I had the opportunity to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in November 2009 as part of a two and a half month trip backpacking through South America. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I started the trip in Lima and spent about a month travelling through Peru before continuing on through Bolivia and the northwestern portion of Argentina and ending in Santiago, Chile. There were many highlights of the trip but one of the more memorable ones has to be the 4-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is one of the main tourist attractions in Peru, and for good reason, as it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There are many ways to see Machu Picchu but I think the most rewarding is by foot. While there are many different trekking routes to Machu Picchu, we chose to do the classic Inca Trail as it is the only route that allows you to trek down into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate. This is also the most popular route and requires a permit to hike the trail. The Peruvian government issues 500 permits a day for the Inca Trail, so they book up quickly which means you need to plan well in advance if you want to hike this route.
Our trek started in Cusco, the launching point for any trips to Machu Picchu, where we were picked up in the morning of Day 1 and driven to Km 82 which is the starting point of the Inca Trail.
Day 1 is more or less an acclimatization day which allows you to get used to the terrain and get your trekking legs warmed up. It is also a relatively easy day as you hike approximately 11km over 6 hours with minimal elevation change. We ended the day at our campsite in the late afternoon and had some time to enjoy the amazing mountain vistas. A few of us also endeavoured to play a pick-up game of soccer with some of the porters in our trekking group.
Day 2 is considered by many to be the most challenging day of the trek. It involves a 1200m vertical hike up to Dead Women’s Pass, which is the highest point on the trail at 4200m. Then it is a 600m vertical hike down the 3000 Inca steps to reach the campsite.
Day 3 is probably the most cultural day on the trek as you get to pass by and have the opportunity to visit 4 other ruin sites along this section of the trail. It is also one of the longer days as you hike 14km over 8 hours.
Finally you arrive at Day 4 which is the day you hike into Machu Picchu. The day starts very early between 3-4am which allows you to be at the Sun Gate at 7am, which is the place where the panoramic views of Machu Picchu are taken. Then you hike down into the ruin site for a guided tour and some free time to do some exploring on your own. Once everyone has had a chance to soak in the sites, you will hop on a quick bus ride down to the small town beneath Machu Picchu called Aguas Calientes. After a well-deserved lunch break, you will board a train for the trip back to Cusco which marks the end of your Inca Trail & Machu Picchu Adventure.
Machu Picchu is a truly spectacular site and being able to trek there along the same paths, as the Incas who built them, is a tremendously rewarding experience. If you have ever thought about trekking the Inca Trail or need help planning a trip, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me. I would be glad to help plan your next adventure!
Jeff Schugardt | Adventure Travel Consultant | The Adventure Travel Company
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