Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - The Incas built a highly advanced system of nearly 40,000 kilometers of trails, to connect the far corners of their large empire that extended from Quito in Ecuador down to Santiago in Chile and east to Mendoza in Argentina. Cusco was the heart of this important empire. Practically all of the main trails in the mountains around Cusco were built or worked upon by the Incas; though a specifically exquisite 43 km portion of mountain trail joining the valuable Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmara, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and Machu Picchu has become a favorite of trekkers in the past 30 years. It is known as the "Inca trail to Machu Picchu". Admission to this portion of the Inca trail is rigidly regulated, and only official Inca Trail hiking companies can sell tickets. All guides must have a license and only a limited number of Inca Trail hiking permits are issued and they must be bought months in advance.
The Salkantay Trek to Inca Trail consists of three overlapping trails Mollepata, Classic, and One Day Mollepata is the longest of the three routes with the highest mountain pass and intersects with the Classic route before crossing Warmiwañusqa ("dead woman"). Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of Andean environments including Cloud_forest, Alpine_tundra Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins located along the trail before ending at the terminus at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain. The two longer routes require an ascent beyond 4,200 meters (13,800ft) above sea level, which can result in altitude sickness.
Concern about overuse leading to erosion has led the Peruvian government to place a limit on the number of people who may hike this trail per season, and to sharply limit the companies that can provide guides. As a result, advance booking is mandatory. A maximum of 500 people are allowed on the trail each day, of which only 200 are trekkers, the rest being guides and porters. As a result, the high season books out very quickly.
The trail is closed every February for maintenance and cleaning by offical organisations.
It starts from one of two points: 88 km (55 miles) or 82 km (51 miles) from Cusco on the Urubamba River at approximately 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) or 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) altitude, respectively.
Both of these trail segments meet above the Inca ruins of Patallaqta (sometimes called Llaqtapata), a site used for religious and ceremonial functions, crop production, and housing for soldiers from the nearby hilltop site of Willkaraqay, an ancient pre-Inca site first inhabited around 500 BC. The trail undulates, but overall ascends along the Kusichaka River. At the small village Wayllapampa ("grassy plain", Wayllabamba) the trail intersects with the "Mollepata Trail" at 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).
Small, permanent settlements are located adjacent to the trail, and Wayllapampa has approximately 400 inhabitants (130 families) spread along this portion of the trail. Pack animals—horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas—are allowed.
At Wayllapampa the trail to Machu Picchu turns west and begins ascending along a tributary of the Kusichaka. Because of previous damage caused by hooves, pack animals are not allowed on the remainder of the trail.
As the trail ascends toward Warmi Wañusqa, or "Dead Woman's Pass",it passes through differing habitats, one of which is a cloud forest containing Polylepis trees. The campsite at Llulluch'apampa (Llulluchapampa) is located on this stretch of trail at 3,800 metres (12,500 ft). The pass itself is located at 4,215 m (13,829 ft) above sea level, and is the highest point on the "Classic" trail.
After crossing the pass the trail drops steeply into the Pakaymayu drainage. At a distance of 2.1km and 600m below the pass is the campground Pakaymayu.
RELATED: 4 day vs 2 day Inca Trail
After passing Pakaymayu the trail begins steeply ascending the other side of the valley. One kilometre along the trail, at an altitude of 3,750 metres (12,300 ft) is the Incan Tampu Runkuraqay, ruins which overlook the valley. The site was heavily restored in the late 1990s. The trail continues to ascend, passing a small lake named Quchapata (Cochapata) in an area that is recognized as deer habitat. This site had been used as a camp site. As with other sites that were being degraded due to overuse, camping is no longer allowed. The trail reaches the pass at an altitude of 3950m.
The trail continues through high cloud forest, undulating, sometimes steeply while affording increasingly dramatic viewpoints of mountains and dropoffs. Next, the Sayaqmarka ("steep-place town") is reached followed by the tampu Qunchamarka. A long Inca tunnel and a viewpoint overlooking two valleys: the Urubamba and Aobamba (a broken word), are passed.
Another high point at altitude of 3650 m is crossed, followed by a campground, and then after a short descent, a site with extensive ruins. The name Phuyupatamarka ("cloud-level town") is applied to both the campground, and the ruins. Hiram Bingham III discovered the site, but left most of it covered with vegetation. The Fejos team named the site, and uncovered the remainder.
Design of the site closely follows the natural contours, and includes five fountains and an altar, which was probably used for llama sacrifice.
The Inca Trail descends approximately 1000 metres including an irregular staircase of approximately 1500 steps, some of which were carved into solid granite. Vegetation becomes more dense, lush, and "jungle" like with an accompanying increase in butterflies and birds. A second Incan tunnel is along this section of trail.
Even before passing through the tunnel there are views down to the Willkanuta River, the first since leaving the river at Patallaqta.
