What is the Inca Trail
IMPORTANT: due to the great demand of this trek, the Peruvian government in its efforts to protect the Inca trail network has LIMITED the access to the 4-day Inca Trail as well as 2-day trek, to 500 people per day, composed of approximately 180 tourists and the rest of help staff (guides, cooks and porters).
In this sense, if you want to take the tour from October to January, we recommend that you make your reservation more than 3 months in advance, and 6 or more months in advance for the months of March to September since the permits for this season are quickly sold out.
This year we have received countless emails requesting places for the Inca Trail for the months of March, April, May, June, July, August and September, but sadly the permits were already sold out, with no expectations of getting any.
This is why we recommend booking the Inca Trail with enough anticipation so you will not be disappointed at the last minute.
Below, you will find information on the Inca Trail.
One of the 7 wonders of the world
Part of the 23.000 kilometers (about 14.000 m) of roads built by the Incas in South America. This is the most famous trekking route in Peru and probably the most spectacular in the American continent. Every year, over 25.000 hikers from all over the world walk along the 43 kilometers of this cobblestone road built by the Incas that leads to the amazing citadel of Machupicchu, located deep in the Cusco jungle. The journey begins in the village of Pisqacucho, at kilometer 82 of the Cusco-Quillabamba railroad, and takes 3 to 4 days of intense trekking. The route includes a formidable variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems ranging from the puna to the cloud forest. Travelers will cross two high-altitude passes (the highest being Warmiwañuska at 4.200 m ASL), ending the trek with a magical entrance to Machupicchu by way of Inti Punku, the “Sun Gate”.
Inca Trail to Machupicchu
One of the main attractions along the route is the old network of settlements built in granite rock by the Incas such as Wiñay Wayna and Phuyupatamarca immersed in an overpowering natural scenery. Hundreds of orchid species, multicolored birds, and dreamlike landscape provide the ideal scenario for a route that the hikers should experience at least once.
Description of the Inca Trail route to Machupicchu
Based on the traditional 4 days / 3 nights
The total distance of the trail is approximately 39.6 km starting at km 82 in a place called Pisqacucho. To begin the journey, you should cross a bridge, then heading to the left side across an eucalyptus garden and start your day calmly.
Almost immediately you will encounter the archaeological sites of Q’ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. From this last point, continue the route along the left bank of the Kusichaca river in the area of the same name where you will not only see the bridge but also find tombs, aqueducts, terrace roads and a canyon. You will go on until you get to the small town of Wayllabamba and Inca aqueducts. It takes about 4 hours to cover the 9 km to this point. We will camp there the first night.
The second day is the most difficult, because hikers will have to climb to 4.200 m, crossing the Warmiwañusqa pass, the first and the highest. If you suffer from “soroche” or altitude sickness, it’s best not to stop or to descend quickly to the valley of the Pakaymayu river, where you will be able to camp. This place is 7 km away, taking about 8 hours of trekking.
The third day is the longest but the most interesting. You will be ready to visit the most impressive sites such as Runkuraqay, the second pass at 3.800 meters above sea level. This site is walled with niches that may have been small resting points, guard posts or places destined to cult. After crossing the second passage, you descend to Yanacocha (The Black Lagoon) to later hike up a path with stone steps to reach another group of buildings that catch the visitors’ eye. This point is called Sayaqmarka, a Pre-Hispanic site with narrow streets, buildings erected at different levels; sanctuaries, patios, canals and an external protection wall. From the abutment top, you can see many constructions that lead us to suppose they once may have been a temple and an astronomic observatory, with permanent water supply and excellent food storage.
Sayaqmarka is a place full of mystery and charm; the approximate distance to Runkuraqay is 5 Km. It takes 2 hours. This site spreads over 3.600 meters above sea level. There’s an excellent path and a tunnel crossing the site. We recommend camping near the Phuyupatamarca ruins or 3 km further at the Wiñay Wayna visitors’ center, where you can buy food and drinks or use the restrooms. The Phuyupatamarca ruins are better preserved than the ones we have seen up to now.
On the fourth day, which will begin at about 5:00 am, hikers arrive at Machupicchu around 7:00 AM after 8 km trekking across the jungle. Follow the route signaled and drink some water at the Wiñay Wayna Visitors’ Center. Though the path is clearly marked, avoid getting too close to the edge of the cliff.
Camping at Inti Punku is forbidden. Leave your gear at the control post and enjoy the most important monument of this part of the continent. You will have time to visit Machupicchu until noon. Check the train timetables to go back to Cusco.
If you plan to stay in the town of Machupicchu (also known as “Aguas Calientes” or Hot Springs), the distance from the station of Puente Ruinas to Machupicchu is 2 km. It takes around 20 minutes to go down along a narrow path, which runs parallel to the rail line.
