Trekking

by Cristina  

Inca TrailTrekking in Peru mixes the spectacular scenery with the Peruvian culture, the Inca ruins and the relaxing atmosphere.

Some of the hikes lead to very high altitudes which for most people can cause nausea and felling out of breath. It’s important to be acclimatized with the high altitude before leaving on such a trek. You don’t need to be super fit to complete a trek but you need to be able to walk uphill for about 2-2 ½ hours continuously.

It’s generally warm during the day (18 C to 20 C / 64 F to 68 F) and it can get as low as 8 C / 46 F if the weather is not that good. During the night the temperatures dip below 0 C / 32 F.

Inca Trail

By far the most popular trail for trekking in Peru is the Inca Trail known as the Capaq Ñan trail. It starts from the village of Ollantaytambo and leads to Machu Picchu.

Ollantaytambo is located at about 60 km / 37 miles from Cusco , at an altitude of 2792 m / 9160 ft above sea level.

Along the trail there are many well-preserved ruins. Many tourists from all over the world make the 3-4 days trek accompanied by guides.

Want to know more about hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Check out these 5 trips we offer.

The Inca Trail actually comprises three trails: Mollepata, Classic and One Day trails. Mollepata is the longest of them but the most popular is the Classic Trail. The first day of the Classic Trail is relatively easy, covering about 13 km / 8 miles in several hours, while the second day includes the ascent to the highest point on the trail. During the third day the trail goes through jungle, filled with beautiful orchids. Last day contains a descent past Wiñay Wayna, a very well preserved Inca site.

Inca Trail is closed during February each year to allow for the conservation work to take place, as well as to give the vegetation a chance to recover. However, Machu Picchu and the short 2 days trail are open during February as well.

Classic Inca Trail prices and other info

Because of overuse of the Inca Train which led to erosion, the Peruvian government limited the number of people who may trail per season. Also, there are only a couple of companies which are allowed to organize trekking in the region. Because of all that, during the high season – April to September – the classic tour (but all tours in general) book up really quickly and advance booking is required.

The maximum group size is 16 persons and the each company has to take the basic equipment. The number of trekkers was limited to 200 per day (500 in total including the guides, parters and cooks).

Independent trekking on the Inca Trail has been prohibited since 2002. Each trekker must be accompanied by a qualified guide.

It’s recommended to make a reservation 5 or 6 months ahead. If you book with an overseas tour operator then the trek is exempt from Peruvian sales taxes (which are about US$40 per person). The entrance fee is 244 Peruvian Soles (about US$88). You can safely assume that a 4 day group service costs between US$420 and US$490 per person including entrance fees and return on train. Depending on the operator, several items are included in the price, such as: bilingual guide, entrance fees, tent, sleeping mattress, cooking equipment, cook, meals, porters and transport to the start of the trek and train ticket back to Cusco. Breakfast for day 1 and meals for the final day are generally not included. Snacks along the trail aren’t included either.

Other trails

Other interesting trails include:

  • Short Inca Trail is a 2 days trail to Machu Picchu. It starts at Km104 from Cusco, goes uphill to Wiñay Wayna and then to Machu Picchu. Independent trekking is not allowed. The trail is rated as ‘moderate’ but should be taken only by person who are fairly fit and exercise regularly. This trail is open in February (when the Classic Trail is closed).
  • Salkantay to Machu Picchu is a 7 days trail and is recommended if you want to mix the beautiful scenery with the Inca ruins. For the first 4 days you will be surrounded by the beautiful mountain scenery and join the Inca Trail on the 5th day at Wayllabamba. The trek is more difficult than Inca Trail. Not many operators offer this trek and you should book well in advance.
  • Salkantay-Santa Teresa to Machu Picchu is a 5 days trail and is usually referred to as the “alternative Inca Trail”. It’s become more popular recently because of the restrictions imposed on the Inca Trail. You don’t need a trek permit and you can easily book the trek when you get to Cusco. You can trek without a guide but it’s recommended to use one.

Want to know more about hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Check out these 5 trips we offer.


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