Also known as Qhapaq Ñan, it is an extensive network of trails that connect several locations of the Tahuantinsuyo. For many travelers visiting Machu Picchu, this is the main way to do so. The Inca Trail is the most sought after option to get to the ancient citadel, not only for its historical value but the jaw-dropping scenery of the region.
The Classic Inca Trail has a length of 43 kilometers surrounded by the most visually striking landscape of the Peruvian Andean region enclosing snow-capped mountains, cloud forests, and unique archeological sites before reaching the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu.
Nevertheless, this series of trails connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire during Inca times, comprehending parts of Colombia and Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, going further down to the center of Chile until Northern Argentina.
The extensive and extraneous trail served to move armies and officials, as well as chaskis and to transport food supplies to the Imperial City of Cusco. Nowadays, this is the most in-demand way to get to Machu Picchu, though the access is limited to 500 persons per day, including tourists, porters, cooks, and guides.
Therefore, it is advisable to book this trek in advance since spaces are limited and ran out quickly, especially during the high tourist season. It is worth mentioning that this trail is not for the fainthearted since it reaches altitudes over 4,200 meters above sea level.
However, this 4-day adventure offers an unforgettable experience through the Peruvian highlands, and all that effort is rewarded day by day. Besides, the exuberant nature and favorable weather conditions that surround it allow the development of unique flora and fauna.
What to See?
This archeological site is located northeast of Machu Picchu. It was built on top of agricultural terraces and comprised dozens of buildings and small houses. This archeological site is the first sighting within the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
According to many archeologists, Patallacta was a checkpoint for those looking to enter the famous Inca Citadel. However, Manco Inca Yupanqui burned this structure to discourage Spanish pursuit. Luckily, due to this attempt to escape the Spanish conquerors, the trail to Machu Picchu was never discovered.
This archeological site is located at 3,800 meters above sea level within the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This construction sits on a mountain, offering an impressive view of the Andean mountain range.
It is composed of a semi-circular structure whose purpose remains a secret. Some archaeologists point it out as a resting and control point, while others emphasise about it being inclined to ritual functions due to its proximity to mountains.
It is located at the edge of a cliff at 3,600 meters above sea level and it served as a ceremonial and residencial center. Although this extraordinary structure is located within the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it is believed that it wasn’t entirely built by the Incas, but instead, the Incas had improved it by adding several agricultural terraces around it.
This is one of the many Inca settlements located within the Inca Trail. It is known as “The Place Above the Clouds” due to its remote location in the steepest part of a mountain, offering an outstanding view to the mountainous landscape of the region.
According to its structure and distribution, this archeological site may have served as a religious and administrative center. It is composed of fifteen buildings, two squares, bridges, stairs, water channels, and six ceremonial baths.
5. Wiñay Wayna
Etymologically, Wiñay Wayna means “Eternally Young” in Quechua. The archeological site is located between the Phuyupatamarca and Inti Punku Inca structures. It is one of the most preserved Inca constructions within the Inca Trail.
Wiñay Wayna is composed of several buildings surrounded by agricultural terraces. The architecture of this location is the same used in Machu Picchu.
It is a small Inca settlement located in the middle of the high jungle, near the Archeological Site of Wiñay Wayna. According to previous research, Chachabamba served as a religious and military center, probably to ensure and control the access to the Machu Picchu citadel.
7. Inti Punku
Better known as “Puerta del Sol” in Spanish or “Sun Door” in English, it is located on the highest peak of the Machu Picchu complex and was used as the main entrance to the historical sanctuary during Inca times. Inti Punku is the entrance point for those who come from the Inca Trail.
This construction was thoughtfully designed to allow the sunray entrance during the summer solstice. The Incas had a great astronomical knowledge, which was represented in their religious structures.
The Inca Trail passes through the outstanding Andes mountain range and immerse itself into the cloud forest, meaning that it has the distinctive rainy summer and dry winter of these regions.
- Rainy Season: It starts from December and ends around April, being the period between January and March the rainiest of the year. Temperatures range between 15°C and 5°C. It is worth mentioning that the Inca Trail closes every February due maintenance.
- Dry Season: It is considered the coldest season of the year since temperatures can drop below 0°C during nighttime. However, days are warmer, bright, and sunny. This is the high tourist season in the Andean region and takes place between May and October, being these the most suitable months to experience this trail.
Although this weather condition is significantly marked in this region, the cloud forest has predominant tropical rainy weather. Therefore, occasional rainfall may occur even during the dry season.
Planning a trip through Peru may be quite tricky since the weather in our country varies according to its regions. To help you organize your trip and your packing list, please check our informative guide.
Due to the high elevation of this trek, some travelers may experience altitude sickness symptoms. This condition affects almost everyone located above the 2,500 meters of elevation, therefore, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Even if you’ve lived on the peak of the highest mountain or at sea level throughout your whole life, this can affect you anytime. However, we’re not here to scare you off, but to make things clear and easy for you. Please, follow these recommendations that will surely help you prevent or deal with Altitude Sickness:
- Drink enough water.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Take some time to rest and acclimate your body before committing to a physically demanding activity.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet.
- Drink Coca tea or chew Coca leaves. This medicinal plant is known for its curative properties and to help with acclimatization.
Keep in mind that the Inca Trail starts at 2,600 meters above sea level and its highest peak is around the 4,200 meters. Therefore, you’ll be ascending gradually and slowly to this location, making it easier for you to get used to the altitude. However, we highly recommend taking it easy on your first days in the city of Cusco.
If feeling sick, there are some medicines that help easing altitude sickness symptoms. You can find Diamox or Soroche Pills in almost any drugstore in Peru, but we advise you to consult with a doctor before taking any of these.
For those looking to hike the Inca Trail, there are some things to keep in mind to organize this trip. As aforementioned, to reduce human impact on the trail, the Peruvian government had implemented a system to regulate the entrance to this ancient path.
Therefore, to experience this famous trail to Machu Picchu, one must acquire a special ticket which is only available through a certified government tour company. The Inca Trail Permits are limited to 500 per day, including hikers, cooks, guides, and porters.
However, if you were thinking of doing the trek on your own, it won’t be possible since the companion of a professional tour guide is mandatory. There are many tour operators that offer this experience, which means that you’ll come across different price ranges.
Thereby, we want to be entirely honest with you, going cheaper isn’t always the best choice. Remember that you’ll get the service you’ve paid for, no more, no less. Likewise, having a sense of safety is the main goal here. Keep in mind that you’re going on a trek that supasses the 4,000 meters of altitude through the most remote locations.
Regarding that, we recommend you do proper research to find a company that offers reliability and comfort. Yes, we know, among the sea of tour operators this may turn somewhat tedious, but you don’t have to go through this alone since by hiring a local travel agency, you’ll take that stress away.
Besides, a travel agency will be there for any inquiry you may have, and especially, to assist you 24 hours a day. For more information, please contact us.
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