Lonely Planet Writer

See how two travellers conquered part of Peru’s Inca Trail in wheelchairs

Chilean travellers Álvaro Silberstein and Isabel Aguirre recently traversed an 11-kilometre section of the Inca Trail, becoming the first quadriplegic and paraplegic travellers to make the journey in wheelchairs.

Álvaro Silberstein of Wheel the World is hoping to promote accessible travel in Peru. Image by Wheel the World

The one-day trek up to Machu Picchu, on a section of the famous Inca Trail, was designed to promote accessible travel in the region. Silberstein and Aguirre were part of a 14-person group who were taking an eight-day tour of Peru, including Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

Travellers move along the Inca Trail in Peru. Image by Wheel the World

Silberstein is the founder and CEO of Wheel the World, an accessible travel company, and the tour was designed along with the travel operator PEAK DMC. The trip included climbing 320 near-vertical steps near the Wiñay Wayna ruins, which was a difficult climb for the team. Gary Cohen, PEAK DMC Regional General Manager for South America, said it was the toughest moment of the trek. “It was totally worth it though, as once we passed this section we knew we were truly going to make it to Machu Picchu.”

Silberstein also notes that it was a difficult journey, but worth the effort: “completing the one-day Inca Trail was both beautiful and hard – at many exhausted moments we wondered if we would make it but reaching the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu from on high was probably the most beautiful moment in my life”.

Isabel Aguirre takes part in a cycling trip in Peru. Image by Wheel the World

In addition to the section of the Inca Trail, the eight-day tour also included a ten-kilometre cycling trip through the Sacred Valley, kayaking on Piuray Lake and exploring the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. These activities were made possible with special adaptive equipment such as the Joëlette chair, which were provided by Wheel the World, which will now be available for travellers in the future.

“Our mission at Wheel the World is to allow people with disabilities to be able to explore every single corner of the globe, so we were thrilled to partner with PEAK DMC to bring accessible adventure to Peru,” said Silberstein in a statement. “They’re the perfect tour operator for us – not only bringing destination expertise but an amazing team of tour leaders and suppliers. We hope to replicate this model all around the world in the future.”

Álvaro Silberstein, 33, and Isabel Aguirre, 36, both from Chile, have become the first quadriplegic and paraplegic to cross a section of the Inca Trail in wheelchairs. Image by Wheel the World

Together, PEAK DMC and Wheel the World have developed a private group tour itinerary in the regions, so travellers with accessibility requirements have the opportunity to visit the incredible historic and cultural sites, as well as taking part in cycling and kayaking. Find out more at gowheeltheworld.com.

Find Lonely Planet’s free accessible travel guides here.