Machu Picchu Inca Trail

(Machu Picchu, Peru)

Photo showing the historical pathway and surrounding viewsNo Peruvian adventure or trip to Machu Picchu could really be considered to be complete without first experiencing the world-famous Inca Trail. One of the most popular hiking trails in the whole of Latin America, Peru's Inca Trail begins at the village of Chillca, and stretches some 33 km / 21 miles along the Sacred Valley, until is finally reaches the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Each day, literally thousands of visiting backpackers headed for Machu Picchu ply the Inca Trail, spending on average of four days trekking and camping along this scenic route, which winds its way up through the mountains and over several Andean passes. Whilst the views are spectacular and the various ruins along the route quite magical, walking this trail can be quite tiring for some, particularly since you reach very high altitudes, where the oxygen is noticeably thinner.

Further image of the trail and sceneryTherefore, do always take time to properly acclimatise to the higher altitudes along the Inca Trail and around Machu Picchu. It will make your journey all the more enjoyable, and avoid you suffering from the dreaded altitude sickness. Many trekkers also pay a little extra for a porter or half-porter to carry their bags, which can make a big difference for those with heavy luggage.

General Information

The popularity of the Inca Trail is incredible and you cannot simply turn up and expect to join a tour group. It is essential that you book up at least two months in advance, and often even earlier if you are planning a visit during the high season, from the end of May until September. The Peruvian government stipulates that visitors may only walk along the Inca Trail with a fully licensed guide, and no more than 200 hikers are permitted on any one day.

Picture showing stone stairwayAlso very noteworthy - the Inca Trail remains closed throughout February, when the route is cleaned up. Between December and April, visitors to Machu Picchu are likely to experience plenty of rain, which will inevitably make the trail slippery and any camping sites a little on the muddy side.

The majority of travel agencies will lay on a bus for Machu Picchu holiday makers, transporting them to the starting point at Chillca. You will then cross over the Urubamba River, deal with your registration, and then begin walking along the Inca Trail, towards the Llactapata (Town on the Hillside). You will then reach the hamlet of Wayllabama, where you can purchase bottled drinks and enjoy views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. The Inca Trail then passes the area of the 'Three White Stones' (Tres Piedras), the Llulluchupampa mountainside, the 'Dead Woman's Pass' (Warmiwanusca) and towards the camping sites at Paq'aymayo, close to the Runkurakay ruin.

The Inca Trail then climbs high and passes the 'Dominant Town' (Sayaqmarka), where the mountain views really will take your breath away, as you trek ever closer to the Lost Inca City of Machu Picchu. Soon after you will pass Wavy Plain (Rio Aobamba) where there are several camping sites, and then trek along an ancient Inca causeway, before reaching the remains of the 'Town Above the Clouds' (Phuyupatamarka).

From here, the Inca Trail zig zags towards the very special sites of Winay Wayna (Huinay Huayna) and Intipata. Next stop is the famed Sun Gate (Intipunku), from where on a clear day, you will be able to catch your very first glimpse of Machu Picchu itself. Most trekkers tend to arrive early in the morning, well before the throngs of tourists start to trickle through.