World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Article Id: WHEBN0024050725
Reproduction Date:

Title: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: PeruRail, Transport in South America, History of transport, Qunchamarka, Sayaqmarka
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Much of the trail is of original Incan construction

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka) consists of three overlapping trails: Mollepata, Classic, and One Day. Mollepata is the longest of the three routes with the highest mountain pass and intersects with the Classic route before crossing Warmiwañusqa ("dead woman"). Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of Andean environments including cloud forest and alpine tundra. Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins are located along the trail before ending the terminus at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain. The two longer routes require an ascent to beyond 4,200 metres (13,800 ft) above sea level, which can result in altitude sickness.

Concern about overuse leading to erosion has led the Peruvian government to place a limit on the number of people who may hike this trail per season, and to sharply limit the companies that can provide guides. As a result, advance booking is mandatory. A maximum of 500 people are allowed on the trail each day, of which only 200 are trekkers, the rest being guides and porters.[1] As a result, the high season books out very quickly.

The trail is closed every February for cleaning. This was originally done informally by organizations such as South American Explorers[2] but is now managed officially.

Classic trail

Patallacta viewed from above

Trekkers normally take four or five days to complete the "Classic Inca Trail" but a two day trek from Km 104 is also possible.[3]

It starts from one of two points: 88 km (55 miles) or 82 km (51 miles) from Cusco on the Urubamba River at approximately 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) or 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) altitude, respectively.[3]

Both of these trail segments meet above the Inca ruins of Patallaqta[4][5] (sometimes called Llaqtapata), a site used for religious and ceremonial functions, crop production, and housing for soldiers from the nearby hilltop site of Willkaraqay, an ancient pre-Inca site first inhabited around 500 BC.[3] The trail undulates, but overall ascends along the Kusichaka River.

At the small village Wayllapampa ("grassy plain", Wayllabamba) the trail intersects with the "Mollepata Trail" at 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).[3]

Small, permanent settlements are located adjacent to the trail, and Wayllapampa has approximately 400 inhabitants (130 families) spread along this portion of the trail.[3] Pack animals—horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas—are allowed.

At Wayllapampa the trail to Machu Picchu turns west and begins ascending along a tributary of the Kusichaka. Because of previous damage caused by hooves, pack animals are not allowed on the remainder of the trail. For the same reason, metal-tipped trekking poles are not allowed on the trail.

Inca Trail cloud forest

As the trail ascends toward Warmi Wañusqa, or "Dead Woman's Pass", which resembles a supine woman, it passes through differing habitats, one of which is a cloud forest containing Polylepis trees. The campsite at Llulluch'apampa (Llulluchapampa) is located on this stretch of trail at 3,800 metres (12,500 ft). The pass itself is located at 4,215 m (13,829 ft) above sea level, and is the highest point on this, the "Classic" trail. After crossing the pass the trail drops steeply into the Pakaymayu drainage. At a distance of 2.1 km and 600 m below the pass is the campground Pakaymayu.

The tambo Runkuraqay

After passing Pakaymayu the trail begins steeply ascending the other side of the valley. One kilometre along the trail, at an altitude of 3,750 metres (12,300 ft) is the Incan tampu Runkuraqay, ruins which overlook the valley. The site was heavily restored in the late 1990s.[3] The trail continues to ascend, passing a small lake named Quchapata (Cochapata)[6] in an area that is recognized as deer habitat. This site had been used as a camp site. As with other sites that were being degraded due to overuse, camping is no longer allowed. The trail reaches the pass at an altitude of 3950 m.

