Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

The idea of adventure travel to far off places and an immersion in different cultures has lured thousands of travelers for centuries to all corners of the world. Some seek a change from day to day living and surroundings, others to grow and push themselves out of their comfort zone. Adventure travel allows you the opportunity to leave your close or distant past behind, and let yourself go on a voyage of physical and internal discovery. In the words of Marty Rubin, “Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind”.

The Inca Trail is famous for providing one such life-changing experience and is considered to be one of the world’s top five treks. With a combination of scenic mountains, winding tunnels, tropical jungles, historic ruins, and dense cloud-forests, the journey along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the lost city of Incas, makes this not just a physical journey, but also a cultural, and spiritual experience, and something you can truly call a trip of a lifetime!

Inka Trail Hiker
Inka Trail Hiker

There are some journeys in which we look forward to arriving at the destination and others where the reward is the journey itself. The trek to Machu Picchu along the Inca trail is one such journey where you’ll definitely wish that the trail never ends. This spectacular four to five day walk to the lost city will take you through the snowcapped Andes Mountains, through agricultural areas, and through lush jungles. This dramatic combination of the various elements of nature makes this walk popular among nature lovers, trekkers, and travelers across the globe.

Centuries ago the Incas (South American civilization) created a vast network of roads and trails, often paved with stones, with one of the most elaborate being the route to the lost city of Machu Picchu. This route was ‘rediscovered’ in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, a young Yale history lecturer with a passion for exploration and was later coined the ‘Classic Inca Trail’. Over the past Century it has been traversed by hundreds of thousands of locals and travelers alike, and offers not just one, but many ancient landmarks that will captivate your imagination and give you a glimpse into Peruvian history.

Your journey begins in Cuzco, the heart of the Inca Empire. You can spend hours walking around this ancient city, through colorful street markets and up to the Sacsayhuamin fortress overlooking the Cuzco Valley. The fortress was built to represent a Jaguar’s teeth, with stones weighing up to an astonishing 130 tonnes each. It was also the Inca’s last bastion against the Conquistadores. While there, you can ponder the purpose of these monuments and fortress walls. Some say that this area was a sanctuary, others a granary or place of worship.

Lares Trail
Lares Trail

Cuzco is the gateway to the Inca trail, and along the way there are many stops, like the small town of Pisac, with its colorful Mercado artisanal. From here you can hike 2,000 feet up, through agricultural terraces to the Pisac ruins to enjoy a spectacular view of the Urubamba Valley.

The Inca Trail takes you through several steep ascents and descents with the highest point reaching 13,700 feet. This spot is known as the Dead Woman’s Pass. The name itself reveals the dramatic scenery and excitement associated with this ethereal journey. Walking past the ascents and descents, you will pass through cloud forests, and the historical ruins of Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, and Winaywayna, landmarks that suddenly appear out of mist. Cascading stone baths will welcome you along the way and mesmerize you for hours with their mysterious and very precise architecture.

Lares Trail
Lares Trail

You’ll walk through rainforests, along cobbled mountain pathways, that will provoke your thoughts with questions like ‘how could the Inca’s carry these rocks all the way up through these often challenging mountain passes?’ You’ll find yourself in awe wondering how these builders and engineers managed to create such beautiful structures, all imbued with an ethereal energy, in the middle of nowhere!

Hikers are not allowed to walk this trail alone and thus, you will require tour guides from licensed tour operators to complete this journey. A combination of local guides and an experienced tour company is the perfect mix, enabling you to enjoy every moment of your trip knowing that every little detail is taken care of behind the scenes.

Though the Inca trail is overall, not an extremely challenging hike, you will require a moderate level of physical fitness to cover the difficult sections along the way, and help your body adjust to the high altitudes. It’s a good idea prior to arriving in Peru, to wear in some good hiking boots, and gently increase your fitness. It is also recommended to spend a few days in Cuzco prior to embarking on your adventure to get acclimatized.

The colorful clothing of the local people is another feature of this landscape and culture that will leave an indelible impression in your memory. The people in this region have a rich cultural heritage, which they celebrate on an almost daily basis. You’ll see villagers guiding their alpacas and llamas through the streets, living their lives in a way we westerners cannot picture from our apartments and townhouses.

Machu Picchu Camping
Machu Picchu Camping

While carrying your passport is a must, here is a list of other items that should be a part of your travel kit. Make sure you carry cash. You will need it as tips for your porters and guides and also for buying snacks on the way. With regards to clothes, a rain jacket and a pair of waterproof shoes is a must. Waterproof clothes always come in handy in case of sudden rain shower. A sleeping bag is essential to keep you warm when you stop for the night. Plastic bags to carry wet clothes, insect repellant, necessary medications, hand sanitizer, spare batteries for your camera, other relevant accessories such as sunglasses, cap, sunscreen, torch, water bottle, toilet paper, a spare pair of sandals etc. should also be a part of your checklist. Although not mandatory, a walking pole or pair can be a good aid to cover the difficult stretches of this trek. A swimsuit is always a small but handy item to take. The last but definitely not least important item is a good size water bottle! You’ll need to keep a good intake of water every day, while hiking and exploring the various sites.

Machu Picchu Tour
Machu Picchu Tour

The trek to Machu Picchu has been cherished by many and still continues to attract thousands of explorers. This soulful journey will take you beyond all earthly affairs and reward you with the most valuable answers of life. As you embark on this journey remember the words of J.R.R. Tolkien; “Not all those who wander, are lost”! Go ahead and get lost to find yourself! If you are contemplating taking this incredible journey, then this is your first step!

Gear List

Hydration
Raingear
Personal
Miscellaneous Gear
Clothing (packed)
Jacket/Poncho
Lipbalm/Sunscreen
Sleeping bag
Headlamp
Clothes bag
Pants/Chaps
Insect Repellent
Bag liner
Spare batteries
Undershirt
Bladder/Hose
Gloves
Grooming kit
Pencil
Insulation
Bottle
Hat
Tissues
Notebook
Socks
 
 
Medicated wipes
other
Pants
 
 
Hand sanitizer
 
Bandana
 
 
Towel
 
Bug hat
 
 
 
 
Hat
 
 
 
 
Gloves
 
 
 
 
Hiking shoes

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Comments 5 comments

erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

I like your article. You did a fantastic job on this hub about Hiking-The- Inca-Trail-To -Machu-Picchu. It is a marvelous place to visit and enjoy the scenery. It is a good place to conect with the past civilization and stay conected. The people, the culture and their hand craft is beautiful. I love it. Thank you miss Wadsy for writing this hub.


wadsy profile image

wadsy 2 years ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks so much for your lovely comment :-)

I like your hub about How To Create A Towel Sponge To Save Money, what a great idea, fantastic DIY gift too.


erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

You are welcome wadsy.


nighthag profile image

nighthag 2 years ago from Australia

I have this sudden desire to explore and leave behind all the excuses that have stopped me before, this was a great read... Thank you for inspiring me


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 2 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Thank you for taking me through the Andes and up to this very special place. Your enthusiasm shines through!

Exploring remote areas is something we should all have a go at sometime in our lives, just to appreciate the wild, to appreciate human history. Having local people as guides is recommended I think and adds to the authenticity of such adventures!

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