The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the ultimate bucket-list travel experience! Every year, thousands of intrepid travellers make the long trek through the Andes to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. Whether you’re thinking of undertaking the hike yourself, or are just curious about this centuries-old tradition, here’s what you need to know about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu!
The Inca Trail
The complete Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a route through the Peruvian Andes. In general, it takes 3-night/4-days to complete. Although the route is only 26 miles long, the equivalent of the modern marathon, it contains a number of steep inclines and challenging terrain. Parts of the trail date back to the days of the Inca Empire, when the mountain pathways were created to connect different Andean settlements. The Inca Trail is so popular because it passes through rich landscapes of cloud forests, mountain peaks and centuries-old ruins. It encompasses the ‘best of Peru’ in one, rewarding trek.
Furthermore, the trail is believed to have been an ancient Inca pilgrimage route. Followers would follow the trail to honour Inti, the Incan God of the Sun. The trail begins in Piscacucho, not far from the Inca town of Ollantaytambo. From here, trekkers ascend deep into the Andes, stopping at campsites to rest and passing through rich landscapes dotted with incredible Inca ruins. Finally, the last section of the route takes you through the iconic Sun Gate to the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu. It’s not necessary to trek the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu, but it is an adventure of a lifetime that many travellers choose to undertake!
Things to see on the Inca Trail
Of course, Macchu Picchu is the main highlight of the Inca Trail, but the sights along the way are equally as inspiring!
Sights on Day 1 of the Inca Trail:
- The Sacred Valley
- Llactapata archaeological site
Sights on Day 2 of the Inca Trail:
Day two is considered the most challenging part of the route. The gradients are steep as you begin to venture further into the mystic landscapes of the Peruvian Andes!
- Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,205 meters above sea level (the highest point on the route)
- Arid, colder landscapes of the High Andes
Sights on Day 3 of the Inca Trail:
Day three is one of the most exciting in terms of sights. On this day you’ll see captivating Inca ruins and enjoy some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the Andes.
- The ruins of Runkurakay
- Valley of Pacaymayu
- Cliff-side ruins of Sayaqmarca
- Mist-covered ruins of Phuyupatamarca
- Winaywayna ruins
Sights on Day 4 of the Inca Trail:
On this day, trekkers wake early to see the sunrise from Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, at the entrance to Machu Picchu!
- Machu Picchu; one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Tips for trekking the Inca Trail
There are a number of things to know in order to have the best experience on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Firstly, you should only undertake the trek if you have a reasonable level of fitness. If you are a regular walker and enjoy a challenge, then you’ll probably relish the task of trekking to Machu Picchu. Just remember that altitude can affect physical performance. Secondly, you should book your trip in advance, as only 500 permits are granted per day and the route is very popular. Finally, the best time to trek the Inca trail is during the dry season, generally running between May and September. This way, you’ll avoid heavy rains, which can make some of the uphill sections very challenging!
Alternative ways to visit Machu Picchu
If you don’t fancy the full Inca Trail experience, there are plenty of alternative ways to visit Machu Picchu! Many people simply take the train from Ollantaytambo or Cuzco, directly to the mountain town of Aguas Calientes. From here, the ruins of Machu Picchu are easily reached on foot or by bus. Alternatively, if you want the trek experience, but are short on time, the Short Inca Trail is a 9-mile walk from the Urubamba River to Machu Picchu. This 2-day route includes the beautiful ruins of Wiñay Wayna and only involves one night of camping.
So, if you are planning to travel to Peru, consider the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a bucket-list travel experience that unites travellers from across the world!