Part of the 23,000 kilometers (approximately 14,000 miles) of roads built by the Incas in South America, this is Peru's most famous trekking route and possibly one of the most spectacular in the Americas. Every year; some 25,000 hikers from around the world walk along the extraordinary 43 kilometers of this stone-paved road built by the Incas leading to the unassailable citadel of Machu Picchu located in the depth of the Cusco jungle. The journey starts in the village of Qorihuayrachina, at kilometer 88 of the Cusco - Quillabamba railway and takes three or four days of strenuous walking. The route includes an impressive variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems that range from the high Andean plain to the cloud forest. Travelers will cross two high altitude passes (the highest being Warmiwañuska at 4,200 m.a.s.l.) to culminate the hike with a magical entrance to Machu Picchu through the Inti Punko or Gateway of the Sun.
One of the main attractions along the route is the web of ancient settlements built in granite rock by the Incas like Wiñay Wayna and Phuyupatamarca immersed in an overpowering natural scenery. Hundreds of species of orchids, multicolored birds and dreamlike landscapes provide the ideal backstage for a route that every hiker should walk at least once.
Based on traditional 4 days / 3 nights tour.
The total distance of the trail is approximately 39.6 Km. and begins at Km. 88 at a place called Q'oriwayrachina. To begin the trail, you must cross the Kusichaca bridge, (an important Inca bridge which using Inca techniques, has been built with steel cables which allow visitors to cross the Urubamba River). Then you head over to the left bank through a Eucalyptus grove and start the day calmly.
Almost immediately, you will come across the archaeological complexes of Q'ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. From this last spot, follow the trail along the left side of the Kusichaca River in the area with the same name where you will not only see the bridge but also you will find tombs, aqueducts, terraces. roads and a canyon. Continue until you reach the small peasant village of Wayllabamba and Inca aqueducts. It takes around four hours to cover the 9 Km up to this spot. One can camp here for the first night, but for comfort we recommend staying in Llullucha 1.6 Km further on.
The second day is more difficult as the hiker will have to climb up to 4,200 meters, crossing the Warmiwañusqa pass, the first and the highest. If you suffer from "soroche" (altitude sickness) it is best not to stop and descend quickly to the valley of the Pakaymayu River, where you can camp. This spot is 7 Km away and an approximate eight-hour walk.
The third day is the longest but most interesting. You will be able to visit impressive archaeological complexes such as Runkuraqay, the second pass, at 3,800 meters above sea level. This is a walled complex with interior niches that perhaps was a small place for rest, guard post and worship place. After crossing the second pass, descend to Yanacocha (the black lagoon), to then climb up a path with stone steps until you reach another cluster of buildings which attracts the attention of visitors. This spot is called Sayaqmarka a pre Hispanic complex with narrow streets, buildings erected on different levels; shrines, patios, canals and a protecting outer wall. At the top of the buttress one can see many constructions which lead one to suppose they once were a temple and an astronomic observatory which had a permanent supply of water and excellent food storehouses.
Sayaqmarka is a place filled with mystery and enchantment. The approximate distance to Runkuraqay is 5 Km, which takes 2 hours. This complex lies at 3,600 meters above sea level. There are excellent paths and a tunnel through this complex. We recommend you camp near the Phuyupatamarca ruins or 3 Km further on at the Wiñay Wayna Visitors Center, where one can buy food and drinks or use the bathrooms. The Phuyupatamarca ruins are better preserved than those seen before now.
It has a solid base built down to several meters in some cases. The Wiñay Wayna ruins were given the name possibly because of the abundance of a beautiful type of orchid which flowers nearly year-round in the whole area. The Peruvian government and the Viking Fund signed an agreement in 1940 to investigate the area, and sent the Wenner Gren expedition led by Professor Paul Fejos. But despite the expedition, there is no precise information about the specific function of six groups of dwellings near Machu Picchu. They are divided up into four well-defined sectors which are: the agricultural sector with many terraces, the religious sector, the fountain sector and the residential sector where the houses are located.
On the fourth day, which starts around 8 A.M., the walker arrives at Machu Picchu Inca Citadel at around 11 A.M. after 8 Km of hiking through the jungle. Follow the signaled route and drink some water at the Wiñay Wayna Visitors Center. The path is clearly marked but try to avoid getting too close to the cliff edge.
It is forbidden to camp in Inti Punko. Leave your equipment at the control gate and enjoy getting to know the most important monument in this part of ; the continent. You have time to walk around Machu Picchu until mid-after-noon. Check train timetables to return to Cuzco.
