By Adam Foote
It’s no secret that hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist activities in Peru. After all, why wouldn’t it be? There’s no better way to experience the poetic architecture of Machu Picchu than to reach it the same way its denizen did 500 years ago. For most that means spending four days hiking and camping along the ancient Chaski route, itself, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There’s only one catch: the four-day Inca Trail hike isn’t a cakewalk. Granted, you don’t have to be an inveterate outdoorsman by any means, but you have to be pretty good darn shape and be willing to “rough it” for a few days — powering through steep inclines and declines, hiking several hours a day, and sleeping in tents.
Fortunately, there’s a good middle ground for people who want to experience the Inca Trail hike to the mountain citadel but may not feel up to the physical challenge of the full four-day trek. There is a one-day hike up to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, then an overnight stay at a hotel in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes before returning to Machu Picchu the next morning. The Short Inca Trail difficulty level is considerably lower. It covers a bit more than seven miles and usually takes six to seven hours to complete — perfect for beginners. The route takes you along beautifully scenic mountain passes, and through Inca ruins only accessible via the Inca Trails.
You won’t have to worry about the infamously taxing Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,779 feet above sea level on Day Two, or descending steep Inca stone steps for hours on end on Day Three. No sleeping in tents.
The first day begins with a train ride to “Kilometer 108,” the starting point for the hike. Almost immediately upon beginning the hike, you’ll arrive at the Incan ruins of Chachabamba. After learning about the site from your tour guide, you’ll proceed along the trail, past more scenic views (including one of an incredible waterfall!) to Wiñayhuayna, the largest complex of ruins in the region behind Machu Picchu. From there, it’s just a quick jaunt through the lush forest to the Intipunku Sun Gate, one of the most iconic views of Machu Picchu. You’ll get to spend a little bit of time passing through Machu Picchu before taking the bus down to the comfort of your hotel in Aguas Calientes.
The next morning, you’ll rise early to catch the bus back up to Machu Picchu, where you’ll get plenty more time to explore the sanctuary and all its magnificent wonders. A bus and train ride later, you’ll be back at your hotel in Cusco, having knocked Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail off your bucket list.
Article written by Adam Foote from Fertur Peru Travel.