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3 Ways to Do a Machu Picchu Hike
August 9, 2019 | by Taylor Randolph
You have probably seen hundreds of pictures of Machu Picchu by now. And yet, you still won’t be ready for that moment when you climb over the hill and see Machu Picchu for the first time. The mountains rise majestically into the clouds and surround this ancient man-made masterpiece. There is nothing like it in the entire world. You can spend all day walking around the grounds and feel like you still didn’t get enough. You are probably wondering right now though, how do you get to Machu Picchu? Well luckily for you, there are several options you can consider depending on your skill level or desired level of difficulty.
#1 Inca Trail Hike
The Incans established many paths through the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu. However, the iconic "Inca Trail Hike” is a well-established 40 km (25 mile) hike that takes 4 days and 3 nights. This hike will take you high up the Andean mountains and into the Peruvian countryside. You will finish your hike at sunrise crossing over the Sun Gate and into Machu Picchu. There other Inca Trail Hikes that will only take you on part of the trail if you are interested in doing a shorter hike.
If you decide to do the Inca Trail Hike, then you should be aware that you need to plan in advance. There are only 500 people allowed per day on the trail and it is required to be with an approved tour company. So, you need to be sure to purchase a permit for the Inca Trail and book with a tour guide. There are many options for tour guides, but you can do your research and look around for one that looks right for your group.
We recommend Manu National Park Tours, who offer numerous different tours in Peru, from trips to the Manu Biosphere Reserve, plus Manu National Park Tours, Bird Watching, Inca Trail Tours, and all kind of walking tours to Machu Picchu.
#2 Hike from Hidroelectrica
There are many tour companies in Cusco that offer this route as a one- or two-day trip using private vans to take you to the town of Hidroelectrica. From there, you will hike about three hours to Aguas Calientes. You can choose to spend the night here if you would like a night to recharge. Then, it is an hour and a half hike up to Machu Picchu. The hike is beautiful and goes throughout the Peruvian countryside.
#3 Hike from Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is the little town at the base of Machu Picchu. The only way to get there is by train or walking from Hidroelectrica. The hike from here up to Machu Picchu is only 1.5 hours, but it is almost entirely stairs all the way up the mountain. Be sure you have acclimated to the elevation before attempting this or else you will get very dizzy about halfway up the mountain. Cusco is higher in elevation than Machu Picchu, so if you spend a few days there, you should be good to go.
The hike from Aguas Calientes is a great option for travelers who want to see other things in Peru and do not have the time to do a multi-day hike. You can easily take a bus up the mountain from Aguas Calientes, but the hike is really beautiful so I strongly recommend it. At the end of the day, we almost decided to take the bus to return to town, but the line was really long. Thankfully, going down is much easier and the hike down didn't take too long.
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