There are seven Wonders in the world, and Machu Picchu is the one. You have heard it or seen it in photos. You have always wondered how it likes to be in the place. How would you feel when you go there? Words fall shorts for describing this place. If you have planned your hike to one of the seven Wonders, here’s what you should know about your hike to Machu Picchu.
Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Latin America and the Caribbean
Peru Cusco Region
Machu Picchu is located in the Eastern Cordillera of Southern Peru on a 2430 m mountain ridge in Machu Picchu district above the sacred valley which is 80 km northwest of Cusco. The Urubamba Rivers surround the area on three sides.
Recognized for outstanding cultural and natural values, the mixed World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks, and valleys surrounding its heart.
Why is Machu Picchu famous?
Machu Picchu interpreted as an “old mountain”, is the most famous Inca archaeological ruins in the world. The popularity of the old mountain inspires us to explore the places that have been set far from the normal reach. The lifestyle of the Inca nobility on the peak of the mountains and the mystery of how they manage to create an architecture with so much precision.
This most famous attraction in Peru is a unique artistic achievement that remained for 500 years as a lost city. Everything is sacred and cultural and is related to each other, including the natural environment in which it is built.
The beauty of the landscape and the mystery of its stone palaces is enhanced by the magnificent art, with a great archeological value and a variety of ecosystems.
Machu Picchu is famous and popular and at the same time requires hard work to reach. Built-in the remote areas all around the forests and vegetation, it appears to be off the beaten route.
A brief history of the Incas
As per the archeological research, the city was built at the peak around 1450 as the Royal estate for Inca king Pachacuti. The city was not a large city. It is estimated that 750 people of the Inca nobility lived there. Although the Incas lacked the aid of wheels or animals, yet they managed to build one of the magical spaces. The impressive thing about the structure is the way it was constructed. They used a technique known as ashlar – meaning that the rocks were shaped to fit together. And their workmanship was of such a high standard that even a knife blade can’t fit between two stones. Approximately 200 structures were built with stones that fitted together that stay intact during earthquakes.
However, the Royal city of Incas was abandoned an estimated 100 years after its construction, probably around the time the Spanish began their conquest of the mighty pre-Columbian civilization in the 1530s. As per the evidence, there is no such detail of any attack on the citadel.
Machu Picchu then disappeared from maps. In 1911 an American historian Hiram Bingham traveled to the Inca capital and rediscovered The city of Inca. He explored the ruins and remains and uncovered most of the Incas mysteries to the world.
Some of the Machu Picchu’s most distinct and famous structures include the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, Astronomical observatory which is a sculpted granite rock that is believed to have functioned as a solar clock or calendar.
Machu Picchu Today
In 1983 UNESCO World Heritage Site the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu was inscribed on the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
In 2007 Machu Picchu listed as one of the New Seven wonders of the World. People today travel to explore the unimaginable built not structure but a complete city which is beyond what we can think of. Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins, welcoming hundreds of millions of people a year.
How to reach to Machu Picchu
The journey of Machu Picchu is distributed on several levels. Machu Picchu falls in the mountains which are elevated at high peaks. And to reach there your first step to reach is Cusco in Peru.
The connectivity to Cusco, Peru is the city of kings, Lima 1102 km. From this city, you have three options available to reach Cusco.
For people wishing to reach Machu Picchu the city of Cusco is a mandatory arrival point.
1.Board a flight
The flight to Cusco is one of the quickest ways to reach. It takes about an hour and you are in Peru. You arrive at the International Airport Teniente FAP Alejandro in Cusco and from there your final journey to the Machu Picchu starts.
There are nonstop direct flights to Peru from countries like North America, Europe, Latin America. But people from Asia or Oceania have to make stops in the US or Europe because there is no direct flight to the city.
2.Travel in Bus
You can also take a bus from Lima to Cusco that will take about 20 hours moving along the South Pan-American Highway, some people also pass through the city of Arequipa during this tour: although you can get to the city of Cusco directly.
Since you have now covered most of the distance to Machu Picchu. Now the time is to decide how you want to reach it.
- The easiest way to reach Machu Picchu is to take a train to Ollantaytambo. The 2 hour trip to Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the beautiful short train routes in the world.
- The endpoint of the trip is the base of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. Finally, a 30-35 minutes bus ride to Machu Picchu.
But if easy is not your type of travel, trekking to Machu Picchu is surely an unforgettable experience. The trek to Machu Picchu follows from the Sacred Valley in Ollantaytambo. Here’s a guide to hiking to Machu Picchu.
