If you do not have the time or youthfulness (we are both 65 and my husband has had a knee replacement), the short Inca trail can be a most rewarding way to travel to Machu Picchu. About 11 km, a 6-hour trek (including an hour for lunch), you should leave the train from Cusco at Km. 104. Climb up steep steps and paths around the hillsides. Then climb from a height of 2100 m. toward Winay Wayna at 2700 m. The views over the valley are magnificent and the flora include lovely orchids, tree ferns, bromeliads and other cloud forest plants that are a delight. Before arriving at Winay Wayna, you'll descend to cross a lovely waterfall then climb again and finally up 327 steep steps to Winay Wayna and the lunch rest point.
After lunch, join the final stage of the four-day trail toward Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) and arrive at Machu Picchu as the Incas would have done. Here you'll walk in the clouds, enjoy the cloud forest flora and birds, including humming birds.
At the Inti Punku, it is easy to first look down on solid cloud, but then wait for
clouds to lift and Machu Picchu to emerge in the evening light, 300 m. below. Then we suggest to walk down to the city and take a bus down to Aguas Callientes for the night.
Return to Machu Picchu early with your guide for sunrise and a tour, before the crowds arrived on the first train from Cusco. Enjoy Machu Picchu, but we recommend returning on the train that afternoon.
You must have a guide for this trek. Like the full Inca Trail, numbers are limited and pre-booking is a must. Your guide will arrange for the train to stop at Km 104 for the trekkers to alight. Our guide, Sylvia, came from the Colegio de Licenciados en Tourismo del Peru and she was first class.
We both felt that this trek enabled us to appreciate Machu Picchu much more than had we arrived by train and bus at the city; it was probably the highlight of our two-week visit to Peru.
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Peru
Price Description: $70 per person
Travel Skills: intermediate/somewhat difficult.
You Need to Bring: Lightweight waterproofs, a walking stick, sun cream, mosquito repellent - and a camera. You will need a back pack as you will have to carry your own things for a night at Aguas Callientes
US dollar, Peruvian nuevo sol