Weird Travel

Escape Standard Holidays: Hike to Machu Picchu

posted by Chris Valentine

Are you fed up of planning trips to the same kinds of holiday destinations and would prefer not to spend another week sunning yourself on one of Europe’s beaches? Well, a getaway in Peru could be just what you need to break the mould.

Machu Picchu

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

While Peru is a popular stop for many backpackers, it’s often overlooked as a holiday destination in general, despite being home to some absolutely amazing attractions. The most famous of these is, of course, Machu Picchu – and it’s the hike along the Inca Trail that we’re going to talk about today.

Why book an Inca Trail tour?

You may be wondering why it’s worth going on an Inca Trail tour and there are multiple reasons to do so. Firstly, it’s a wonderful way to get out and about during your trip and to be active; secondly, it allows you to see some of Peru’s amazing natural environments first-hand – as well as giving you the chance to spot some of the creatures that live in the forests in the Andes.

Finally, it’s a once in a lifetime experience – there is nothing else quite like the Inca Trail. The hike itself is beautiful and will lead you past ruins that you can’t see any other way, while arriving at Machu Picchu after your four-day walk will be totally staggering. Walks Worldwide is one of the operators that runs Inca Trail tours from Cusco.

It’s possible to visit Machu Picchu from the nearby settlement of Aguas Calientes, but this doesn’t give you the same sense of awe of the site when you arrive, partly because you won’t have the same vantage point as those who’ve trekked the Inca Trail and partly because you haven’t had to put in any real work to get there.

An overview of the Inca Trail trek

The Inca Trail trek is tough, but as long as you’re moderately fit and healthy and have some experience of hill walking, you should be fine. The main thing to bear in mind is that much of the hiking is at altitudes over 3,000 m, so you need to allow time to acclimatise before you set off.

Spending a few days in Cusco, which is at 3,326 m above sea level, is the ideal way to get used to the altitude before you set off on your trek. On the hike itself, the most challenging day is the third one, when you’ll cross Dead Woman’s Pass, which is 4,200 m high.

As there are several ruins to explore en route to Machu Picchu, you’ll have plenty of breaks as you walk, giving you time to discover some of the buildings and ruined towns that were once inhabited by the Incas. Sayacmarca – a town built on a promontory looking over a cliff – is easily one of the most impressive and certainly worth a closer look.

One of the most memorable moments on your hike is when you reach the Sun Gate – or Inti Puntu. This doorway frames your first views of Machu Picchu spreading out ahead of you and is a breathtaking sight in the early morning sunshine.

From here, you will walk down into the city, following the path that thousands of Incas must have taken before you. You can revel in the majesty and tranquility of the site before travelling to Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night before returning to the ruins for a more thorough exploration the following day.

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