Hike to Machu Picchu
Hike to Machu Picchu can be conquered through inca and alternative trails. If you love to conquer the hike with your own two feets then inca trail is the way to that. It is not a surprise why the trail has become so popular among hikers. The combination of inca sites and challenges you have to face to complete the hike is all worth at the end. The Inca trail will take you through the mountain ranges, flora and fauna, and not to be neglected the archaeological sites that you get to see on you way to Machu Picchu.
This hike to Machu Picchu via classic Inca trail starts from Ollantaytambo( this is the point where the guide leads your journey to Machu Picchu). It will take around 4 days and 3 nights to complete the hike. Well, if you decide to hike through the Inca trail you have to book your slot early before the seats are full. If you are lucky to grab a spot among hikers all around the world, then you will be going to witness one of the best hikes in your career. The tour or guide will guide you through your hike to Machu Picchu.
The Inca trail is overall a 40 km long trail. Some of you may think that this is easy. But, my suggestion would be to prepare yourself before a hike because the trail leads you through steep mountain passes. You have to walk uphill for most of the time and then the trail descends as you enter the different valleys. But not to worry too much about it because your guides are there to help you, if you face any problem.
Your hike to Machu Picchu starts from the point that is a few miles far or outside from Ollantaytambo, known as km. 82. The guides will basically divide the journey into 4 days, in a way that you have the time to enjoy the sites without getting tired, though you still going to get tired as you reach the end. In this journey you make a team with other hikers, as you reach the end of the hike most of them will develop a good bond with you, so be friendly and helpful to your teammates throughout your journey. The joy and excitement doubles when you move together with your team.
Let’s set the experience of how your 4 days hike to Machu Picchu is going to be.
The first day- As discussed above the hike to Machu Picchu begin from 82 km with a wide enough path. The path leads you to the sacred valley also known as Inca flat. The early start of the hike set you into the zone of fire as the trail takes you through the trees and bushes. The trail is filled with different highlights, and your guide will give the information of every highlight in detail along with the history of the trail.The first half of the section is easy, but only for few minutes. As your journey continues the elevation starts increasing. Overall the first day would be a little bit challenging, especially from the point where it starts to elevate and at the end you have to walk through a steep section of the first day hike. On your first day you have to cover 11 kilometers or more that will take you to the campsite, the place to spend your night.
The second day- the second day hike usually starts early in the morning around 4:30 or 5:00 am. Get yourself active by washing your face and enjoy the morning tea to boost your concentration and completely get over sleepiness. I personally fuel up myself with tea, as it boosts the body activity for the further day. As you get up, get ready and don’t forget to carry your backpack and important essentials as you leave the campsite. As you have started your journey early in the morning, in the beginning you might feel some cold but this is not always the case. As you cover a few miles you will start feeling the altitude. In the worst case, some of the members in your team may feel some tiredness or aren’t able to control their breath. In such cases, always help your team members and follow the guide instructions without Overruling your own decisions. The second day may be the tough one and one of the hardest parts of the hike for some of you. But as you get going and soon you will climb the tree line which will reward you with a breathtaking view of valleys and mountains. The main climb of the day will be a Dead woman pass. To reach the dead woman’s pass, you have to climb up on a stone steps(this is an old or ancient Inca trail). As you climb up the stone steps, your legs will almost feel like hard rock, and your heart pumps like a car engine.
As you climb up and reach the dead woman pass in your turtle walk, you will be revealed, as the trail follows the downhill path further. While climbing is tough for some, downhill is more painful, as you have to concentrate too much and balance your weight because your legs are already tired from the steep climb. If you have trekking poles with you, then it will make the journey a lot easier and you can cover more distance without getting too tired. The trail follows the downhill path and lands you into the beautiful valley. The time sun is on your head you have another climb task ahead of you to conquer. The trail again climbs up and lands down into the other valley. You will find yourself surrounded with trees (basically you feel like you’re in a jungle). The guide will guide you to pass the jungle and take you to the campsite. After the hard and adventurous journey of 13 km, and taking the pressure of high altitude on your lunges you will be more than happy to get to your bed.