Climate and Environment
The weather is relatively mild all year round, with heavy rains from November to March, and dry hot weather from April to October, which is the most recommendable time to visit.
The annual minimum temperature varies from 8° to 11.2°C. In the months of June, July and August temperatures can often fall below zero.
Maximum annual temperature varies from 20.4° to 26.6°. The ground is fairly jagged, with various gorges and springs fed by glaciers that eventually pour into the Urubamba River, which crosses the area forming a deep valley running through the granite base of Vilcabamba for over 40 km across a variety of ecosystems.
The natural surroundings are breathtaking and the balance between Nature and Inca architecture is striking.
The Vilcabamba mountains have vast high peaks reaching up to 6.000 meters such as the Salkantay and Humantay, among others.
The blend of mountains, jungles and valleys create a fantasy world where the dawn and the sunset are enveloped in mystery.
This is abundant and varied. The existence of species in danger of extinction such as the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos omatus), the Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks (Rupicola peruviana), the Dwarf Deer (Pudu Mephistopheles), was one of the reasons the Peruvian government decided to declare it a Conservation Unit.
The park includes species such as the puma, Andean fox, river otter, Taruka (Huemul deer), wildcat, ferret and others. There are birds in Machupicchu such as the Mountain Caracara, hummingbirds, torrent duck, parrots, wild turkey, and many other small birds of colorful plumage.
There are also reptiles such as the Peruvian snake Bothrops and the coral snake Micrurus (lethal for its venom), lizards, frogs, and numerous Andean and jungle fauna inhabiting the Sanctuary. This abundant wildlife makes the Machupicchu Sanctuary ideal for tourists and researchers who wish to watch or study the animals.
The large natural areas are filled with a variety of forest species, varying according to the habitat. The forest vegetation is represented by trees such as cedar, romerillo or Intimpa conifer, laurel, etc. There are also species such as Ocotea, Pedocarpus, Guarea, Weinmania, Clusia, Cedropia, Cinchena, Eritrina or Pisonay, and Ilex, among others. The ornamentals have made the Sanctuary famous. Experts have identified over 90 species of orchids and various species of begonias and puya cacti. Most of the area is covered with grass, bushes and wooded plants. The variety of conditions have created an ideal environment for the growth of various plants ranging from the thick jungle as the cloud forest to the highest mountain tops.
Besides what has been mentioned above, there is also the cultural heritage of the Incas. The well constructed Inca Trail crosses dense forests and deep canyons. There are 18 archaeological sites along the trail that can be seen in all their glory.
They are composed of housing, irrigation canals, agricultural terraces, walls and sanctuaries, which are the irrefutable proof of the existence of large human settlements.
Located 800 m east of the town of Machu Picchu, there are underground sulfur hot springs that flow from the rock at different temperatures. The specially-built pools are adequate for mineral hot baths. The average temperature of the water ranges from 38°C to 46°C. There are also changing rooms, sand baths and small coffee shops.
Train to Machu Picchu
In order to get to kilometer 82, you can take the train from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. Another alternative for getting to kilometer 82 is by car transportation to km 82.
The only way to return from Machu Picchu or Aguas Calientes to Cusco is by train. Check the timetables available for trains.
Tourist Transport to Machupicchu
There is a fleet of minibuses linking Puente Ruinas station via a narrow road winding up to the highest peak of the Machu Picchu Complex. It takes the driver about 20 minutes to get there and another 20 minutes to get back.
The service runs every day, though the frequency depends on the amount of tourists.
There is a trail between Puente Ruinas and the Machu Picchu complex. The walk takes about an hour.
There are signs located in different parts of the trail using a series of words and international symbols. In most places, these signs provide the necessary information about certain spots, their climate, distance and services.
These signs are classified as information, prevention and restriction.
RULES GOVERNING TOURIST VISITS
Every person who enters the Historic Sanctuary of Machupicchu shall use the authorized trekking routes and abide the following rules provided by the government authorities.
Information requested by the authorities and official entities.
Pay the entrance fee to the Inca Trail or other paths.
Do not litter.
Do not make campfire along the Inca Trail.
Use the public facilities without deteriorating or destroying them.
It is strictly forbidden to extract, depredate or purchase any flora variety at the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Camp only in the places indicated. Camping is prohibited inside the archaeological or restricted areas.
Behave in an orderly fashion so as not to disturb other walkers.
Any violation to these regulations will cause Police or park ranger intervention so as to enforce the corresponding penalty. Respect the rules avoiding unpleasant incidents.
Inca Trail Photo Gallery
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