The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is certainly one of the must-do things for anyone visiting Peru. The Incas built some of the world's best roads and the ruins and Machu Picchu are perhaps second to none. An expedition along the Inca Trail is really one of the best things to see the best of the proud Inca Empire that once was.
The Inca Trail is also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka and is made up of three overlapping trails all terminating at Machu Picchu. The two longer routes rise above 13,800 feet or 4,200 meters and so can result in altitude sickness. Depending on the route taken, it normally takes several days to reach Machu Picchu - although the shorter option only takes a single day. See here for more to expect on the Inca Trail.
- The Three Trails: Mollepata, Classic, And One Day
- Altitude Sickness: This Is A Risk For People Ascending High On The Two Higher Trails
The Mollepata Trail is the longest of the three trails and transverses the highest mountain pass before intersecting with the Classic route. It passes through different types of Andean environments including the cloud forest and the alpine tundra. There are numerous Inca ruins along the way. These trails have become so popular, that in order to protect the environment, the Peruvian government has limited the number of people who may hike this trail in a season. Additionally, they have sharply limited the companies that can provide guides for the tourists. To take this route one must book in advance and the bookings sell out very quickly.
- Total Daily Limit: 500 People Can Hike The Trail Per Day
- Number Of Tourists: 200 Tourists Per Day
- A number of Guides And Porters: 300 Guides And Porters Per Day.
- Closed: February For Cleaning
Classic Inca Trail
The Classic Inca Trail normally takes 3 to 5 days to hike and 3 or 4 nights. The route has two starting points and it starts 55-51 miles from the Inca capital of Cusco. The beginning elevation is 9,200 to 8,500 feet above sea level. No matter where one starts, the segments converge at the Inca ruins of Patallaqta - this was once an Inca site used for religious and ceremonial functions, housing soldiers, and farming.
- Classic Inca Trail Time: Normally 3 to 5 Day To Complete
Further up the trail, it intersects with the longer and more difficult Mollepata Trail at the small village of Wayllapampa at around 9,800 feet. Past this village is a stretch of trail, that in an effort to prevent erosion, pack animals are not allowed as well as metal-tipped trekking poles. So if the trekker has these poles, they will need to be stowed for this stretch.
Further up the trail is the disturbingly named "Warmi Wanusqa" or "Dead Woman's Pass." The pass marks the highest ascent of the trail maxing out at 13,829 feet about sea level. The trail drops steeply on the other side of the pass. Hiking further along the trail is the heavily restored Inca ruins of Tampu Runkuraqay.
The trail continues to cut through different forests and environments passing along more Inca ruins before finally reaching Macchu Pichu
One company offering guided tours to Macchu Pichu is Alpaca Expeditions. They offer a range of tour options ranging from $550.00 to $1 250.00.
One example of one of their group tours is:
Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
- Cost: From $695.00
- Duration: 4 Days
- Includes: Professional Guides (All Fluent In English And Versed In Local History)
- Permits And Machu Picchu: Included In The Price And Permits And Fees A Paid For By The Company
- Bring: Must Bring One's Own Sleeping Bag And Air Mattress
- Porter: A Porter Is Included
- Meals: Alpaca Expeditions Chefs Prepare The Food On The Mountainside
Things To Keep In Mind
There are a few things to bear in mind like the passes rise very high and it can get very cold up here - especially at night. Remember to have the right hiking clothes and a good sleeping bag. Peru may be a tropical country on the equator, but it's cold up here.
- Visa Policy Of Peru: Peru Is Visa Free
It is very important to pack lightly. Alpaca Expeditions only allow tourists to bring 7 kilos or 14 pounds of luggage. The porters have to carry this and everything else (food, tents, their equipment, etc.). And each porter is only permitted to carry a total of 20 kilos of weight.
The trails go very high in elevation. Many people not used to this could get altitude sickness. Consider taking the right medicine for this and be mentally prepared. But it's worth it! The Inca Trail will be hike not to be forgotten.