The third day- opposite of day2, day 3 is a downhill journey that may be good news for some and bad for some. The elevation gain drops around 900 meters on day three. Well, the journey is more adventurous and may look more amazing because you are getting closer to your destination. You will start your journey early in the morning to one of the amazing and photogenic sections of your hike. As you start your journey the trail leads you downhill, and if you have your two buddies(trekking poles) with you then the journey is an experience for you rather than a task to complete. Because the journey is downhill your lower legs may feel more sorer than your upper legs. So, as you begin your journey the trail takes you through a tree line and lands you in a jungle. The scene and view is one hell of a picture shot that you should capture in your device, as this is where you will start sensing the touch of Machu Picchu. Because the journey is downhill, it takes less time for you and your team to cover it up and get to your comfort zone in your camp.
At the end of day 3 journey, you will be excited for the next day, because not only, it will be your last day of hike to Machu Picchu but you will witness the two main highlights of the trail which are – sun gate and Machu Picchu itself.
Fourth day- The final day of your hike. And as you know the hike will start early in the morning, though the distance you have to cover is way less than the days before. The only reason to start early is to give yourself time to explore the place as much as possible. 1-2 hours of the hike will take you to the sun gate. You will be amazed to see the view of Machu Picchu from up there. The place looks mysterious and more like heaven in movies. As you explore the place properly and closely you will see the art of Ancienters who made this beautiful city. The art on walls and stones will make you think how brilliant were the artists then, that without any help of modern technology and machinery they had built this clean and detailed art. Not only the art, but the minds behind the overall structure of the place are also remarkable in itself. Everything from stone to rock curves is built to complement the light of the sun and directions of the compass. The Machu Picchu holds a lot of modern Engineering and invaluable art, and that’s what makes this place stand out. Though it is covered by the jungles still, we are lucky that we have access to witness this amazing heaven on earth.
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Best time to Hike to Machu Picchu
The best time to Hike to Machu Picchu is in the dry season i-e from Mid April to September end.
The two seasons dry and wet is the focus point of any trail to hike and this implies hiking in Machu Picchu too.
The dry season as explained above continues from late April to early October or September’s end. And the wet season (the rainy season) dominates this place in late October to March-end.
Which season is best among these two to hike the Machu Picchu? Let’s see the little details you need to take into account before hiking to Machu Picchu or Basically Inca trail.
The Machu Picchu, the tourist attraction is busiest in the dry season. Particularly from May to September. And the best time to hike through Inca trail as well. For that make your reservation in advance to avoid any cancellations as being the busiest season it is hard or nearly impossible to get reservations on the spot.
The fluctuations in climatic conditions are common you may encounter a pleasant and sunny day but at night it is reversed means the temperature falls down to freezing. So pack your layers of clothes accordingly. Temperatures range from 20 Celsius to dropping into low digits at day and night respectively.
As we keep on moving from December, January to February the rainfall sees a steep rise making the hiking trails wet and slippery.
Let’s see the detailed month-wise
Starting from the dry season
April- September: these months are good for trekking, people around the corner of the world starts visiting the trail from this month. The temperature during the day is normal and at night it falls to down to cooling. The trail is dry with minimal probability of rainfall during these months.
With normal weather comes the larger gatherings, along with little extra expenses compared to the off-season.
October: although a good month for trekking, the trail starts to get slightly wet as the rainfall is slightly higher as in the cases of the previous month’s. Fewer people around and easy accommodation of services.
November to January:
You can do hiking in November but the other months’ Dec and Jan don’t. They are also known by their short name wettest months. The weather is unpredictable and the trail becomes slippery, and landslides can block the way. It is advised to not hike in these months. If you are not a trekker or short on time then you can still avail the train services to see this beauty of nature. Especially don’t hike on The classic Inca trail during these rainfall days of the year.
February: by far is the month that has the highest rainfall and the Classic Inca Trail and Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo is closed for maintenance in this particular month.
March: by the mid of the month the rainy season stops. And some people often like this month to Hike. To enjoy the clear view after the rainy season and to avoid the crowd as well.
Inca Trail Permits
Inca trail is one of the popular treks in Peru, and due to its popularity, people are crazy to hike this trail. Because of its popularity, the Peruvian Government in 2001 instituted a law to limit the human and now only 500 people per day (roughly split between 200 tourists and 300 accompanying guides and porters) are allowed to access the trail. It is mandatory for anyone who wishes to must get a permit in advance to hike the Inca Trail.
Hikers can only get permits with a government-approved tour provider, who buys these permits in advance. Tour agencies also provide guides and potters to help in your journey and also it is a government law, that every hiker must be accompanied by a guide. So it is impossible to hike the Inca trail independently.
Note: Inca Trail Permits are paired with passports and permits cannot be refunded, canceled, transferred in any case.
How Much Does it cost to Machu Picchu?
