ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE
The Short Inca trail to Machu Picchu has a moderate difficulty level and we classify as difficulty in # 3 from #1 to #5. It demands a good physical condition since it starts early from Cusco and also you can start from Ollantaytambo, then a train trip to Kilometer 104 on the way Cusco – “Aguas Calientes” route.
The travelers will start the hike for approximately 5 to 6 hours on ascending Inca roads and then on Inca steps surrounded by abundant flora and fauna until reach the 400 steps that cross the archeologic site of Wiñayhuayna which demands good physical condition.
Then from there continue with the last part of the Classic Inca trail of 4 days for about 1 hour then will reach the sun gate (Intipunku) and finally the next day we visit Machu Picchu and finish with the guided tour in the citadel of Machu Picchu and enjoy the sunset in your Machu Picchu tour.
DIFFICULTY OF THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU
Andean Great Treks is rating our level of difficulty on a scale of 1 to 5 by placing Our tours in the box:
Difficulty level from: 1 to 2
It is that tour that does not require any preparation and does not demand physical activity, in general, the entire tour is done by transport and there are very few walks and any tourist could do the tour. We can suggest the following tours:
- City Tour in Cusco.
- Sacred Valley Tour
- Full day tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco
- Sacred Valley tour to Machu Picchu by train 2 days
Difficulty level: 3
They are those routes that demand a moderate degree of difficulty since they demand physical activity, they are usually 1 day of walking at heights that exceed 8000 feet above sea level, generally this level of difficulty is found on the 1-day Inca Trail, the 2 -Day Inca Trail, the hike to Huayna Picchu, the hike to the Machu Picchu mountain.
That is because they have many steps of different sizes that were built by the rugged geography, we also have some trekking destinations in the Peruvian Andes, so we suggest having a moderate preparation or an active life to have a great experience on your trip to your holidays.
We can suggest the following tours:
- One day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- 2 Day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu 2 Days
- Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and Huaynapicchu.
- Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain,
- Full day tour to the rainbow mountain
- Full day tour to Humantay lagoon
Difficulty level: 4 and 5
Those routes that demand a lot of physical activity and adequate preparation and require a very good physical condition. These routes are usually walks that go from 3 days to 7 days, where you walk every day between 6 and 7 hours where it is done for more than 1000 meters and also descends hundreds of meters down very steep steps.
It is suggested to have a preparation at least 2 months in advance with activities that help to strengthen the muscles of the legs with a good technique to hold your breath as these tours generally cover heights of more than 14,000 feet above the mountains in very rough terrain and very low. temperatures as well as very high temperatures. Generally, these tours are the 4-day Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Choquequirao Trek and others.
We can suggest the following tours:
- Classic Inca Trail 4 days to Machu Picchu
- Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu 4 days
- Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu 5 days
- Lares Trek to Machu Picchu 4 days
- Lares Trek to Machu Picchu 3 days
AGE RESTRICTIONS TO TAKE THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
In reality, there are no age restrictions to do this magnificent hike. But, according to the type of terrain that can be seen on the route, we can say that the best is from 15 years old to 55 years old. As long as you are in good physical condition.
On the other hand, if you travel with a minor, you may be forced to hire a personal porter. So you can walk along with him and help him carry the weight of his backpack. This additional service will have an additional cost, which you can consult with your travel agent. Remember to ask about this on the day of your briefing.
PHYSICAL PREPARATION FOR THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
This point is going to be an important factor that will help you decide if you are really ready to take the hike. Or if you need to do some previous training. To face normally the types of terrain that you will find on the way to Machupicchu.
Being able to take a few sessions of activities that work your legs, arms, heart, and back will be good. The wisest thing to do is to get into physical preparation an average of 2 or 3 months before your travel date. Performing exercises that improve our breathing is also essential. It will allow altitude sickness to not affect us so much on the trip.
