The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu part of the 23,000 kilometers (approx.14,000 miles) of roads built by the Incas in South America, are on the most famous trekking route in Peru, and possibly one of the most spectacular in America. Every year, approximately 25,000 hikers from all over the world travel their extraordinary 43 kilometers along a stone paved road built by the Incas, which leads to the impregnable citadel of Machu Picchu located deep in the high jungle of Cusco. The trip begins in the town of Qorihuayrachina, at kilometer 88 of the Quillabamba railway - Cusco and takes 3 to 4 days of strenuous hiking, it is the road that takes tourists to Machu Picchu. The route consists of an impressive variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems ranging from the Andean plain to the cloud forest. Travelers cross two high-altitude areas (the highest being Warmiwañuska at 4,200 m.s.) to complete the walk with a magical entrance to Machu Picchu through the Inti Punko or Puerta del Sol.
The Inca Trail, one of the most dazzling scenic adventures on earth, has six routes for tourist use. Doing one of them, according to your availability of time or physical capacity, is something that you should try not to let go. The Inca Trail crosses archaeological remains of stunning scenic beauty, Wiñaywayna and Qoriwayrachina among them, which will abstract it from the sometimes complicated reality.
One of the major attractions along the route is the network of ancient settlements built on the granite rock by the Incas such as Wiñay Wayna and Phuyupatamarca immersed in an overwhelming scenario. Hundreds of species of orchids, multicolored birds and dream landscapes ideal for a route that every traveler should experiment at least once.
Description of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu route
4 Days Inca Trail - Based on Tour
The total distance of the road is approximately 39.6 km and starts at km 88 of a place called Q'oriwayrachina. To start the road, you need to cross the Kusichaca bridge, (an important Inca bridge that using Inca techniques, which was built with steel cables that allowed visitors to cross the Urubamba River) Then you should head to the left bank of the river through from an Eucalyptus forest to start the day calmly.
Almost immediately, you will arrive at the archaeological complexes of Q'ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. From this last point, you will have to follow the path that is to the left of the Kusichaca River, in the area with the same name, where you will not only see the bridge, but also you will find the tombs, aqueducts, terraces. roads and a canyon. You will have to continue until you reach the small peasant village of Wayllabamba and the Inca aqueducts. It will take around four hours to cover 9 km to this place. The first night you can camp here, but for greater comfort it is recommended to stay in Llullucha, 1.6 km further on.
The second day is more difficult as it will have to climb 4,200 meters, crossing the Warmiwañusqa pass, the first and highest point. If you suffer from soroche (sickness to the heights) it is better that you do not stop and descend quickly to the valley of the Pakaymayu river, where you will be able to camp. This place is 7 km away and approximately 8 hours walking.
The third day is the longest but the most interesting. You can visit impressive resorts such as Runqurakay, the second step, at 3,800 m.s. This is a walled complex with interior niches that maybe was a small place for rest, guard post and place of worship. After crossing the second step, we will descend to Yanacocha (the black lagoon), then climb a path with stone steps to reach another group of buildings that attracts the attention of visitors. This place is called Sayaqmarka, a pre-Hispanic complex with narrow streets, buildings built on different levels; sanctuaries, patios, canals and an exterior protection wall. At the top of the buttress you can see many buildings that lead to suppose that they once became a temple and an astronomical observatory where there was a permanent supply of water and excellent food deposits.
Sayaqmarka is a place full of mystery and charm. The approximate distance to Runkuraqay is 5 km, to 2 hours. This complex is located at 3,600 meters above sea level. There are excellent roads and a tunnel through this complex. We recommend that you camp near the Phuyupatamarca ruins or 3 km later in the Wiñay Wayna Visitor Center, where you can buy food and drinks or use the bathrooms. The Phuyupatamarca ruins are the best preserved of those we have observed so far.
It has been built on a solid base of several meters in some cases. The ruins of Wiñay Wayna took this name possibly due to the abundance of a type of beautiful orchid flowers that blooms almost all year round throughout the area. The Peruvian government and the Viking Fund signed an agreement in 1940 to investigate the area, and sent the Wenner Gren expedition led by Professor Paul Fejos. But despite the expedition, there is no precise information on the specific function of the six housing groups near Machu Picchu. They are divided into four well-defined sectors that are: the agricultural sector with many terraces, the religious sector, the sector of the source and the residential sector where the houses are located.
