Kondor Path Tours

How To Hike The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of those tourist sites that people dream of doing before they die.

Although most people visit it on a day trip, you can also see it through the Inca Trail, a challenging multi-day trek through the jungles of Peru. In this post, we will reveal the details of a traverse while sharing some tips and suggestions to help you plan your trip to Machu Picchu.

Hiking to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail in Peru remains the highlight of a great trip. It’s something incredible. Look above the peaks of the Andes and know you walked all the way there; the view will fill you with joy and wonder. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. The walk requires some physical effort. But it will be worth it.

At about 2,500 meters above sea level, Machu Picchu was an Inca citadel built in the 15th century. The defense was created as a royal residence, although it was used for less than 100 years before being abandoned due to the arrival of the Spaniards.

It wasn’t until 1911 that archaeologist Hiram Bingham rediscovered the ruins. While the locals were already familiar with the ruins, it wasn’t until Hiram climbed the mountain alone that he realized how spectacular his (re)discovery was.

To reduce damage caused by tourism, entry to Machu Picchu is “limited” to 6,534 people per day, divided into morning and afternoon entries. But you should know that tickets often sell out months in advance (especially for the Inca trail). Therefore, you should plan, research, and book ahead of time!

Day 1:

The first day begins gently with a long, quiet, broad trail through the Sacred Valley. Described as the “Inca flat,” the hiking trail starts alongside the Urubamba River and meanders through the trees and shrubs, slowly gaining height.

We will stop at several points to tell us the trail’s history, the ruins along the way, and the Inca people and their struggle for survival.

Our guides are passionate about the history of their ancestors, and over time you will realize that they are not telling you stories taken from tour guides but that their knowledge is much more profound. He had spent time studying the mountains with the Inca descendants in college, so he had a unique perspective of the area.

Day 2:

We woke up at 5 am to the bustle and trajín of the outside. Take a hot drink while you rub your eyes to finish waking up. You will have tea, wash up and pack only what is necessary.

The weather was chilly when we started the day’s hike: the dew clung to the sides of the trail, and I could see my breath with every wearisome exhale. We already felt the altitude and still had over a thousand meters ahead.

The climb to the Pass of the “Dead Woman Pass” was relentless. The ancient Inca path comprised substantial stone steps. Your heart will beat wildly, and your lungs will be strained and seem too small; this will happen to you every step of the way.

We will make a 600-meter descent along a beautiful stone trail that will plunge into the valley.

Don’t think this will be easy; you must control those loose legs with much concentration. We will climb another 400 meters in the afternoon before descending to a more jungle valley. We crossed the valley to find our camp overlooking the Inca ruins.

With the fog, you will have a creepy atmosphere to the landscape but also provide some insulating warmth. After 10 miles of hiking, we need an “I beat you” to fall asleep deeply.

Day 3

On Day 03, it was dealt we would make a descent for almost 800 meters. This is where we will need the hiking stick we were advised to take! We will descend through the tree line, penetrating a jungle landscape, where we can understand how the jungle hid Machu Picchu for many years.

We enjoyed the showers and had a few beers before dinner to bed early. Tomorrow would take us to the Sun Gate and our first glimpses of the lost city.

Day 4

Getting to the Gate of the Sun will be unique. Appreciating Machu Picchu through this gate is impressive, a beautiful and mysterious place as you would not expect.

We walked around Machu Picchu for the rest of the day; I stayed to appreciate how the ancient Incas built such a formidable city without modern machinery.

The ingenuity and precision are remarkable, and the level of detail is surprising. The buildings and stone constructions are impressive, with extensive astronomical and geographical knowledge.

The stones are placed with precision to coincide with the positions of the sun on the winter and summer solstices or to align themselves along geographic lines.

Tips for making the Inca Trail in Peru

Here are some tips for making the most of your trip and avoiding some of the most common mistakes:

  • Arrive early: try to arrive in Cusco 3 to 5 days before starting the Inca trail so you can acclimate to the altitude before you start. This will make your hike much easier!
  • Use hiking poles: bring or rent some at the Kondor Path Tours office.
  • Coca leaves: if altitude is causing you problems, chew coca leaves. It is the local remedy, and it is what many of the guides and porters use. Coca candies are not as good as coca leaves; besides, you can take some medication, but the natural thing, is better.
  • Carry appropriate shoes: Make sure to buy and cushion your footwear at least 1-2 months before the trip. This will help you avoid blisters.
  • Carry sunscreen and bug repellent: the last thing you want is a sunburn while hiking up a mountain. Plus, mosquitoes here are abundant (and their stings provoke a lot of itching!).
  • Carry bandages/blisters for blisters: your feet are going to suffer. Having some basic first aid supplies will help.
  • Bring additional snacks: you will get enough food along the way, but bringing some of your favorite snacks is an excellent boost for the mood on the more challenging sections.
  • Travel the extra mile: to have an incredible view of Machu Picchu, walk an additional hour to Huayna Picchu. It is a bit challenging and a narrow path, but the ideas are worth it.
  • Train before you go: this hike is a challenge. You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to complete it, but the more you train, the easier your walk will be.
  • Don’t wait to shower: Showers are available halfway through the hike, but the water is icy. Forget the Showers and accept your deserved body odor.
  • Carry extra batteries: Carry an external charger for your phone and extra batteries for your camera. It would be tragic to get to Machu Picchu and not be able to take some pictures.
  • Wear earplugs: the Inca Trail can be crowded, and there will be dozens and dozens of hikers at each camp. Wear earplugs for noisy nights.
  • Consider the hike to Salkantay: for a less busy route, consider walking to Salkantay. It has stunning views and receives only 1/3 of the Inca Trail’s tourists. Plus, it’s much more economical!
  • Take money for the bathroom: make sure you take some money for the toilet. There is only one bath in Machu Picchu, which will cost a few suns.
  • Stamp your Passport: you can get a unique Machu Picchu stamp on your Passport to commemorate the trip. It’s a fun souvenir if you have room in your Passport.
  • Check your bag: you can only carry a daypack of less than 20L to Machu Picchu if it is more than 20 liters! You must pay to leave it at the door.

To get to Machu Picchu, there are two main options:

Train and bus route:

  • Take a train from Poroy (near Cusco) to Aguas Calientes, the village located at the base of Machu Picchu. The trip lasts approximately 3.5 hours and offers panoramic views.
  • Train ticket prices vary from 275 to 1,800 PEN (77-500 USD), depending on the class and luxury level.
  • From Aguas Calientes, take a bus to the entrance gates of Machu Picchu—the bus ticket costs around 86 PEN (24 USD) per person round trip.
  • Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu cost 235 PEN (65 USD) per person. If you plan to visit Mount Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu, you must purchase an additional ticket.
  • The combined tickets to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu (but not both) cost 200 PEN (80 USD).
  • Discounts are offered for students under 25 and children under 18. Tickets can be purchased through the website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru.

Hike the Inca Trail:

Join a multi-day tour along the Inca Trail from Cusco. The hike generally lasts 05 days, but there are also shorter options.

The prices of Inca Trail tours vary depending on the duration, the quality of the equipment, the guides, and other factors. Expect to pay around 2,500-7,000 PEN (700-2,000 USD) for a multi-day trek, which includes gear rental, transportation, and tickets/fees.

Remember that it is essential to plan and book your tickets and tours ahead of time, as the demand for Machu Picchu is high.

Hiking the Inca Trail is a challenging yet rewarding experience, offering breathtaking views and a deep connection to the history and beauty of Machu Picchu. It is an unforgettable trip that should be on every adventurer’s wish list.

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