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INCA TRAIL

The Ultimate Expert's Guide

Our Inca Trail ultimate expert’s guide will take you through every step of the process to plan, prepare, and succeed at hiking the sacred path of the Inca civilization.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu provides trekkers with a fantastic opportunity to hike the Andean mountains while learning the history of the pre columbian people inhabiting what is now called South America and their encounter with the Spaniards ‘conquistadors’.

In this piece, you will find absolutely everything you need to know about the Inca Trail, which is the most beautiful hiking destination of Peru and South America.

INTRODUCTION:

Very few places in the world awaken curiosity in people, create a sense of awe, and cause a gravitational pull towards them. For us, hikers, going to those places and experiencing the beauty of their trails is a dream that must come true.
Places like the Anapurna and base camp trails in Nepal, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Appalachian trail in the United States, or the Camino de Santiago in Spain, to name a few, are must-see destinations.​

In South America, the only place that can be fairly compared to the ones mentioned above in terms of prestige, difficulty, beauty, and mystery is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Just imagine this ancient path, made of rocks, constructed over gorges and deep cliffs, leading toward high Andean mountain passes and mysterious archaeological complexes that overlook impressive glacial valleys and some of the most beautiful snowcapped mountains, which the Inca considered deities.

The hikes within the Machu Picchu national sanctuary have no match amongst any of the trekking destinations mentioned above when it comes to its natural beauty. Unlike them, this trail has the uniqueness of going through thick tropical cloud forests, filled with exotic plants such as orchids, bromeliads, and some of the world’s most beautiful endemic birds. 

INCA TRAIL- PART ONE:

Planning for your Machu Picchu hike adventure

 

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIKE THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU?

The best time of the year to hike to Machu Picchu is from April until November. December is a bit rainy, February is closed, while the last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of March are not so pleasant and a bit dangerous due to landslides and heavy rains.

Shoulder seasons such as April and May or September and October are the best months of the year to hike this wonderful trekking destination.

These months offer a combination of beautiful weather and fewer crowds, especially when visiting Machu Picchu for the guided tour.

Some particular dates are more crowded than others. For instance. Lots of people from the United States choose to travel to Peru during their national holidays such as Spring break, Veterans Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the end of the year celebrations.

Permits for any of the Inca trail routes for these particular dates usually sold out quickly. it. is important that you make your reservations at least six months in advance if you plan to travel on these dates.

You can read more about the best time to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, the number one trekking destination of the Americas here on this page.

 

WHAT IS THE INCA TRAIL? A BRIEF HISTORY.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a 26 miles/42Km stretch of a stone-paved road built by the Inca in the XV century which was rediscovered in the year 1911.​ it is considered the best and most beautiful hiking destination of South America.

In the present, it takes on average four days for people to complete the entire length of this hike.

Archeologists have widely heralded the Inca road system as one of the feats of civil engineering in the New World, which is only comparable to the famous ancient Roman roads.

At the height of the Incan empire, these roads stretched for over 40,000 Km / 25,000 miles, linking its capital, the city of Cusco (Qosqo in the native language of the Inca), to its far-flung domains, and crisscrossing some of the world’s most rugged and inhospitable terrains.

It is a hundred percent proved that the Incas built upon, improved, and expanded the roads left by the people and nations that preceded them and the conquered people.

All the infrastructure built along these roads, such as bridges, waypoints, checkpoints, garrisons, administrative centers, and religious shrines, were thought to be part of a whole that manifested the power of the Inca.

The roads were considered fundamental to the functioning of their political, social, religious, and economic system. They were used as a tool of coercion and persuasion of the people that lived under their domain. These roads displayed their disposition to perpetuate their power and influence over the inhabitants of these lands for generations to come.

Two main roads were running in parallel from south to north, one through the highlands of the Andean mountain range, from Quito Ecuador to the northwestern part of Argentina in Tucuman, and the other stretching along the coast all the way from Tumbes in northern Peru to the Maule river in Chile, crossing hundreds of rivers and ending in the Pacific ocean and the Atacama desert.

​Just as these roads were fundamental to the expansion of the power of the Inca People from Cusco, they also played a key role in the defeat of the Inca at the hands of the European conquerors coming from Spain. They facilitated the movement of troops and resources fundamental to the success of the Spanish forces in taking over the Inca Empire. ​
​WHY IS THE INCA TRAIL SO FAMOUS?The Inca trek is famous because it provides hikers the only way to arrive in Machu Picchu by means of hiking.

​Upon the re-discovery of Machu Picchu by the American scholar Hiram Bingham, the Inca road was also brought back to life.

Teams of archaeologists and local peasants explored what remained of this ancient road, finding many Incan complexes and temples along the way that became some of their most beautiful attractions.

Machu Picchu was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983, and one of the seven new wonders of the world in 2003, which made it a famous must-see travel destination.

The Inca Trek and Machu Picchu began receiving more tourists when Peru entered into a phase of pacification in coming out of a kind of civil war that bled the country from the early ’80s up until the mid-’90s.

​By the end of the last century, thousands of people flocked to this beautiful destination to arrive in the Sungate of Machu Picchu at sunrise. Only the people who hike the trail can experience such an event. ​
​IS THE INCA TRAIL DANGEROUS?Just like every other outdoor activity, hiking involves a dose of risk-taking. However, the Machu Picchu hike is not dangerous at all.

There are no places where one’s safety might be compromised. In any case, the best way to minimize any danger level is by acting proactively and taking the necessary measures to prevent any such situations.

​For instance, proper acclimatization will prevent you from getting altitude sickness, which is the number one reason why people fall ill. ​

 

HOW DIFFICULT IS THIS HIKE?

The Inca Trek has many difficulty levels depending on which route one decides to take.

Each itinerary has its level of difficulty that is based on a few factors such as the number of days, the highest altitude reached, and the fitness level, experience, and acclimatization to the altitude of the hiker.

For instance, the Salkantay Trek + Classic Inca Trek is the most difficult of them all because it covers a much longer distance, more days hiking, while the highest altitude to be reached is 16,000ft / 5,000 m.

​These things determine that the difficulty level of this trek is strenuous.

Conversely, the Short Inca route is the easiest route, as it takes only 7 hours to be completed and the altitude is not that much of a problem.

Please take a look at the tables below to find out more about each route.

