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Planning a Trip to Machu Picchu

Updated on August 10, 2021
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Rob is an avid traveller and a keen photographer who showcases his work on Flickr and sells his images through Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu - Inca Jungle Trail
Machu Picchu - Inca Jungle Trail | Source

When planning a trip to South America and Peru a visit to the world-famous Inca city of Machu Picchu is almost certainly going to be at the top of the must-see list. And for good reason. The ancient Inca city is breath-taking and it’s not only the city itself that is the highlight: part of the fun can be found in making your way to the ancient Machu Picchu – trekking, mountain biking, white rafting, zip-lining your way through the sacred valley from Cusco. A 4-day trek such as the Inca Jungle Trail outlined in this article is an extremely rewarding and satisfying way of visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Read on to find about more about this exciting tour.

How to Arrange a Tour to Machu Picchu

It's easy enough to arrange a trip to Machu Picchu whilst in Cusco. For piece of mind you may want to book online before you travel but beware this will likely be more expensive and you won't be able to physically see the outfit you're travelling with or ask them any questions in person. If you are in Cusco for a few days then have a look around the tour agencies and pick one a couple of days before the day you want to do the trip. There are literally hundreds of tour agencies in Cusco so it can a bit intimidating when trying to find a good one. Ask around and read some reviews on TripAdvisor and you’ll find a reputable agency. The Inca Jungle Trail is not the classic Inca Trail. Note that if you do want to do the classic Inca Trail that it is closed during February for maintenance and you have to book it months in advance.

Inca Jungle Trail Mountain Biking
Inca Jungle Trail Mountain Biking | Source

Tour Itinerary for Inca Jungle Trail

The first day of the Inca Jungle Trail is spent mountain biking from a height of 4000m+ above sea level. You will be driven for about an hour and a half outside of Cusco to a little further beyond the historic town of Ollantaytambo. The guide will keep the speed at a reasonable level during the descent. At first you may be a bit disappointed with this if you're an adrenaline junkie and you're hoping to be able to pick up some speed.

Trust me though, it's a good thing. It's likely that there will be some in the rest of the group who aren’t so confident on a bike so they will inevitably be slower. See this as a positive and use the time to really admire and absorb the amazing mountain scenery all around you. Historically, the first day of the trip would end with some white water rafting but all rafting on the river had been suspended indefinitely due to some recent fatalities caused by negligent tour operators. Check with your guide before you book to see if this remains the case or not. If rafting is off the cards you'll have the afternoon to chill out and enjoy your excellent Peruvian dinner before retiring for an early night to get refreshed before getting started on the hiking element of the Inca Jungle Trail.

Inca Jungle Trail day 2: Crossing the raging river in a basket
Inca Jungle Trail day 2: Crossing the raging river in a basket | Source

Inca Jungle Trail Day Two

The second day of the Inca Jungle Trail will start early, as you’d expected, with a filling breakfast and a briefing about the day’s activities. The group will all pile into a 4wd pick-up truck and be driven for about 20 minutes to the starting point of the trek.

The trek is at a nice gentle pace. Along the way your guide will provide you with interesting insights and explanations about the local people, the landscapes and landmarks and facts about the history of the area. During the day you will trek along part of an ancient Inca trail - which is a good job considering you were doing a trek called the inca jungle trail!. A highlight of day - and something I would say most people in the group will not have done before - is when you have to cross a raging river in a kind of basket pulled across the river by a kind of pulley system. It's scary as hell but a lot of fun.

Inca Jungle Trail day 3: Landscape of the Sacred Valley
Inca Jungle Trail day 3: Landscape of the Sacred Valley | Source

Inca Jungle Trail Day Three

The third day of the Inca Jungle Trail will begin with optional zip-lining across some of South America's highest and longest cables. One of these cables is over one kilometre long. It requires an additional payment but it's a lot of fun.

The trekking part of the tour really doesn't take that long and isn't particularly demanding. Your tour guide may even give you the option of driving part of the way - which may come in very handy if you go out partying the night before! By late afternoon of the third day of the tour you will have completed the Inca Jungle Trail and arrived in the town of Aguas Calientes, the tourist town in the valley below Machu Picchu. At this point you will say goodbye to your Inca Jungle Trail guide and then have an evening meal before retiring for an early to prepare for your 4am start the next morning - because you'll want to get there before everyone else.

Machu Picchu Quiz

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Inca Jungle Trail day 4: Setting off to Machu Picchu at 4am
Inca Jungle Trail day 4: Setting off to Machu Picchu at 4am | Source

Inca Jungle Trail: Day Four

If you really want to get to the Machu Picchu summit before anyone else you'll be waking up at 4am. Dressed and breakfasted you should start your walk towards Machu Picchu at 4.30am - it will still be dark.

You have the option of either trekking up to Machu Picchu or taking the bus. You'll have trekked this far so it wouldn’t seem right to skip the last section in favour of the bus. It will be a short walk from your hotel in town to the check point by the river. Once through the check point it’s a steady climb up that will take around an hour.

Even at such an early hour the heat will quickly start to build and the humidity ensure that you are practically wet through with sweat at the halfway point – there's good reason your guide will advise you to pack a change of t-shirt. When you make it to the top and have caught your breath it's a nice idea to get a group photo so that you've captured your achievement together. You then need to find your guide who will give you a mandatory tour for a couple hours before you're free to explore by yourselves.

Inca Jungle Trail day 4: Views from the dawn trek up to the ancient inca city of Machu Picchu
Inca Jungle Trail day 4: Views from the dawn trek up to the ancient inca city of Machu Picchu | Source

Further Reading About Machu Picchu

So that's my practical guide to the 4-day Inca Jungle Trail tour so hopefully you have a good idea of what to expect on the tour. If you want to find out more about what to expect at Machu Picchu including the climb to the Sun Temple and the climb up Huayna Picchu you can read all about but clicking on the link below. Thanks for reading!

Inca Jungle Trail Poll

Have you ever done the Inca Jungle Trail or Machu Picchu?

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