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Inka Trail: Everything You Really Need To Know Before the Hike

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Inka Trail: Everything You Really Need To Know Before the Hike

One of the main routes to Machu Picchu is the Inka Trail, which is one of the most famous hiking paths in the world and is a favorite of adventures and tourists alike. The Inka Trail is 45 km (28m) long and begins at km 88 in the small village of Qoriwayrachina and finishes in the sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The Inka Trail has been restared, is well-marked, and is not dangerous. Along the way police, medical attention, and porter services are available.

 

Cusco: The perfect Inka Trail starting point

Almost every tourist who travels to Inka Trail or Machu Picchu makes a stopover in Cusco beforehand.

Cusco is practically the perfect starting point for a visit to the Wonder of the World.

In general, it is recommended to spend at least 24 to 48 hours in Cusco to acclimatize before heading to Machu Picchu to minimize the risk of altitude sickness.

You can find everything about altitude sickness in this article

Cusco itself is a beautiful city from which you can also visit other sights and attractions in Peru, such as Rainbow Mountain or Sacred Valley tour.

 

RELATED: Things to do in Cusco

 

Inka Trail to Machu Picchu

 

There are two ways to go to km 82 - Inka Trail

  • The first is by train: The train from Cusco stops at the station of Qoriwayrachina (km 88) between 9.00 and 10.00 in the morning.
  • The second is by car: The driving from Cusco to Km 82 is 2 hrs min approx. If you leave early, you will be arriving to the Inka trail gate at 07:00 am

Sacred Valley to Inka Trail

Hiking to Inka Trail

Once you arrived to the Km 82. Hikers cross to the other side of the Urubamba River to the farmhouse of Q'ente, where the Inka Trail begins. Only 3 km (1.8 mi) along the trail is the archaeological complex of Llactapata. After crossing the Husichaca creek and another 8 km (85 mi), hikers reach Patawasi where food and other supplies can be purchased for the trip. From this point, the route is a steep climb up the Warmiwsñusqa mountain pass, which after hiking 10 km (6.2 mi) is the highest point of the trip with an altitude of 4,200 MAMSL (13,780 ft). Here, hikers usually rest, but there is no camping because of the cold and the altitude. From this mountain pass, hikers descend to a short plain along a river called Pakaymayu and then hike back up 5 km (3.1 mi) to the archaeological ruins of runturaqay.

 

The next mountain pass is also named Runturaqay, which is 3,900 MAMSL (12,795 ft). From this point, the trail descends 6 km (3.7 mi) along a typical inca stone trail to the archaeological complex of Sayakmarka.

Sayakmarka - Inka Trail

 

The trail then continues and arrives at yet another set of archaeological ruins, Phuyupatamarka, and only 3 km (1.9 mi) beyond the Wiñay wayna complex. From this beautiful archaeological site hikers walk another 3 km (1.9 mi) and then up again for another 1 km (0.62 mi) along more inka stone steps, finally arriving to the Intipata pass. To the north and looking down hikers can see the Inka city of Machu Picchu, which is visible between several mountains and creeks-it is an unbelievable view. Ultimately, the hike continues for another 1 km (0.62 mi) moving downhill and ending at the sanctuary of Machu Picchu. After hiking the Inka Trail and visiting Machu Picchu, travelers can finish their unforgettable journey by toking a relaxing dip in the hot springs of aguas calientes,just 2 km (1.2 mi) from the train station below Machu Picchu.

 

There are strict regulations for hiking the Inka Trail that are intended to preserve the natural fauna and flora of the area. Please be considerate and conservationallyminded while traveling this unique trek.

Inka Trail not possible without a guide

It is not possible to do the Inka Trail on your own, as a permit is required and this is only given to Inca Trail tour operator. There are also controls along the route. This is to regulate traffic on the Inka Trail and limit the rush to Machu Picchu. 500 people start the Inka Trail every day (200 visitors, 300 porters).

 

The permits for the Inka Trail are selling like hot cakes, everyone recommends booking the trip as soon as possible.

 

The trail is often closed during the summer months (January, and February) due to heavy rainfall and needs to be restored afterward. In any case, always check what is included with your booking and prepare yourself properly! It can get really cold at night and it might as well rain for three days! It is not without reason that some agencies offer sleeping bags down to -10 degrees! Anyone who wants to save money is at the wrong place with the Inka Trail anyway, but for many, it is the experience of their Peru vacation.

