Inca Trail, Machu Picchu
Sunset from the Sun Gate. A place of immense energy. I travelled with a small group made up of people of different nationalities. Our guide, Fernando, was great. He had a genuine passion to everything Inca and the Flora and Fauna of the region.
Despite the bad publicity of the Inca Trail as one of the most hyped treks in the world, I would definately recommend anyone to do it. It's tough but extremely rewarding. Some of the scenes are simply breathtaking. If you anything like me, this trip is also a childhood wish and a kind of pilgramage. Very special!!
Fondest memory: Arriving at the Sun Gate at first light, a moving experience!
Walking on my own, bare footed in the streets of the old place. magical feeling. uplifting.
So, you have decided to go to peru and do the Inca Trail -- but wait, you have to make sure you have a reservation!
There are several kinds of trails, from those lasting only 2 days to the complete whole week.
But these hikes have to be coordinated with a reputable travel agency weeks before. This is because the Inca trail has been limited by the goverrment, in an effort to preserve the trail and control the number of visitors to Machu Picchu which has been listed as endangered in the World Monuments Fund since 2000.
The number of permits is limited to 500 individuals per day (about 200 tourists and 300 trekking staff).
For more info on this, visit www.inca-trail.com.pe
The hike is definitely strenuous and, because of the high altitude, is definitely tiring. That being said, people of all ages and fitness levels do the trek. I would recommend doing a warm up hike (or two) to some of the ruins around Cusco. I think the best option is to hike to the ruins above Pisac. This is easily accessible from Cusco, the hike will take about an hour (give or take) and is the perfect way to start acclimating to hiking in the high altitudes. In addition, the ruins are interesting and the views are incredible. The town of Pisac also has a tourist market.
It will be cold at times on the trail. I personally didn't bring too much warm-weather gear with me to Peru (really just a fleece sweatshirt/jacket), but purchased a warmer jacket, gloves and a hat in Cusco (there's a lot of inexpensive gear to be found in Cusco).
One last thing to remember, Cusco is packed with people who will have just gotten back from the trail. Don't be afraid to ask people you see in Cusco for their advice/input. And most importantly, have fun. Its an amazing experience.
The best season to do the Inca Trail is probably from July to November. Then it is dry, but a little colder at night.
In february, the Trail is CLOSED, though you can still visit Machu Picchu by train.
I went in May, just after the rainy season, and found a little rain (just 1 day) and the ground was slippery sometimes.
Besides, it was foggy some days, specially in the 4th day, when we were supposed to see sunrise over Machu Picchu from the mountains and we saw NOTHING, as it was foggy and grey!
The fourth day is probably the best. BUT you have to wake up really early (4-5 am), as your goal today is supposed to be seeing sunrise from the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) over Machu Picchu.
So after passing the checking point, you have to walk 2 hours (easy ground) till Inti Punku and then descend about 30 minutes to Machu Picchu.
We were not really lucky, as it was foggy when we reached Inti Punku and we couldn't see further than 5 meters!! So we reached MP in the mist, and had to wait till 11am to be able to see the ruins! But MP in the mist is a nice view too :-)))
Fondest memory: After visiting the ruins you normally leave back to Cuzco in the after lunch train from Aguas Calientes, and arrive there at about 9pm, end of the fourth day!
This day is called "unforgettable". You have passed the highest pass, you have survived the coldest night and now come the nicest landscapes, the best ruins, some mountain, some jungle, some way up, some way down... and hot water showers at the campsite!!!
This day you are supposed to be more in shape, after the 2 previous days, so everything should go smoother...
The second day is the hardest in all the trail. In the morning you have to climb the "Dead woman Pass" (4200m - 13776 ft) and is really exhausting, as you keep climbing and climbing all the time.
After reaching the top you have to descend endless steps (slippery when raining) till the 2nd campsite (Runkurukay).
You really can do it in one morning and be at the campsite for lunch, but believe me, you will spend all the afternoon resting.
After this 2nd day, everything is easier!
The trail takes 4 days. In fact is 3 days of hiking and in the morning of the 4th you arrive to Machu Picchu.
Fondest memory: The first day is easy. I mean, you walk about 5 hours, but is easy ascending, just one high slope of 10 minutes, you take it easy and sleep in Wayllabamba campsite, just after going up 500 meters in altitude (12 kms)
If you visit the ruins by train from Cuzco you will follow the Urubamba river all the way to Aguas Calientes town. If you do the Inca Trail, you will follow the river at the beginning of the 1st day, then you leave it and find it again the last day, when you reach MP.
It is a wild waters river, where some agencies organize rafting trips.
This wooden sign at the entrance is rather famous and all the groups doing the trail take a group pic here. We even had to wait in line for the pic!
In high season there might be up to 500 persons doing the Inca Trail along with you!!
Favorite thing: This is the toughest part of the trail. Dead Womens Pass, named not for some unfortunate climber but rather the shape of the mountain (if you look closely you can make it out) The climb takes around 4-6 hours and is basically straight up. The top has an altitude of 4200 meters (Mp is at around 2800m). You will really notice how thin the air is by being short of breath and the cooler temperature at the top.
Favorite thing: The 3 different campsites we had were all great. During the hike, we carried our personal gear and porters carried all the camp equipment (tents, food etc.) It was always set up by the time we arrived and in spectacular settings.
To got the right feeling and to live what Machu Picchu is, you have to walk, you have to do the famous Inka Trail!
Fondest memory: I did the "Inka Trail" together with 7 friends from 6 different nations, we did it without guide or carging men, all of it has been a really undescribable experience.
Try to feel that more than 500 years ago there´s been a lot of traffic on the way you are using now as "little" tourist.
THANKS TO DARTHMILMO I KNOW NOW: YOU HAVE TO DO THE TRAIL WITH GUIDE....IT´S A PITY, NEVERTHELESS IT´S STILL BEAUTIFUL TO WALK THIS WAY!!
Favorite thing: Along the Inca Trail you will have varied landscapes, from dry mountains to thick jungles. It makes a nice contrast and you can definetly take some good pictures along the way....