Category Archives: Machu Picchu

Various Route Options to Machu Picchu

machu-picchu-trails-and-routesThe most iconic and popular routes to Machu Picchu are of course on the Inca Trail. However, there are other route options. Below we have provide a summary on all the available trail options up to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail:
The Classic Trail: 4 days: 45km. By far the most popular route to Machu Picchu, the Classic trail is the historical pilgrimage route that has been in operation for hundreds of years. A beautiful trail with a lot of steps! Can get crowded in the dry months between May and September. To hike the classic trail you need to be with an accredited tour company and you also will need a permit. These sell out very quickly, so make sure you book months in advance.

The Short Trail: 2 days. 13km. This trail is by far the shortest to Machu Picchu and is a great option for the less energetic of trekkers.

The Salkantay (combo) trail: 6 days. 65km. The ultimate Inca Trail! Combines both trails so you get the classic Inca trail feeling along with mountain scenery!

Alternative Routes:

The Lares Trail: 4 days. 33. This little hiked trek is a fantastic way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Inca Trail! You’ll be able to get to know the local culture and meet the locals.

Choquequirao – 9 days, 69km trek: The Choquequirao ruins are brilliant and should not be missed! This is one of the few treks that can be shortened or lengthened depending on your energy levels. As this is the longest trek up to Machu Picchu it is probably best attempted in the dry season from May to September.

Huchuy Qosko – 3 days, 20km trek: Fairly short and easy going, this trek is best hiked between May and September. It offers up beautiful scenery and the Huchuy Qosko ruins should be visited if possible!

The Salkantay Trail: 5 days. 55km. As it is generally at high altitude this a fairly difficult trek. Like the Lares trail, the Salkantay trail is fairly crowd free. The reward for this high altitude trek is getting up close to see Nevada Salkantay.

The Vilcabamba Trail: 5 days. 62km. Vilcabamba is the toughest trek to Machu Picchu and is therefore for experienced backpackers. The trail offers up amazing scenery!

The Junge Trail: 4 days. 60km (cycle) 15km (trek). If you’re a thrill seeker then this is the trek for you! The trail has a long and fast downhill cycle trail, zipwire and rafting! Sound like you?

See here for a complete overview on Machu Picchu hikes.

To book your Machu Picchu trek with a great little operator, see Kandoo Adventures.

The Clothes to Bring on the Inca Trail

machu-picchu-packing-listThe Incas were highly-organised and created many paths throughout the Andes, which network they named Qhapaq Ñan. The most famous stretch is Camino Inca – the Inca Trail. The vast majority of people accomplish this trek in four days, walking for between six and nine hours a day for the first three days and around two hours on the final day. After passing sparse alpine meadows, dense, damp tropical jungle and freezing mountain passes, the trek ends at the magnificent Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. You could alternate from perspiring in a jungle to getting caught in a shower of rain to braving a freak snowstorm. If you were to ever undertake this most memorable journey, what clothes should you bring?

The key is to have clothes for all the conditions you may encounter, ranging from the intensely hot equatorial sun to cold mountain nights, while minimising weight. Hence you should make like an onion and dress in layers rather than one thick woolly pully. An example configuration is zip-off trousers, a fleece jacket and a T-shirt. Warm clothing for nights is essential. Most clothes can be purchased in most Peruvian cities that see many tourists, including fine and cheap alpaca jumpers. Warm and inexpensive locally-made hand-woven mitts can be bought in Cuzco.

You will want a hat not only to protect you from the sun during the day but also for when you sleep, to preserve your precious bodily heat. Ideally, it should cover your neck. Thermal underwear is a must-have. You will need six T-shirts – one for each day and two in case you get wet. You should have two pairs of lightweight long trousers, one short- and one long-sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts. If you intend to swim at the hot pools of the town of Aguas Calientes, pack a swimsuit. Towels can be hired. Let us not forget the underwear.

Walking so much, footwear is critical. It should be sufficiently sturdy to withstand the trek – you do not want it to fall apart. Boots should be comfortable and lightweight and provide good ankle support. Do not rush out to buy new boots, because worn-in boots are more comfortable. Given the near-inevitability of rain, waterproofing may be worthwhile. Somehow, porters get by with old shoes with holes that appear to offer little in the way of support or grip, but you are not likely to exhibit so much endurance.

Cotton is to be avoided as it absorbs perspiration, hindering evaporation and so remaining damp. Cotton socks for one are to be shunned rudely. If socks contain the Coolmax brand of polyester, nylon or Merino wool, they will have wicking properties, aiding evaporation. Liner socks are an option.

There is usually some rain on the trail throughout the year, and you do not want to be hiking for hours in wet clothing. If you can ignore the fact that you think you look silly, a poncho is ideal. A cagoule will keep you dry – but not your daypack. Cheap, throwaway ponchos that cover everything including your daypack can be acquired in Cuzco for about one dollar. Some people go so far as to take waterproof trousers, but a poncho covers most of your legs.

It is best to not wear clothes that are brightly coloured or sport logos, as this marks you out as a tourist. Cuzco and the Inca Trail are tourist-friendly, but you would still prefer not to attract that sort of attention.

You will sustain karmic benefit if you bring clothing that is used to the point of being worn out, as it can be donated to the guides and porters. Examples include outerwear, gloves and mittens, socks, pile clothing, tops and bottoms, long underwear and even gaiters.

And finally, do not forget the shades.

Click here for a complete Packing List for the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

machu-picchu-trek-inca-trailMachu Picchu is an incredible archaeological site. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted as a finalist in the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Inca site is thought to have been built in the mid 15th Century as an estate to the Inca emperor at that time.

The site was abandoned by the Incas about a century later due to the Spanish Conquest, and only later discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911.

Since then Machu Picchu has received world prominence and is visited by 100,000s of tourists every year – so many that the Peruvian government have implemented regulations that restrict access to 2,500 visitors a day.

There are a number of trails to Machu Picchu. The most popular and famous is the Classic Inca Trail that lasts between two days at the shortest to five days at the longest. Permits on the Classic Inca trail are limited to 500 a day (half of which are taken by guides and porters who support trekkers).

Alternative routes to Machu Picchu are fast becoming popular though. The Salkantay is probably the second most popular trail, that also offers trekkers the opportunity to intersect and join up with the Classic trail. The Salkantay typically takes six to seven days.

The Lares and the Vilcabamba are less popular routes, but just as authentic. In fact the latter is the route taken to the real ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Vilcabamba.

Lares provides trekkers with a great opportunity to see local Andean communities that have managed to maintain the authenticity of their ancient cultures.

Once at Machu Picchu you might want to consider climbing Huayna Picchu, the large mountain behind the ruins, that provides an incredible view over the city and the Sacred Valley below. The climb is steep and tough, but totally doable. Make sure to get permits early for this opportunity as there are only 400 available per day.

Here are various trails available for the Machu Picchu Trek or click here for detailed information on the region.