This brief video from National Geographic will give you a great overview of hiking the Machu Picchu Inca Trail!
Be sure to scroll down through TONS of PHOTOS!!!
Hike Machu Picchu's Inca Trail and add a little biking and cultural exchange!
Located about 8000′ about sea level on a sheer cliff overlooking the Sacred Valley in Peru, Machu Picchu deservedly claims to be one of the top archeological and architectural gems of the world!
While known by the local people, Westerners didn't discover Machu Picchu until the early 1900's. Happily, it wasn't discovered during the Spanish Conquest or it would have been destroyed for being blasphemous like the Spaniards did other Inca structures (The Incas worshipped the sun).
What is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu was built in the mid-1400's and is believed to be a citadel and second estate for Incan emperor, Pachacuti. It was abandoned for unknown reasons during the Spanish Conquest about 100 years later. The Incas had no written language to tell us why or to describe some of its puzzling features.
The star-like stones called the Intihuatana (see the photo below), lines up exactly with the winter solstice so is believed to be a astronomic clock and/or calendar. Incas believed that the sun was a god and that this rock structure tethered the sun, holding it in place. It is sometimes referred to as the “Hitching Post of the Sun”.
The Inti Mach'ay cave is the site for the annual Royal Feast of the Sun, which culminates on the winter solstice. At this feast, royal boys become men with an ear piercing ritual performed as the sun rose. This structure is one of the finest examples of Inca masonry remaining
Machu Picchu has got to be near the top of any hiker's Bucket List!
But be forwarned – it's tough! Our guest, Harry Dickens, rates it a 5 out of 5 for difficulty. He says that on his adventure, only the four day trek up the Inca Trail was challenging, and that the rest of his active holiday (cycling and paddling) were fine.
The Inca Trail is virtually all stone, which can be hard on the feet and knees. Fortunately you can take the train back down which is a blessing for those of us who's knees would rather hike UP than DOWN!
You can also take the Lares Trail which is not as strenuous. However, note that you MUST have permits to hike the trails and these need to be arranged far in advance – a year out is not out of the question.
Click the box to get your FREE Machu Picchu Travel Planner which includes the helpful links you'll need to plan your Machu Picchu epic adventure!
How Did They Make It?
This remarkable and magical structure was formed of meticulously dry-stacked stone, chiselled to exacting proportions and shapes without benefit of iron tools, transported without wheels, and set in place without morter.
In this earthquake prone region, much of the buildings and walls of Machu Picchu remain despite the quakes: the stones ebb and bob, and then rest back into their very precise positions when tremors cease. Remarkable masonry craftsmanship!
Most of the Machu Picchu residents were laborers. The sides of the mountains are terraced to capture the ample rain (no need for irrigation), yet with gravel underlying beds, they are well drained and placed to prevent landslides. Corn and potatoes were the main crops and the balance of food needs were imported.
Machu Picchu is naturally a very popular attraction and permits are limited. With difficulty, you can make arrangements yourself, but I recommend you connect with a reputable guide company.
Harry, our interviewee for our Machu Picchu episode used one of my favorite affilitate companies, Active Adventures. They did a trip similar to the “Jaguar” adventure which combines climbing Machu Picchu with multi-sport and a cultural exchange. They not only hiked the Inca Trail, they biked throughout the Sacred Valley, and they boated on Lake Titicaca and hiked, boated and fished for piranhas in the Amazon — PLUS visited with a local family. You can add the Lake Titicaca experience to the Jaguar tour, or if you have the time and money, do the Jaguar AND the Chinchilla tours to add Bolivia and the salt flats , too! Hey! It's a LONG way away, might as well go all in and do it right!
Make it a multi-sport and cultural exchange!
Exploring Cusco : cultural exchange with locals
Hike Sacsayhuamán forest
Four day hike to Machu Picchu (two trail options): Lares Inca Trail or the Classic Inca Trail
Arrive before sunrise at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate to watch the sun rise on your first glimpse of Machu Picchu
Motorized canoe ride in the Amazon on the Tambopata River, one of the headwaters of the Amazon
Take a wildlife jungle hike and see amazing critters like monkeys and crocs!
Active Adventures is a New Zealand based company that offers small group guided tours to South America, Europe, the Himalayas and of course, New Zealand. They are a top notch organization and I cannot more highly recommend them!
If you decide to use them, please use my links so they know that I sent you — Thanks! Kit
PS: These water filters below (also an affiliate partner) are great for hiking AND traveling to areas where the water may be dicey.
The company I recommend to help you do Machu Picchu right is my affiliate partner, Active Adventures (I know that the name is similar to ATA, but we are different entities). They take care of all the logistics for you so all you have to do is show up and hike (or bike or paddle:) There's a good reason that Active Adventure clients are serial clients and start planning their next adventure with AA before they've even finished their current adventure: Active Adventures does it RIGHT!
My new friend, Mary Charleson, aka “Carry On Queen“, has written some great articles on her hike in Peru that I wanted to share with you. Whenever she slows down from travelling, she'll get her website up and running. I'll let you know:)
Prepping for Peru
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru : Adventure Travel at its finest by Kit Parks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.activetraveladventures.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.activetraveladventures.com.