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The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Prachi Dharap Aug 30, 2019
One of the most famous trails in South America is the Inca trail of Machu Picchu. You can experience the majestic mountains, wildlife, subtropical forests, and the original stony path and stairs created by the Incas throughout the 26-mile long trail.

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Machu Picchu was constructed in the 15th century, but was abandoned later, when the Spanish conquerors arrived in Peru. American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911.

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The trail starts at the Kilometer 82 (Piscacucho) and ends at the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.
  • Two-day trail
  • Four-day trail (The Classic Inca Trail)
  • Five-day trail
Which Hike to Choose?

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The best is the 'Classic' hike that takes around 4 days, starting from Cusco on Day 1. The trail connects various other Inca archaeological sites which you see on the way.

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On Day 2 you ascend 1,200 meters to the Dead Woman’s Pass. The mountain’s shadow resembles a woman’s head.
The next day you will begin your descent into a subtropical forest. You will also be able to see a few more Inca ruins.

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Wake up early on the last day of your hike to reach the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu in time for sunrise.
Explore the impressive ruins of Machu Picchu, specially the circular Temple of Sun before starting your return journey to Cusco.

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You can hike to Machu Picchu only with a tour group and a certified tour guide. Also only 500 people including the visitors, tour guides, cooks, and porters are allowed per day.

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  • May to September is a good time as it rains less and is slightly cooler.
  • You can visit all year round, except February, when it is closed for maintenance.
  • November to March will see guaranteed rains.
Tips to Maintain Good Energy

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The hike, though not too difficult, will require a moderate level of fitness, since you will be walking at least 6 to 9 hours everyday.

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  • Breathe well.
  • Take short breaks after short periods of walking.
  • Eat well during the hike as you will be burning a lot of calories.

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  • Carry basic medication, altitude pills, and Mosquito repellent.
  • Stay properly hydrated.
  • Drink Coco tea as a preventative solution to altitude sickness.
It's best to pack clothes smartly as it is quite hot during the day and cold at night. You need to take rainproof gear, hiking boots, walking stick, water, and sleeping bags.
Plan a stay in Cusco for 2-3 days before the hike to acclimatize yourself. You can do a bit of sightseeing around and check out archaeological sites like Nazca.