The closest city to the Inca Trail is Cuzco, the old imperial Inca capital, which was both the administrative and the religious centre of the empire. Seized by the Spanish in 1533 after the murders of the Incas Huascar and Atahualpa, many of the original Inca buildings were destroyed and their stone used to construct palaces and churches for the invaders. Much of the city was also burned during the rebellion of 1534.
From Cuzco, regular trains run to Machu Picchu. To walk the Trail, most hikers take a train and get off when the train stops at Km.88. The trail starts here.
The trail crosses the river at Cusichaca ("Bridge of happiness" - the names of many of the places along the trail are Quechua names mostly invented by Hiram Bingham, who led the American expedition to the ruins of Machu Picchu). There is a suspension bridge for walkers here.
Close to the start of the trail there is a small Inca ruin. About half an hour's walk from the bridge at Cusichaca, there is a campsite consisting of a small walled enclosure by the side of the river, which at this point is cold, noisy and fast-flowing.