ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Updated on July 16, 2014
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

Miscellaneous Gear
Clothing (packed)
Sleeping bag
Clothes bag
Insect Repellent
Bag liner
Spare batteries
Grooming kit
Medicated wipes
Hand sanitizer
Bug hat
Hiking shoes

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)