The cost to see the iconic Machu Picchu depends on the transportation you choose. If you are not much of a hiker and want to choose the easiest way to reach Machu Pichu, you can opt for a train. The train is available in Poray( near Cusco) and tickets range from ($77-500 USD), depending on how much luxury you want your ride.
If you want a budget-friendly option you can choose, what most travelers preferred The Expedition (cheapest option).
Train doesn’t get to you to the Machu Picchu, it only lands you at the Aguas Calientes train station, where you need to take a bus. The bus will directly take you to the gates of Machu Picchu, and the cost for ticket is around $24 USD.
Tickets to Machu Picchu cost $65 USD. This ticket doesn’t include Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Pichhu. If you are interested in visiting either of these places, you have to pay extra fees.
There are only two combinations, you can either buy additional Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Pichhu( but not both), and costs around $80.
You can also get discounts if you are under 25 years and children under 18. And there is an additional discount for students.
Tickets can either buy online on Peru’s Ministry of Culture website or Buy tickets at Machu Picchu gate for a morning entry or afternoon entry (Full-day tickets are not available).
If you are fond of hiking in the wild, you can choose a multi-day trek to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu. You can choose from a short hike to a multi-day trek ranging more than 6 days. Most hikers prefer to choose a 5-day tour as it consists of all of the scenic spots, but if you less time you can also get a 2-day hike trip.
The Perusian government allows you to combine your Inca trail hike with other hikes. The prices of the trek vary on how long your hike is, quality of the gear, food on your trek, and other amenities.
The average for a 5 at hike tour is around $700-$1000. There are some tour agency, that charge over $1500, but it depends on the luxury and quality of the trip.
This cost includes all your transportation, food, tickets/fees to Machu Picchu.
Get some extra local currency to tip the porters. The estimate ranging from 17-23 PEN ($5-7 USD) per person per day for each porter, and then 20-33 PEN ($6-10 USD) per person per day for the guides.
- It is mandatory to pay a deposit in advance to secure the Inca trail permit. Always choose a well-established and government-approved tour provider and in addition check out the review of the past trek history by hikers. After all, inadequate food and equipment can ruin your entire journey.
- Permits are only available with tourists’ names and passport numbers, and once booked there is a refund policy or transfer policy.
Highlights in Inca trail to Machu Picchu
Also known as”grassy plain” in Quechua and hikers can easily spot this place at the beginning of the Inca trail. When you complete your first journey of the trek on the Inca trail, you can end your journey by seeing the sunset behind the Andean peaks. The scenic view consists of centuries-old Incan terraces with beautiful mountains on the side. If you want to know more about the Perusian culture, hikers can easily get in contact with local villages near this place.
The Valley of Llulluchapampa
After enjoying your first day at the Wayllabamba, it’s time to ascend your second-day journey through the valleys of Llulluchapampa. The second day is one of the difficult hikes as the trail is steep and hikers experience immense elevation gain. While hiking this train you can get a panoramic view of snow-capped cliffs, which are magnificent to look at. Hikers enjoy these scenic views and always click amazing pictures include these cliffs and valleys.
Runkuracay (or Runkurakay)
Popularly known as “Egg Hut” due to its unique oval structure. It’s one of the few remaining Incan architectures, on the Inca Trail. It is a worthy place to explore and most hikers use this as a mid-day rest stop. Hikers can enjoy the spectacular view from of the architecture and also you can see the glimpse of the deathly summit, you will further climb over Dead Woman’s Pass. The amazing architecture provides the significance of the Inca tribe and its culture.
This place was discovered by mistake when Hiram Bingham got lost and took the wrong trail from Machu Picchu. While wandering on the road he soon discovered this magnificent beauty in the dense subtropical forest which was filled with beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds. According to hikers, there is a mystical aura in this trail, and those who hiked this trail, show the calmness and excitement to explore the dense forests.
This place also ignites the story of the late Incas Tribe, Sayacmarca was built by the Colla to conquer the Inca tribe, but due to the large number, the Inca tribe took over the place.
There are two spots mentioned on the trail map, that represents “Inca Tunel”. These trails were naturally formed by nature and Inca Tribe made these tunnels wider to form the trail and decrease the distance.
These tunnels are very dark, so before getting into it, make sure to put on your headlamp. If you hike this by yourself, you can sure get lost, but you are also accompanied by a guide, so you’ll never have to worry about getting lost. Lost of people hike in these tunnels and every one of the hikers had a great experience in the dark, mysterious tunnels.
