Machu Picchu. It’s one of Peru’s most famous tourist attractions and is the one that attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors every year.

It is fairly compact and is possible for people who are on a day trip to see all the ruins of the Inca architecture that Machu Picchu has to offer, especially the Sun Temple, Royal Mausoleum, Sacred Plaza and the gorgeous and mysteriously carved Intihuatana stone.

But, if you can, and are willing to take out just a few extra days – and spend a bit more of your energy, you must make the multi-day hike along the Inca trail.

Legend has it that this trail was built as a holy pilgrimage for the Incas to prove their faith to their gods. But that it also served a politically wise purpose, helping ward off enemies by making the journey difficult for their enemies, giving the Incas a chance to react accordingly.

Spot some Llamas on the way. Photo Courtesy, author Sakshi Suryanarayan

The trek consists of three overlapping trails: The Mollepata, The Classic, and The ‘One Day’, the longest of the three being The Mollepata.

This Mollepata trail is in the Andes mountain range and goes through so many types of environments, one minute you’re in a cloud forest and the next, an alpine tundra.

Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins are located along the trail before ending at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain. Advance booking is mandatory, owing to the fact that only a maximum of 200 trekkers are allowed on the trail each day.

The Inca Trail

The Mollepata trail begins by taking one over the Peruvian plains. It begins easily enough but slowly the hills get steeper and you will begin to feel the air becoming thinner. All along the trail, you will have to climb many, very narrow steps, making this one of the hardest treks you will ever do.

But the trek will fill you with mixed emotions, on the one hand you will be passing through glorious sites, like the ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ and the ruins of Sayacmarca perched on a clifftop in the distance, making you feel like you’re on the verge of discovering something yourself, like Indiana Jones or Hiram Bingham III himself!

But then, on the other hand, with the nature of the trail, as you’re walking up those steps, as though you’re rock climbing really, you will also find yourself wondering whether it would’ve been better to just take the bus to the site of Machu Picchu like most of the other tourists.

Spot an eagle at ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’

The trail from Machu Picchu is marked very clearly and will take about an average of about 1.5 hours.

Usually, people start waking up very early to leave Wiñay Wayna by around 5 am, in the hopes that they’ll reach Machu Picchu before sunrise.

If the sky starts getting brighter around 6 am, you can be sure that the sun’s rays hit Machu Picchu at about 7 am.

The trail goes around the mountainside, suddenly drops into a cloud forest and goes back up to what can only be described as the most vertical flight of steps known to man, before getting to Intipunku (The Sun Gate).

Suddenly the whole of Machu Picchu is spread out before you in all its glory – a fantastic sight for all.

The Sun Gate, Machu Picchu

But, on the last day, when you reach the Sun Gate just after sunrise and look at a view stretched out before you, the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, with its views of the surrounding peaks and the valley leading down into Aguas Calientes, you will know that it was all worth it in the end.

Read more: You’ve heard of Machu Picchu, but have you heard about another mountain in Peru referred to as the Mountain of Death?

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