HOW LONG BEFORE MY 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE SHOULD I BE IN CUSCO
It is advisable to arrive days before the starting day of the trek to be able to adapt in a better way to the climate of Cusco (3400 masl). You can start by arriving in the city of Lima, staying a day or a few more, depending on your availability.
Otherwise, arriving two or three days in the city of Cusco before your trip will be enough for you to acclimatize. And get to know some places in the surroundings of Cusco, in this way you will avoid altitude sickness.
HOW CAN I PREVENT THE ALTITUDE SICKNESS OR SOROCHE
Most likely, you may have altitude sickness upon arrival in Cusco. If you are not used to being in places that are located at more than 3000 meters above sea level. Most people have a headache, shortness of breath, nausea, among other symptoms of soroche.
This is certainly not something you shouldn’t worry too much about, as it is a common thing for travelers. And obviously it has a solution if you pay great attention to the recommendations to solve your ills.
Here we will mention some tips that will help you avoid altitude sickness:
- Drink considerable amounts of water.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages before or after your arrival. At least wait a couple of days to adapt.
- Do not eat red meat the first days
- Eat fruit or light soups
- Coca tea is good, but you should not drink it at night as it causes insomnia. And also not in many amounts during the day, because it accelerates the heart rate.
THERE ARE BATHROOMS ON THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
Yes, there are bathrooms during the 2 day Inca trail hike. But you should keep in mind that you will only find in the following points:
- At the entrance gate Km 104
- Wiñay Huayna
- At the entrance gate of Machu Picchu
However, in the first two mentioned places of the Inca trail Cusco. They have no entry cost, they are free. But, at the entrance gate of the citadel of Machu Picchu you will pay.
THERE IS DRINKING WATER ON THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
There is no drinking water on the first day of the 2 day Inca trail hike. On the other hand, some agencies provide bottled water. There are others that do not provide this extra. Therefore, it is recommended that each person bring their bottled water or a canteen with water.
But, on the second day of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, you can find stores where you can buy bottled water. And you can also get it at the hotel you stay.
HOW CHALLENGING IS THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
Remember that even though this tour is two days, you are only hiking for one day for six hours total, including some stops. The morning is mostly gradually uphill the entire time, so it will be tiring but well worth it when you get to Wiñay Wayna for lunch-time. Just remember its one foot in front of the other, look up at the spectacular views and enjoy it. After lunch, its an easy going hour to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). Then another easy hike to the bus that will tak you down to Aguas Calientes.
DO I NEED GOOD HIKING BOOTS
We always recommend light hiking boots, but if you prefer sneakers, especially for the one day hike, this is ok as well. Please make sure they have good soles.
IT IS SAFE TO DO THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE IN RAINY SEASON
It will depend a lot on the conditions that the Ministry of Culture sends us each month in the rainy seasons where the operations of the Inca trail of 2 days will be carried out, we refer to the months of (December and January). Since there are years in which greater rainfall occurs. In these events the access to the Inca trail of 2 days can be closed.
Another very important fact is if you would feel very comfortable doing the walks under a rainy storm, or you should also evaluate that in the guided circuit in the citadel of Machu Picchu, there will be days when you cannot see much, due to to the mists. For all this we recommend avoiding doing the Inca Trail in the rainy months (December, January and March), because you will not have a fabulous experience of the best attraction in Peru.
WHY TAKE THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE?
The 2 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is a great option for those who are short on time, money or don’t have the fitness/stamina levels to hike the full Inca Trail. You still get to enjoy all the best bits of the classic Inca Trail: catching your first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the sun gate, spectacular Andean scenery, Inca ruins and a feeling of accomplishment when you arrive at Machu Picchu for the first time. But you don’t have to hike for four days or spend the night camping.
WHAT DOES THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE INVOLVE?