On the fourth day, which starts around 8 A.M., the walkers arrive at Machu Picchu at approximately 11 A.M. after 8 km of walk through the jungle. You must follow the signposted route and then drink some water at the Wiñay Wayna Visitor Center. The road is clearly marked but we recommend not getting too close to the cliff.
It is forbidden to camp in Inti Punko. You must leave your travel equipment at the control entrance and enjoy, knowing that you will know in this most important monument in this part of the continent. You have time to walk around Machu Picchu until mid-afternoon. We recommend that you check the departure times of the train to return to Cusco. If you have planned to stay in the city of Machu Picchu (Formerly called "Aguas Calientes"), the distance from the Puente Ruinas station to Machu Picchu is 2 km. It takes about 20 minutes on foot through a narrow road that is located parallel to the train line.
Climate and Environment
The climate is relatively mild all year round, with heavy rains from November to March, and dry and hot weather from April to October, these months being the most recommended to visit. The minimum annual temperature ranges between 8 ° to 11.2 ° C. In the months of June, July and August the temperature can fall below 0 °.
The maximum annual temperature varies from 20.4 ° to 26.6 ° C. The terrain is quite irregular, with ravines and holes fed by glaciers that finally pour their waters into the Urubamba River, which crosses this area forming a deep valley that extends through the granite base of Vilcabamba for more than 40 km. crossing through a variety of ecosystems.
Altitudes in the Inca Trail
||2658 meters above sea level
||2595 meters above sea level
||2738 meters above sea level
||2922 meters above sea level
||3848 meters above sea level
||3506 meters above sea level
||2419 meters above sea level
||2863 meters above sea level
||2691 meters above sea level
This is abundant and varied. The fact that there are endangered species such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos omatus), the Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruviana), the dwarf deer (Pudu mephistopheles), etc. It was one of the reasons why the government decided to declare it as a conservation unit.
The park has species such as puma, Andean fox, otter, taruka (Huemul deer), wild cat, ferret, etc. There are also birds such as the mountain Caracara, hummingbirds, duck of the torrents, parrot, wild duck, and many other colorful and small birds. They also have reptiles such as the Jergón and coral snake Micrurus (lethal for its poison), lizards, frogs, and a number of Andean and jungle animals that inhabit the Sanctuary. This type of wildlife makes the Sanctuary ideal for tourists and researchers who want to observe or study animals.
The extensive natural areas are full of a variety of forest species which vary according to the habitat. The vegetation of the forest is represented by trees such as cedar, romerillo or intimpa, laurel, etc. There are also species such as Ocotea, Pedocarpus, Guarea, Weinmania, Clusia, Cedropia, Cinchena, Erythrin or Pisonay, and Ilex among others. The decorative plants have made the famous Sanctuary. Experts have identified more than 90 species of orchids, and several species of begonias and puya cacti. The varied conditions have created an ideal environment for the growth of diverse plant life that goes from the thick jungle, as the cloud forest to the top of the scarcely covered mountains.
Around Machu Picchu a series of archaeological attractions are disseminated. These complemented, in their functions, the proper functioning of Machu Picchu. Visit them will clarify some small questions about the functioning of the Inca society.
Archaeological Complex of Q'ente
Starting from the eastern end of the complex, approximately at the height of Km. 84 of the railway line, it has 9 archaeological groups that spread out to the height of Km. 90 of the same line. We can find 9 archaeological sites:
- T'ankarpata. It is constituted by short platforms of rustic structure; there are vestiges of rustic dwellings with a base of stone stones and small canteados.
- Kiswarpata. This group includes the archaeological units Leyonniyuc, Olleriayuc and Tunasmoqo, with rustic adobe constructions with a stone-based base.
- Willkaraqay. It has more than 30 precincts placed in singular symmetry; we found a tower with a semicircular floor in the most western part of the complex.
- Kusichaka. In this archaeological group, which includes both banks of the Kusichaka stream, we can highlight archaeological monuments, the bridge, semi-ruined platforms, tombs, aqueduct and roads.
