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Hiking the Inca Trail is not the only option to reach Machu Picchu although it is probably the best way. The PeruRail connects the nearest city from Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes with the city of Cusco by a 3.5-hour train ride. From Aguas Calientes, there are bus services available which will drop you near the site. Tickets can be booked directly from perurail.com (Book in advance to avoid last minute hassle)
With so many choices that can be found online, it would be a surprise if this question did not come to your mind. When you go with AlienAdv for an adventure holiday, you are guided by expert locals who love to show their regions and cultures like they would to friends. We collaborate with them for this reason, their experience in hospitality and their highly rated services. At AlienAdv, we believe that in order to sustain tourism in beautiful parts of this world, we must give back to the local community. By doing so, we empower the locals to maintain the factors that attract the tourists to these places. Thus by having such recommended guides on our website, we ensure top notch tourism with benefits for the indigenous community.
The key to packing for a trip to Peru is to pack for a variety of conditions while keeping the weight to a minimum. The best way to deal with these extremes is to dress using several layers.You need to bring a backpack, a sleeping bag, hiking shoes, sets of light and warm clothing, rain-gear etc. The tents and mattresses will be provided by your tour operator. Other items that you should bring to the trek are sterilizing tablets, toiletries, flashlight, toilet paper, water bottle, sunscreen, bug repellent, hats/caps and dry fruits and energy bars. Some of the equipment can also be rented in Cusco.
The key to packing for a trip to Peru is to pack for a variety of conditions while keeping the weight to a minimum. The best way to deal with these extremes is to dress using several layers. You need to bring a backpack, a sleeping bag, hiking shoes, sets of light and warm clothing, rain-gear etc. The tents and mattresses will be provided by your tour operator. Other items that you should bring to the trek are sterilizing tablets, toiletries, flashlight, toilet paper, water bottle, sunscreen, bug repellant, hats/caps and dry fruits and energy bars. Some of the equipment can also be rented in Cusco.
All of the larger campsites have toilet blocks with flush toilets and running water. On the whole they are kept pretty clean. Bring toilet paper (biodegradable). As far as other trash goes, please carry your own trash to each campsite where the porters will pack it up and take it out. Leave no trace!
The food, along with tea and coffee is taken care of by the tour operator. Cooks along with porters and guides will travel with you and setup kitchen camps every day. Special dietary requirements can also be catered to if requested in advance. We recommend carrying a 1.5-2L water bottle on the first day. Every night during the trek, your guides will boil water so you can refill the same bottle every morning before setting out. If you are planning to drink from any streams or waterfalls, we strongly suggest you bring water purification tablets or filters. Also, you will be able to buy water along the way on some days and at Machu Picchu.
Of the routes often referred to as the 'alternative treks to Machu Picchu', the Salkantay Trek is the most popular. It usually takes 5 days including the final day at the ruins, although it can be done in 4 days for those with a tight schedule and good fitness. Other alternatives include a Short 2-day version of the Inca Trail, A combination of Salkantay and Inca Trail of 7 days and the Lares Trek of 4 days. Here are some comparisons between the Salkantay and the Inca Trail:
Cusco is located 3400m above sea level. While hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you cross high altitude passes, especially on the 2nd day where you ascend almost 1200m in the morning at 4200m. It thus poses the risk of AMS or Altitude mountain sickness. It is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased altitude. There are many different symptoms but the most common are headaches, light-headedness, nausea, loss of appetite, tingling in the toes and fingers, and a mild swell of ankles and fingers. It is thus highly recommended that if arriving from sea-level (Lima) try to spend at least 2 days in Cusco prior to starting the Inca Trail. This period will allow you to acclimatize and also give you time to enjoy the city of Cusco, the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Pucacpucara and Tambomachay. Not rushing through the hike, taking small breaks and keeping yourself hydrated also helps. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, cigarettes, sleeping pills and heavy food.
The entire trail is about 46 kilometers (27 miles) long from start to finish. If you still want more, climbing Huayna Picchu provides another hour and a half round trip. Check for the free passes with your tour operator. The walking varies by each day. An approximate breakdown is as below:
The Inca Trail hike is a moderate level hike and you need to be fit. The hike becomes challenging on the 2nd day when you climb nearly 1200m (~4000 ft) during the morning to the Dead Woman’s Pass. This rapid ascend, the high altitude and extreme weather (possibility of sunburn during the day and freezing temperatures at night) makes the Machu Picchu hike difficult. There is no official minimum age for hiking the trail, but the general consensus is that 10 years old was the youngest outfitters would consider for a private trek. For a group a trek a minimum of 16 years is recommended and they should be in good physical shape and used to hiking long distances.
Although open throughout the year, the best time to travel Machu Picchu is from April to September as these are the dry months of the year. June to August are the busiest months. The weather on the trail is moderate but it can get pretty hot under the sun during the day and cold with chilly winds near the high altitude passes and at night. October, November and December are also great months on the Inca Trail with fewer trekkers albeit with a fairly strong chance of rain on at least one day of the trek. Nothing rain gear can’t protect against though. Availability is also better. The Inca trail is closed in February each year for cleaning although Machu Picchu and alternative routes are open.
Usually groups reach the Sun Gate at around 6 am on the 4th day, if they start early. You’ll have plenty of time to soak in the ruins thanks to the 2-hour guided tour and some free time to explore afterwards. After the guided portion, your guide will give you a bus ticket for the transfer down to Aguas Calientes. You can take the bus anytime you like but just keep in mind that you have to catch a train back to Cusco. Some operators also arrange for a train to Ollantaytambo, from where you’ll take a bus back to Cusco. You generally arrive back to Cusco around 9pm so don`t expect to be able to book a flight out for the same night as flights do not exist after 4.30pm
You will get picked up from your hotels and reach the trail head by bus. The hike starts from Km 82. You will see a few Inca ruins en route and camp at Wayllabamba. The second day involves some stunning scenery and scaling the most difficult part of the trek through Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200m. Hikers will be exposed to the Andean elements - first scorching sun and then freezing winds closer to the pass. By evening, you will descend to a lower altitude at Pacamayo. The third-day isn’t hard as the second day. The trail passes many archaeological sites and you camp at Winay Wayna. Day four begins early to reach the Sun Gate, 'Inti Punku' and possibly see the sunrise. This point officially completes the Classic Inca Trail Adventure and marks the arrival at Machu Picchu. You will have a guided tour of the ruins that lasts approximately 2-3 hours, after which time you will have 2-3 hours more to spend on your own. You can climb Huayna Picchu or just explore. After the guided portion, your guide will give you a bus ticket for the transfer down to Aguas Calientes. You can take the bus anytime you like but just keep the train timing to Cusco in mind.
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