The 2 day Inca Trail hike involves an early bus and train ride from Cusco, followed by a three-four hour uphill hike to the spectacular Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna. From there, you have a packed lunch before continuing for around two hours to reach the Intipunku (Sun Gate) where you get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. The trail then descends for about an hour and a half to reach the ruins. Rather than visiting Machu Picchu straight away, you take a bus to the nearby town of Aguas Calientes where you spend the night in a hotel, then return to the ruins the following morning for a guided tour. In the afternoon of the second day, take the train and coach back to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE?
It’s a lot of walking to cover in a day, and at high altitude, but it is achievable if you have a good level of fitness. There will always be slower and faster walkers in your group but your guide will adjust his or her walking pace to make sure that everyone in your group is happy. The toughest part of the day is the three-hour walk uphill at the start, climbing rapidly from the Urubamba River to the Wiñay Wayna ruins. The 2 day Inca Trail hike may not be suitable for those who suffer from vertigo.
WHAT IS INCLUDED ON THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE?
Entrance fees to the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary and the Short Inca Trail are included, as are the transfers. The transfer to the start point of the trail is by bus and train. The bus trip down from Machu Picchu to the train station and the journey back to Cusco in the Expeditioner train is included. In Cusco you will be transferred to your hotel. A packed lunch is provided for the hike. If you want other snacks during the trail, these can be bought in Cusco. Lunch on the second day is not included and you can buy this in a restaurant in Aguas Calientes.
WHEN IS THE BEST SEASON TO GO TO THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE?
From April to October, it is usually warm and humid during the day (around 20-25ºC) and night time temperatures are around 15ºC. The dry season lasts from March to November, when the weather is more changeable. During the wet season, from December to February, it can rain heavily, although it can also rain year round.
2 DAY INCA TRAIL VS CLASSIC INCA TRAIL: WHICH IS BEST?
If you like the idea of arriving at Machu Picchu on foot but do not want to walk for four days to get there, our Short Inca Trail is a great option for you. Alternatively, if you want the full experience of camping and hiking through jaw dropping scenery for four days, opt for the bucket list Classic Inca Trail.
Of course, there are other ways of getting to Machu Picchu too. Take the train through the Andes, with stunning views of the snowy peaks as you descend the beautiful Urubamba Valley, or upgrade to the luxurious Sacred Valley train, a charming period train with an observation car, outdoor deck area and elegant dining carriage where three-course meals are served. Less well-trodden than the Inca Trail, the five-day Salkantay Trail is a fantastic option for those seeking a more ‘off the beaten track’ experience, with mountain passes and high altitude jungles taking you to the backdoor of Machu Picchu
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE ON 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
The climate in Cusco is well known for its two seasons of climates during the 365 days of the year. Obviously within these two, you can appreciate the microclimates that exist in each place depending on the altitude where you are.
Also, in this understanding, the climate in Machu Pichu that will be witnessed during the journey, will be varied. Since we will go from 2200m.s.n.m. up to 2680m.s.n.m.
It includes from the month of November to April. It reaches temperatures on average, a maximum of 23 ° C and at least around 6 ° C. With average annual rainfall of 160mm. In these months, the skies are cloudy due to humidity, which reaches 91%. Also, the presence of the sun is unpredictable.
It includes from the month of May to October. Its minimum temperature is -1 ° C, reaching a maximum temperature of 22 ° C. There is an average annual rainfall of 60mm. In addition, the skies are clear and the percentage of humidity that reaches is 70%.
HOW IS THE WEATHER IN CUSCO
The high-mountain region of Cusco has well-defined winter and summer seasons. Winter days (June – August) are very sunny, dry, and warm, but the temperature drops to near freezing at night. Summer (January to March) is characterized by rain. December and January are two of the nicest months for trekking with only occasional rain shower while observing blooming flowers.
The heaviest rainfalls usually occur between January and March
October is still dry, but colder, with temperatures dropping to 0 degrees at night.
