There are numerous ways to get to Machu Picchu, but doing it by the Inca Trail is the most authentic.
The most important and extensive pedestrian route in America was built in the 15th century by the Incas to communicate Cuzco with the rest of their empire, which stretched from Ecuador to Chile.
It is no longer preserved in its entirety, but there is a mythical section that will dazzle the intrepid travelers who travel it.
It is the 45 kilometers that lead to one of the seven wonders of the modern world. A demanding journey full of amazing landscapes that has as reward the most comforting image of Machu Picchu, the same one that the Incas appreciated 600 years ago from Puerta del Sol.
Enjoy it in the best conditions requires the correct choice of a guide, good planning to avoid crowds or rainy season, a previous physical preparation and, above all, a reservation with more than six months in advance, as there is limited space for people a day.
OPTIONS TO MAKE THE INCA PATH
There are several possibilities to get to Machu Picchu, but doing it on foot and discovering the remains of the ancient civilization along the way is the most adventurous and rewarding.
The classic Inca Trail can be done in five, four or two days and has as its goal the Puerta del Sol. Although reaching Machu Picchu walking is also possible from other points in the region.
Each of them will reward the visitor with different landscapes and experiences. Here we highlight the most common routes:
– 4 day Inca Trail
In Piskacucho, located at kilometer 82 of the highway that starts from Cuzco in the direction of Aguas Calientes, a 45-kilometer hike begins in four days, in which it rises to 4,300 meters.
The nights are spent in the road camps. In the itinerary the archaeological sites of Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñaywayna are visited.
At kilometer 104 we find Chachabamba, the starting point of the two-day Inca Trail route. This has a hard start, with a steep climb of about four hours to reach Wiñay Wayna. From that point the terrain becomes a little flatter.
The route is perfect for those who do not have much time but want to live the experience of accessing the ruins by the Puerta del Sol. In addition, travelers sleep in Aguas Calientes, so it is comfortable for those who prefer to rest in a hotel.
Those who do not manage to reserve a place for the Inca Trail on time, may opt for a more adventurous and, also, more difficult proposal: the Salkantay road.
A five-day itinerary that runs between wild mountains of which the Salkantay is the highest peak, with 6,271 meters.
In this route, the altitude of 4,600 meters is reached by passing through the glaciers of Salkantay and then descending between valleys. An alternative only suitable for people who are very prepared and who do not fear altitude sickness.
THE INCA TRAIL
In Ollantaytambo, a key point in the Sacred Valley, a parsimonious train awaits us to approach the beginning of the ancient Inca Trail. During the tour, the train accompanies the mighty Urumbamba River.
Whether starting from Chachabamba or from Piskakuchu, where we will arrive by bus from Cuzco, we will have to cross a suspension bridge over the river to get into the history of an unparalleled civilization.
After passing the control of permits and passports, the adventure will begin. We will cross streams and old cultivation terraces along the battered paths and the infinite steps that the Incas built one day.
In the case of the four-day route, the first day will be a relaxed workout compared to the days after, since a large section runs along the river level and then ascend, little by little, through the valley. Five hours later we will arrive at the camp.
The second day is the hardest of all due to the strenuous slopes that approach Inca ruins and changing alpine tundra landscapes and cloud forests with the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains as a backdrop.
Sleeping under the starry Andean sky will help us recover our strength to continue our route between new archaeological remains, several geodesic points marked on the ground and panoramic views full of flowery meadows and lagoons.
Closer and closer to the goal, and coinciding with those who join the two-day route, the Inca footprints become more noticeable and emotion invades us more immediately.
Between the mountains, each stop is a perfect viewpoint to stop before the terraces that decorate the slopes while the Urumabamba river snakes its way through them.
After crossing mountains, witnessing the varied Andean landscapes and going up and down the steep stone stairs that define the Inca Trail, a wooden sign with the name of Intipunku surprises us.
We have reached the end of the circuit, the Puerta del Sol.
Exhaustion and illusion come together in a tangle of feelings that intensify when we take another step and before our eyes we find the wonderful image of Machu Picchu.
Emotion replaces fatigue making us feel part of the spectacular environment. A whole city disappeared for centuries under the vast vegetation of the place and now invites us to be part of its impressive history.