The number of these views increases. After the tunnel, the small town near Machu Picchu Citadel (Aguas Calientes) can be seen, and trains running along the river can be heard. As the trail nears Intipata, it affords views of the "Two Day" Short Inca Trail (aka "Camino Real de los Inkas" or "One Day Inca Trail"). A small spur of the trail leads directly to Wiñay Wayna, while the main route continues to Intipata.
Intipata is a recently uncovered extensive set of agricultural terraces which follow the convex shape of the terrain. Potatoes, maize, fruit, and sweet potato were grown here.
Whose name means forever young, is used to refer to both a hostel–restaurant–camp site and a set of Inca ruins. Two groups of major architectural structures, a lower and upper, are set among multiple agricultural terraces at this concave mountainside site. A long flight of fountains or ritual baths utilizing as many as 19 springs runs between the two groups of buildings.
From Wiñay Wayna the trail undulates along below the crest of the east slope of the mountain named Machu Picchu. The steep stairs leading to Inti Punku ("sun gate") are reached after approximately 3 km. Reaching the crest of this ridge reveals the grandeur of the ruins of Machu Picchu, which lie below. A short downhill walk is the final section of the trail.
It is highly recommended to book with a tour guide 4-6 months in advance. There are only 200 trekkers allowed per day on the trail and 300 maximum guides, porters and cooks.
The high season is from May to September (dry season in the southern hemisphere. Low season is from October to April. Peruvian climate is usually rainy in the summer months in the southern hemisphere. Ocassionally it can rain out of season, so be prepared with light rain gear. more information to How to Book the Inca Trail, click please
The Inca Trail Machu provides: Hotel in Lima, flight to Cusco, hotel in Cusco, guided tour through Sacred Valley, guided hike on Inca Trail (4 day or 5 day), tent setup, porters carried up to 12 pounds of weight, plus cooks who made high energy nutrious breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The camping gear is high quality and the sleeping bags four season and down feather. Be sure to research what your licensed guide will provide as part of the tour. Don't forget to include a tips for the guide as well as the porters. Inca Trail Machu and Tierras Vivas are professional, experienced, friendly and biligual. The cost is economical and very good value for this all inclusive experience. more information for the Inca Trail Tour Operator 2023.
Look ahead as far as you can. Sign up for Special airline deals with email alerts. Book your ticket first, after confirming once more the Inca Trail tickets are available. Purchase airline ticket then Inca Trail Tour, quickly afterwards.
1. Trekking shoes/hiking boots to walk on trails, Inca trails, mountains, glaciers, it is very important to wear hiking shoes that offer support, anti-slide, grid and shock absorption so that you can focus on a beautiful scenery of your trek and not on your feet. The shoes also should be waterproof and have got a cartage tongue and ankle cuffs that provide comfort and protection. Rubber sole as an impact protection is also recommended.
2. Big backpack - For a 3 day trek, you should take a backpack with a capacity of 20-30 litres only. If you do a 4 day trek, then a 30-40 litres capacity backpack is recommended. For a 5 day hike, you should take with you a 40-50 litres capacity backpack, etc. A backpack should provide an easy access to everything necessary without much fuss so that it should have side pockets for small items accessible from outside, zippered internal pockets plus a main compartment to carry all your stuff. It is also suitable to be waterproof with a compression strap and bottom to minimize a volume and help to stabilize your load.
3. Small rucksack to carry your personal items during daily travels when all your baggage is not necessary.
4. Travel insurance (+ copies in a case of lost).
5. Jacket needs to be light, waterproof, windproog, especially designed for adventure and preferably made of bright colours to make you visible from far.
6. Trekking trousers should be convertible (trousers - shorts), should have pockets of a big capacity as well as satisfy your comfort during weather changes. It is suitable to be made of resistant and waterproof fabrics.
7. Walking sticks/poles enable you to walk with ease providing you with support on each step. They should be light, compact, preferably made of aluminum alloy and have an antishock system that absorb impacts before they reach your hand wrists.
8. Sandals for a better comfort whilst at a campsite.
9. Warm clothes such as a jacket, a fleece (thermal clothing is also recommended for cold nights during camping).
10. Hat or a cap as a protection against the Sun, rain as well as cold).
12. After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body
13. Insect repellent when in area with insect occurrence
14. Camera and its charger/batteries (please note that batteries are consumed quickly under cold conditions).
15. Flashlight/headlamp + batteries
16. Handkerchiefs and toilet paper
17. Small towel and toiletries
18. Sufficient reserve of underwear and extra socks
19. Swimsuits when you pass through warm areas with lagoons, rivers, hot springs in Agua Calientes and Lares or other water sources.
20. Snacks such as biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, raw fruits, muesli, etc.
21. Bottled water and a water bottle to be refilled. Metallic (alternatively Nalgene) bottles are ideal.
22. Water-purifying tablets if you like to use water from streams along a trail.
23. Cash in a local currency
24. Original passport
RELATED: Machu Picchu Tickets 2023