All about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- What is the Inca Trail?
- Where is?
- Inca Trail Map
- What will you see?
- Thus is the Inca Trail day by day
- How to do the Inca Trail?
- How much?
- What includes?
- Can I do the Inca Trail without a tour?
- Short 2-day Inca Trail
- The Inca Trail in photos
- More important information
What is the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail to Machupicchu is the route of 4 days and 3 nights that crosses a part of the ancient roads that the Incas built ‘qhapac ñan’. It is a route of only 39 kilometers that ends in Machu Picchu, through the Intipunku (Sun Gate in Quechua language), the access portal used by the Incas. During this walk, tourists in addition to appreciating the beauty of the Andean and tropical landscapes of Cusco; They will be able to see other famous constructions such as Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna and, at the end, Machupicchu. It is considered one of the best hiking trails in the world.
The Inca Trail route is located in Cusco, Peru. It begins at kilometer 82 of the railway that connects the town of Ollantaytambo with the town of Aguas Calientes. Then, climb high mountains and descend through tropical jungles to finally arrive at Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail Map
The Qhapac ñan – Qhapac ñan is a Quechua word that means ‘main road’. Its name is due to the fact that it was the most important road network built by the Incas in the entire vast empire of the Incas. It covered more than 30 thousand kilometers of stone sections including bridges, warehouses, citadels and more. The Incas used this huge road network to reach every corner of the empire. Its greatest expansion took place in the 15th century, under the rule of the Inca Pachacutec. These roads cover the current countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. On the basis of many of these ways, the main roads were built. In 2014 it was recognized by UNESCO as a ‘Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. A small part of this path is the one that reaches Machu Picchu. Traveling this route is one of the most famous long walks in the world.
The Inca trail to Machupicchu – The Inca Trail that reaches Machu Picchu was ordered to be built by the Inca Pachacutec in the 15th century. The purpose of this route was to communicate the new Inca city with the rest of Cusco, the capital of the empire. However, this route was followed more like a pilgrimage because along it other citadels and temples were built such as Llactapata, Runkurakay and Wiñayhuayna. During the Spanish colony, this route was not of great importance since Machupicchu had little food production. It is even believed that the Spanish never got there. In 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived at Machupicchu and made it known to the world, along with some sections of the Inca Trail. Since then, the work of unearthing and valorizing this route began, which today is one of the most popular for hikers around the world.
What will you see?
Hiking trail – The hiking trail lasts 4 days and 3 nights. Traveling its 39 kilometers is a great adventure for visitors who dare to do this route. Has a moderate difficulty. The first days you go through difficult mountainous landscapes. The last two days you descend through the tropical jungle of Cusco until you arrive at Machu Picchu. The route is protected by the Peruvian State so it can only be done with a tour. No one can enter there without permission.
Flora and fauna – One of the main attractions during the Inca Trail is the abundant flora and fauna that can be seen during the walk. The most famous species of flowers is the orchid and its more than 400 varieties that are in the place. You can also see bushes, ferns, mosses and more. The most representative birds and wild animals in the area are: the spectacled bear, the Andean deer, the llama, the cock of the rocks, the torrent duck, the vizcacha and the many varieties of butterflies.
Llactapata – This archaeological site is located in a straight line 5 kilometers from Machu Picchu. Its name means ‘high town’. This is due to its location on top of a mountain and near fearsome cliffs. The site has walls and terraces that apparently supplied food to Machupicchu. Scout Hiram Bingham came there to take some notes. From there you have a privileged view of the Inca city and the Huayna Picchu mountain.
Runkurakay – The name of this site comes from a Quechua word that means ‘abandoned house’. It is a semicircular building located 8.6 kilometers in a straight line from Machu Picchu. In addition to its central plaza, it has walls, windows, niches, niches and trapezoidal doors. Your goal is still inaccurate. It is presumed that it served as a ‘tambo’ or food storage center.
Sayacmarca – The archaeological complex of Sayacmarca was a ceremonial center that had a plaza, windows, walls, canals and water fountains. It is located on the top of a mountain and near fearsome cliffs. The American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived at the place in 1915. The place is also known as ‘Cedrobamba’, due to the amount of cedar trees there are. According to recent research, it may have belonged to another culture that was conquered by the Incas.
Phuyupatamarca – This archaeological site is known as ‘Place above the clouds’ due to its elevated location (3,600 meters above sea level) where the clouds arrive. It consists of enclosures, windows, niches, bathrooms and viewpoints from where you can see the entire geography of the place. The place is located in a straight line 5 kilometers from Machupicchu. It is one of the most famous places on the Inca Trail.
Wiñayhuayna – The name of this archaeological site comes from a Quechua word that means ‘Eternally young’. It is only 3.3 kilometers in a straight line towards Machupicchu. It consists of several granite stone enclosures that include doorways, stairways, windows, niches and, above all, steep platforms. Its function would have been of food production. It is very visited by tourists, both those who do the 4-day Inca Trail and those who do the alternative path of only 2 days.
Machu Picchu – The Inca city of Machupicchu is the final destination of the Inca Trail. The Intipunku entrance gate was used by the Incas hundreds of years ago. It consists of hundreds of enclosures, stairways, temples, windows, walls, bathrooms, squares and many other buildings that make up more than 150 and that are the great attraction of tourists. In 2007, the archaeological site was named a ‘wonder of the modern world’.
Thus, it is the Inca Trail day by day
Day 1 – The first day of the Inca Trail begins with the transfer of the group of tourists from the city of Cusco to the starting point of the trek at kilometer 82 of the railway that connects Ollantaytambo with Aguas Calientes. Then begins an arduous hike uphill through the Andean mountains that cross the archaeological site of Patallacta. Then we continue to the campsite set up for the night. These are: Ayapata, Wayllabamba, Llactapata or Llulluchapampa. That day we will travel approximately 13 kilometers.
