August 1, 2015
The famous Inca Trail is one of the most iconic hiking routes in the world. However, this is not the only route up to Machu Picchu as we will discuss here.
Firstly, of course, is the Inca Trail itself. This route is so popular that it can only be completed with a licensed trekking company. There are a limited amount of permits each day and these book out fast – so make sure you book at least 4 months in advance!
There are three Inca Trail routes. The first is the ‘classic’ Inca Trail which takes 4 days and covers a distance of 45km.
The second is the ‘short’ Inca Trail route. This only takes two days and covers a distance of 13km.
The third is known as the ‘Salkantay’ or ‘combo’ route. This is the longest route and takes 6 days with a distance of 65km.
Read about the Inca and their trails here.
Alternative Machu Picchu Routes
Now that we have covered the most popular routes let’s look at the lesser known routes to Machu Picchu.
The little known ‘Lares’ trek is a 4 day long hike that covers a distance of 33km. This trek is a great way to meet the locals and immerse yourself in the local culture.
The most popular non-Inca route is probably the ‘Salkantay’ trek. This is a 5 day trek over 55km and offers up incredible scenery allowing you to get close and personal with Nevada Salkantay!
Another trek for the thrill seekers is the Inca ‘Junge’ trek. This is a great downhill cycle trek – incredibly fast (60km) and nice easy walking trek (15km).
The ‘Choquequirao’ trek is a very versatile hike and can be shortened or lengthened at will. At its longest it’s a 65km 9 day trek that runs past the impressive Choquequirao ruins.
The ‘Huchuy Qosko’ trek is a fairly short 3 day trek over 20km. This short trek has great scenery and passes by the Huchuy Qosko ruins which a worth a visit!
The last route is the ‘Vilcabamba’ trek. This particular trek would suit experienced hikers and is probably the toughest trek up to Machu Picchu. 62km over 5 days, the trail is beautiful and diverse.
Click here to find out more on Machu Picchu treks or check out this Machu Picchu online guide.
December 24, 2014
Ray Jardine is the famed and highly-opinionated US rock climber who, with his companion, was the first to free climb the West Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley and designed and produced a kind of spring-loaded camming device that revolutionised rock climbing in the late 1970s. He is against the use of trekking poles, considering them unnecessary given correct training and exercise and less important than an umbrella.
Many Inca Trail guides, however, disagree, as do innumerable books. You may start out regarding hiking poles as goofy, but once converted, you would probably take them with you to the supermarket if only your spouse would allow it. Purchasing poles can be injurious to your pocket if you opt for sophisticated, height-adjustable poles constructed from lightweight (= costly) composite substances.
Rather than being just another way to sell more gear, hiking poles have been used by travellers for centuries. They were “multi-tools” before the term was invented. They can be used to pitch a shelter, probe stream crossings or defend against wild animals and bandits (perhaps not an issue on the Inca Trail). No woodsman would ever be without one. They can be hired, although in such a case, they will not be in an immaculate state. Trekkers often concede that they will use poles when their back, knees, legs or whatever gets worse, but prevention in such a key respect is massively better than cure.
There are downsides to sticks. Firstly, they represent extra weight. Ski poles are on the US Transportation Security Agency’s list of items prohibited as carry-on luggage. Also, umbrellas are indispensable on the Inca Trail, but it would be awkward to combine the use of one and a stick and no umbrella will last long if used as a stick. Similarly, you may wish to keep your hands free to use a camera and you will certainly need to do so to use handholds on rockfaces or a map. At least you will have no need for an ice axe. You should devote some attention to walking technique when using poles, as detailed at Peter Clinch’s Hiking Poles Page. Failure to do so could reduce the poles’ effectiveness.
One factor concerning poles that is oft-neglected is they they require more kundlini, or energy, if you can’t speak Sanskrit. Yours arms were not designed to prop you up, so they perform this task inefficiently. But while more energy is used, by creating more contact points, the load is more evenly spread around your body and your legs are not doing all the work. It all depends on whether you have more concern for your knees or your whole body.
The upside of sticks is that they improve your balance and reduce the load on your knees by as much as 25 percent. They are indispensable for people with knee problems. The steeper a hill, the more welcome will be poles, as they will put you into 4×4 mode to work against gravity. They greatly assist in tackling vast sets of Incan stairs, and will be 1,500 of those along the way. They help you to balance on climbs and water crossings. They are like having a handrail all along the trail. They are a godsend when the terrain is wet, rocky or slippery and guides speak of “ankle-breakers” and “knee-destroyers.” The terrain of the Inca Trail is sufficiently rugged to make hiking poles or merely a stick close to a necessity.
On a final note, trekking poles with metal tips are not permitted on the Inca Trail because they damage it. They loosen the soil, and farmers have long known that loosened soil erodes faster than compacted soil, which is why farmers often prefer “no till” or at least a minimum of it. Rubber tips can be purchased from any camping shop. This is an important point: poles are the first thing inspected at checkpoints after your permit and passport.
For a complete packing list see: http://www.machupicchutrek.net/inca-trail-packing-list-machu-picchu/
September 19, 2014
The Incas built Machu Picchu in the 1450s. Archaeologists believe the site was built as an estate for the Inca Emperor of that time, Pachacuti, but was almost certainly abandoned a century later due to the Spanish Conquest.
The conquistadors never discovered the city and it was only 4 centuries later that an American Historian, Hiram Bingham, discovered the site in 1911.
Since then the site has grown in popularity and today is the most visited tourist destination in Peru.
There are a number of trekking options to Machu Picchu. The most popular is the Inca Trail which in fact consists of three overlapping trails – the Mollepata, Classic and One Day. Mollepata is the longest of the treks, followed by the Classic. They start either at the 82 km or 88 km mark (distance from Cusco) and follow either a 4 or 5 day itinerary to Machu Picchu, ending at the Sun Gate. The shorter trek begins at the 104 km mark. Altitudes on the trek exceed 4,200 meters, which is considered to be very high and can result trekkers experiencing altitude sickness symptoms.
The Salkantay is fast becoming a popular route due to its diverse and beautiful setting. The Route traverses the Salkantay Mountain (20,500 feet high) and continues along the Mollepata Valley to Aguas Callientes. From here trekkers catch an early bus to Machu Picchu (before non-trekking tourists arrive).
The Lares Trail is great for the rugged trekker that wants to avoid the crowds on the Inca trail and get a good feel of the local communities that inhabit this region of the Andes. The route is relatively tough so not for the faint hearted.
The Vilcabamba is a fantastic, but tough trek. It follows a path to the real ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Vilcambaba, crossing a number of high passes (the highest being 4,500 meters) before descending to Aguas Callientes where trekkers sleep the night before an earlier departure to Machu Picchu.
For more information on the Machu Picchu Trek click here or read this great information site.