HOW LONG IS THE INCA TRAIL?
The most visited route, that is the classic four-day Inca Trek, is 26 miles or 42Km long, while the two-day hike is only 5.81 Miles 9.35Km. Each trail covers a different distance; See the chart below for more information on this topic.​

WHERE DOES THE INCA HIKE START?
The classic four-day and the five-day routes start at the town of Piscacucho or 82Km, while the two-day option starts at the 104Km or Chachabamba and the Salkantay trek + Classic Inca Trek starts at Soraypampa.

WHICH ROUTE IS IT GOOD FOR ME? 
There are four different routes and itineraries covering the network of roads within the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Below are the itineraries for every one of them.

The Six-Day Salkantay Trek + Classic Inca Trail Details:

Difficulty level: Hard
Distance covered:   27.5 miles / 44.25Km
The combination of the Salkantay Trek and the classic Inca trek is the longest and toughest route of all the routes. It is a hike recommended for experienced hikers only, and it requires proper acclimatization to climb the impressive Inka Chiriaska pass. The trail starts at Soraypampa, which is the starting point of the classic Salkantay trek. Unlike this other route, the Salkantay trek combination does not head toward Santa Teresa; instead, it climbs to the much higher and more difficult to ascend Incachiriasca pass (16,000 ft / 5,000 meters). From this location, it continues to the archeological site of Inkarakay, where it enters the classic Inca road and the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

Itinerary.
Day One
Difficulty level: Moderate.
Distance covered: 3 miles / 4.98Km
Highest Point:   15,630ft / 4,764m (At Pampa Japonesa)
Lowest Point:   12,839ft / 3,913m (At Soraypampa)
Elevation gain: 2791ft / 851m
Starting time:  4:30 A.M. from Cusco. The starting point for the six-day Salkantay trek plus classic Inca trek is Soraypampa. From there, the road goes on a steep and steady climbing toward Pampa Japonesa. The path is difficult due to the intense climbing and the high altitude.

Day Two
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered: 8.53 miles / 13.7Km
Highest Point: 16,125ft / 4,916m
Lowest Point: 15,630ft / 4,764m (At Pampa Japonesa)
Elevation gain: 495ft / 150m
Starting time:  7:30 A.M. The first part of the road is a 1.5-hour steep and difficult climb toward the Inkachiriaska Pass. From this location, the path is a long, steady downhill hike to the campsite at Pampacahuana.

Day Three
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered: 6.06 miles / 9.76Km
Highest Point:  12,368ft / 3,770m (At Llulluchapampa)
Lowest Point:   9,653ft / 2,942m (At Huayllabamba)
Elevation gain:   2,717ft / 828m
Starting time:   6:30am
Visited archeological sites:   Paucarcancha & Huayllabamba.

Day Four
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered:    6.01 Miles / 9.8Km
Highest Point:  13,800ft / 4,201m
Lowest Point:   11,797ft / 3,595m (Pacaymayu Alto)
Elevation gain:   1,432ft / 437m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. The first part of the road is a 1.5-hour steady climb towards the Dead Woman’s Pass. Then, a 1.5-hour downhill toward Pacaymayu, followed by a 1.5-hour climb to the Runkurakay pass and a 1.5-hour walk downhill toward the lunch place at Chaquicocha, followed by a 2-hour gradual uphill walk toward the campsite at Phuyupatamarca.
Visited archeological sites:   Runkurakay, Sayaqmarka, Qonchamarka

Day Five
Difficulty level: Moderate
Distance covered:   6.31 Miles / 10.15Km
Highest Point:  11,991ft / 3,654m (Phuyupatamarka)
Lowest Point:   7,987ft / 2,434m (Machu Picchu)
Elevation Loss:   4,004ft / 1,220m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. The first part of the trail is a 3.5-hour steady walk downhill towards the lunch place at Winaywayna. Then, a 1.5-hour walk on ‘flat’ terrain toward Intipunku, followed by a 45-minute walk downhill toward Machu Picchu.
Visited archeological sites:   Phuyupatamarka Torreon, Phuyupatamarka, Intipata, Winaywayna, Intipunku, Machu Picchu

Day Six
Difficulty level: Easy
Distance covered: 2 Miles / 3.2Km
Starting time:   5:00 A.M.
Visited archeological sites:   Machu Picchu Tour
Machu Picchu Altitude: 2,430 meters / 7,972 ft

The Five-Day Inca Trek –  The Best Itinerary by far!
Details.
Difficulty level:   
Moderate.
Distance covered:   31.06 Miles / 50 Km
This is by far the least transited route by tourists. According to the Ministry of Culture of Peru, only 1% of the people who hike the Inca Trek get to take this itinerary. For many, the five-day Inca hike tour is the best way to hike to Machu Picchu. It is a longer trek that allows a complete experience of almost every Incan site along the way; this itinerary enables tourists to enjoy the trail without the crowds that swarm the four-day itinerary.

ITINERARY:
Day One
Difficulty level: Moderate.
Distance covered: 11 Miles / 17.6Km
Highest Point:  9,190ft/ 2,810m
Lowest Point:   8,081ft / 2,463m
Elevation gain:   1,109ft / 347ft
Starting time:  4:30 A.M. from Cusco, or 7:00 AM from Urubamba or Ollantaytambo.

The entry point for the five-day Inca trek is the 88 Km at Qoriwayrachina where people must check in with the Machu Picchu National Sanctuary park rangers.  This location was the official starting point of the Inca Hike until the mid-90s. Hikers who take this route will separate from the ones taking the 4-day route at the 82 Km and walk on the right bank of the Urubamba river until they arrive in the 88 Km. On this day, the campsite is located at Chamana or Llaqtapata.
Visited archeological sites:  Salapunku, Qanabamba, Qoriwayrachina, Torontoy, Machu Qente, and Wayna Qente.

Day Two
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered:   7.71 Miles / 12.5Km
Highest Point:  12,368ft / 3,770m
Lowest Point:    8,539ft / 2,599m
Elevation gain:   3,829ft / 1,167m
Starting time:  7:30 A.M. The first part of the trail is a 2.5-hour gradual climb toward the village of Huayllabamba. From Huayllabamba, the itinerary takes a two-hour round-trip detour toward the Incan sites of Paucarcancha and Huayllabamba, After lunch at Huayllabamba, the trail becomes steeper for about three hours until the campsite at Llulluchapampa.
Visited archeological sites:   Llaqtapata, Tarayoq, Huayllabamba, Paucarcancha.

