you may have seen the wonder of Machu Picchu hundreds of times, among the millions of images circulating on the internet, but when you arrive by sun gate walking from inca trail and feel the energy of Machu Picchu not only in your imagination but throughout your body it’s just very special, it will not be the height that will leave you breathes.
One of the most popular journeys to do in South America and one of the world’s most famous hikes. The hike itself, which brings you along ancient narrow paths deep into the Peruvian countryside and high into the Andean mountains, is gorgeous; perfect Incan ruins, cloud forest, and majestic valley views laid out like breadcrumbs along the way to perhaps the greatest end point of any multi day hike on earth, the iconic Machu Picchu.
The Incan Empire which at its largest joined Peru, large parts of modern Ecuador, western and south-central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and central Chile and a small part of southwest Colombia, created thousands of kilometers of trails to link its important settlements and centers of civilization.
The good news is that it’s a lot shorter than you may expect. The bad news? A significant chunk of that kilometers is up steep, narrow Andean mountain paths at altitude.
The traditional Inca Trail is established for 4 days and 3 nights hiking which leads travelers from KM 82 – Piskacuchu (the start point 2.5 hours away from Cusco) all the way to Machu Picchu via its exclusive Sun Gate (also called Inti Punku).
Inca trail staying in hotel no camping, appropriate for those who care about altitude sickness.
Getting to Machu Picchu via the Short Inca Trail consists for a beautiful train journey. To access the one-day Inca Trail hike and next day Machu Picchu, you will disembark the train around 30 minutes before Aguas Calientes at what will appear to be the middle of nowhere, the stop KM 104 (chachabamba). The train journey, allowing you to fully absorb the beauty of it curving through the crevices of the Andean Mountains. Don’t get too lost in the beauty of the landscape as you will have to hop off of the train at the KM 104.
The Traditional Inca Trail is not as difficult or challenging as you may think, but every person’s own hike experience will be very subjective based on your fitness, hiking experience, your group’s approach, attitude, the weather conditions on the route, and a bunch of other factors. Day Two of the hike, which leads you from your campsite all the way up to the Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,200 meters/13,776 ft is widely regarded as the most difficult day of hiking once you’re passed that, you’ll be laughing maybe crying.
The Inca Trail Hike is not about finishing each day as quickly as possible. Enjoy the route, rather than trying to set a record pace, which probably you’ll never do by the way – it’s currently 3 hours 45 minutes by a porter from starting point to Machu Picchu.
Everyone has their own challenges, circumstances, and reasons for being on the Trail, and a friendship and positive experience is more likely to blossom out of supporting someone through their struggle. If you are one of the quicker in the group, don’t ruin another person’s experience by castigating them for taking longer.
This hike could be done with Machu Picchu in 3 days, 4days, 5 days according to the physical conditions.
Starting point: KM 82 Piskacuchu 2,750m/9,022ft
Highest altitude point: Dead womans pass (warmi wañusca) 4,200m/13,779ft
End of the hike: Machu Picchu 2400m/7,874ft
Total distance: 45k/27miles
From KM 104, the hike will take you into the Andes Mountains and scale you up, down, and around this mind-blowing mountain range. It is an intermediate hike that can take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours all the way to Machu Picchu via Sun Gate arriving on the afternoon. There are plenty of steep climbs and tight curves, but they are all worth the stunning views from the top of the world in Peru.
This hike could be done with Machu Picchu in 1 day, 2days according to the physical conditions.
Starting point: KM 104 Chachabamba 2,150m/7,053ft
Highest altitude point: Sun Gate (inti punku) 2,700m/8,858ft
End of the hike: Machu Picchu 2400m/7,874ft
Total distance: 12k/7.5miles
To enter the Inca Trail, you need a permit which Tour Operators secure for you – but these permits are extremely limited and sell really quickly. So, getting your reservation in very early is a great idea. Once the permits are on sale, many dates will be sold out within the first few hours.
The income to the Inca Trail is exhausted 6 months before. Remember that only 500 people can travel this route every day.
Only 200 travelers will end up entering Machu Picchu in this way, since the 300 people belong to the support team, chefs, porters and guides.
The entrance to the Inca Trail includes Machu Picchu. If you want to tour the Machu Picchu Mountain or the Huayna Picchu; ask for it at the tour operator.
