Hiking to Machu Picchu offers an excellent method of discovering this very old Incan city. While it was discovered over a hundred years ago and is often referred to as a lone, lost or remote city, it was once the crown of the Incan province. Hikers on the trail will see ruins along the route. The hike provides one of the best methods of understanding this ancient city's significance.
To the Incas, this city, as well as the route leading to it provided both artistic and spiritual significance. Even today, walking along the trail provides a scenic method of visiting the area to visit the location and grasp a better regard for nature as well as the architectural concepts of the Incas. Along the route, it is possible to view exotic vegetation, wildlife and of course, the ruins.
Area visitors will have three different options on their trek to see the city. The most traditional is also the most difficult path and takes four days and three nights to complete. An easier trip is the two days one night trail or the one day hike that includes only the last portion of the easier hike. It is suitable for those who might be out of shape or with little experience in hikes. Porters can be hired to haul the gear if one needs help.
Visitors are no longer allowed to walk any of the trails alone. Organized groups sponsored by officially sanctioned agencies are the most common way to visit. Currently there are 140 agencies. While one can organize his or her own group of two or more visitors, the cost is greatly increased.
Traditional four day hikes include both hand hewn stone stairs as well as trails leading through the mountains, cloud forests, rivers and Incan ruins. Visitors can see rare orchids, more than 400 bird species and occasionally an indigenous bear. The route is 26 miles and includes three mountain passes rising to more than 13,800 feet in elevation.
On the two day hike, visitors will enjoy a reasonable alternative for individuals with less time or who do not have the physical fitness to complete the classic trail. The top elevation on this portion is slightly above 9,000 feet and the climb is relatively easy. However visitors will miss several important ruins and some of the mountain scenery. Campsites are equipped with flush toilets to keep the trail more inviting to visitors.
Before beginning the hike, visitors should plan on spending two or more days in Cusco in order to allow the body to become acclimatized to the higher elevation before beginning their hike. In addition, it is important to take gear that keeps one dry and warm in case of rain or cooler temperatures. Bring comfortable but sturdy waterproof boots and a good backpack.
Making the hike will require some advance planning. At the bare minimum, when hiking to Machu Picchu, one needs to make reservations 15 days in advance. In the busy season of May through October one may want to make reservations 4-6 months in advance. Tourists showing up without reservations are not likely to be able to make the hike.
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