Day Three
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered:    6.01 Miles / 9.8Km
Highest Point:  13,800ft / 4,201m
Lowest Point:   11,797ft / 3,595m (Pacaymayu Alto)
Elevation gain:   1,432ft / 437m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. The first part of the trail is a 1.5-hour steady climb towards the Dead Woman’s Pass. Then, a 1.5-hour downhill toward Pacaymayu, followed by a 1.5-hour climb to the Runkurakay pass and a 1.5-hour walk downhill toward the lunch place at Chaquicocha, followed by a 2-hour gradual uphill walk toward the campsite at Phuyupatamarca.
Visited archeological sites:   Runkurakay, Sayaqmarka, Qonchamarka.

Day Four
Difficulty level: Moderate
Distance covered:    6.31 Miles / 10.15Km
Highest Point:  11,991ft / 3,654m (Phuyupatamarka)
Lowest Point:    7,987ft / 2,434m (Machu Picchu)
Elevation Loss:   4,004ft / 1,220m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. The first part of the trail is a 3.5-hour steady walk downhill towards the lunch place at Winaywayna. Then, a 1.5-hour walk on ‘flat’ terrain toward Intipunku or sun gate followed by a 45-minute walk downhill toward Machu Picchu.
Visited archeological sites:   Phuyupatamarka Torreon, Phuyupatamarka, Intipata, Winaywayna, Intipunku, Machu Picchu

Day Five
Difficulty level: Easy
Distance covered: 2 Miles / 3.2Km
Starting time:   5:00 A.M.
Visited archeological sites:   Machu Picchu Tour
Machu Picchu Altitude: 2,430 meters / 7,972 ft

The Four Day Classic Inca Trek- The Most Visited Itinerary.
Details.
​Difficulty level:   Moderate

Distance covered:   21.18 miles / 34.6Km
The Classic four-day Inca Trek is the most visited route in the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. In this version, one must share campsites and the road with travelers from all tour. operators. It is a shorter version than the five-day option.

ITINERARY
Day One
Difficulty level: Moderate
Distance covered: 7 Miles / 11.26Km
Highest Point: 9,653ft / 2,942m
Lowest Point: 8,826ft / 2,690m
Elevation gain: 827ft / 252m
Starting time:  4:30 A.M. from Cusco, or 7:00 A.M. from Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. The entry point for the four-day Inca hike tour is the 82KM at Piscacucho. Hikers who take this route will walk on the left bank of the Urubamba river toward Meskay and Huayllabamba.
Visited archeological sites:  Inkarakay and Tarayoq

Day Two
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered: 4.80 Miles / 7.72Km
Highest Point:  13,880ft / 4,201m
Lowest Point: 9,653ft / 2,942m (At Huayllabamba)
Elevation gain: 4,227ft / 1,259m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. It is the hardest day of this itinerary by far. The first part of the trail is a 4-hour steep climb toward the Dead Woman’s Pass, followed by a 1.5-hour walk downhill to the campsite at Pacaymayu, Alto. Some people continue to Chaquicocha in the afternoon, but the usual itinerary ends for the day here.

Day Three
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance covered:  6.23 Miles / 10.26Km
Highest Point:   12,337ft / 3,760m (At Runkurakay pass)
Lowest Point:    8,787ft / 2,678m (At Winaywayna)
Elevation gain:   542ft / 165m
Starting time:  6:30 A.M. The third day of the classic Machu Picchu Hike is the longest one. The first part of the trail is a 1.5-hour steady climb towards the Runkurakay pass. Then, a 1.5-hour walk downhill toward Sayacmarka, followed by a 1.5-hour climb to the lunch place at Phuyupatamarka pass. From Phuyupatamarka, the trail goes downhill for about 4 hours, all the way to the campsite at Winawayna.
Visited archeological sites:   Runkurakay, Sayaqmarka, Qonchamarka, Phuyupatmarka, Intipata, Winaywayna

Day Four
Difficulty level: Moderate
Distance covered:   3.15 Miles / 5.07Km
Highest Point:  8,787 ft / 2,678m (At Winaywayna)
Lowest Point:   7,987ft / 2,434m (Machu Picchu)
Elevation Loss:   800ft / 244m
Starting time:  5:30 A.M. The trail is moderate to easy, for the most part. Only 1.5 hours to the Sun gate or Intipunku on flat terrain, followed by a 45-minute downhill walk to Machu Picchu. The total time of the guided tour is two hours.
Visited archeological sites:   Intipunku, Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Altitude: 2,430 meters / 7,972 ft

The Short Inca Trek – The Easiest Version
The Short Inca Trek tour is an excellent alternative for those who don’t have the time or the will to hike any previous options. This hike differs significantly from the four and five-day alternatives. For instance, the starting point of this hike is the 104 Km at Chachabamba. The only way to get to the 104 km is by train. Most people board their trains at Ollantaytambo; the train ride takes about 1.5 hours.

Hikers must check in with the park rangers at the 104 Km or Chachabamba. This particular hike does not allow for camping.

​People must get to Machu Picchu in the afternoon and visit Machu Picchu on their second day.  In short, this is a day hike, followed by a second day where people visit the city of Machu Picchu.

Details.
Difficulty level: Moderate

Distance covered:   5.81 Miles / 9.35Km

ITINERARY
Day One
Difficulty level: Moderate
Distance covered: 5.81 Miles / 9.35Km
Highest Point:   8,787ft / 2,678m (At Winaywayna)
Lowest Point: 7,160ft / 2,182m
Elevation gain: 1,627ft / 496m
Starting time:  4:30 A.M. from Cusco, or 7 A.M. from Ollantaytambo. The entry point for the short inca hike is at the 104 KM at Chachabamba. Hikers who take this route will walk to Machu Picchu in one day. Usually, they arrive in Machu Picchu at 4:00 P.M.
Visited archeological sites:  Chachabamba, Winaywayna, Intipunku and Machu Picchu

Day Two
Difficulty level: Easy
Distance covered: 2 Miles / 3.2Km
Starting time:   5:00 A.M.
Visited archeological sites:   Machu Picchu Tour
Machu Picchu Altitude: 2,430 meters / 7,972 ft

 

INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL – PART TWO:

Securing your permits and choosing the best tour operator


DO I NEED A PERMIT TO HIKE THE INCA TRAIL?
​​Yes, you do need a permit to hike the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu.

​Everyone who hikes along any of the four routes of the Inca network of roads to Machu Picchu must have a permit. 
This is includes tourists, tour guides, porters, and cooks.

According to the ‘Plan Maestro’ or ‘Master Plan’ of Machu Picchu, elaborated by the Ministry of Culture of Peru and Sernanp (National Service of Natural Protected Areas) in 2003, only 500 people a day can access this place, Roughly 300 of them are porters and 200 are tourists.

