Many Inca Trail hiking tours leave from Cusco, Peru, a historic city boasting many breathtaking landmarks of cultural significance. Take a day or two to trek through its ancient pathways that wind between ruins and colonial buildings left over from Spanish occupation. More adventurous travelers might seek out a tour on horseback before making their way along the Inca Trail towards their final destination, Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail Hiking Tours
Before setting out on the Inca Trail, being armed with a few travel tips will help ensure the best experience. When booking any hiking tour packages or preparing a visit to Machu Picchu, keep the following in mind:
Book in advance: Since Peru limits the number of visitors to Machu Picchu, booking at least six months in advance is recommended.
Visit during the dry season: Although it’s possible to visit the Sacred Valley and citadel nearly year-round, May through September is the best. Take note that the Inca Trail is closed during the month of February.
Bring warm clothes: Many imagine Peru to be an extremely hot place, which it is on occasion. However, even in the warmer months, the Inca Trail gets cold due to its elevation, so always pack a sweater or jacket.
Give yourself time to adjust: Altitude sickness is common among hikers, which means you should give yourself at least a few days in Cusco or a place with similar elevation to acclimate yourself before beginning your trek.
Bring along some cash: Packing an emergency reserve of Peruvian sols, their form of currency, is a good idea in case you want to buy bottled water along the way or tip the tour guide.
Pack light but smart: No one wants to lug around a heavy pack for days as they make their way toward Machu Picchu, but there are some necessities you can’t forget. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp with some spare batteries, a warm sleeping bag, and a few light snacks.
Hiking Along the Inca Trail
After adjusting to the higher altitudes and packing accordingly, it’s time to hit the trail and embark upon an experience of a lifetime. The reason why hiking tours of the Inca Trail are so popular is that there’s a wealth of ancient ruins and historic landmarks to see along your way to Machu Picchu.
You’ll pass through the Sacred Valley and beautiful Urubamba on your hike. Many of the small towns and villages in the area dress in traditional garb and celebrate many festivals inspired by the culture and spirit of the Incas. Before continuing upon your hike, stop and have a taste of chicha, a traditionally fermented maize brew and don’t forget to grab a plate of the impressive local cuisine.
Travel Through Time
Little has changed along the Inca Trail and visitors often have the feeling like they’ve stepped into a place out of time, getting a firsthand chance to experience what life may have been like centuries ago. Evidence of the powerful epoch of the Incan people is ever-present as guests make their way toward towering Machu Picchu.
During your journey, you’ll pass through cloud forests and jungles boasting some of the most unique species of flora and fauna in the world. If you’re lucky, you may even be treated to a light dusting of snow. You can also stop and marvel for a moment at the breathtaking beauty of Rainbow Mountain, located in Vilcanota Andean range and boasting snow-capped peaks and wild herds of alpaca.
Arriving at the Ancient Citadel
First discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu was thought to be constructed around 1450 for Incan Emperor Pachacuti. Bingham stumbled upon the ancient estate in his search for the famed “Lost City of the Incas.” Although Machu Picchu isn’t a city but simply a citadel and royal estate, many still refer to the towering structure and surrounding ruins as such.
Visiting Machu Picchu for the first time often leaves travelers breathless, especially if they’ve hiked there and still have to negotiate the stairs leading to the Temple of the Sun. But after marveling for a moment at the more than 200 structures dotting the surrounding landscape and taking in the majestic mountain background, most guests usually muster up the energy to explore.
Considered one of the world’s “new” seven wonders, Machu Picchu gives hikers a rare glimpse into one of the most mystic and ancient empires in the Americas. A popular highlight is its Intihuatana, a curved rock sculpture thought to be an ancient calendar or astronomic clock designed by the Incas.
Another mysterious landmark is the Inti Mach'ay, a special cave used for celebrating the Incan Feast of the Sun, a ritual for manhood where young boys had their ears pierced and stood to watch the sunrise. The interior of the cave is considered one of the greatest feats of Incan architecture, boasting tunnel-like windows and elaborate stairs and entryways.
Take advantage of our Inca Trail hiking tours to Machu Picchu!