Distance : 23.6 miles (38 km)
Avg. Time : 3 to 4 days
Start / Finish : KM 82 – Machu Picchu
- Best time is between May and September. Closed in February.
Maps / Info :
- This is by far the most popular trail in South America. Finding information and maps is not a problem. For a general overview of anything and everything pertaining to the Inca Trail, check the following link: http://www.incatrailperu.com/
- Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Central Andes has a basic map and trekking notes.
- When I walked the Inca Trail in 1996, you were still able to hike as an individual. Unfortunately, due to the rapidly increasing popularity of the trail and the alarming amount of trash/human waste left behind by both individual trekkers and guided groups, authorities eventually decided to pull the pin and implement restrictions making it impossible to hike the trail without an official guide. A very understandable decision considering the circumstances.
Route / Conditions :
- By Andean standards, this is a short and by no means difficult trek. Nonetheless, it seems that the majority of people who undertake the Inca Trail have little or no hiking experience. As a result, it is often portrayed as being much more demanding than it actually is.
- That being said, there are three passes to negotiate and a load of stairs to descend. Even if you have a porter carrying your bag, a semblance of physical fitness will definitely hold you in good stead over the course of the trail.
- Crowds and regulations aside, this trail is justifiably popular. The scenery is stunning, the Incan sites along the route are uniformly impressive and it finishes at the legendary Machu Picchu.
- Make the effort to be at Intipunku (Sun gate) for sunrise over Macchu Picchu. Once the sun has come up, make a bee line down to the site itself and chances are you will have a window of an hour or two before the day tripping hordes arrive in their tour buses.
- The climb up Huayna Picchu is an absolute must. The views from the top are jaw dropping.
- You will need a tent. If you don’t have your own, from what I have read and been told, your guide/outfitter will provide you with one.
- There is a hostel on the trail, not far from the archeological site of Phuyupatamarca. The accommodation seemed pretty dodgy, but on the bright side they did sell beer.
- The question you have to ask yourself when weighing up whether or not to do this trail is, “do I want to deal with the crowds and all the regulations in order to experience a truly amazing part of the world”? If the answer is yes, and you are able to accept the experience for what it is rather than what it’s not, then chances are you will have a great time.
- The impressive archeological sites of Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Huinay Huayana (which can only be accessed via the Inca Trail), the cloudforest, a magical destination (Machu Picchu) and the actual ‘trail’ itself (more than 500 years old), make all the red tape worthwhile.