Also, 300 people a day are allowed to enter the Short Inca trail trek. 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HIKE THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU?
You must do some research before you choose a tour provider. Cheap tours involve poor service and mistreatment of porters. See the chapter on Sustainable travel and porters’ rights.

What is usually included in these tours is the following.

  • Round trip transportation from Cusco to start of the trek, and return transportation from Machu Picchu to Cusco.
  • Professional tour guides
  • Porters to carry cooking equipment, food and tents. (Porters do not carry hikers personal belongings. You must hire an extra porter to carry your stuff)
  • Meals throughout the trek (Breakfast on day one, and lunch at Machu Picchu on the fourth day is not included)
  • Permits for Machu Picchu and the Inca trailTrek
  • Bus tickets from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes
  • Water
  • First aid kit and Oxygen bottles

ARE THERE REFUNDS FOR COVID -19 RELATED ISSUES?
Booking the Inca Trail demands the payment of a deposit to the Machu Picchu National park. This is the only way to secure permits for this hike. The park administration does not grant refunds. However, Evolution Treks Peru will refund 100% of your money for any booking made for the 2021 season if you are prevented from traveling to Peru due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, refunds do not apply as long as Machu Picchu remains open

​IS TRAVELING INSURANCE NECESSARY FOR THE INCA TRAIL?
First of all, Tourists are supposed to have traveler’s insurance whenever they are taking a trip abroad, and more so when you visit a developing country like Peru.
Almost all tour operators will require that you provide proof of travel insurance before starting your trek.

Make sure that your insurance company includes activities performed outdoors and high altitude-related conditions in your policy. Here is a good article where you can find more information about traveler’s insurance.

Cusco has a few renowned and well-equipped private hospitals that will deliver the necessary medical attention in an emergency. Some of them have ambulances and medical personnel stationed very close to the Inca trail trek’s entry point. In the unlikely case that an emergency occurs, they will quickly come to the rescue.

HOW DOES THE PERMIT SYSTEM WORK?
Only licensed and authorized tour operators are able to book a permit for travelers.

Every year, on October 1st, permits become on sale for all tour providers who must compete for these permits on a first-come, first-served basis.

To secure a permit, they must submit the necessary personal information of their clients, together with a partial payment and those of the porters and cooks that will assist them along the trail.
April, May, and some dates in June and July usually sell out quickly.

It is recommended that anyone wanting to take a Machu Picchu hike during those months should make arrangements for these permits ahead of October 1st.
Also, all Inca trail permits are non-refundable, non-changeable, and non-transferable.
​People need to be 100% sure of the dates that they are booking. Once tour providers submit their information with the park management of Machu Picchu, it is unlikely that any changes can be made.

WHAT TOUR OPERATOR SHOULD I CHOOSE?

Evolution Treks Peru is considered the number one ethical tour operator of the inca trail of Peru.
It has been recommended widely in many renowned media platforms such as National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, Matador Network and Al Jazeera to name a few.

Also, It has been recognized for its ethical practices towards porters, both women and men and for being the first tour operator hiring women porters and tour guides on the Machu Picchu Trail. 

In 2020, there were over 200 tour providers authorized to run tours on the Inca treks. Choosing a tour operator might be a daunting experience, especially considering the number of options. Obviously, you will want to find one that accommodates your budget, has a very good reputation, and offers the type of tours that you wish to take – be that a private or a group tour.

Best Inca Trail Tour Operators

Most travel blogs recommend the following tour operators.
Evolution Treks Peru, Llama Path, Alpaca Expeditions, G Adventures, Peru Treks, Valencia Travel, SAS, Peru Treks.

The criteria recommended for choosing a tour operator should consider the following points:

Customer satisfaction ratings usually can be found in some user-generated websites where people leave reviews of their experiences. Places like Google Business, Facebook pages, and Trip Advisor are a good place to start looking for a tour operator. However, they should not be the sole reason to choose a tour provider, as there are other important things to consider. 

Ethical practices. Traveling to places like Machu Picchu, where having superb eco practices and the most ethical treatment of the supporting staff is involved, should invite people to do more thorough research. In the case of the latter, checking in with the Federation of the Porters of the Inca Trail will help you deal with this point. As for the former, the best place to determine that will be on the trail once you complete your hiking. 

Media reputation. Usually, reputable tour operators’ best practices can be found in media articles covering their activities. These online sites cover issues such as customer experience, ethical practices, and other related matters. Also, the internet has a vast array of places where one can found a list of best tour operators. 

People must consider a correlation amongst these criteria in what past customers have to say and what porters and online articles have to add to that feedback. 

​​SUSTAINABLE TOURISM, PORTER’S RIGHTS AND REGULATIONS

Who are the Inca trail porters? 

Porters are the backbone of the Inca Treks. Their work consists of hauling all the necessary camping gear and food from campsite to campsite until the Inca trail is completed.

According to the Federation of Porters of the Inca Trail, there are approximately 8,000 porters registered with the Peruvian government based in Cusco. Most of them are men, and only a fraction of less than one percent are women. Most of them are young men between the ages of 18 and 45 who come from many distant villages located as far as 100 miles away from Cusco. A good portion of them are farmers who work only part-time, while the rest are people who have migrated to Cusco due to lack of employment and opportunities in their small villages. 

Porters’ regulations. According to the Peruvian government rules in the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, all the male porters must carry a maximum of 20 kgs / 45 pounds – this weight includes their personal belongings and the things needed for the comfort of the tourists. In addition, tour operators should provide them with food, shelter, and gear to work in the outdoors. The average salary a porter makes for the four days of the Inca road is 230 soles / 70 USD. 

Women porters. Since 2017, some operators have been hiring women porters as part of a campaign to empower women. Tour operators should include women as porters and guides and pay them equally as men. Make sure that your tour operator guarantees these ethical practices. By doing so, you will set the conditions for your investment to go to the right hands and in the right way.

Sustainability.  Most tour operators brand themselves as Sustainable, Eco-friendly, and Ethical. However, the reality of the Inca treks has shown that this is far from the truth. Porters are fundamental to the operations of the Inca treks. They perform a backbreaking job, literally. Without them, it would be simply impossible for most people to try hiking in this place. 

The Facebook page of the Federation of Porters has published a few videos of the poor working conditions in which tour operators keep their porters working. 

Some renowned international media outlets have written extensively on the rights of porters and responsible travel. 

The exploitative conditions in which porters have been working are unacceptable. All travelers who hike to Machu Picchu must ensure that their tour providers abide by a certain standard in which porters are treated like human beings.