February is the rainiest month in Cusco region and Machu Picchu. The institutions in charge indicate that you will not be able to enter Machu Picchu by the Inca Trail in February
The objective of this closure is not only to preserve the old Inca Trail but also for safety. During February, conservation and maintenance works are carried out. The deteriorated parts of the road are repaired, the terraces and the camp sites are arranged.
The entrance to the legendary Inca highway is strictly controlled. This seeks to protect the Inca Trail of more than 500 years old and the wonderful natural environment that surrounds it.
The Inca Trail is only allowed with the company of a tour guide. The purchase of the income is in an authorized tour operator, they will arrange to book the entrance ticket for you and everything you need to do the Inca Trail.
Tickets must be reserved 6 months in advance. Permits are limited to 500 people per day, including chefs, porters and guides.
All companies operating the Inca Trail must be registered and have a special operator’s license, which is renewed annually. A large number of these companies are only established to provide specific private tours in high season, with the rest offering year-round expeditions.
Short Inca Trail KM 104 tours cost from $390 / $450 / $615.
Classic Inca Trail from $700 / $799 /$850 per person up to $ 1,500 / $1,900 / $1,670; if you see a price any cheaper than the bottom-end of this range, then be very skeptical. If you are seeing a higher price than this, then you will either be on a very luxury tour or likely booking through a tour agent.
Note that, aside from the mark-up on price, Inca Trail tours booked via agencies will often simply place you on an available tour with one of several operators, so you have very little control on the quality of the ultimate provider and group composition.
You will need present your passport at the check point before the hike and to enter Machu Picchu.
Be aware that permits are only issued with a traveler’s name and passport number and, once booked, they are non-changeable and non-transferable.
If you happen to get a new passport, you have to bring your old passport with you to just enter the trail and then use the new one to enter the country. Or a copy of your old passport, or if you no longer have this, a copy of your license. I know it’s a bit tedious, but they will only let to enter with these copies.
The Inca Trail weather can be a dilemma to fully understand its peculiar sub-tropical nature. If you are not careful, the beautiful scenery can be obscured by rain, wind, fog, and clouds. Checking the weather in Cusco will not suffice either, 100 kilometers between the 2 makes a huge difference to their climates. The location of Inca trail trek in the mountains makes it prone to receiving cold winds and its surrounding humid tropical jungle adds another unpredictable element. In general, the weather can be broken into 2 seasons; wet season and dry season. Even within these 2 seasons, it is not uncommon for drastic and quick changes to take place on the same day, our motto is “Be prepared for everything”.
In the summer months from December to March, can be very pleasant, with intermittent rain showers. Yes, it will probably rain some, but we are prepared for that and the trekkers still have a great time. Our wettest month is February, it rains basically every single day. During these months, rainfall occurs every day, accounting for about 80% of the annual rainfall in this period. The level of rainfall is cut in half when March turns to April, before finally halting when the dry season comes around. During this period of heavy rainfall, the humidity level gets to 91% which is absolutely huge! Even with the high levels of rain around this time the average temperature is still around 21 degrees. This is very different from Cusco.
The Inca trail weather from May to September is considered the best time of the year if dry weather is what you’re after, but you pay the price since this is the time of year that every other traveler will most likely go, so expect it to be crowded. October is still a dry month, although not to the same extent as the other dry months. November sees the same level of rainfall as April and can be considered the transition month back into the rainy season. When it does rain, it is never for more than an hour max and then it will stop. The humidity levels between these months are lower than the dry months, making a trip to Machu Picchu in the morning with high visibility an easier feat. During the dry months, the hours of sunlight are double that of during the rainy season, making an early rise to see the sunrise over the mountains a better prospect. The average temperature during the dry season ranges from about 18 – 20 degrees. At night time, the temperature will drop very low, sometimes even below freezing due to the cloudless skies letting the heat escape.
Cusco, in the south-east of Peru, thankfully doubles up as one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations due to its history and position as an access point to Machu Picchu, so every Peru itinerary is guaranteed to include at least a few days in Cusco.
For everyone planning on the Inca Trail, its recommend arriving into Cusco at least two days before your tour starts so that you can acclimatize to the altitude (it’s at 3,400 meters/11,154ft above sea level) and enjoy the city has several historical sites to visit.
Cusco is exceptionally easy to reach from various parts of Peru, but there are no direct flights to Cusco from the US, Canada or Europe.