 

Cost Machu Picchu Trails

Running a trail is definitely an unforgettable experience, but certainly not the cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu. Usually there are two travel budget of the Inka Trail 

 

Inka Trail Superior or Luxury (Private)

If you want to do the comfort and Inka Trail, we recommend you to choose these services, it's not cheaper, but you will have a quality service and you don't need to hire the extra equipment for your hike.

  • U$ 1500 - U$ 680 dollars per person

Inka Trail Backpacking

Depending on the provider, you can easily calculate the costs for all the trails presented above at upwards of 550 US dollars, there are usually additional costs for equipment or tips.

 

A few words about altitude sickness

If you travel to Peru, most people will become acquainted with it: Altitude sickness. It also hit us on our trip, and even though we didn't have any direct problems with altitude sickness in Machu Picchu, we still felt the altitude. In Machu Picchu itself it is quite limited, the ascents are only quite short and apart from having to breathe a little faster it probably won't happen.

 

If you climb one of the mountains, it can look different. There are numerous steps on both mountains and depending on the ascent you also bring quite a few meters between you and the Inca city.

 

Your heart will beat faster than climbing stairs at home and you will have to take breaks more often. But that's all still normal. However, watch out for signs of altitude sickness:

 

These are the warning signs:

  • Dizziness
  • Pressure in the head
  • Headache / stabbing headache
  • Nausea / vomiting

You can do this:

  • Drink a lot: 2 – 3 liters of water spread over the day.
  • Coca tea for breakfast, and/or in a water bottle for in-between meals.
  • Chew the coca leaves and put them in your cheeks. They should mainly be chewed preventively. If you're already sick, the coca leaves might make you sick again
  • Coca candies for in between, but are not as effective as the leaves, but are better on the go
  • If you notice while hiking that your heart is racing and that you need a break, DO NOT squat down or sit down but stand, lean forward, put your hands on your thighs and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. At first it may feel like you're not getting enough air, but it actually helps. Then slowly straighten yourself up again, otherwise the blood won't come up with you as quickly as you straighten up and you'll get dizzy and nauseous.
  • If you are really sick in the mornings in Cusco or Ollantaytambo and you have a headache, then DO NOT go up one of the mountains. You're not doing yourself any favors and it's also dangerous. Better to take it easy on the day and just enjoy.

By the way: The medicines that are offered against altitude sickness usually only combat the symptoms such as headaches and nausea, but not the cause, which is why it is easier to underestimate the situation and then get real problems with the altitude. At Machu Picchu this shouldn't be a problem, but if you have longer treks planned, or if you want to go to the Rainbow Mountains, then you should keep that in mind!

 

Llamas in the Inka Trail and Machu Picchu

 

Will I see alpacas or llamas in the Inka Trail?

Yes In fact, alpacas and llamas live in Machu Picchu and part of the Inka Trail! Our guide told us that the animals were once brought to the ruined city for a promotional shoot and then simply left behind. Today there are around 30 animals in the ruins, they thrive in the ruined city and serve as a natural 'lawn mower'.

Llama Inka Trail

 

RELATED: Difference between Llama and Alpaca

 

Alpacas and llamas in the Machu Picchu citadel

They roam freely and are of course VERY popular with tourists. After all, Machu Picchu is the first stop in Peru for many and this is where they meet the cute animals for the first time. But the alpacas are literally besieged by people. Even if they are used to it by now and the employees also pay attention to the animals, you really shouldn't hassle them just to get your alpaca selfie! There are plenty of opportunities to meet alpacas in Peru.

 

The Best Inka Trail to Machu Picchu

There are many Inca Trail tours to Machu Picchu, but we recommend you choose the best hike for you. It's crucial to book in advance, there are a limited

Short Inca Trail

2 day Inca Trail with camping

Inca Trail 4 days 

5 Day Inca Trail

7 Day Inca Trail

 

More trails and treks

There are probably a dozen other Inca trails and treks, that will take you through the mountains towards Machu Picchu:

Short Salkantay Trek (4 Days/ 3 Nights)

Salkantay Trek (5 Days/ 4 Nights)

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu (4 Days/ 3 Nights)

Inca Jungle Trek (4 Days/ 3 Nights)

Inca Quarry Trek (4 Days/ 3 Nights)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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