- Llactapata. It is more than one kilometer long. In this complex we can appreciate: Flat terraces, straight roads, blocks of well-marked buildings, shrines, surveillance and communication points.
- Zona del Caserío de la Hacienda. On the river we find the remains of an Inca bridge on which a new one was built. In front of the Caserío there are old platforms as retaining walls.
- Tarapata and the Carved Rock. We found two enclosures associated with platforms. Next to a waterfall, at the base of the mountain and very close to old platforms, there is a rock carved with straight moldings.
- Machu Q'ente. We found a succession of 10 platforms with wide embankments at the center of these platforms we can see a set of enclosures, which the peasants call Tiendachayuc.
- WaynaQ'ente. It is next to Machu Q'ente separated only by a stream formed by a stream. We can find three groups of platforms, a mausoleum and small bathrooms.
Toronto Archaeological Complex
The complex of Toronto includes 7 archaeological groups and this one in front of the Complex of Q'ente, separated solely by the Urubamba river, possibly they were independent cacicazgos with a strong economic bond. We can find 7 archaeological groups:
- Torontoy. The peasants of the place call it Inkaperqa or Inca raqay, alluding to what they see. In this place we can find a main front, several groups of enclosures, courtyards or free areas separating the buildings, vestiges of a liturgical bath and a central enclosure with a lithic piece of more than 40 angles that joins other twenty-eight pieces with exact interlocking in the meetings.
- Salapunku. It means door of room, because what jumps more to the sight is a wide door that is on a platform that runs like a street in front of the wall. Behind the door we find cyclopean platforms and plains with remains of stairways, interior roads and remains of aqueducts.
- Qhanabamba. It means pampa where the grass "qhana" grows. It is at the height of Km. 85 of the railway line. We can find a series of one-story buildings and a two-story building that is the largest.
- Wayrajpunku. It means windy door (alluding to a windy site). In this group we find remains of buildings and a partially standing enclosure, there are vestiges of aqueducts, paths and overcrowded cantilevered stones that were part of constructions.
- Pincha Unuyuj. Here the best hydraulic works in the area were made, the crystalline waters that descend, appear channeled by wide lithic canals; also we find from the river bank a succession of parallel platforms, a path that leads to a shrine carved in the insitu rock, ascending some houses and a observation tower.
- Qoriwayrachina. It means gold placeholder. We can find the following: A huge stairway with more than one meter wide, semicircular walls, platforms like retaining walls and a vertical worked slope that is on the turbulent waters of the river.
- Retamayuj. It means that it has broom, in this group we can find long platforms with semi-cylindrical walls, tombs that are desecrated at the base of the mountain and others intact at higher altitudes.
Rivereños Archaeological Groups
Here we describe the archaeological groups found on the left bank of the Urubamba River between the foothills of the hills and the short riparian plain. Despite the passage of time, the floods of the Urubamba River and other natural events, can still be seen, platforms, enclosures, shrines, observatories among others.
- Platforms. It is located at the height of Km 95 of the railway line to Machu Picchu, in a sector enclosed by mountains. What remains of this archaeological group is a set of platforms with paraments parallel to the river, and remains of roads that linked this group with others.
- Chachabamba. Archaeological Group located in one, is at the height of Km. 104 of the railway line that goes on the opposite bank. This group had to be a populated center of relative importance, but the main shrine of the sector. In this group we can find: Eight liturgical sources, six liturgical sources, a shrine carved in a gigantic rock, two squares one North and another South, a main building and two terraces.
- Choquesuysuy. It is located at the height of Km. 107 of the Cusco - Machu Picchu railway line, it covers both sides of the stream of the same name. At present, there are about twenty-five enclosures of different types; we found a main building very high and the best decorated, in front of this a semicircular platform as a plaza and to end a succession of platforms.
- Intiwatana. It is located west of the Inca city of Machu Picchu, at the height of Km 121 of the Cusco - Machu Picchu hydroelectric line, very close to the western base of the Machu Picchu mountain. This group includes the entire western slope of the mountain and in it we can see: The shrine and observatory with certain archaeological units such as The lithic gnomon carved in the rock, a water regulating device, as a spout, an enormous anthropomorphic sculpture. In addition, we can find enclosures and platforms.
