of indigenous Andean people who have preserved their traditions for centuries. As you hike through picturesque valleys and high mountain passes, you'll have the opportunity to interact with Quechua-speaking communities, witness traditional textile weaving, and even participate in a traditional Pachamanca ceremony.


The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is a popular alternative to the Inca Trail. It offers a more cultural experience from the traditional Inca Trail. One of the highlights of the Lares Trek is the opportunity to interact with local Quechua communities.

Herding the Cows


Choquequirao Trek

For those seeking a more remote and challenging adventure, the Choquequirao Trek is an excellent choice. This trail leads to the ancient citadel of Choquequirao, often referred to as the "sister city" of Machu Picchu. Along the trek, you'll have the chance to visit local communities such as Cachora and Yanama. These encounters provide a window into the daily lives of the indigenous population, their agricultural practices, and their close connection with the surrounding natural environment.


The Choquequirao trek is an alternative Inca Trail that offers stunning mountain scenery. It is blessed with panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and snow-capped peaks. The Choquequirao trail passes through different ecosystems, including cloud forests and Andean grasslands on its way to the archaeological site.

Happy Native Children


The Ausangate Trek

The Ausangate Trek is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and the opportunity to witness the impressive Ausangate mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Cusco region. Along the trail, you'll pass through isolated indigenous communities like Chillca and Phinaya, where the local Quechua-speaking population maintains their ancestral way of life. Interacting with these communities provides a unique insight into their spiritual beliefs, llama herding practices, and traditional arts and crafts.


The Ausangate Trek is also a trekking route that is linked up with the Qapaq Ñan. The Qapaq Ñan was a road network connecting important regions of the Inca Empire. The Apu Ausanagate was a sacred mountain of The Incas.

Ausangate Locals


Exploring ancient Inca communities along the Inca Trail is a transformative experience that allows us to connect with the past and gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of the region. Whether you choose the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Choquequirao Trek, or Ausangate Trek, each offers a unique opportunity to engage with indigenous communities, learn from their wisdom, and witness their living traditions. These encounters not only enhance the trekking experience but also foster a sense of appreciation for the enduring legacy of the Inca civilization and the vibrant cultures that continue to thrive in the Peruvian Andes. Find out more about these awe-inspiring treks here!


Community meetings, known as "ayllu" in Quechua, are an important part of Andean culture. They are often held in villages and communities near the Machu Picchu Inca Trail tour. These meetings serve various purposes and are integral to the social fabric of Andean communities.

Andean Meeting