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Interactive Map of Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Satellite Image: Google Earth.

Walking in the footsteps of the Incas is one of the world's oldest treks. The Inca Trail is an exciting, high-mountain experience which climbs up to 4,200m, passing glacial peaks and descending into lush green forests above the clouds. There are many well-preserved ruins along the way, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world make the three- or four-day trek each year, accompanied by guides.

Machu Picchu called the "Lost City of the Incas" is a well-preserved pre-Columbian Inca ruin located on a high mountain ridge, at an elevation of about 7,864 feet (2,400 m). Machu Picchu is located above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, about 44 mi (70 km) northwest of Cuzco. See also Machu Picchu Map.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is actually three routes, which all meet up near Intipunku, the 'Sun Gate' and entrance to Machu Picchu. The three trails are known as the Mollepata, Classic and One Day trails, with Mollepata being the longest of the three. Passing through the Andes mountain range and sections of the Amazon rainforest, the Trail passes several well-preserved Inca ruins and settlements before ending at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain. The two longer routes require an ascent to beyond 4,200 m above sea level, which can result in Acute Mountain sickness, also known as altitude sickness. Due to erosion wearing down the ancient stone trail, numbers of trekkers are set to be cut back significantly in the near future.
 

See also: Survivor: the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Slideshow, Most Popular videos of The Condor Pasa and Machu Picchu, Most Popular videos of Machu Picchu.

 

The four-day trek

The four-day trail or Classic Trail starts from one of two points; Km 88 or Km 82, from Cuzco, on the Urubamba River.

  • The first day is relatively easy, covering no more than 13 km in a few hours, passing by the Inca ruins of Llactapata, a site used for crop production and which has remained well preserved.

  • Day two is the hardest of the four days: the ascent to Warmiwanusca or Dead Woman's Pass, which, at 4,200 m above sea level, is the highest point on the trail.

  • Day three starts with the final climb to Dead Woman's Pass. The views from the top provide excellent views of nearby mountains such as Salkantay and Veronika. After a second pass is the site of Sayacmarka, perched atop a sheer cliff. After Sayacmarka the Trail continues through thick cloud forest and jungle, filled with tropical flowers and colorful orchids. Reaching a third and final pass at Phuyupatamarka, one gets a first glimpse of Machu Picchu mountain, roughly 13 km away.

  • The final day is another easy day, mostly descending into the valleys and passing through more colorful jungle and cloud forest. Winay Wayna is an impressive and well-preserved Inca site, climbing a steep-sided mountain where the one-day trail meets up with the main route.

Explore one of the most intriguing destinations on the planet.

 

Take a road less traveled to Machu Picchu

Several alternatives exist to the Inca Trail, which has become a victim of its own popularity

January 7, 2007. Source Lonely Planet by Sara Benson

Veiled by clouds high in the Andes, the mountaintop Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is South America's top tourist destination. Each year almost 200,000 people visit the ancient ruins, which had been abandoned to the Peruvian jungle until U.S. historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon them in 1911.

Although this grand and mysterious Inca site has kept archaeologists guessing for nearly a century, many think that it had already been abandoned by the time the Spanish conquistadors staged an invasion and killed the last Inca king.

One out of five tourists today at Machu Picchu arrives on foot via the Inca Trail, which rates among the continent's premier trekking routes. The four-day trail winds its way over breathtakingly high Andean passes, through cloud forests flush with orchids, past pre-Columbian ruins and rural hamlets, where llamas graze on coca leaves, and Peruvian moonshine, called chicha, is sold by the dipperful out of plastic buckets.

Trail loved to death


The Inca Trail has recently become a victim of its own popularity. Overcrowded campgrounds, ethical issues with porter welfare, the limited availability of trekking permits and the rising cost of taking a mandatory guided trek has made other, lesser-known routes look more tempting. After all, there were many historic trails to Machu Picchu used by the Incas, not just one.

While the commercial Inca Trail is closed during February, and reservations for peak season (June to August) are necessary up to a year in advance, alternative treks to Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins in Peru's Andean highlands are easily available year-round. They're often more rewarding, giving trekkers a closer look at traditional Andean life and immersing them in the startling beauty of the mountains, believed by indigenous peoples to be sacred deities.

For culture vultures, the pastoral Lares Valley trek lasts three to five days, including a train trip to Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes), the town below the famed Inca ruins. This less-traveled route connects Quechua-speaking villages in the Sacred Valley while wandering past hot springs, archaeological sites, river gorges and glacial lagoons, all with a backdrop of heart-stopping mountain scenery.

 

Peru’s Legendary Inca Trail reopens March 1, 2006

On February of every year, the National Institute of Culture in Cuzco (Cusco) closes the World Heritage site of the Inca Trail for maintenance.

The historic Inca Trail which leads to the Archeological Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (Cuzco) will remain closed to tourists during the month of February, re-opening on March 1 in accordance with the Inca Trail Usage Rules. The Management Authority of the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu determines that the area close every year for routine maintenance, in keeping with Peru’s wider aim of sustainable tourism.

Adopted by the National Institute of Culture (Cuzco Branch), the measure encourages natural vegetation recovery and gives time to asses tourism on the route.

Moreover, the measure allows the maintenance of the stone slabs lining the trail, the handrails, and the dozen of archeological sites that are found along the trail, all of which are part of the main attractions for visitors around the world.

The shut down begins close to the archeological site of Piscacucho, Km 82, where tourists start their trek to the citadel. February is chosen as there is a natural lull in the tourism that also coincides with the rainy season in the Andes.

At almost 70 kilometers long, the Inca Trail travels through forested and mountainous areas that are located more than 4,000 meters above sea level. Around 500 people travel this stone route daily, crossing mountains and rivers and climbing slopes until finally reaching Machu Picchu - a trip that takes close to four days. Data supplied by the National Institute of Culture in Cusco states that approximately 54,000 tourists (national and foreign) traveled the route of the Inca Trail in 2005.

The Commission for the Promotion of Peru (PromPeru), founded in 1993, leads the promotion of the Peruvian tourism product and the country’s image both domestically and internationally. PromPeru evaluates, develops and executes policies and strategies to promote internal and receptive tourism. It also markets Peru as a tourism destination through advertising, public relations and promotional activities.

 

 

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Last updated: October 5, 2007