The Inca Trail is a well-known hiking trail that has existed for hundreds of years and was a secret to most outsiders until recently. The Inca Trail is the most challenging and widely known of the several trails leading to Machu Picchu, Peru. If you’re planning on hiking the Inca Trail, here’s what you need to know. The Inca Trail is a four-day hike through the Andes Mountains in Peru. It begins at an elevation of about 10,000 feet and climbs as high as 15,200 feet at its highest point. Although it’s one of the most famous hikes in the world, completing it requires physical strength, endurance, and mental fortitude.
Who built the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail was built by the Inca people in the 15th century. It connected the Inca capital near modern-day Cusco with the southern city of Quillabamba, near the Urubamba River, which runs through the Mountains of the Moon and ends in a series of gorges and waterfalls near the town of Aguas Calientes, where Machu Picchu is located. The Inca Trail was a network of trails, most of which were used for ceremonial purposes and were only open to the Inca nobility. After the Spanish conquered the Incas in the early 16th century, they built new trails to Machu Picchu. These trails were intended to be used the same way as the Inca Trail, they were only open to the Spanish monarchy, government officials, and the Catholic Church. The Spanish also built new trail systems that connected their settlements, mines, and agricultural areas to the rest of the country.
Why hike the Inca Trail?
Hiking the Inca Trail is a unique way to experience a part of the world that is both stunningly beautiful and historically significant. Part of the adventure is in the physical challenge of the trail. The path is steep, rocky, and covered in loose stones, trekking poles can help keep balance. The trail also passes through varying ecological zones, including cloud forests, alpine deserts, and sub-tropical Andean forests. The Inca Trail is a great opportunity to spend time with fellow hikers who share your passion for adventure and exploration. While the Inca Trail is physically challenging, it is perfectly achievable for most people who are in good health.
Day 1: Marangu Gate to the campground (3 hours, 9 km)
The first day of the trail is relatively easy and leads through a variety of different climates and ecosystems. The first leg of the trail is a steep climb up to the ridge of the Hills of the Sun. It then leads across the River Cunyayoc and follows a trail between two rivers to the first campground. The trail continues to descend and passes through a cloud forest before reaching its second campground. Along the trail, you’ll pass several Inca ruins, including an agricultural system, terraces that are still cultivated by locals, and the famous “Inca Wall”. The trail ends near the Machu Picchu ruins, and the group is expected to walk the rest of the way to their campsite.
Day 2: Campground to Llachan Campsite (2 hours, 6 km)
The second day of the trail is a steady climb to the top of the ridge and then a steep descent to the third campground. The trail passes through the rare alpine desert and then rises to the ridge, where it levels off. The path descends again to the third campground. The path to the fourth (and last) campground is mostly level. Along the trail, you’ll see several Inca sites, including an agricultural system, terraces, a bridge, and a water system. After a long, challenging day, you’ll finally reach the final campground, where you will be able to rest and prepare for the final day of your journey.
Day 3: Llachan Campsite to Confluence Campsite (3 hours, 6 km)
The third day of the trail is the most challenging and hardest day of the hike. The trail climbs up the steep Mount Urubamba and then leads through a dense forest before reaching a pass. It then passes through a barren landscape and leads to a valley before climbing to the third pass. At the top of this pass, the group is rewarded with a spectacular view of the Urubamba Valley. From here, the trail descends to the confluence of the three rivers, which form the Urubamba River. Along the trail, you’ll see several Inca sites, including Urubamba, a small agricultural system, terraces, and a bridge.
Day 4: Confluence Campsite to Machu Picchu (0 hour, 0 km)
The final day of the trail is the shortest and easiest part of the entire journey. The group walks the final few hundred meters from the confluence to the Machu Picchu ruins. The trail leads through a lush forest and then passes the Sun Gate, a carved rock formation. From here, the group walks the final few hundred meters to the famous Inca ruins, where they can explore the site at their own pace and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. After finishing the hike, you can relax and unwind before heading home, or you can spend a few extra days exploring the surrounding area. Hikers have the option of taking a train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco or going on a day tour to discover the Sacred Valley.