2 Day Inca Trail Hike Weather
The rainy season from November to April gives the feeling of a tropical downpour. Heavy rain, but rain showers usually do not last long or rain is often at night.
From May to September (which is the high tourist season), temperatures alongside the 2 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu range from 20 – 35º C during the day when is sunny to 10 – 20º C during the day if it is cloudy and 5 – 15º C at night (either spend in the Aguas Calientes Town or the Puente Ruinas campsite). At Wiñaywayna and Machu Picchu, where altitudes are lower, temperatures are usually warmer (warm clothes are still recommended at night, anyway).
February – the 2 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is closed due to maintenance all the month which falls into the so-called “low season”. At that time, you can still enjoy hiking to Machu Picchu though. For instance, you might do the Salkantay Trek, Short Salkantay trek, or the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu without struggling with crowds of hikers.
Landslides are an occasional problem. Although this was rare, it happened that visitors got stuck on Machu Picchu or between Aguas Calientes and Cusco, because a driver blocked the road. However, the mud was quickly removed and travel continues without further problems.
FLORA AND FAUNA IN THE INCA TRAIL HIKE
The Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu presents a great biological diversity that can be found along the 2 day Inca Trail hike. In the Inca Trail Hike, you will go through different forests such as tropical rainforest, pluvial tundra, montane forest, subtropical rainforest, very humid forest, tropical páramo.
Regarding the flora, you can find more than 300 different species along the inca trail to machu picchu. For instance, there are more than 300 species. Wildlife in the sanctuary is as wide as the flora since there are more than 400 different species living in distinct altitudes.
THE WILDLIFE ON THE MACHU PICCHU HIKE
The extraordinary ruins of Machu Picchu, at an elevation above 2400 m, were among the most amazing creations of the Inca Empire at its height: its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem to have been cut out of continuous rock escarpments. This remote site lies on the eastern slope of the Andes on the upper reaches of the Amazon basin in a region exhibiting a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
There is an abundance of diverse and unique Inca Trail Wildlife in the Andean Mountains of Peru. More importantly the final destination of the Inca Trail tour brings you to Machu Picchu, which happens to be one of the most protected and preserved sanctuaries in all of Peru. The Inca Trail covers many different climates and topographies which in turn yields a variety of different ecosystems for wildlife to thrive in. This 26 mile stretch of the Classic 4 Days Inca Trail has more than 370 different bird species many in which can´t be found anywhere else on the planet. There is also about 50 different mammal species found here along with over 700 known different butterfly species. Chances are you will have a chance to glimpse some unique and beautiful wildlife while trekking on your 2 day Inca Trail tour.
A few of the most commonly observed bird species in these parts consist of the White-tipped Swift, the Versicoloured Barbet, and the amazing Collared Trogan. There is a section of the Classic Inca Trail as well that is known specifically as the “Zona de Osos,” or the Bear Zone. Along this section of the Inca Trail tour, although very rare, you may have the chance to observe the elusive and very peaceful Spectacled Bear. These bears are the last known species of short faced bears known to exist in the world today and are the only native species of bears known to exist in South America. Seeing one of these on the 2 day inca trail hike would be an amazingly rare gift.
Upon your arrival to the sacred Inca site of Machu Picchu you will notice a funny looking mammal wandering around the Inca site. These furry and long necked curious creatures are the famous Andean Llamas.
While hiking along your 2 day inca trail hike, make it a habit to look upwards towards the sky. Known as a symbol of good luck amongst trekkers, if you are lucky you will observe the largest known bird species on the planet, the Andean Condor. This bird has a wingspan of ten feet ten inches and can weigh anywhere from 17-33lbs. The Condor is an important symbol in the Inca ideology, representing the heavens. Since it is only found soaring over the highest peaks of the largest mountains, it was known to the Inca as the messenger of the gods. The Andean Condor nests at a breathtaking elevation of over 16,000 feet usually and only lays up to two eggs at a time. Along with being the largest bird species in the world, it also holds the record of having one of the longest life spans. The Condor will often time live up to 70 years or more. The majestic Condor is the national symbol of many South America countries including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile.
