A condensed two-day hike to Machu Picchu through the best parts of the Inca Trail

7 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

The Inca trail is one of the most frequented routes taken to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu that lay in the lush Peruvian hills. This trek is perfect for hikers of all experience levels who have a shorter timeline to travel through Andes. Passing through Chachabamba, Wiñay Wayna, and Intipunku to see the Sun Gate that overlooks Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, hikers see the best parts of the Inca ruins. The landscape is dotted with the remains of Inca temples, farming terraces, store houses and natural beauty such as lush valleys, cloud forests, and waterfalls.  The two-day Inca Trail follows ancient paths deep into the mountains and Peruvian countryside as it covers the distance of 16 km, making it the least physically challenging hike to Machu Picchu. 

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Due to the popularity of this classic trek, there is a restriction on how many visitors are able to visit Machu Picchu each day. Unlike other treks in Peru, it is not possible to hike the Inca Trail independently and all visitors must travel the route with a tour operator. During the dry season of May to October there is the highest number of hikers. To secure a spot with a tour operator, especially during high season visitors book a spot on a tour at least 4 months in advance.

View of the Inca Ruins from a distanceView of the Inca Ruins

It is possible to hike the Inca Trail all year round, except for the month of February, however there are pros and cons to hiking in dry or wet season. May to October is the dry season, which is the recommended time of year to go on Inca Trail yet there will be more traffic along the hike. The days will be very hot too but the temperatures at night will drop significantly, especially if the tour camps in Puente Ruinas at night. During the wet season of November to April there could be very heavy rain along the Inca Trail, yet there will be less hikers and visitors will not have to plan out their hike as far in advance compared to tourists who hike during the dry season. 

There are major benefits to hiking with a tour, this allows each hiker to pack minimally and not have to worry about carrying their belongings on the trek. On every Inca Trail tour there is a team that carries the cooking and camping equipment to the campsite, and some tours will carry your belongings as well. However, each hiker will be responsible for bringing their own daypack, bring sunscreen, snacks, water, a camera and any other essentials that you will use during the hike. Pack lightly and pack wisely for very cold and very warm temperatures, bring clothing that can be layered or taken off. If you are on a camping tour, be sure to bring clothing to keep you warm at night.  

Machu Picchu behind cloudsThe Amazing Machu Picchu

The highest point that will be reached along the Inca Trail is at the Sun Gate in Intipunku that overlooks the ancient Inca ruins and valleys of the Peruvian Andes, which rests at 2720m. Spend a few days in the city of Cusco, which is 3,339m about sea level, before departing on the Inca Trail, drink cocoa tea, and chew on cocoa leaves to prevent altitude sickness. 

The Inca Trail tour begins in Ollantaytambo and goes towards the first point of interest, Chachabamba. These ancient ruins are along the Inca road and the style of stonework and buildings suggest that the site once was a religious area that served as an entrance to Machu Picchu. 

From there hikers pass through the lush Peruvian countryside, waterfalls, and forests as they hike to Wiñay Wayna, which is an ageless Inca ruin. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the trek through the Inca Trail, Wiñay Wayna means ‘forever young’ in Quechua and the ruins are built into a steep hillside that looks out towards the Urubamba River. This ruin sits in a cloud forest and has breathtaking views of mist gently rolling across the mountain slopes and through the lush valleys. 

The route leads trekkers to Intipunku, which is the highest point of the trip that sits at 2,720m above sea level and is home to the famous Sun Gate that offers incredible views of the Andes and Machu Picchu. The Sun Gate was used by the Inca’s to observe the sunrise in Machu Picchu during the winter solstice.

Depending on the tour operator, visitors will either hike towards their nights stay at a hotel in Aguas Calientes or at a campground in Puente Ruinas. This is where hikers will rest for the night before heading to the final destination of Machu Picchu on the following day. 

The Inca Trail is a great hiking option for those who wish to see the most beautiful parts of the Inca Trail on a condensed route. This trek is only moderately difficult because it is shorter and less intense compared to other Peruvian treks and does not require the same level of fitness that other hikes demand.

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