​ Tour providers should ensure that porters should have decent nutritious food equal to the food tourists consume, backpacks that will not hurt their backs, and tents of the same quality as the tents tourists use. 

Other Tours You Can Do If You Missed Out On the permits for this hike

ALTERNATIVE  MACHU PICCHU HIKING TOURS
Lots of people do not get permits for the Inca trail due to high demand. Others choose simply not to take the main road and choose off-the-beaten-path trails. Here is a list of the most important alternatives to the Inca Trek.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu via Santa Teresa.
Pros: Amazing views of the multiple ecological niches.
Cons: Sometimes, it gets more crowded than the Inca Trek and lacks archaeological sites. 
Salkantay Trek via Inkachiriaska.
Pros: Amazing views of the Salkantay Mountain, with almost no crowds at all. It can connect with the Classic Inca road or the 2-day hike to Machu Picchu. Lots of archeological sites.
Cons: Higher and more difficult than the Salkantay Trek via Santa Teresa.
Lares Trek.
Pros: “Off-the-beaten-path” trails, fewer crowds, very cultural.
Cons: It takes place outside Machu Picchu park, lacks archeological sites.
Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu. 
Pros: Impressive in every way. It connects with Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trek. It visits amazing Incan archeological sites.
Cons: It is more difficult and longer than other routes. ​

MACHU PICCHU TOURS BY TRAIN
​​The Two day Machu Picchu train from Ollantaytambo. 
 For some people, not hiking the Inca means not hiking at all. If You are one of those people, then there are other ways to get to Machu Picchu. The two-day Machu Picchu by train tour is a great option. This particular alternative allows you to have a complete visit to Machu Picchu. On this tour, you will have the chance to visit Machu Picchu twice. Once in the afternoon to watch the sunset, and another the following day in the morning to experience the beautiful sunrise at Machu Picchu. Alternatively, You can walk up the last stretch of the Inca Trail to the famous Sungate. See the full itinerary here.

The two day Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu by train.   This tour is an excellent combination for those who want to explore the fabulous Sacred Valley of the Inca in one day, followed by a day visit to Machu Picchu. It is an excellent option for those who don’t have the leisure to spend more than three days in Cusco area.

PART THREE:

Preparing Yourself At Home For This Hike

HOW FIT SHOULD I BE TO HIKE THE INCA TREK?
Fitness is important but more important than that is acclimatization and experience.
In the world of trekking, hiking for one day is one thing; hiking and camping for several days is another, while hiking and camping for several days at high altitudes is an entirely a different situation.
No matter what category you fall into amongst those three levels, the Inca Trek is not recommended for people who have never hiked, nor is it advisable for people who suffer from heart or respiratory problems.

If you are capable of hiking at sea level for at least 5 hours non-stop, then you are very likely to succeed at hiking to Machu Picchu
What will determine your success is the time acclimatizing to Cusco’s high altitude before the trek, the weight that you carry in your bag, and the psychological commitment that one devotes to it.
​ Age is also not a problem; there have been people in their late 70s or early 80’s who have completed the full length of this hike.
Also, hiking at high altitudes might be difficult for heavy smokers and other people with breathing conditions.

WILL I GET ALTITUDE SICKNESS?
​Fitness is important but more important than that is acclimatization and experience.

In the world of trekking, hiking for one day is one thing; hiking and camping for several days is another, while hiking and camping for several days at high altitudes is an entirely a different situation.

No matter what category you fall into amongst those three levels, the Inca Trek is not recommended for people who have never hiked, nor is it advisable for people who suffer from heart or respiratory problems.
If you are capable of hiking at sea level for at least 5 hours non-stop, then you are very likely to succeed at hiking to Machu Picchu
What will determine your success is the time acclimatizing to Cusco’s high altitude before the trek, the weight that you carry in your bag, and the psychological commitment that one devotes to it.
​ Age is also not a problem; there have been people in their late 70s or early 80’s who have completed the full length of this hike.
Also, hiking at high altitudes might be difficult for heavy smokers and other people with breathing conditions. 

​Will you suffer from acute mountain sickness or AMS?
As mentioned elsewhere in this guide, trekking for multiple days at high altitudes is a serious endeavor, especially when one climbs over 10,000 ft. The chances of developing Acute Mountain Sickness are quite fair regardless of the physical condition of a given person. Acute Mountain Sickness is a set of symptoms and signs that result from a rapid ascent to high altitudes amongst unacclimatized individuals. Altitude Illness is the outcome of insufficient oxygen in the blood (called hypoxia) related to decreased barometric pressure at high altitudes.

Some of the symptoms of altitude sickness o altitude mountain illness are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Mild lassitude, fatigue, or weakness when resting
  • Insomnia


Tips to prevent altitude sickness:

  • Take a 1 to 2-day rest with light exercise if you are traveling to a place higher than 10,000 ft /3,000m.
  • A staged ascent of 1,500 to 2,000 ft (500 to 700m) per day is highly recommended.
  • Take an extra day of rest if you experience symptoms of Altitude Mountain Sickness.
  • The rule of thumb is to climb high and sleep low.
  • Hydration is fundamental, but overhydration does not prevent Altitude Mountain Sickness
  • Consider taking medications such as Acetazolamide or DIAMOX to aid acclimatization.
  • Important: Values for oxygen saturation as measured by a pulse oximeter (SPO2) cannot be used to evaluate acclimatization or to diagnose altitude illness. However, values taken by an oximeter can be a helpful piece of information in the context of a thorough patient assessment.​

Other types of Altitude sickness include Severe Altitude Illness or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and Severe High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). These more serious forms of altitude sickness can be avoided by following the guidelines for proper acclimatization listed above.

WHAT SHOULD I READ BEFORE HIKING TO MACHU PICCHU?
Taking a trip to any historical landmark in the world of the caliber of Machu Picchu demands preparation about the background of such attractions. Here is a list of a few books and videos that you should consider reading before your Machu Picchu trip:

  • Turn right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
  • The last days of the Inca by Kim McQuarry
  • 1491 by Charles C. Mann
  • A Brief History of Peru by Bill Harris and Christine Hunefeldt

A few videos you can watch:

  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  • The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire

PART FOUR:

Arriving in Cusco and Acclimatizing to the Altitude

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE ON THE INCA TREK?
Packing for the Inca trek might sound a bit complicated, especially if you are not familiar with the hiking activity and the weather conditions. However, some things are considered essential, while some others can be excluded from your list. Also, it is crucial to keep in mind that if you are not an expert hiker, you should hire an extra porter to help you carry all the things that you consider necessary. Either way, here is the list of all the things that you will need. 

