How I Stumbled Onto An Ancient Inca City (Without Leaving Canada)

ancient inca city

The Classic Inca Trail was all booked up and my throat was sore from swearing.

Heading to Peru without trekking to Machu Picchu would be like skipping the pyramids in Egypt, staying sober in Cancun or not feeding fruit to a pack of crazed monkeys in Thailand. So with a sigh, I Googled ‘treks in Belize’ and started looking for Plan B.

Later that night, I flipped through my Lonely Planet guide about Peru and lamented my vacation gone awry. Sure, there were other great treks in this country, but none held the same mystique as the Inca Trail.

And then I saw it. Seven little words that tore me out of my slump and put me back into day-dreaming mode: “Remote, spectacular, and still not entirely cleared….”

I had stumbled onto a tiny paragraph that briefly mentioned Choquequirao, a sprawling ancient Inca city filled with aqueducts, temples and houses. These crumbling ruins match the size of Machu Picchu yet have remained deliciously difficult to get to.

I booked a flight to Lima later that week.
 

Look for tiny clues to find hidden adventures

The Choquequirao Trail got just a tiny mention in that Lonely Planet guide. Maybe 100 words max. It wasn’t even listed in the index. And if that opening line didn’t resonate with me so deeply, I probably would have skipped over that little blurb entirely. And I might even have nixed my Peru plans altogether.

So since that trip, I’ve changed my strategy when it comes to searching for trails, travel destinations or even swimming holes. I seek out what resonates with me; what I’m truly interested in. And I just glance at the so-called top attractions.

Pay attention to the smaller clues. Get ultra-specific with your Google searches and don’t skip the briefs in your favorite travel mag. Drop by online forums related to your ideal trip and ask folks for advice. You might want to even chat with a few locals about where the best trails are before you arrive at your destination (click here if you want a few tips for finding little-known trails).

And of course, guides like Lonely Planet are great too. I know this brand often gets a bad rap for being too “mainstream,” but it’s all in how you use them. Because the books are written by superstar travel writers, the facts are usually accurate and specific. These details, often omitted from some other travel publications, can help spark ideas. For example, a book like 100 Countries, 5,000 Ideas (yep, it’s an affiliate link) can help you come up with your own unique adventures.

But there are plenty of other great guides out there as well, in addition to killer online publications like Trek World, Vagabondish and others that offer unique insight into traveling and outdoor exploration. Just don’t ever ignore those little blurbs — sometimes, an amazing experience is all in the details.
 
Got any tips for finding hidden hiking trails? Tell us about them in the comments below.

About the author

Dustin Walker

Dustin Walker is a journalist, travel copywriter and editor/owner of Slick and Twisted Trails. Follow him on Twitter @dustinjaywalker