Location:Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Andes Mountains, Peru
Do you wish to have the chance to hike one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sights? Twenty-five minutes away from Lima, Peru’s Capital, rests one of the most glorious frozen time entities you could hike. What the universe calls “The Lost City of the Incas,” the ruins of Machu Picchu luckily takes only four to five days to trek fully! But for those daring heart hikers up to a challenge, more challenging routes can take up seven to thirteen days.
Machu Picchu isn’t your usual mountain hike for you to breathe in a 360-degree view of astounding landscapes with dozens of sights to see on the way. Machu Picchu IS that, and way much more! Machu Picchu spans one of the most important archaeological sites in the world (and you don’t have to get a degree in Archaeology to be bewildered by 32,592 hectares of an ancient civilization’s story disguised in stone.)
What was Machu Picchu?
Today, we could say that Machu Picchu is a world-renowned heritage site that gets approximately 4300 visitors every day.
But what WAS Machu Picchu? Discovered by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911, he thought the so-called “Lost City of the Incas” was what a local 11-year-old boy had taken him to. However, after his passing in 1956, it was later discovered that the said lost city of Vilcabamba (the real “Lost City of the Incas”) rests 80 kilometers west of Machu Picchu. Archaeologists then ruled out that Machu Picchu truly wasn’t a city, but indeed built by the Incas. Those ruins were the 15th Century Inca Emperor Pachacuti’s royal retreat or royal court to hunt, relax, and entertain guests.
The Best Months to Visit Machu Picchu
Most hikers prefer lesser crowds of tourists in sync with the best weather and temperature possible. October is a much recommended month to visit the ruins. Following October, November also is recommended as it gets fewer tourists. However, there are a few scattered rain showers that take place during that time. The best months to visit may also differ on which route you’ll choose. Below, we’ll be stating the different paths and the best times to hike them.
The Safety and Preparations of Hiking Machu Picchu
Hiking Machu Picchu, you must bring along plenty of water and sunscreen. The hiking trail is mostly exposed. It is also very strenuous in spots. Hikers should be wary of high altitude sickness becoming a problem. Allow yourself to acclimate and do not push yourself if you begin to feel sick. Any backpacks shouldn’t weigh over about 20 percent of your body weight. Be vigilant, but worry not, Machu Picchu isn’t included in the list of dangerous hiking spots. It can be hazardous and challenging, depending on your technical skills, personal health hazards, and, of course, the trail you’ll take!
What Routes/Trails to Take
- The Classic Inca Trail
The Classic Inca Trail is the most famous trail tourists take with 45km distance and takes about 4-5 days. The trail consists of many steps that can batter your knees with a difficulty level of 3/5. There aren’t any tourist accommodations on the path, so you should prepare camping packs.
To control and prevent any damage to the trail, the Peruvian government now limits access to 500 persons per day. Permits for the peak season (May-September) sell out months in advance. Those months are best as they’re dry, however crowded.
So for a lesser crowd, October is also recommended with zero to little scattered showers.
- The One-Day Trail
This trail takes, guess what? You’re right- one day! With only a 13km hike, this trail is best for families with children who wish to go for some adventure. The hike is short and comfortable, with no high altitude passes. Recommended months to go are the same as above.
No need for camping bags, there’s hotel accommodation in AguasCalientes. Hotel rates in the area range from about 100-160 USD. However, some choose to return to the cities after the hike, without staying overnight.
- The Salcantay Route
This route has a total of 55km and takes an average of 5 to 7 days. Hikers would rate its difficulty level as 4/5 due to the higher altitudes the route passes. May to September, the dry months are best because, unlike the Classic Trail, this one has lesser hikers even during peak season. Most nights of the trail are spent camping, but one night could be spent in hotel accommodation in AguasCalientes, as it passes by this area. This trail descends into a shaded subtropical forest and leads to the recently discovered ruins of Llactapata.
There are many other trails to try once you get there, fellow tourists to meet and locals to befriend.
“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no other place in the weld which can compare with it.” -Hiram Bingham, ‘discoverer’ of Machu Picchu