Archaeological Groups in Hillsides and Summits
These groups are settled immediately after the archaeological groups that comprise the archaeological complex of Q'ente on the route to Machu Picchu via the Inca trail. Travelers can appreciate them from the second day of walking (on the Classic Inca Trail). In these archaeological groups can be seen, platforms, enclosures, shrines, aqueducts and much more.
- Tunasmoqo. This set begins by passing the Kusichaka bridge, continuing along the Inca Trail through the mountains route from North to South. Throughout the group we find archaeological groups with different types of archaeological remains such as: ancient enclosures, a short set of platforms and vestiges of an Inca canal.
- Wayllabamba or Patawasi. Wayllabamba is a peasant community and Patawasi is the upper portion of the land. In this set we find walls and incomplete platforms, some rustic tombs and fragments of aqueducts.
- Pauqarkancha and Inkaraqay. Possibly it was a tambo, from Wayllabamba walking along the stream upstream and after two kilometers we reached the junction of two streams that form the Wayllabamba, here is the community of Pauqarkancha. Half a kilometer up there is a group called Inkaraqay very peculiar and unique in its form, it looks like a snail or a cone of circular ornaments that has walls and houses overlooking the ravine and rectangular patios.
- Inkasamana and Qollqa. Ascending from Inkaraqay by the Qesqamayu creek stream that forms the Wayllabamba along with another stream, we advance 800 meters approximately and arrive at the Inkasamana site, which is a small archaeological group with vestiges of platforms, mass forward to 5 km. We find another group that It has two enclosures separated by a rectangular patio.
- Runkuraqay. It is located in a spectacular prominence of land; It was a tambo, watch post and ritual station. From here you can see Warmiwañuska, it is a circular walled complex, it has a rectangular enclosure in front, after 30 minutes or 3 km away we reach the Runkuraqay pass. From here half a kilometer we found scattered lagoons.
- Sayajmarka. From the lagoons of Runkuraqay we advance 1 km and we find the archaeological group called Sayaqmarka, it is like a puzzle for its narrow streets and enclosures arranged in different planes., Liturgical sources, courtyards and canals.
- Phuyupatamarka. Leaving Sayaqmarka, walking about 3 Kilometers, we reached a tunnel 20 meters deep in the granite rock with steps inside, Phuyupatamarka was a sector for the cult and abode of the nobles. We can find the following architectural samples: Four groups of houses with a total of fifteen buildings, six liturgical baths, staircases, three caves, water channels, canalizations, terraces and passages, three squares, the main door, a sacred rock and the path real.
- Wiñay Wayna. It is a Quechua word composed that means always young, the monument is in half mountain, above Choquesuysuy. Here we distinguish: An urban sector with a score of places of amazing distribution, the group of the tower that occupies the upper portion of the whole, the liturgical sources located on the right side of the set, the sector of the platforms that could be called agricultural sector.
- Intipata. It is translated as a place where the sun sets, it is a huge set of platforms with several groupings of enclosures. It is on the same side of the mountain that houses Wiñaywayna.
Important Routes on the Inca Trail
Hikers can only enter through an authorized agency to operate this route and accompanied by guides authorized by the authority.
|Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
||4 days/3 nights
| Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
||2 days /1 night
The level of difficulty was made considering the ruggedness of the territory, walking time and the altitude that reaches some parts of the road.
Hire guides for Inca Trail to Machu Picchu trek
At present, it is not possible to carry out the Camino del Inca without an agency with official permission. This trekking is no longer allowed independently.
In addition, there is a limit of daily people (only 500 spaces per day, including guides), so to make this route in the months of June to August should be booked at any of these agencies well in advance. Prices for 4 days / 3 nights range from US $ 500 to US $ 480 (most common value).
For students it may be useful to take out the Isic card ($ 10,000 CLP), since several agencies and lodges make discounts when presenting it.
If you plan to travel between May and November, it is essential to book well in advance, most agencies request to book at least six months before traveling.
Back to Cusco after the Inca Trail
- From Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, you will take a 25 minute bus to the town. The buses are by order of arrival, first service and service all day.
- Take a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or Poroy. Make sure you get to the platform 30 minutes ahead of time.