Day 2 – On the second day, tourists will continue ascending uphill to reach the highest point of the hike at the ‘Abra de la mujer muerta’ (4,215 meters above sea level). From there, the archaeological site of Runkurakay can be seen in the distance. The hike continues until you reach the campsite where you will spend the night. These also depend on availability and can be: Pacaymayo, Chaquiccocha, Llulluchapampa or Phuyupatamarca. This will be the most demanding day, where you will hike approximately 11 kilometers through high altitude landscapes.
Day 3 – On the third day the hike will be less demanding as we will begin to descend through the high jungle of Cusco until we reach the valley of the Pacaymayo River, a place surrounded by lush vegetation. From there you will be able to appreciate the archaeological site of Sayaqmarca. The view of the mountains, rivers and trees is one of the best. The night will be spent at Wiñayhuayna camp or Phuyupatamarca camp (according to availability), near the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. That day each tourist will walk approximately 16 kilometers.
Day 4 – The last day is the most anticipated because the tourist will get up very early to walk a few kilometers in the direction of Machu Picchu. The first view they will receive of the Inca city will be from the Intipunku (Sun Gate), just as the Incas did many years ago. Then they will tour each temple and construction with their tour guide. Finally they will descend to the town of Aguas Calientes where they will board the train that will take them back to the city of Cusco.
During the 3 days of hiking, the tourist will have a team of cooks that will have breakfast, lunch and dinner ready for them in the assigned camps. During the tour you can leave part of your luggage with the team of porters who will accompany you. All the camps are comfortable, safe and are included in any tour of the Inca Trail.
How to do the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail can only be done through the service of a tourism agency. Only tour operators are authorized to reserve a permit for each tourist. These permits are available to 500 people each day. Of this number, only 200 are tourists as the rest are made up of the team of tour guides, cooks and porters. Due to the high demand for this trek, the tours must be booked yes or yes online 6 or 7 months in advance. Otherwise it will be very difficult to find availability.
The price of a tour to the Inca Trail varies according to the tourism agency that offers the service. The price is between 400 and 600 US dollars per person.
All tours to the Inca Trail include the following:
- Permission to travel the Inca Trail.
- Brief explanation the day before the tour (briefing).
- Pick up from the hotel or lodging in Cusco.
- Transfer by minivan to the starting point of the trek (km. 82).
- Tour guide service throughout the trek.
- Cooks service (3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners).
- Porters service (porters according to number of tourists).
- Camping equipment (tents, utensils, etc.).
- First aid kit.
- Entrance to Machu Picchu and the other archaeological sites.
- Bus ticket from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes.
- Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.
- Transfer by minivan from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
Can I do the Inca Trail without a tour?
The 39-kilometer route known as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a route protected by the Peruvian State, so it can only be done with a special permit provided by a tourism agency. Unfortunately it is not possible to do this route on your own.
Short 2-day Inca Trail
The Short Inca Trail is a reduced version of the famous classic 4-day route. This version lasts only 2 days and covers only an approximate distance of 12 kilometers from the starting point, at kilometer 104 of the railway (near the archaeological site of Chachabamba) to the Intipunku, or ancient gateway to Machu Picchu. This route also crosses the famous archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna.
On day 1, the tourist will be taken from the city of Cusco to kilometer 104 through a first trip by minivan and then by train. There, the ascent walk begins through sections surrounded by thick vegetation until arriving, after approximately 4 hours of walking, to the archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna where there will be a stop to have a ‘box lunch’. Then the walk will resume until the Intipunku – Machu Picchu. That day the tourist will not visit the Inca city, but will descend directly to the town of Aguas Calientes to spend the night in a local accommodation. Finally, day 2 will be entirely destined to tour Machu Picchu. This route must be followed with a tourism agency. The cost of the tour is approximately 300 or 400 US dollars per person.
The Inca Trail in photos
More important information
The Inca Trail is open every day of the year except for the entire month of February. During that month, the rainiest in Cusco, maintenance work is carried out on the roads.
To do the Inca Trail there is no official website that offers a fixed price. All services must be contracted with a tourism agency. Each of these sets its price according to the quality of its service.
The Inca Trail does not include the visit to the Huayna Picchu mountain or the Machu Picchu mountain. To do any of these short hiking routes, you must request the purchase of a ticket with the tourism agency that offers you the Inca Trail. Most agencies charge you an additional $ 20 to visit these mountains.
Each tourism agency can gather a maximum of 16 tourists per group (in shared service). You can also do this route in private service (exclusively for tourists and their group of friends, partner or family). Private services are more expensive than shared services.
According to people who have already done the Inca Trail, the dry season (from May to September) is the best time of the year to do it. On those days there is very little chance of rain so it is easier to appreciate the beautiful landscapes along the route.
The Inca Trail runs through high Andean landscapes the first days. Therefore it is recommended to be adapted to the climate of Cusco (1 or 2 days will be enough). This way you will adapt better and you will not feel the symptoms of altitude sickness much: headache, fatigue, nausea.
The Inca Trail is a route of moderate difficulty. It is not necessary to be in excellent physical shape, but you do need to get a little exercise at least a week before your hike. The walk is not advisable for children under 8 years old. Older adults should consult with their doctors.
If you did not find availability for the Inca Trail, an excellent option is to do the other multi-day hiking routes to Machu Picchu: the Salkantay Trek, the Lares Trek, the Huchuy Qosqo Trek or the Inca Jungle. They all offer great adventures.