What should I take? 
Packing for the Inca trek might sound a bit complicated, especially if you are not familiar with the hiking activity and the weather conditions. However, there are a few things that are considered essential, while some others can be excluded from your list. Also, it is crucial to keep in mind that if you are not an expert hiker, you should hire an extra porter to help you carry all the things that you consider necessary. Either way, here is the list of all the things that you will need. 

What to pack in your duffel bag.

  • Two pairs of hiking socks (Merino socks are the best)
  • One long-sleeve dry-fit t-shirt
  • One short sleeve dry-fit t-shirt
  • One pair of trekking pants (Convertible pants are the best)
  • A complete base layer and compression clothes to sleep at night (Leggings for women)
  • Two pairs of dry-fit underwear
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, dental paste, dental floss, toilet paper, etc.
  • First aid kit or medicines (in case you are taking any)
  • Sleeping bag – 20F/-5C minimum
  • Down Jacket
  • An extra pair of light tennis shoes

*Place all of this in a light dry bag that will keep them dry in case of rain.

What to pack in your daypack

  • Original passport (and *International Student card (ISIC) if applicable. You must take the same passport that you provided to your tour operator when making your reservation. If you change passports before the start of your trek, then make sure to notify your tour operator of it and provide them with the information of your new passport ahead of your departure time.
  • Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
  • Warm jacket (a fleece, or something similar)
  • Hat and gloves. The weather gets windy and cold at high altitudes.
  • Sun hat.
  • Sun protection cream (Factor 35 recommended)
  • Insect repellent (there are lots of mosquitoes in September and October).
  • Water (a 1.5Lt Nalgene bottle or camelback are recommended).
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Personal medication, if you are taking any.
  • Camera
  • Torch with spare batteries (headlamps are useful)

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD I ARRIVE IN CUSCO?

How far in advance should I get there?
The best way to ensure that one will hike the Inca trail successfully is by arriving in Cusco at least three days ahead of your departure time. These three days will give you the necessary time to acclimatize while you get to visit some of the beautiful attractions that you can visit in Cusco. 

Arriving in Cusco by plane. Most people fly into Cusco, coming directly from Lima after their international flights. Lima holds the most important international airport in Peru, and almost all international flights must land there before people connect to their final domestic destinations. Cusco’s airport is the second busiest airport in Peru; most flights arrive from Lima while some others do it from cities like Arequipa, Juliaca, Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo. As far as international flights, Cusco’s airport receives flights coming from Bogota, Colombia, Santiago de Chile, and La Paz, Bolivia. The most important and safest Peruvian airlines are Lan Peru and Avianca. Other budget airlines are SkyPeru, Peruvian Airlines, and Gol Peru.
Arriving in Cusco by bus and train (overland). There are plenty of comfortable bus companies servicing Lima and Cusco on a daily basis. The bus ride usually takes up to twenty hours of driving. Traveling to Cusco from Lima by bus is not advisable. Most people who do arrive in Cusco by means of bus do it after following an itinerary that allows them to visit a few other interesting tourist attractions along the way. Places like Paracas Marine National Reserve or Poor Man’s Galapagos, the Huacachina Oasis in Ica, and the Nazca Lines are some of the must-see attractions one can visit on the way to Cusco. There are a few hop-on/ hop-off tour operators that allow you to visit those places by purchasing one full ticket between Lima and Cusco. Also, plenty of night buses run from Arequipa (the second-largest city in Peru) to Cusco. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city where one can visit the Colca Canyon and see the flight of the condors. Also, many people choose to climb the Misti and Chachani volcanoes in this area.
As far as trains, Cusco connects with Puno, from where Peru rail runs a few different tourist trains. ​

​​THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO BEFORE THE TREK
Cusco is the most beautiful city in Peru and one of the most beautiful cities in South America. It is a place that deserves time in its own right to be explored and enjoyed. As I mentioned above, one of the most important reasons to arrive in Cusco a few days ahead of your Inca trail tour is to accelerate the process of acclimatization to the altitude. To do this smoothly and perfectly, then we recommend the following things to do:

Day One. Go for a walk of your own or take a walking city tour of Cusco. This is a great way to experience Cusco upon arriving. In these tours, you will see some of Cusco’s most impressive attractions, such as the Main Square or Plaza de Armas, the San Blas neighborhood, and the San Pedro central market. These walking city tours usually take up to 3 hours. Make sure you book for an afternoon city tour to give your body some time to first adapt to the altitude.

Day Two. Take the Rainbow Mountain tour or the Humantay Lake tour. Climb high, sleep low is one of the best practices that hikers perform when hiking at high altitudes. One of the ways people can quickly adapt to the altitude is by climbing either the Humantay Lake or the Rainbow Mountains. By doing so, one actually gets to do what is mentioned above as people will climb to altitudes above 13,000 ft and return to Cusco’s altitude of 10,500ft in the afternoons. 

Day Three. Take it easy, or take the magnificent Sacred Valley tour. We recommend that you make your hotel reservations for this night in places like Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. You can check with your tour operator and ask them to pick you from either of these locations the following day. If you stay at either of these locations, you will save yourself the two-hour drive back to Cusco from Ollantaytambo after completing the Sacred Valley tour and the two hours from Cusco to Ollantaytambo on the day of the tour. Additionally, this decision will give you two more hours of sleep on the day of the hike as you won’t have to get up at four in the morning to be transported to the start of the Inca trail.

​​WHAT TYPE OF CAMPING GEAR WILL I NEED?
​Camping gear for rent.  

Most people who hike to Machu Picchu choose to rent camping gear from their tour providers instead of transporting them from their countries and having to carry them through their entire trip. Here is the list of the camping gear that you can rent.​

  • Sleeping bag. They must be rated 20F / 5C, preferably made of synthetic fabrics. Synthetic sleeping bags are more hygienic and easy to wash. Try not to rent down sleeping bags – they are more difficult to wash, and the chances are that you will not get a clean sleeping bag. Also, take a liner to cover for a sheet.
  • Inflatable sleeping pad. If you don’t have much experience of camping, let alone going on a multi-day camping trip, then renting an inflatable sleeping pad is a lifesaver. They will improve your sleeping conditions substantially and will ensure that you have a good rest after a long day of trekking.