If you plan to stay in Machu Picchu Town (Last called "Aguas Calientes"), the distance from the station of Puente Ruinas to Machu Picchu is 2 Km. It takes around 20 minutes to walk down a narrow path which runs parallel to the train line.
The climate is relatively mild all year- round, with heavy rains from November to March, and dry and hot weather from April to October, which is a recommendable time to visit. The annual minimal temperature runs from 8° to 11.2°C. In the months of June, July and August the temperature can often fall below zero.
The annual maximum temperature varies from 20.4° to 26.6°C. The terrain is fairly jagged, with many gullies and streams fed by glaciers which eventually pour into the Urubamba river, which crosses the area forming a deep valley which runs through the granite base of Vilcabamba for more than 40 Km through a variety of eco-systems.
The natural surroundings are impressive and the balance achieved between nature and Inca architecture is striking.
Vilcabamba Mountain Range boasts peaks higher than 6,000 meters such as Salcantay and Huamantay among others. The blend of mountains, jungles and valleys create a fantasy world where the spectacular dawn and sunset are shrouded in mystery.
The large natural areas are filled with a variety of forest species which vary according to the habitat. The forest vegetation is represented by trees such as cedar, romerillo or intimpa, laurel, etc. There are also species like Ocotea, Pedocarpus, Guarea, Weinmania, Clusia, Cedropia, Cinchena, Eritrina or Pisonay, and Ilex among others. The decorative plants have made the Sanctuary famous. Experts have identified more than 90 species of orchids, and many species of begonias and puya cacti. Most of the area is covered by herbaceous, shrub like and arboreal plants. The varied conditions have created an ideal environment for the growth of diverse plant life that runs from thick jungle like the cloud forest to the sparsely covered mountain tops
This is abundant and varied. The existence of species in danger of extinction such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos omatus), the Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks (Rupicola peruviana), the dwarf deer (Pudu mephistopheles), etc. was one of the reasons why the government decided to declare it a Conservation Unit. The park includes species like the puma, Andean fox, river otter, Taruka (Huemul deer), wildcat, ferret, etc. There are birds in Machu Picchu like the Mountain Caracara, hummingbirds, torrent duck, parrots, wild turkey, and many other colorful smaller birds. There are also reptiles like the jergon bothrops and the coral micrurus snake (lethal for its venom), lizards, frogs, and numerous Andean and jungle fauna which inhabit the Sanctuary. This abundant wildlife makes the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu ideal for tourists and researchers who wish to watch or study the animals.
Apart from everything that has been mentioned, there is also the Incas cultural heritage. The Inca Trail which was well built, crosses dense forests and deep canyons. There are 18 archaeological complexes dotted along the trail which can be seen in all their splendor. These are made up of housing, irrigation canals, agricultural terracing, walls and shrines, which are irrefutable proof of the existence of important human settlements.
There are some alternatives, a 3 stars hotel located in Machu Picchu's citadel, in the high part of the mountain. Also in the town of Machu Picchu (last called Aguas Calientes), located in the valley, from where we start our climbing to Machu Picchu, has services of 3 stars hotels and lodgings.
At a distance of 800 m East of the town of Machu Picchu, there are under ground hot sulfur springs which bubble up from the rocky under ground at varying temperatures. The especially-built pools at this resort are the basis of its use as hot mineral baths. The average temperature of the water runs from 38° to 46°C. There are also changing rooms, bathroom sand a small snack bar.
In order to get to Kilometer 88 one can go by train from Cusco. Another alternative to get to Kilometer 88 is to go by automotive transportation to Chilca at Km. 77 and down by car to Km. 88.
The only way to return from Machu Picchu or Aguas Calientes to Cusco is by train. Check all timetables.
There is a fleet of mini-buses that link the Puente Ruinas station via a narrow, winding road to the top of hill - Machu Picchu complex. The drive takes approximately 20 minutes to get there and another 20 minutes back.
The service runs all day, though the frequency depends on the amount of tourists. There is a trail between Puente de Ruinas and the Machu Picchu complex. The walk takes approximately 1 hour.
There are signposts located in different parts of the trail using a series of words and international symbols. In the majority of places, these signs give the walker the necessary information about a certain spot, its climate, distances and services.
These signs are classified into information, prevention and restriction.
Every person who enters the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and uses the authorized trekking routes must heed the following rules provided by government authorities:
Any violation of any of these rules will lead to police or park guards intervention so as to enforce the respective sanction. Respect the rules and avoid unpleasant incidents.