The trail continues through high cloud forest, undulating, sometimes steeply while affording increasingly dramatic viewpoints of mountains and dropoffs. Next, the Sayaqmarka ("steep-place town") is reached followed by the tampu Qunchamarka. A long Inca tunnel and a viewpoint overlooking two valleys: the Urubamba and Aobamba (a broken word), are passed.[7][8]

Phuyupatamarka ruins

Another high point at altitude of 3650 m is crossed, followed by a campground, and then after a short descent, a site with extensive ruins. The name Phuyupatamarka ("cloud-level town") (phoo-yoo-patta-marka) is applied to both the campground, and the ruins.[3] [6][9]

Hiram Bingham III discovered the site, but left most of it covered with vegetation. The Fejos team named the site, and uncovered the remainder. Design of the site closely follows the natural contours, and includes five fountains and an altar, which was probably used for llama sacrifice.[10] The trail then descends approximately 1000 metres including an irregular staircase of approximately 1500 steps, some of which were carved into solid granite. Vegetation becomes more dense, lush, and "jungle" like with an accompanying increase in butterflies and birds. A second Incan tunnel is along this section of trail.[11]


Even before passing through the tunnel there are views down to the Willkanuta River, the first since leaving the river at Patallaqta. The number of these views increases. After the tunnel the town of Machupicchu (Aguas Calientes) can be seen, and trains running along the river can be heard. As the trail nears Intipata, it affords views of the "Two Day" Inca Trail (aka "Camino Real de los Inkas" or "One Day Inca Trail").[8] A small spur of the trail leads directly to Wiñay Wayna, while the main route continues to Intipata. Intipata (aka Yunkapata)[9] is a recently uncovered extensive set of agricultural terraces which follow the convex shape of the terrain. Potatoes, maize, fruit, and sweet potato were grown here.[11]

Wiñaywayna, showing upper and lower structures

The name Wiñay Wayna (forever young) (win-yay-way-na) is used to refer to both a hostel–restaurant–camp site and a set of Inca ruins. Two groups of major architectural structures, a lower and upper, are set among multiple agricultural terraces at this concave mountainside site. A long flight of fountains or ritual baths utilizing as many as 19 springs runs between the two groups of buildings.[11]

From Wiñay Wayna the trail undulates along below the crest of the east slope of the mountain named Machu Picchu. The steep stairs leading to Inti Punku ("sun gate") are reached after approximately 3 km. Reaching the crest of this ridge reveals the grandeur of the ruins of Machu Picchu, which lie below. A short downhill walk is the final section of the trail.[8][12]


  1. ^
  2. ^ South American Explorer, No. 7, December 1980
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Explore the Inca Trail, p. 50
  4. ^ Elorrieta Salazar, Fernando E. & Elorrieta Salazar, Edgar (2005) Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, page 123 ISBN 978-603-45-0911-5
  5. ^ Adams, Mark. (2001) Turn Right at Macho Picchu. New York, NY:Dutton. pp.233,268–271,300.
  6. ^ a b Cuzco Region Machu Picchu – Peru. ITMB Publishing International Travel Maps
  7. ^ Explore the Inca Trail, p. 46
  8. ^ a b c Explore the Inca Trail, p. 51
  9. ^ a b Camino Inka. Instituto Nactional de Cultura. Direccion Regional de Cultura Cuzco. Parque Arqueologic National de Machu Picchu. Ley No 28296
  10. ^ Explore the Inca Trail, p. 52
  11. ^ a b c Explore the Inca Trail, p. 53.
  12. ^ The Rough Guide to Peru. Dilwyn Jenkins. Contributor Dilwyn Jenkins. Rough Guides. 2003. page 169. ISBN 1-84353-074-0, ISBN 978-1-84353-074-9

See also


Further reading

  • Moseley, Michael 1992. The Incas and their Ancestors: The archaeology of Peru. Thames and Hudson, New York.
  • Hyslop, John, 1984. Inka Road System. Academic Press, New York.
  • Inca: Lords of Gold and Glory. Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1992.
  • Andean World: Indigenous History: Culture and Consciousness by Kenneth Adrien.
  • Footprints Cusco and The Inca Trail Handbook by Peter Frost and Ben Box
  • Jenkins, David "A Network Analysis of Inka Roads, Administrative Centers and Storage Facilities." Ethnohistory, 48:655–685 (Fall, 2001).

External links

  • Santuario Histórico de Machu Picchu, SERNANP (in Spanish)

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Fair are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.