Machu Picchu, the royal estate of Pachacuti is one of the most visited tourist hot spots of South America and has been correctly termed as a backpacking paradise. Believe it or not people, the Inca trail is genuinely a challenging trail and ticking this off your bucket list on a summer break or even on a backpacking trip through South America could be an experience of a lifetime. With difficult passes and names itself like the Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point of the trek- leaves the trekkers amped with excitement!
But the Inca trail has so much more to offer than just the marvelous Machu Picchu and missing out on any one of these would be a sad mistake! So coming right from the horse’s mouth here’s a detailed guide of everything and anything you need to know about the Inca trail- like which places to visit, details about the trek and also some teeny tiny details about the accommodations which would make your Machu Picchu expedition easier.
Places To Visit When In Machu Picchu
- The sun gate of Machu Picchu, Inti Punku. From here one can see the entire city.
- Winay-Wayna or Forever young is an important archaeological ruin near Machu Picchu sitting at a height of 2700 meters.
- Some other important archaeological ruins near the site are- Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Phuyupatamarca etc.
- The Sacred Plaza- consisting of three temples-
1. The Condor
2. El Intihuatana
3. The Sacred city.
- Sacred rock near the entrance of Huayna Picchu
- Huayna Picchu or Huayna Picchu- Sitting at an elevation of 8920ft, 1180 ft higher than Machu Picchu- this peak rises over Machu Picchu and divides it into sections. There’s a trail leading up to the peak, built by Incas and at the top, there are other temple like structures and terraces too.
- one of the famous temple, the Temple of Moon sits right on the side of this peak, which is situated at an elevation lower than Machu Picchu, and there’s a different trail that leads down to the Temple of Moon from Huayna Picchu.
- Other major temples like The Temple of Sun, The temple of Three Windows, The Principal Temple, and “The Unfinished Temple” etc.
- Also when in Cusco, some of the Inca ruins to visit are-
3. Puca Pucara
4. Tambomachay etc.
- The Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo), the traditional market of Pisac and the fascinating Inca fortress at Ollantaytambo.
Fellow travelers, no matter if you are traveling alone or backpacking in a group, it is always better to have your travel routes mapped out for you, well beforehand. Having a rough travel plan can help you decide on a budget which in turn can affect many decisions of yours while out on the road, like where to stay, which mode of transport to use etc.
It is a known fact that many trains depart from Cusco for Machu Picchu like The Hiram Bingham. It is also a known fact that frugal backpackers like we are never gonna loosen our purse strings for a scenic train ride when we can enjoy that with a tinge of thrill with an exciting trek. So, it is better that we take a more detailed look at the Inca Trail trek.
So let’s look into The Inca Trail now
The Inca trail consists of three overlapping trails- Mollepata; the longest of the three routes with the highest mountain pass, Classic and One day. The trail passes through cloud forests, alpine tundra and finally ends at the Sun Gate and along the trail, many settlements, tunnels, and Incan ruins are also found.The two-four days trek, walking up through the steep Andes mountain range makes up for a perilous and adrenaline pumping adventure.
The usual 4 days trek starts at a point called the “KM82”, (because it is located 82 Kms along the railway line between Cusco and Machu Picchu) and the alternative, 2 days trek or the Short Inca Trail starts a little closer to Machu Picchu near a point called “KM104”. The trek has been rated moderate and a reasonably fit person would be able to cover the said route, but the site being so high above (4200m or 13,800ft) it presents some challenges too. So it is advised to get well-acclimatized before starting the trail or even stay behind in Cusco for a day or two if arriving from sea-level. The usual schedule is 6-9 hours of walk on the first three days and 2 hours on the last day (expected).
When it comes to booking the trek, only authorized trekking companies are allowed to sell this trek to tourists. If you are keen on taking the trek, it is advised to keep yourself updated about the high seasons & low seasons and book the trek accordingly. Through April-October it’s most comfortable to take the trek since the weather is drier. July-August is said to be the high season when the trail becomes fully booked and as per the trekking regulations only a limited number of trekking permits are issued to tourists, so it is advised to purchase the trek months in advance.
Booking the Trek
A maximum of 500 people is allowed on the trail each day out of which only 200 are tourists and the other 300 comprises the porters, guide etc. with the trekking groups. Advance booking of at least 6 months in high season and 3 months in low season (November-April) is usually recommended.
It should also be kept in mind that the trail is closed off every year during the month of February for cleaning purposes, and once done it gets right back to business. Now when booking the trek, it is important to keep in mind which trek suits you best (2 days or 4 days), do thorough research and book accordingly. It is wise to check with your respective trek operator and see that the trek includes stops to all the important archaeological sites along the trail, like Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and finally Machu Picchu.
There are several trek operators available online, offering this particular trek and it is always wise to research a bit before you invest into something, be it for leisure, fun or anything else….a little bit of poking and prodding never hurts. Seek out travel organizations that are trustworthy and have years of experience backing them.
When talking about pocket pinch for young travelers, hostels come highly recommended with prices as low as USD 10- USD 54. The Terrazas Del Inca is one of the highest rated hostels in Aguas Calientes. For those traveling in large groups, there are options for rentals available providing an entire house at the charge of USD 39 per night. If you’re traveling with us, you can just kick back and relax when it comes to the question of accommodations as our wizardous travel team will be handling all of it. And you might just have a chance to spend nights in an Estancia or a local ranchm a South American Homestay besides your basic hotels and hostels.
The classic trek starts from Cusco and it is recommended to spend at least 2 days there to acclimatize yourself for the trek. Cusco has many budget hostel and hotel options and you can easily arrange for a two or three-day stay to explore all around the city and the get acclimated.
Some Interesting Facts About Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu was an astronomical observatory and its sacred, Intihuatana stone accurately indicates the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the Sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow.
- It is made up of more than 150 structures, including- Baths, Houses, Temples, and Sanctuaries.
- One will often find side paths getting lost into thick foliage. – Where do they go? No one knows because the cloud forest grows over quickly. It is also believed that there may be other trails and ruins nearby, yet to be discovered.
- Built on two fault line, the construction protects itself during seismic activities.
- Machu Picchu stones are reputed to dance during any seismic event and then fall back into their rightful place when it’s over.
- This Peruvian paradise with an Incan heritage opens up its arms to hundreds and thousands of tourists every year, from all over the world, to embrace the mysticism of a culture long lost. Sitting at 7970 ft above sea level on a narrow ridge up in the high Andes, it’s a mysterious ancient wonder and truly a bucket list must when it comes to traveling in Peru.
We hope we have helped you in some little way at least for your Machu Picchu trek planning and with the resources provided in this blog you can make a bombastic Inca Trail itinerary. But what if you could just kick back and relax and leave all the hassles of planning an exciting Inca Trail journey on us. Our travel team at GoDiscoverAbroad are hands at the ready to build a super awesome itinerary for you and also to make your Peruvian journey a bombastic affair!
Book yourself an adventure with us TODAY!