The 2 day inca trail hike to Machu Picchu offers many unique chances to not only learn and explore human history and culture, but to observe some of the most beautiful wildlife on Earth. While trekking have your camera ready and make sure to be very aware of your surroundings. You never know what may be observing you!
INCA TRAIL: A BIRDWATCHER’S PARADISE
The Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary contains an impressive diversity of avifauna for such a compact area. This is due to the rapid succession of climatic zones in the Sanctuary. In Machu Picchu we find altitudes ranging from above 6,000 meters to 1,725 meters, from high puna grassland to humid subtropical cloud forest. Many bird species in the Andes have relatively small altitudinal ranges, and each habitat has species found in no other zone. Coupled with the microclimate created by the Urubamba Gorge, this creates great diversity—and a paradise for the birdwatcher.
As of 1995 approximately 375 species of birds are known in the sanctuary, of which around 200 can be readily observed while walking the Inca Trail. Without doubt further observations in remoter corners will add yet more species to this impressive list.
While doing the 2 day inca trail hike, stay alert for sightings whenever crossing subtropical woods, for there is where birds mainly fly, hunt, build their nests, flock and so on. Those woods house a wide variety of species, surely a great adventure for everybody with a penchant for natural exploration!
Also, birds can be found along the paths, unexpectedly. One insider advice is trying to walk not so fast, in silence and paying attention, thus not scaring them, they of course will take off as their instincts signal possible danger of being hunt and eaten. Biological evolution of course always goes on the direction of preserving life and multiplying it.
Bird-watching can be so wonderful indeed! Spotting one standing on a branch, seeing its colors, shape, size, listening to its tweets, understanding its behavior, taking pictures and so on can be such an added reward for an already great experience the 2 day inca trail hike.
Along this top tour, ornithology lovers can find several kinds of parrots, doves, hawks, motmots, hummingbirds, the national bird of Peru called the rock rooster (of an intense red and black plumage) and more. The 2 day inca trail hike offers you this wonderful experience.
Many species of Finches flit amidst the bushes and cacti, and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets wheel noisily overhead, easily visible with their bright green plumes, until they alight on a tree and seem to disappear, perfectly camouflaged in the foliage. Brightly-colored Hummingbirds compete for nectar where cacti and shrubs are flowering—Sparkling Violetears, Green-tailed Trainbearers, .Bearded Mountaineers and the world’s largest Hummingbird, the Giant Hummingbird. Be sure to get out early to see the birds, because there are few to see by 11:00 a.m., except for a brief preroosting flurry before dark.
Moving to higher altitudes we reach the bleak grasslands known as the puna. At dawn it is cold and as the sun rises it is easy to see many birds feeding as the temperature rises. Terrestrial Flycatchers known as Ground-tyrants fly from rock to rock in search of flying insects, and flocks of brightly-colored Yellow-finches spring out of the ichu grass as the shadow of a Mountain Caracara passes.
A short walk here will produce encounters with strangely named birds such as Cinclodes, Puna Ibis, Sierra-finches and Canasteros. Due to the abundance of diurnal rodents at this altitude (it is too cold for them to be nocturnal) there are many birds of prey, including the Puna Hawk, Cinereous Harrier, and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. Master of his environment, the Andean Condor soars majestically on wind currents, often traversing many miles without a single flap of his wings. Despite its grandeur the Condor is strictly a carrion eater; it is incapable of grasping prey with its chicken-like feet.
On sheltered slopes, usually above 3,800 meters, grows polylepis woodland. This habitat is extremely endangered due to cutting for firewood, yet contains some of the world’s rarest birds. These forests are usually isolated from other forest types and surrounded by puna grassland. Birds in this habitat include the White-browed Tit-spinetail, Tawny Tit-spinetail, Royal Cinclodes, Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant, Giant Conebill and an assortment of high-altitude Hummingbirds. Line-cheeked spinetails probe the mossy trunks and d’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrants flit from tree to tree. Polylepis forest is hard to get to, but rewarding once reached.