Bird’s Eye View of the Andes
As the ane suggests itself, this place is known for its spectacular 360 degrees of the entire trail. It is located at the top of the summit, and there you will have to see the clouds, glaciers, valleys, mountains, monuments at eye level. Not only you will enjoy the magnificent views, but you can watch the whole Inca trail, and not to mention it is one of the best places to click awesome pictures to update your Social Media profile.
Popularly known as “La Ciudad entre la Niebla” (“The City above the Clouds”), is situated at 3200 meters above sea level. The name was given due to its staggering height and the place is always surrounded by dense white clouds. According to the Inca tribe, this place was holy and used for religious ceremonies. Some hikers used this place to propose to their loved one, as it symbolizes the Incan culture and it is one one of the beautiful place to purpose.
The site is built into a steep cliffside, which provides an immense view of the clouds and valleys. Another great thing about this place is that built five stone baths that fill up freshwater during the rainy season. Hikers also can get into the brilliance of the Incan engineering, the most impressive part is the site hydraulic system. You can see how the old era Inca tribe used various engineering methods that are still used in the modern day. Hikers who are hiking the Inca trail should never miss this opportunity to view the Phuyupatamarca.
Huiñay Huayna (Wiñay Wayna)
Huiñay Huayna (traditionally spelled Wiñay Wayna in Quechua, the language of the Incas) was built on a hill and from there you can easily spot the famous Urubamba River. The place is filled with Inca tribe houses and temples of the old era. It is one of the beautiful places on the Inca trail, where you can see the beauty of the ancient Inca tribe. Also, the modern-day Inca tribe used the complex system and uses the terrace of ancient houses for agriculture.
Hikers can easily get in touch with the farmers on this place and learn why and how did their manage to do that. Due to the fact that this land is used for cultivation, the place is also known as “Forever Young”. According to the hikers they enjoyed the spectacular views of the farms and ancient homes and get in touch with the reality of the Inca tribe.
After completing your toughest hike on the second day, your third-day journey will descend through the Intipata. This is one of the massive agriculture and archeological site in the entire Inca trail. The place is equipped with the old Inca tribe agriculture methods and how they used the mountain cliff for cultivation. This place offers a perfect spot where you can see the river flowing between the mountains. Wiña Wayna is to the right and Machu Picchu to the left. Although, Machu Picchu is not clearly visible until you climb over the mountain. A hiker uses this place to get a mid-day break, and gather energy for the further hike.
The Hidden Waterfall
There are few people who get to enjoy and explore the hidden waterfall. Some tour guides do not mention this waterfall and so you have to hike away from the trail in different directions. So, make sure to ask your tour guides to take you to the hidden waterfall. Although if your guide is unaware of its location, it is at bottom of the large Inca site. It’s almost invisible as it is covered in undiscovered ruins.
The waterfall is beautiful with jungle mountains and jungle around it and there is a small gap over the cliff, where the water drops into a shallow lagoon. You can use the water to wash your hair, hands, and feet as the water is beyond freezing. The lagoon is filled is crystal clear cold water.
Overall experience to the hike or is it worth hiking Machu Picchu
Is it worth hiking to Machu Picchu or worth spending money? Personal choice I would say. Some people opt for a 1-day hike, 2 day and other trekk the Machu Picchu by having a 4-day hike plan.
The hike Inca Trail is one of the top hikes in the world. Trekking this trail is on everyone’s bucket list. And why not? It’s a lifetime experience.
Handfuls of questions are striking your mind before you plan your visit this one of the top trails. Like will I able to hike? Can I get pain in my legs? It’s just that you can’t know unless you experience it. And even if you feel pain then it just a matter of days and it will pass. But the beauty of nature cannot be missed. If you still think that you can’t hike then opt for the train but visit the place once in a lifetime.
If you’re hiking along the Inca trail, expect the gorgeous views of mountains and several ruins of the Inca trail.
Not only this walking through clouds forests and witnessing the snow-covered mountains in the middle of hiking is a whole new experience and memories for a lifetime.
Different peaks are along the hike to make this trekking enjoyable and remembering.
Just think why it’s is top and tourist attraction trail of Machu Picchu? Of course, it has something special about it.
Passing the Runcuracay ruin, the archaeological site, and natural tunnels on the side of the mountain will make your hike more interesting.
All in all, it is worth spending money because money can be earned but time doesn’t. Again, we would suggest that plan your visit here to Machu Picchu once.
Enjoy and explore the wonders of nature and we are sure Machu Picchu is not far behind. Have a happy and safe journey.