What you need to know about hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Your guide to hiking the Inca Trail, what to expect, and how to determine which route is best for a trip to Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is definitely one of the must-see things for anyone visiting Peru. The Incas built some of the best roads in the world and the ruins and Machu Picchu are perhaps second to none. An expedition along the Inca Trail is truly one of the best things to see the best of the proud Inca Empire of old.
The Inca Trail is also known as Inca Trail Where Inka Road and is made up of three overlapping trails that all end in Machu Picchu. The two longest routes rise above 13,800 feet or 4,200 meters and therefore can lead to altitude sickness. Depending on the route taken, it normally takes several days to reach Machu Picchu – although the shorter option only takes one day. See here to learn more about the Inca Trail.
- The three paths: Mollepata, classic and one day
- Altitude sickness: This is a risk for people who climb high on the upper two trails
The Mollepata Trail is the longest of the three trails and crosses the highest pass before intersecting with the Classic. It traverses different types of Andean environments, including cloud forest and alpine tundra. There are many Inca ruins along the way. These trails have become so popular that in order to protect the environment, the Peruvian government has limited the number of people who can walk this trail in a season. In addition, they have severely limited the companies that can provide guides to tourists. To take this route, you need to book in advance and reservations sell out very quickly.
- Total daily limit: 500 people can walk the trail per day
- Number of tourists: 200 tourists per day
- A number of guides and porters: 300 guides and porters per day.
- Firm: February for cleaning
Classic Inca Trail
The classic Inca Trail normally takes 3-5 days of hiking and 3-4 nights. The route has two starting points and begins 55-51 miles from the Inca capital of Cusco. The starting altitude is 9,200 to 8,500 feet above sea level. No matter where you start, the segments converge on the Inca ruins of Patallaqta – this was once an Inca site used for religious and ceremonial functions, accommodation for soldiers and agriculture.
- Classic Inca Trail times: Normally 3-5 days to complete
Further up the trail it intersects with the longer and more difficult Mollepata Trail in the small village of Wayllapampa, about 9,800 feet. Past this village is a section of trail which, in an effort to prevent erosion, does not allow pack animals as well as metal-tipped trekking poles. So if the hiker has these poles, they will need to be stowed away for this stretch.
Further up the trail is the disturbing name “Warmi Wanusqaor “Dead Woman’s Pass.” The pass marks the highest ascent of the trail, culminating at about 13,829 feet at sea level. The trail descends steeply on the other side of the pass. The hike further along of the trail is in the heavily restored Inca ruins of Tampu Runkuraqay.
The trail continues to cross different forests and environments along other Inca ruins before finally reaching Macchu Pichu.
Alpaca Expeditions is a company offering guided tours of Macchu Pichu. They offer a range of tour options ranging from $ 550.00 to $ 250.00.
An example of one of their group tours is:
Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu
- Cost: From $ 695.00
- Duration: 4 days
- Understand : Professional guides (all fluent in English and familiar with local history)
- Permits and Machu Picchu: Included in the price and permits and fees paid by the company
- To bring: Must bring own sleeping bag and air mattress
- Carry: A porter is included
- Meal: Alpaca Expeditions chefs prepare food on the mountainside
Things to keep in mind
There are a few things to keep in mind as the passes go up really high and it can get really cold here – especially at night. Remember to have the right hiking clothes and a good sleeping bag. Peru may be a tropical country on the equator, but it’s cold here.
- Peru Visa Policy: Peru is visa-free
It is very important to pack lightly. Alpaca Expeditions only allows tourists to bring 7 kilos or 14 pounds of luggage. Porters must carry this and everything else (food, tents, their equipment, etc.). And each porter is only allowed to carry a total weight of 20 kilos.
The trails go up very high. Many people who are not used to this could get altitude sickness. Consider taking the right medication for this and mentally prepare yourself. But it’s worth it! The Inca Trail will be a hike not to be forgotten.
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