Get inspired and motivated as you trek along the ancient paths of the Incas!
During its existence, the Incan Empire built a highly advanced network of nearly 40,000 kilometres (24,854.85 miles) of trails to connect the distant corners of the vast empire that stretched from Quito in Ecuador down to Santiago in Chile and east to Mendoza in Argentina. Cusco was at the heart of this great empire. Almost all of the principal trails in the mountains surrounding Cusco were built or improved upon by the Incas.
The classic Inca Trail
This is the most popular route. It is often called “Km82”, because it starts 82 kilometres along the railway line between Cusco and Machu Picchu. After trekking 47 km over 4 days, you usually arrives at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for sunrise on the fourth day. The trek is rated moderate and any reasonably fit person should be able to cover the route. It is fairly challenging nevertheless, as it has the serious altitude changes (altitudes of 4200m are reached), and the climate varies along the length of the trail; ensuring that you are well acclimatized is important. If arriving from sea level or lower altitude destinations, plan to spend at least 2 full days in Cusco prior to commencing the trek.
Alternative Inca Trails
There are two main alternative treks to the traditional 4-day Classic Inca Trail that both end at Machu Picchu.
The first and most popular alternative is the Short Inca Trail which can be completed in 1 or 2 days. This is an easier trek and starts further along the Vilcanota River Valley closer to Machu Picchu at a place called kilometre 104. From this point one treks the second last day of the classic route; but ends when you reach the village of Aguas Calientes where you stay for the night in hotel. The following day, a bus takes you up to Machu Picchu.
The second alternative to the Classic Inca Trail trek is a more strenuous Salkantay & Inca Trail Trek which is a 7 day hike via Salkantay, a beautiful snow-capped mountain. The trek starts near the town of Mollapata and the first 3 days are spent trekking around the foot of the Salkantay mountain. On day 4 of the trek the trail joins up with the route of the Classic Inca Trail and visit the Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna before trekking to Machu Picchu on the final day. This really is a spectacular trek combining the best of snow-capped mountains and Inca ruins.
Best time to do the Inca Trail
The weather along the Inca Trail and in Machu Picchu splits into two dominant seasons. The dry winter season runs from April through to September, and the wet, summer season from October through to March. Temperatures stay relatively consistent throughout the year, with daily highs in the low 20s, and daily lows in the mid-single digits. At night, particularly in the winter season, temperatures can drop a few degrees below zero. This chart gives a good sense of what to expect weather wise by month, and dictates your packing list. In general though its recommended to plan for some rain all year round, moderate temperatures during the day and cold to sub-zero temperatures at night.
This journey will move you!
The Inca Trail is extremely popular and to preserve the authenticity of the trail; the Peruvian Government regulates access rigorously. Plan in advance (at least 5 months) as only 500 trekking permits are issued per day. This includes the extensive support staff (guides, porters, cooks etc) that will trek with you. Only about 200 entrances are issued per day for trekkers. Also ensure that you use a reliable, accredited and competent trek organizer to ensure a hassle-free and memorable experience.
This is a brief introduction to one of the most amazing experiences – one that tops many bucket lists. Remember to plan early; get fitter and contact us if you require additional information on the Inca Trail, or to incorporate it into your South American travel plans.