THE PRE TREK PRESENTATION BEFORE THE TREK (BRIEFING)
Most tour operators will gather the members of their group tours in one location where they will meet their tour leaders and receive a pre-trek presentation with all the details about their journey. On this occasion, you will have the last chance to re-check dietary options, update passport information, and hire the necessary camping gear and extra porters. Be sure to attend such a gathering and ask the essential questions.

​​WHAT TO PACK FOR THE INCA TREK
Packing for the Inca trek might sound a bit complicated, especially if you are not familiar with the hiking activity and the weather conditions. However, some things are considered essential, while some others can be excluded from your list. Also, it is crucial to keep in mind that if you are not an expert hiker, you should hire an extra porter to help you carry all the things that you consider necessary. Either way, here is the list of all the things that you will need. 

What to pack in your duffel bag.

  • Two pairs of hiking socks (Merino socks are the best)
  • One long-sleeve dry-fit t-shirt
  • One short sleeve dry-fit t-shirt
  • One pair of trekking pants (Convertible pants are the best)
  • A complete base layer and compression clothes to sleep at night (Leggings for women)
  • Two pairs of dry-fit underwear
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, dental paste, dental floss, toilet paper, etc.
  • First aid kit or medicines (in case you are taking any)
  • Sleeping bag – 20F/-5C minimum
  • Down Jacket
  • An extra pair of light tennis shoes

*Place all of this in a light dry bag that will keep them dry in case of rain.

What to pack in your daypack

  • Original passport (and *International Student card (ISIC) if applicable. You must take the same passport that you provided to your tour operator when making your reservation. If you change passports before the start of your trek, then make sure to notify your tour operator of it and provide them with the information of your new passport ahead of your departure time.
  • Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
  • Warm jacket (a fleece, or something similar)
  • Hat and gloves. The weather gets windy and cold at high altitudes.
  • Sun hat.
  • Sun protection cream (Factor 35 recommended)
  • Insect repellent (there are lots of mosquitoes in September and October).
  • Water (a 1.5Lt Nalgene bottle or camelback are recommended).
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Personal medication, if you are taking any.
  • Camera
  • Torch with spare batteries (headlamps are useful)

WHAT TO DO WITH THE STUFF THAT YOU WILL NOT BE TAKING TO THE HIKE
Most people have a few bags or suitcases that won’t take to the Inca Trail. In this case, you have two options:

  1. You can leave your things at the hotel or Airbnb, where you will stay the night before the Inca trek. Most places offer this service for free. Usually, they store these things in a secure storage room. You will be able to collect them back upon your return from the Inca trek.
  2. You can leave these things with us. At Evolution Treks Peru, we collect these things from you upon picking you up for your adventure. Upon your return, you will be taken to our headquarters to collect your stuff.​

​​

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I NEED ON THE INCA TRAIL?
​Most tour operators include everything in their tours. Travelers do not need much money for the four days that last the Inca hike. However, some money is necessary for tipping porters  and guides, as well as for paying for your meals on the last day of the hike in Aguas Calientes. (Lunch is usually not included). ​​ 

GUIDELINES FOR TIPPING PORTERS AND GUIDES
Tipping porters and guides. Tipping has been a thing on the Inca trail for many decades. It is not mandatory by any means, but porters and guides do expect that from their clients. Obviously, tipping is something people do base on performance. After three days of hiking, you will appreciate the enormous importance of having these brave men and women working hard to make sure your hike is as leisurely a possible. Once again, it would just be impossible to hike the Inca trail without their help. Every company has different guidelines on how to tip their porters. The recommended amount a group to tip is 100 Peruvian soles per porter, 200 Peruvian soles for the chef, and at least 10% of how much you paid for your total tour for the tour guide. 

Why do tour guides get more money in tips? Tour guides are professionally trained people. Most of them have attended school for three to five years and receive continuous education regarding many fields ranging from biology, archaeology, astronomy, wilderness first response, etc. Your tour guide will take care of you 24 hours a day, night and day, while keeping you entertained and educated about everything that you will see on this tour. ​​​ 

INCA TRAIL

PART FIVE:

What To Know For When On The Inca Trail

TIPS FOR HIKING THE MACHU PICCHU HIKE
Before the hike:

  • Make sure you have all that you need in your daypack.
  • Always check that your backpack is properly attached to your body. Most new backpacks have a safety whistle located in the chest buckle.
  • Test the emergency whistle. Remember the following guidelines for how to use a whistle in case of an emergency. One blast means ‘Hi!’ or ‘Where are you?’ Or you can interpret that as a call-back signal if you hear anything that sounds like an emergency request. Two blasts of the whistle mean ‘Come here,’ and three blasts mean ‘SOS! Emergency! Help!’
  •  Make sure you wear hiking boots and hiking socks. They reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Check that your hiking boots’ straps are well tied.
  • Always use trekking poles.
  • Start well hydrated. It is best to start any hike after you have had a good amount of electrolytes. We suggest that you drink Gatorade or any other hydrating salts right before you start hiking. Do this especially if the day is hot.
  • Avoid heat exposure by wear a cap during the day if the temperatures are hot.
  • Avoid hypothermia by wearing a warm hat if the temperatures are really low.
  • Make sure you are wearing the right layers of clothing based on the weather conditions. You don’t want to be sweating profusely if it is a warm day, and you don’t want to be cold if it is freezing out there.

​​TIPS FOR HIKING AT HIGH ALTITUDE

  • Start slow, really slow at first, especially if you are still acclimating. SLOW and STEADY is the mantra.
  • Use your trekking poles!! Warm-up first to slowly change your pace.
  •  Check your pulse and keep track of it if you can. If possible, carry a small oximeter with you. Walk in 10-15 minute intervals, rest for 2 minutes, and have enough time to catch your breath and drink a sip of water. Do not take long breaks unless you have walked for at least 45 minutes. Take only 5 to 10-minute breaks max. We do not recommend that you take long breaks because it is important to maintain body temperature and momentum.
  • When taking a break, take off your backpack and relax your shoulders. Stretch your legs and your calves if you can. If you get out of breath, do the following breathing exercise; Inhale deeply while you open your arms all the way up and exhale while closing your arms all the way down. This is the easiest way to help you catch your breath.
  • Stay hydrated at all times.
  •  Snack a little every time you stop. Half a power bar or a few nuts will keep your body full of energy and calories. ​


FOOD ON THE INCA TREK
The food served on the Inca Trek tour is as delicious as it is diverse. Chefs are highly trained and very competitive with one another.

