That is a guest post from Gillian in one Giant Step. The Inca Trail is among the best methods to experience Machu Picchu, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Here, Gillian divulges the facts of her trek while sharing some tips and suggestions to assist you plan your visit to Machu Picchu.
Hiking to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail in Peru remains the highlight of my year traveling. It’s that amazing. Searching over the peaks of the Andes, and realizing that I hiked to make it happen, filled me with joy and awe. I didn’t desire to be somewhere else. I won’t lie, though – it took some work. A whole lot of work, actually. Nonetheless it was totally worthwhile.
Sitting some 2,500m above sea level, Machu Picchu was an Inca citadel that was built-in the 15th century. The citadel was built as a royal estate, though it had been used for under a century before being abandoned when as a result of arrival of the Spanish, who were set on conquest.
It wasn’t until 1911 when the ruins were re-discovered by archeologist Hiram Bingham III. As the locals were acquainted with the ruins, it wasn’t until Hiram trekked up the mountain for himself that he realized precisely how spectacular his (re)discovery was.
To slow the damage due to tourism, the entrance of Machu Picchu is “limited” to 6,534 people each day, divided in morning tickets and afternoon tickets. While that seems such as a lot, tickets often sell out months beforehand (specifically for the hike). Because of this, you’ll want to be sure you plan ahead, research your facts, and book early!
Hiking the Inca Trail: Itinerary
To start out things off, this is a detailed summary of what the actual hike is in fact like:
Day 1 They broke us in easy on the first day with a gentle start along a broad path that passed through the Sacred Valley. Referred to as “Inca Flat,” the trail starts alongside the Urubamba River and meanders through the trees and scrub brush, slowly gaining altitude.
Our guide, Marco, stopped us at various points on the way to tell us the annals of the trail, the ruins along the trail, plus the Incan people and their battle to survive. Marco was passionate about his ancestors’ story, and as time continued, we realized that he had not been just telling us stories which come from guidebooks but that his knowledge was more deeply. He previously spent time at university studying and in addition in the mountains with the Incan descendants therefore had a distinctive perspective on the region.
Day 2 We awake at 5 am to the sounds of busyness outside. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a porter appeared with hot tea and another brought a plate of warm water and soap for me personally to clean up with. I drank my tea, washed up, and packed up the few things I was in charge of (the porters dismantle and carry everything except your individual belongings).
It had been cold as we lay out on the day’s hike – frost clung to the sides of the trail and I possibly could see my breath with every labored exhalation. We were already feeling the altitude but still had greater than a thousand meters before us. We quickly climbed above the tree line and were rewarded with the beautiful views of mountains and valleys that might be our companion for all of those other day.
The climb to Dead Woman’s Pass was relentless. Up or more and up or more along the ancient Inca pathway made up of enormous stone steps. My heart was beating wildly, my lungs were tight and seemed too small for the duty, and my legs felt like cement as I tried to lift them again and again up onto the next phase.
Then it had been down the other side – a 600-meter drop along a lovely stone pathway reducing in to the valley below. EASILY thought this was likely to be the simple part, I was wrong. Controlling those floppy, leaden legs was a fitness in concentration. The afternoon saw us climb another 400 meters before dropping into another valley that was more jungle than scrub. We crossed the valley to find our campsite overlooking a couple of astrological ruins.
Fog occur just as the light faded, lending an eerie feel to the landscape but also providing some insulating warmth. After 16 kilometers of hiking through two passes, it didn’t take a lot of the special “rum tea” to send people off to a restful night’s sleep.
Day 3 Around Day 2 was about climbing, Day 3 was about descent – overall we dropped almost 800 meters. I’m uncertain which is more challenging, but I understand that my legs were sorer after a day of heading down than these were after Day 2. That’s where the walking stick I have been carrying all along really proved its worth! We dropped backed down through the tree line, getting into jungle-like scenery, where we’re able to start to know how Machu Picchu was hidden by jungle for so a long time.
We shared camp that night as other groups joined up at the campsite before entering the website. We enjoyed much-needed showers and beer before a late dinner and early bedtime. Tomorrow would take us to sunlight Gate and our first glimpses of the lost city.
Day 4 Achieving the Sun Gate was amazing. Looking through it to the sight of Machu Picchu below made all of the difficulties of the trek disappear. Sitting on a plateau below, the website looked just as beautiful and mysterious as I had expected.
Wandering around Machu Picchu for all of those other day, I was left in awe concerning the way the ancient Incans could have built such a formidable city without modern machinery. The ingenuity and precision were astounding and the amount of detail amazing. The buildings and stonework are stunning displays of form, function, and astounding astronomical and geographic knowledge. Stones are put or carved, to complement exactly with the sun’s winter and summer solstice positions or even to fall into line along the ordinal geographic lines.
Seeing a rock carved in to the form of the Incan Cross and shown the way the points match with a compass, I was amazed at the data that the Incans will need to have had. The complete city and the mountain backdrop took my breath away.
Tips for Hiking the Inca Trail
Below are a few tips that will help you take full advantage of your trip and steer clear of some of the more prevalent pitfalls:
- Arrive early – Make an effort to reach Cusco 3-5 days before your hike to help you acclimatize to the altitude before hiking. It’ll make your hike easier!
- Use trekking poles – Bring trekking poles or rent them from your own tour company. You’ll need them.
- Chew coca leaves – If the altitude is providing you trouble, chew coca leaves. It’s the neighborhood remedy and is what a lot of the guides and porters use. You can chew the leaves or buy gum with it. (You can even get altitude medicine from your own doctor prior to going. Just take into account that it will cause you to have to pee a whole lot!).