- The train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo is 2 hours
- The train from Aguas Calientes to Poroy is 3.5 hours
Once you arrive at the train station:
- Travel by bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco: 2 hours
- Travel by bus from Poroy to Cusco: 30 minutes
- Once you arrive in Cusco, you can use taxis to return to your hotel.
Alternatives to the Inca Trail
- Salkantay Trek, 5 days and 4 nights: this adventure tour is a hike through the most demanding heights of the Andes of Cusco and the edge of its jungle to the citadel of Machu Picchu. It is considered a demanding level trek; in which the first three days are camping in heights hit by the wind and the route consists of advancing through rocky terrain and with cold weather, a challenge of the Andean nature. For the last two days the approach descent to Machu Picchu begins, the temperature increases and the traveler gets in touch with the western jungle of Cusco and its wonders.
- Inca Jungle, 4 days and 3 nights: this tour includes an advance of approximately 5 hours by bicycle on day 1, all an adventure and a challenge; the following days combine walks with tours of the cities on the route and their attractions. Finally, the last trek to the citadel of Machu Picchu for an excellent tour with professional guides.
- Lares Trek, 4 days and 3 nights: another of the adventure options, which will make you travel beautiful Andean landscapes and reach fascinating heights, camping on the first two nights and visiting unforgettable archaeological sites of the Inca Empire with our professional guides. Finally, you will arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes (which is next to Machu Picchu) and the next day you will make the wonderful tour with a professional guide through the citadel of Machu Picchu.
- Vilcabamba Trek, 7 days and 6 nights: This walk that lasts a week covers 96 mountainous kilometers and is not made for the weak legs or heart. Leaving the city of Cachora, on a two-day excursion, the 1.6-kilometer-long Apurimac River canyon is crossed to the remote ruins of Choquequirao, which in recent years have become famous for their resemblance to Machu Picchu. The route continues through the sparsely populated Vilcabamba mountain range, which is practically the same as when Hiram Bingham explored it for the first time a century ago. The route ends in a short walk or train ride from Machu Picchu.
- Inca Quarry or Cachicata, 4 days and 3 nights: This high mountain route follows some of the same roads used by the Incas, and includes hardly visited Inca constructions, water channels and quarries where one can see firsthand how the Incas obtained the stones they used in their construction projects. The trail ends in Ollantaytambo, where hikers can visit one of the most famous sets of Inca ruins before jumping on the train to Machu Picchu.
- It is very important to carry documents such as the passport and the ISIC card.
- In the rainy months (November to March) bring insect repellent.
- As for water, it is possible to buy bottles of water during the first two days, but for the third day it is necessary to purify water, so it is recommended to take purifying tablets or drops of iodine for water.
- Two high-altitude abras (steps) can be traced: Huarmihuañusca (4,200 m.n.m.) and Runcuracay (3,800 m.s.n.m.). Therefore it is convenient (although not essential, since the ascent is gradual) to be properly acclimatized. It is advisable to spend a few days in the city of Cuzco and in the surrounding areas before embarking on the route.
- Some sections of the ascent are quite steep, and the heights to be overcome oscillate between 2,000 and 4,200 m.s. It is important that the popularity of this route does not lead to minimize the effort. Any person in normal physical condition is able to perform it, but is not suitable for absolutely anyone.
- The garbage and waste generated must be taken out of the Sanctuary. In some places you can find trash cans. It is very difficult to carry out cleaning work in the area.
- Due to the danger of large fires, the use of campfires is prohibited.
- Under no circumstances should hunting, extraction, depredation or collection of any plant or animal species be carried out.
- You can only camp in the areas specifically reserved for it. In the enclosures the tranquility must be conserved, out of respect for the other travelers.
- You can not carry radios or loudspeakers, nor should you make sounds that alter the environment.
- It is strictly forbidden to spend the night inside archaeological complexes or use them as bathrooms. Moving the stones or mistreating the buildings is a reason for sanction.
- When arriving at Machu Picchu it is necessary to go down to the administration, register and leave the backpacks in custody ($ 0.50 per guardian).
- There are checkpoints in the camps with personnel prepared to deal with accidents and medical emergencies.