You have probably seen the new Wonder of Machu Picchu hundreds of times, circulating in social networks-internet among the millions of images, but when you arrive at the Sun Gate walking in from the Inca Trail and feel the energy of Machu Picchu – not only in your imagination but throughout your body – it’s incredibly special, and it won’t just be the altitude that leaves you breathless!
This is one of the most popular journeys to do in South America and one of the world’s most famous hikes. The hike itself, that brings you along narrow ancient paths deep into the Peruvian countryside and high into the Andes mountains, is dotted with gorgeous excellent Incan ruins, cloud forest and majestic natural views all along the way, concluding with perhaps the best finish of any multi-day hike on earth, the ever-enduring Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail that you can hike is actually part of a huge network of trails. 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 it is up steep, narrow Andean mountain paths at fairly altitude.
The traditional Inca Trail is established as 4 days and 3 nights hiking which leads travelers from Km 82 – Piskacuchu (the starting point 2.5 hours away from Cusco) all the way to Machu Picchu via its exclusive Inti Punko (Sun Gate).
This version of the Inca trail involves staying overnight in a hotel with no camping, appropriate for those who are concerned about altitude sickness.
Hiking to Machu Picchu via the Short Inca Trail through Sun Gate consists, one-day hike and next day Machu Picchu guided tour.
The Traditional Inca Trail of Peru is not as difficult or challenging as you may think, but every person’s own hike experience will be very subjective based on their fitness level. 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 but once you’re passed that, you’ll be laughing (or 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 new record – which would be very difficult to do by the way – the current record is 3 hours 45 minutes by a porter, from the starting point all the way to Machu Picchu!
Everyone has their own challenges, circumstances, and reasons for being on the Trail, and friendship and positive experiences are more likely to blossom out of supporting someone through their struggle. For example, if you are one of the quicker ones in the group, you can be a motivator and encourage those slower than you and improve everyone’s experience.This hike could be done, including Machu Picchu, in 3, 4 or 5 days depending on your physical fitness. Starting point: KM 82 Piskacuchu 2,750m/9,022ft Highest point: Dead womans pass (warmi wañusca) 4,200m/13,779ft Total distance: 45k/27miles
From Km 104, the hike will bring you into the Andean Mountains and take you up, down, and around this mind-blowing mountain chain. It is an intermediate difficulty hike that can take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours all the way to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, arriving in the afternoon. There are many steep climbs and tight curves, however they’re all definitely worth the gorgeous views from so high up that you can only find in Peru!
To enter the Inca Trail, you need a permit which Tour Operators secure for you – but these permits are extremely limited and sell out very quickly. So, getting your reservation in early is a great idea. Once the permits are on sale, many dates will sell out within the first few hours with the rest of the permits to the Inca trail selling out six months ahead. Only 200 hikers are allowed to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail per day, out of a total of 500, since the other 300 people make up the support teams of chefs, porters and guides.The entrance to the Inca Trail includes entrance to Machu Picchu. If you want to additionally hike Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu; ask for it at the moment of your booking.
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 to go on the Inca Trail, we 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 which 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 to Velasco Astete Airport in Cusco, and it only takes an hour.
There is a bus that runs from the capital Lima to Cuzco, however it takes twenty-four hours and currently isn’t worth taking as flights are so frequent throughout the day and reasonably priced.
Once you are in Cusco, all your transport for Inca Trail and the return trip to Cusco from Machu Picchu will be arranged by your travel tour operator company and included in the overall tour price. This will include a private bus to Ollantaytambo town and Km 82, or train to Km 104 from Ollantaytambo and either a train or minibus back to Cusco.
If you are going to hike the classic Inca Trail the main thing you should focus your training on is climbing stairs up and down with an inclination up to 60 degrees. For many people, climbing up stairs is easy but harder to descend, remember that the classic Inca Trail’s longest climb uphill has 900m/2,953ft altitude gain over about 8 km/4.9miles and the longest descent has -1000 m / -3,280ft altitude gain, over approximately 6 km/3.7miles.
This varies a lot depending on what the weather will be like; if the stairs are wet, they will be a little difficult to go down and all the Inca path stairs are not uniform – some large, some small and some very small.
Do stair training every day! Maybe you work on the top floor of a tall building, and the parking garage is below ground. Take the stairs up and do a little more every day, maybe it will be hard at first but after a month you’ll find it much easier!>
This will help you to not have many problems with the stone stairs on the Inca Trail and at the end of the trail you’ll be laughing!
The classic Inca Trail is a four-to-five day hike to the spectacular lost city of the Incas “Machu Picchu” that winds through the zone where the Andes Mountains crash into the lush Amazon jungle, creating some of the world’s most dramatic scenery.
There’s no electricity on the Inca Trail, so make sure your camera batteries are fully charged and you have a working flashlight.
Because of high altitude temperatures can shift quickly and radically. It can get pretty cold at night. In winter temperature may drop lower than 0 degrees Celsius/32 degrees Fahrenheit. So be prepared for cold weather because it is highly advisable to wear warm handmade gloves and a hat for cold nights.