- Break in your boots – Be sure you buy and break in your footwear at least 1-2 months before your trip. That will assist you avoid blisters.
- Bring sunscreen and bug spray – The very last thing you want is a sunburn when you’re hiking up a mountain. And the mosquitoes listed below are plentiful (and their bites are super itchy!) so prepare accordingly and apply both every day.
- Bring Bandaids/Blister kits – Your feet around likely to have a beating. Having some minor medical supplies can help.
- Carry extra snacks – You’ll get a lot of food on the trail, but bringing along a few of your favorite snacks is an excellent morale booster for all those challenging sections.
- Go the excess mile – For an incredible view of Machu Picchu, hike the excess hour to Huayna Picchu. It’s a tiny scramble and the road is quite narrow however the views are worthwhile!
- Train prior to going – That is a challenging hike. You don’t should be an Olympic athlete to complete it, however the more you train the simpler your hike will be.
- Don’t be prepared to shower – Showers can be found partway in to the hike however the water is painfully cold. Miss the showers and just embrace your well-earned BO.
- Have extra batteries – Bring an external charger for your phone and further batteries for your camera. It will be tragic to reach at Machu Picchu rather than have the ability to snap an image or two!
- Bring earplugs – The Inca Trail will get busy and you will see tons of hikers at each camp. Bring earplugs for the noisy nights.
- Consider the Salkantay – For a less-busy route, consider hiking the Salkantay. It has views just as epic and sees 1/3 of the tourists that the Inca Trail does. Plus, it’s a fraction of the purchase price!
- Bring money for the toilet – Be sure you involve some money for the toilet. There is one bathroom at Machu Picchu and it’ll cost 2 PEN.
- Get stamped – You may get your passport stamped with a distinctive Machu Picchu stamp to commemorate the journey. It creates for a great souvenir should you have some space in your passport.
- Check your bag – You can only just bring a day bag under 20L into Machu Picchu. If your bag is bigger than that you’ll have to pay to check on it at the gate.
The way to get to Machu Picchu: Prices, Tours, and Logistics
In the event that you don’t anticipate hiking the Inca Trail, the simplest way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to take the train to Aguas Calientes. It’s a scenic 3.5-hour trip each through Sacred Valley that leaves from Poroy (which is near Cusco). Tickets range between 256-1,700 PEN ($77-500 USD) based on how luxurious of a ride you want. The Expedition (which may be the cheapest option) is perfectly fine and likely ideal for most travelers. You can purchase drinks and snacks and you get yourself a panoramic view.
You’ll have to have a bus from the place to the gates of Machu Picchu, that may cost around 66 PEN ($20 USD) per person (round trip). Tickets to Machu Picchu cost 152 PEN ($45 USD). If you need to also visit Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu you’ll have to buy a supplementary ticket. Combination tickets for Machu Picchu and either the Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu (however, not both) will definitely cost 200 PEN ($62 USD). Both these additional areas have set times to hike, so you’ll have to plan your trip accordingly.
Discounts are for sale to students under 25 and children under 18. You can buy your tickets at Peru’s Ministry of Culture website.
You can purchase tickets for Machu Picchu for the morning entry or a day entry (full-day tickets aren’t available).
The other way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to walk within a multi-day Inca trail tour, which may be the a lot more scenic and rewarding way. Most hikers choose to accomplish the hike over 5 days, if you can choose less in the event that you don’t have time.
Also you can combine the Inca Trail with other hikes if you wish something longer and more difficult. Prices will vary based on how long you hike for and the grade of your gear and guides. Be prepared to pay from 2,000-4,000 PEN ($600-$1,200) for a multi-day hike, gear rentals, transportation, and tickets/fees.
Note : Make certain the company you select pays their porters well and treats them fairly. Porters have a remarkably challenging job which means you want to be sure the company you select can be an ethical one. Knowing that, remember you’ll also need some money to tip your porters. Most estimates range between 17-23 PEN ($5-7 USD) per person each day for each porter, and 20-33 PEN ($6-10 USD) per person each day for the guides, though your company will probably provide additional tipping guidelnes. Tips are paid in the neighborhood currency.
My preferred tour company for that’s Intrepid Travel. They provide small group tours with local guides and also have a little environmental footprint. I’ve been on the tours all over the world and can’t praise them enough!
While hiking the Inca Trail is no easy feat, it really is definitely worth your time and effort. The well-earned views you ingest as you hike combined with incredible vistas and history of Machu Picchu itself get this to a once in an eternity experience worth any bucket list. No visit to Peru is complete without seeing Machu Picchu, and the ultimate way to do this is via the Inca Trail – one step at the same time!
Gillian believes that people are all only 1 giant step from making our dreams become a reality. She and her partner Jason left home in ’09 2009 for a one-year trip all over the world. She writes about their experiences and adventures at One-Giant-Step.com.
Book Your Visit to Peru: Logistical Guidelines
Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s because they search websites and airlines around the world and that means you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you would like to remain somewhere apart from a hostel, use Booking.com because they consistently return the least expensive rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I take advantage of them all enough time. My favorite places to remain are:
- Hospedaje Turistico Recloeta (Cusco) – That is a central hostel that’s ideal for meeting people. The beds are comfy and the staff might help answer any Inca Trail questions you have.
- Wild Rover Hostel (Cusco) – That is a great, trendy party hostel. If you’re searching for a spot to let loose after your hike, this might be considered a good choice!
Looking to discover the best companies to save lots of money with? Have a look at my resource page to find the best companies to use when you travel! I list all of the ones I use to save lots of money when I travel – and I believe can help you too!
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