For many travellers to South America, completing the iconic Inca trail to Machu Picchu is high on the must do list. There is something quite magical, watching the early morning mist disperse and seeing the lost city of the Incas for the first time. Before seeing this magical site travellers trace the footsteps of an ancient civilisation as they travel north from the capital of Cusco through the Sacred Valley and the ruins of Ollantaytambo and then finally the magical city of Machu Picchu.
Every year over 25,000 people come to Peru to walk the 43 kilometres built by the Incas that leads to the amazing site of Machu Picchu which is located deep in the Cusco jungle. Given the popularity of the trek, the number of people able to commence the trek each day has been limited to 500 people (which includes both tourists and porters). To commence the trek you are required to have a permit which can be obtained 360 days in advance. To avoid disappointment, it is recommended that you arrange your permit well in advance.
The Inca Trail
The only way to complete the Inca trail is by joining a tour group. All tour groups more or less follow the same itinerary over a 4 days and 3 nights. The trek commences in the village of Pisqacucho and passes glorious dream like scenery of beautiful snow-capped mountains, rivers and valleys. The trek passes through varies altitudes, climates and ecosystems. The Inca trail is intense and challenging for most tourists and for many will be one of the biggest personal achievements they will experience in their life.
On day 1 of the trek you will pass archaeological sites including Q’ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. Continuing along the banks of the Kusichaca River you will eventually get to the small town of Wayllabamba and Inca aqueducts were you camp for the first night.
Day 2 is often the most challenging day for trekkers as you climb to 4.200 metres crossing the Warmiwañusqa pass. You then descend to the valley of the Pakaymau River where you camp for the second night.
Day 3 is the longest day with you visiting sites such as Runkuraqay the second pass at 3.800 metres above sea level. You then descend to Yanacocha and up to Sayaqmarka, a Pre-Hispanic site with narrow streets and building. Day 3’s camp site is usually near the Phuyupatamarca ruins or 3 km further at the Wiñay Wayna visitors’ center.
The final day is an early start so you arrive at Machupicchu early after trekking across the jungle. Travellers can then take their time to explore Machupicchu before returning to Cusco or stay in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes.
Choosing a Tour Group
Whilst most tour groups more or less follow the same itinerary, it is highly recommended that you do your research before deciding on a group and choose a group which looks after the porters appropriately. Whilst some tour operators appear way cheaper than others, chances are they are not providing adequate clothing, food or wages to the porters who do a fantastic job of taking good care of the trekkers.
Without a doubt, many tourists would not be able to complete the iconic Inca trail without the aid of the porters. The porters carry on their backs all the necessary equipment for trekkers to have a comfortable camp sites. The porters personally carry tents, tables, chairs, food, cooking equipment as well as assist trekkers who may have difficulties during the trek. It is vital that during the trek these amazing people get plenty of food and rest. Unfortunately, not taking good care of the porters is where many tour operators save money – so be sure to book your trip with a reputable company.
This post is sponsored by Inca Trail Tours.