Fly into Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru’s capital city, and connect onto one of the frequent flights from Lima – Velasco Astete Airport in Cusco, and only takes an hour.
There is a bus which runs from Lima to Cusco, but it takes 24 hours and these days isn’t worth taking as flights are so ubiquitous and affordable.
Once in Cusco, all your transport to the Trail and the return trip to Cusco from Machu Picchu will be arranged by your tour company and included in the overall tour price. This will include a private bus to Ollantaytambo and km.82, train to km.104 from ollantaytambo and either a train or minibus back to Cusco.
The main thing, if you are going to hike the classic Inca trail your training should focus on stairs up and down with an inclination up to 60 degrees. For many people, climbing the stairs up hill is easy and difficult to descend, remember that the classic Inca trail has the longest climb up hill of 900 meters/2,953ft of altitude about 8 km/4.9miles and the longest descent is 1000 meters/3,280ft of altitude, approximate 6 km/3.7miles.
This varies a lot depending on what weather you touch, if the stairs are wet, they will be a little difficult to get downhill and all the Inca path stairs are not uniform some large, small and very small.
Stair Training (Every day). maybe you work on the top floor of a fairly tall building, and the parking garage is below ground. take the stairs up and if you could do better every day. maybe will sucked at first, but after a month it won’t be big deal.
This will help you do not to have much problems with the stone stairs on the Inca Trail and at the end you will laugh.
ARRIVE EARLY – Try to get to Cusco 2-3 days before your hike so you can acclimatize to the altitude before hiking. It will make your hike much easier!
USE TREKKING POLES – Bring trekking poles or rent them from your tour company. You’ll need them.
CHEW COCA LEAVES – If the altitude is giving you trouble, chew coca leaves. It’s the local remedy and is what many of the guides and porters use. You can chew the leaves or buy gum with it. (You can also get altitude medicine from your doctor before you go. Just keep in mind that it will make you have to pee a lot and tingling your fingers!).
BREAK IN YOUR BOOTS – Make sure you buy and break in your footwear at least 1-2 months before your trip. That will help you avoid blisters.
BRING SUNSCREEN AND BUG SPRAY – The last thing you want is a sunburn when you’re hiking up a mountain. And the mosquitoes here are plentiful (and their bites are super itchy!) so prepare accordingly and apply both each day.
BRING BAND AIDS/BLISTER KITS – Your feet around going to take a beating. Having some minor first aid supplies will help.
CARRY EXTRA SNACKS – You’ll get plenty of food on the trail, but bringing along some of your favorite snacks is a great morale booster for those challenging sections.
BRINK SANDALS/FLIP-FLOPS – at the campsite after finished hiking, you don’t want to wear hiking boots.
TRAIN BEFORE YOU GO – This is a challenging hike. You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to finish it, but the more you train the easier your hike will be.
DON’T EXPECT TO SHOWER – Showers are available partway into the hike but the water is painfully cold. Skip the showers and just embrace your well-earned BO.
HAVE EXTRA BATTERIES – Bring an external charger for your phone and extra batteries for your camera. It would be tragic to arrive at Machu Picchu and not be able to snap a photo or two!
BRING EARPLUGS – The Inca Trail can get busy and there will be dozens and dozens of hikers at each camp. Bring earplugs for the noisy nights.
CONSIDER THE LARES, SALKANTAY – For a less-busy route, consider hiking the Lares or Salkantay. It has views just as epic and sees 1/3 of the tourists that the Inca Trail does. Plus, it’s a fraction of the price!
BRING CASH FOR THE BATHROOM – Make sure you have some money for the bathroom. There is only one bathroom at Machu Picchu and it will cost 2 PEN.
GET STAMPED – You can get your passport stamped with a unique Machu Picchu stamp to commemorate the journey. It makes for a fun souvenir if you have some space in your passport.
CHECK YOUR BAG – You can only bring a day bag under 20L into Machu Picchu. If your bag is larger than that you’ll need to pay to check it at the gate.
NOTE: Make sure the company you choose pays their porters well and treats them fairly. Porters have an incredibly challenging job so you want to make sure the company you choose is an ethical one. With that in mind, remember you’ll also need some cash to tip your porters. Most estimates range from $5-7 USD per person per day for each porter, and then $6-10 USD per person per day for the guides, though your company will likely provide additional tipping guidelines.