Machu Picchu has officially been declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Also known as the Lost City of the Incas, this historical site in Urubamba Valley, Peru draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Standing at 8,038 feet (2,450 meters) in the Andean Mountain Range, this Incan city was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham from Yale University.
Since then, Machu Picchu has become more and more popular. There are different ways to get to Machu Picchu: train, the traditional Inca Trail, or the alternative Inca Trail route.
The Peru Rail is the only train that takes visitors up to Macchu Picchu. Passengers are expected to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Although considered to be a bit pricey, the Peru Rail is a comfortable ride where passengers are seated until arrival and can enjoy the view up to the ruins. Snacks and drinks are provided at an additional fee.
The Inca Trail
One of the most adventurous ways to the ruins is hiking the Inca Trail itself where visitors trek from the Sacred Valley up to Machu Picchu – a 32 km (about 20 miles) route that takes about three to five days to complete.
If you plan to do the official Machu Picchu trail be sure to book in advance since there are only 500 permits issued to individuals each day – which breaks down to about 200 for tourists and 300 for porters. This regulation came when in 2003, the number of visitors continued to grow and reached 400,000 visitors for the year. Trying to preserve the trail from overuse, the Peruvian government required all visitors to have a permit and all tour operators to have a license (limited to 160 licenses currently). Additionally, travelers are no longer allowed to hike the trail independently. Each tour operator has a maximum allowable group size of 16 people, and there must be 2 guides for groups larger than 8.
Alternative Inca Trail Route
There are also alternative Inca Trail routes that are becoming quite popular – there are three main alternative treks:
- Short Inca Trail – This trail is considered an easier trek starting further along the Vilcanota River Valley at Kilometre 104. This hike can be completed in one day and ends at the Machu Picchu ruins.
- 7-day Salkantay to Machu Picchu Trek – This trail can be strenuous and takes visitors by the snow capped mountain, Apu Salkantay. On the fourth day, this trek joins the classic Inca Trail and ends at Machu Picchu.
- Machu Picchu via Aguas Calientes – This has been a popular alternative for those who did not book in advance as there is no permit required, however during peak time it can be difficult to obtain tickets for the train.
Rainy Season: September to April
Dry Season: May to August
Many travelers wonder when would be the best time to plan the hiking adventure. In the end, this just depends on what type of experience you are looking for. If you are looking for lush and green scenery, then you may want to consider going in May. This is just when the wet season has ended and the view of the ruins are breathtaking! The dry season begins in May and lasts until September – if you are planning to go during this period, you will be in good company as many visitors hike the trail during this season. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, the wet season from October through April is the best time to go.
During the hottest days you can expect temperatures as high as 79 Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) and during the coldest mornings – usually during June and July – it can be about 28 Farenheit (-2 Celsius).
Before embarking on this once in a lifetime trip, be sure that you take the proper precautions necessary. If you plan to do the trail, be prepared as the route can be quite strenuous. Because the altitude is quite high, many officials recommend spending at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimate yourself to the decreased oxygen levels.
It is not uncommon for visitors to have problems with the altitude levels and, even more commonly, diarrhea. About 30%-50% of tourist experience diarrhea in the span of a typical two week trip. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, drink bottled water and avoid uncooked food.
Whether you will be taking the train or planning to hike the Trail, be sure that you have Machu Picchu travel insurance in place. While traveling overseas, it is important to ask the following questions about your Machu Picchu travel insurance:
- Does your policy have an elevation cap that will prevent you from being covered during your hike?
- Will your travel insurance plan cover you in the event that you need treatment for a non-emergency?
- Does your plan include emergency medical evacuation in the event that you need medical attention elsewhere?
One popular option is the Machu Picchu travel insurance that is designed to cover you outside your home country, including in Peru. Not only does this health insurance cover you for emergencies and non-emergencies, but the plan will also cover you without any elevation caps. Additionally, Macchu Picchu travel insurance also offers 24 hour travel assistance that includes translation services as well.
If you have any questions about your Macchu Picchu travel insurance, contact one of our licensed insurance agents who will help you find a suitable international health plan for your upcoming trip.