The world-renowned Camino del Inca, better known as the Inca Trail, is the footpath on the Andes Mountains leading to the gates of Machu Picchu. The ancient city was the crown of the Inca Empire, as revealed by the ruins along the trail.
A hike on this royal route allows visitors to comprehend the deeper purpose and explore the scattered ruins, with a better grasp of the magnificent architectural concept of the Incas.
Machu Picchu hiking tour packages
It is important to purchase hiking tour packages from licensed agencies and make payment at their offices. Cusco’s tourism information office can help you get details about legitimate or authorized operators.
The Peruvian Government has capped the number of trekkers on the Inca Trail to 500 per day, including staff and porters. You will have to get a trek permit in order to reserve with an agency.
Further, it is imperative to make the reservation in advance, at least two weeks ahead. However, it is far better to plan several months ahead, particularly if you plan on a hiking tour between May and October.
Cost of treks
The most economical trek is the standard 4-day trek, which costs about $450 per person, including entrance fee and return. Trekkers form a group of 12 to 16 people, though premium treks allow smaller groups. Cost of premium treks arranged for private groups lies between $750 and $1000 per trekker. The cost usually includes a bus to reach the head of the trail, a guide, tents, mattresses, food and porters. You can hire personal porters for about $130 for the 4-day trek.
The 2-day trek costs about $150 per trekker, including entrance fee and sets off in groups of 16. It does not offer premium services.
The principal trekking routes
The Inca Trail, a part of the distinguished Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, is traversed by thousands of eco-tourists and pilgrims each year. Traversing a distance of 325 sq-km, the trail gives an unusual view of natural sights throughout its precincts. Ranging from Inca ruins and stunning cloud-forest vistas to exotic vegetation and grazing animals, the scenic grandeur is indescribable.
The traditional 4-day route traverses through hand-hewn stone stairs and is considered the most authentic way to visit Machu Picchu. It is home to over 400 bird species and rare orchids. The trek starts at Qorihuayrachira near Ollantaytambo or the Km88 of the Cusco-AguasCalientes rail route. It passes through three intimidating mountain passes, including the ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ known to be the most menacing part of the trek, and reaches an altitude of 4,200m. The length of the route is an astounding 43km. The most impressive part of this trek is that if you are keen enough, you can enter Machu Picchu at sunrise.
The 2-day trek, better known as Sacred Trail, is the best alternative to the longer version and better suited for inexperienced walkers. The trail rises to an altitude of about 2,750m and involves an ascent to HuinayHuayna, followed by a descent to Machu Picchu. It starts at Km104 and is just 14km from Machu Picchu.
Several operators also offer tours on alternate trails, but it is vital to check their credentials before booking. The popular alternatives are the Salcantay Route, Lares Route, One-Day Inca Trail, Vilcambamba Traverse Route and Lodge Trek.