The meals are gourmet and made of the immense variety of the product grown in the fertile Andean valleys. For many people, the food people eat on the Inca trail is much tastier and healthier than what they eat at tourists’ restaurants in cities like Lima and Cusco, especially when it comes down to preparing these impressive meals under such difficult conditions of cooking inside a camping tent.

No matter what dietary option people have, be that, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, lactose or gluten-free, etc., chefs on the Inca trail will make sure they meet your requirements.

Depending on what tour provider one hires, lunch and dinner usually include buffet-style meals made of poultry, beef, fish, veggies, and other staples such as quinoa, potatoes, and rice.

​ In Peru, the main course is always preceded by a bowl of soup. As for breakfast, porridge, hot chocolate, coffee, eggs, and pancakes is what is mostly served. In addition, tourists get every morning, before the hike, a snack bag containing a sandwich or dry fruit and nuts.

​​WATER ON THE MACHU PICCHU HIKE
​At Evolution Treks Peru, we supply boiled filtered water for our clients to drink throughout the duration of the hike. Usually, we refill our clients water bottles at every campsite and lunch place.

We recommend our customers to bring a 2-litter camelback or Nalgene bottle. Alternatively, You are welcome to bring your own water purification system; be that a water filter, ultra-violet water purifier or anything you deem convenient. 

We do not recommend that you drink stream water, even if it looks clean and transparent. Water borne diseases are one of the most important reasons for people to give up on

​​TOILETS AND SHOWERS
​Are there toilets on the Inca trek? 

Yes, there are toilets on the Inca path. However, they are not the best, nor are they clean. In some campsites, they are located a bit far from where you might be camping, which means that you might have to take an extra walk to use these squat toilets.

Toilets do not have toilet paper, paper towels, soap, or hand sanitizer. You must bring your own.

Some companies provide portable toilets, but porters have vehemently opposed them to create discrimination (porters cannot use them) and be subjected to humiliating conditions. These toilets need to be cleaned by hand.

Also, some local people rent toilets along day one of the trail. Make sure to take some coins to pay for them.

How about showers? Yes, there are showers on the Inca road. However, the water is ice water running from the glaciers around. It is not a good idea to take a shower under such conditions. You risk Hypothermia. 

PART SIX:

The Guided Tour At Machu Picchu

WHAT IS THE GUIDED TOUR AT MACHU PICCHU?
​Upon arriving in Machu Picchu on the last day of the hike, travelers will be invited to take a guided tour of Machu Picchu. This tour comprehends a visit to the most important places of interest of Machu Picchu, be that temples, palaces, astronomical observatories, houses, fountains, etc. The guided tour takes two to three hours approximately, depending on your interest in the information provided by your tour guide. The guided tour of Machu Picchu takes place along any of the different circuits that the Peruvian government has established. Every tourist circuit runs in a one-way direction, which has a different duration and difficulty level. 

WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE TO THE GUIDED TOUR?
​​Small, ten-litter backpacks are allowed inside the archaeological site. We advise that people take their passports, entrance tickets, small one-liter water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, cap, and rain gear or rain poncho. Make sure to use the toilets before heading for the guided tour, as there are no toilets inside Machu Picchu.  Large backpacks must be left at the luggage storage outside the entry point of Machu Picchu. Large tripods, professional photographic equipment, drones, selfie sticks, and food are not allowed inside. 

THINGS TO DO IN MACHU PICCHU AFTER THE GUIDED TOUR
To many people, the guided tour is just one of many things to enjoy at Machu Picchu or just the beginning of their adventure at this wonder of the world. Machu Picchu offers a bunch of other attractions that can be visited after hiking the trail. Below is a list of all the things you can do while at Machu Picchu.

  • Huayna Picchu mountain. People can get the privilege to have one of the most impressive climbs inside Machu Picchu from the top of this breathtaking mountain. It takes between 45 minutes to an hour to climb to the top of this steep mountain. Due to high demand, permits must be obtained at least four months in advance to hike this mountain.
  • Machu Picchu mountain. If hiking the Inca trail for more than four days has not been enough of a challenge for you, then climbing the Machu Picchu mountain is the ‘ice on the cake’. The trail leading to this mountain is perfectly preserved. It takes almost two hours to get to the top, and the views are mindblowing. If you plan on hiking this mountain in the peak season, you will need to make reservations at least four months in advance.
  • Temple of the moon or Great Cave. The hike to the Great Cave is considered ‘off the beaten path’ as this is one of those places that very few people dare to visit in Machu Picchu. This fantastic place is located in the Huayna Picchu mountain’s back, a few hundred feet above the Urubamba river. The hike is difficult and a bit risky. It takes almost 2.5 hours to complete the full circuit. However, the remains of the Inca Trail and the Inca structures are fascinating,
  • Inca Bridge. The Inca bridge is located only 25 minutes away from the Guardian’s house at Machu Picchu. The trail goes alongside an impressive cliff that allows for impressive views of the Urubamba river.
  • The Site Museum displays a great collection of the most important artifacts found at Machu Picchu. If you are a history and archaeology lover, then this is a must-see location. The place is located 35 minutes away by foot from Machu Picchu pueblo.

PART SEVEN:

THINGS TO IN AGUAS CALIENTES
From Machu Picchu pueblo, one can visit the Mandor waterfalls, the site museum of Machu Picchu, the butterfly museum, and climb the Putucusi mountain. Also, there are plenty of massage parlors in town that can relieve the soreness of your muscles. Finally, the natural hot pools are a great option to get soaked while spending time in this town.

BUS FROM MACHU PICCHU TO AGUAS CALIENTES
There are plenty of shuttle buses departing from outside the main entrance of Machu Picchu. The shuttle ride ends at Aguas Calientes main street. From there, there is a 5-minute walk to the train station.
Staying overnight in Machu Picchu pueblo. Those who want to have a more thorough visit to Machu Picchu then stay at Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu pueblo) are compulsory. This town offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants, massage parlors, and shopping centers for people to remain busy.

TRAVELING FROM AGUAS CALIENTES TO CUSCO
There are plenty of tourist trains departing from this town bound to Ollantaytambo and Cusco. The train ride to Ollantaytambo takes about two hours, while the train ride to Cusco takes four hours approximately. 

Archaeological SItes on the Trail To Machu Picchu:

One of the things that make the Inca Trek unique is the great number of Incan archaeological sites along the way. They provide an opportunity to explore and learn the cultural and historical background of such places. Not all Incan sites pass through all of these sites as they are located in different areas of the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The five-day Inca Trek tour is the one that allows for exploration of almost 90% of these archaeological places. 

Inca Trail Map: