Do you like both history and hiking? If so, hiking Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail is probably for you. This ancient hiking trail leads to the world-famous Machu Picchu ruins and offers stunning views of the Peruvian landscape. Here’s a guide to hiking the Inca Trail.
Why You Should Hike the Machu Picchu Via the Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is a hiking trail that leads to the world-famous Machu Picchu ruins. The trail is located in Peru and runs through some of the most stunning scenery in the country. The hike takes about four days to complete and is considered moderate to challenging, depending on your fitness level.
The Inca Trail extends for 26 mi (42 km) through the Peruvian Andes Mountains. The trail connects the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu with other archaeological sites, such as the city of Cusco.
This trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world. Every year, thousands of people from all over the globe come to Peru to hike the trail. However, hiking the Inca Trail is not for everyone. The trail can be challenging, and it is important to be in good physical condition before attempting it.
Hiking to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail is a arguably a better experience than getting to the site on a motorized vehicle, as it will give time to better experience the scenery of the Peruvian landscape.
Somewhere on the Inca Trail
If you’re ready to hike the Inca Trail, keep in mind that it is only open from April to September, due to bad weather conditions during the other months.
A Brief History of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail
The Inca Empire ruled over large parts of South America from the 13th to 16th centuries, in areas that correspond to parts of present-time Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The Inca people were skilled builders and created many impressive architectural feats, including the city of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and was later abandoned by the Incas. It wasn’t until 1911 that Machu Picchu was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer.
The Inca Trail is a hiking trail that leads to the Machu Picchu ruins. The trail was built by the Incas as a trade and transportation route and is thought to have been used as a pilgrimage route as well.
Some researchers believe that the Inca Trail served as an annual pilgrimage route to honor Inti, the Incan God of the Sun, born on the Island of Sun, at Lake Titicaca. According to some, the Trail follows the Sun’s ray path during certain times of the year, from Lake Titicaca to Machi Picchu.
The construction of Machu Picchu was realized during two reigns: that of Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui, who ordered the construction of the citadel around 1450; and that of Tupac Inca Yupanqui, son of Pachacutec,
who completed its urban sector and constructed the Temple of the Sun or Qorikancha.
Nobody knows for sure why Machu Picchu was abandoned. According to some, by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru in the 16th century, the inhabitants of the city died due to a smallpox epidemic. Others believe that the Conquistadors killed the city’s population.
During the years of the Spanish domination, the trail, and the former city were targeted for theft and plundering. Eventually, the city was partly hidden by forestation and fewer knew of its existence.
Hiram Bingham was a Latin American scholar and a Yale University history professor. He rediscovered the city’s intentional by organizing a group of scholars and searching for it with a local guide. The ruins of the city were found on July 2, 1911, and were excavated in a few years through the Yale Archeological Society.
The ruins of Machu Picchu
How to Get to Machu Picchu
If you arrive in Peru via its capital, Lima, you can take a flight or a bus ride to Cusco. It’s probably best to take a flight, as Lima is about 683 mi (1100 km) from Lima. From there, you will be able to get to Machu Picchu by hiking the Inca Trail, or by taking a train.
Cusco, a cool place in Peru
Those who do not want to hike the Inca Trail can take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of Machu Picchu. In English, Aguas Calientes means Hot Waters. The city gets its name from the natural hot waters that exist in the area.
This is Aguas Calientes
From Aguas Calientes, it is a short bus or hiking trip to the ancient ruins.
Machu Picchu can also be reached by taking a bus from Cusco to Santa Teresa and then hiking for about five hours through the Cocalmayo river valley.
What to Expect On the Inca Trail
While trekking the Inca Trail, you will encounter several Incan archaeological sites that are around 500 years. The most impressive of these is Winay Wayna, which includes an aqueduct, agricultural terraces, and several temples.
You will also pass through the Sun Gate or Inti Punku. This is the traditional entrance to Machu Picchu for those coming along the Inca Trail. The Sun Gate offers spectacular views of the ancient city.
Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 7,972 ft (2429 km) about 40 mi (63.3 km) from Cusco. On this long trail, you will see tropical jungles and high mountain peaks and you will be crossing wooden bridges over several rivers.
Animals that you might encounter on your journey include the Andean condor, the spectacled bear, the Peruvian weasel, the puma, and the jaguar. No need to say, it’s not a place where you just go and pet some individuals from another species.
A Peruvian weasel
The Inca Trail Stages
The Inca Trail is divided into four stages.
– Km 82: The starting point of the Inca Trail, also known as “the place where the trail begins”.
Here, you will find a small village and an archaeological site called Miskay.
This was an important Inca site, used as a place of worship and as a way station for pilgrims and traders traveling to and from Cusco.
Today, Miskay is a popular spot for tourists starting their journey along the Inca Trail. The village of Km 82 is a good place to stock up on supplies before beginning the hike, and there are several small hotels and restaurants in the area.
– Km 104: The second stage of the Inca Trail is Wayllabamba.
This is where the real hiking begins. You will hike for about 7.4 mi (12 km) and reach an altitude of 9842.52 ft (3000 m). The trail is narrow and steep, with many stairs to navigate.
Inca ruins at Wayllabamba
The views are cool, but the hike is challenging. At the end of the day, hikers are rewarded with a stay at a cozy campsite. The next morning, they wake early to begin the third stage of the trail: the ascent to Warmi Wañusqa, also known as Dead Woman’s Pass.
– Km 88: The third stage is called Puyupatamarca.
The name Puyupatamarca means “city in the clouds” in Quechua, the language of the Inca. This is a small archaeological site located at 11811.02 ft (3600 m) above sea level. The site is believed to have been used by the Inca people as a waystation on the road between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Puyupatamarca consists of a series of stone walls and terraces, most of which are in a state of ruin. However, some of the walls have been restored and the terraces are still used by local farmers to grow crops.
– Km 112: The last stage is Wiñay Wayna, an archaeological complex made up of temples, fountains, and aqueducts.
This is also the end of the Inca Trail, as from here you will only have to hike for about two hours to reach Machu Picchu.
The complex is situated at an altitude of 2,700 meters, and it offers breathtaking views of the Andes mountains. The Inca Trail ends at the Sun Gate, which provides hikers with their first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes, often called Machu Picchu Town, is the gateway to the Lost City of the Incas. The town is nestled in the clouds at the base of towering mountains, and its remote location has long kept it off the radar of most travelers. However, in recent years Aguas Calientes has become increasingly popular as a jumping-off point for trekkers and adventurers seeking to explore Machu Picchu. The town has a laid-back atmosphere, and its selection of hotels, restaurants, and bars make it a great place to relax after a day of exploring.
Things to do at Machu Picchu
One needs at least a full article to give a comprehensive guide to exploring Machu Picchu. Since this article is specifically about the Inca Trail, let’s say you should at least:
• Visit the temple: The Temple of the Sun is one of the most iconic buildings at Machu Picchu. Built entirely of stone, it is quite a feat of Incan engineering.
Temple of the Sun
• Shop for souvenirs: There are many shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts in Machu Picchu. From traditional textiles to alpaca Wool products, there will likely be things you want to take home with you.
• Enjoy the view: No matter what else you do at Machu Picchu, make sure to take some time to enjoy the stunning views. Whether you are looking out over the ruins or
If you feel exhausted after three days of hiking, you will be glad to know that there are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby where you can refuel after trekking.
After resting, you may want to trek Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu Mountain, also known as Montaña Machu Picchu, is the area’s highest mountain at 10111 ft (3082 m). The summit of the mountain provides pretty views of the nearby ruins of Machu Picchu, as well as the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Visitors can hike to the top of the mountain, which takes around four hours round trip. The trail is steep and strenuous in places, but most probably agree that it is worth the effort. For those who don’t want to hike to the summit, there is also a cable car that takes visitors part of the way up the mountain.
Huayna Picchu is situated around the Urubamba River, which bends around the mountain. Huayna Picchu is also a popular tourist destination due to its unique location and lush vegetation.
Tips for Hiking Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail
If you’re interested in hiking the Inca Trail, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you need to book your hike well in advance. The trail is only open to a limited number of people each day and spots fill up quickly.
Second, you should be prepared for some challenging hiking. The trail is not easy and includes several steep sections. Finally, you need to be aware of the altitude. The trail is located at a high altitude and some people may experience symptoms of altitude sickness.
Other things you may want to consider:
-Start your hike early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.
-Take plenty of breaks along the way to rest and enjoy the scenery.
-Make sure you have enough water and snacks to keep you fueled throughout the hike.
-Pack a first-aid kit in case of any emergencies.
Machu Picchu Guided Tours and Accommodation