But it is in the cloud forest that the birdlife reaches its greatest diversity. This is the forest found in the lower Urubamba Gorge (where not deforested) and the final two days of the Inca Trail. Here birds can be seen in mixed feeding flocks, as many as thirty species together. A morning of birdwatching in the misty cloud forest may produce many of the following: Cock- of-the-Rock, Brown Tinamou, White-rumped Hawk, Andean Guan, White-throated Quail- Dove, Andean Parakeet, Scaly-naped Parrot, Collared Inca, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Great Sapphirewing, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Tyrian Metal-tail, Rufous-capped Thombill, Golden-headed Quetzal, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Ocellated Piculet, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Azara’s Spinetail, Marcapata Spinetail, Scribble-tailed Canastero, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Buff-throated Treehunter, Variable Antshrike, Undulated Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Unicolored Tapaculo, Green and Black Fruiteater, Barred Fruiteater, Red-crested Cotinga, tyrannulets too numerous to list, flycatchers, tanagers, Green Jay, Mountain Wren, Inca Wren, Blue and White Swallow, Great Thrush, Andean Solitaire, Brown-capped Vireo, Dusky-green Oropendola, Mountain Cacique, Spectacled Redstart, and Slate-throated Redstart.
HOW TO OBSERVE BIRDS ON THE INCA TRAIL?
During the tour of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu we will see different types of roads (cobbled roads and dirt trails). Likewise, they cross the scattered forests of native trees, streams and mountain passes. For this reason, we must be very careful with our movement. Since, a misstep can mean a fall between low, intermediate and high risk.
Therefore, when moving, if we get to see a bird, we must first stop. After that, take our binoculars and quickly observe it, trying to remember the most striking characteristics of the bird. Finally, once that information is collected, we continue with our journey.
WHAT TO AVOID WHEN WATCHING BIRDS ON THE INCA TRAIL?
One of the biggest reasons why travelers on the Inca trail often have accidents. It is because they try to take pictures while walking. For this reason, they suffer injuries and falls, although it is not constant, some bird watchers tend to do the same. Therefore, we remind you to stop every time you want to birdwatch. First, stay in safe areas without blocking the passage of other travelers and above all avoid being distracted.
WHAT BINOCULARS CAN WE BRING FOR BIRD OBSERVATION ON THE INCA TRAIL?
Binoculars are highly recommended equipment for bird watching on the Inca trail. However, if we do not have some, we can only use our eyes to help us. Also, to recognize the birds of the Inca trail. Maybe not with the same detail as if we used a pair of binoculars but it can be functional. Also, the recommended measure in case they have binoculars or can buy one is 10 * 42 or the closest to this measure. Since, his visual field and sight approach are ideal.
WHAT CLOTHES CAN WE BRING TO WATCH BIRDS ON THE INCA TRAIL?
For our cloting (clothes). We must consider that most of them are subdued or muted colors. Because, using intense and / or flashy colors scare away birds such as: red, yellow, phosphorescent green.
THERE ARE ORCHIDS ON THE INCA TRAIL ROUTE?
If you are going on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you may be surprised to stumble upon so many varieties of orchids along the inca trail trek!
There are a great diversity of orchids species in Perú, some restricted to their natural regions. They are epiphytic or terrestrial. They grow between 100 and 4,600 meters above sea level. Many of orchids species of Perú are in danger of extinction due to illegal trade and deforestation of their habitat.
There are literally thousands of orchid species in Peru, many of which are located in the low cloud forest eco-regions around Machu Picchu and along the famed Inca Trail Hike. It is estimated that as many as 50% of Peru’s more than 3,000 orchid species remain unidentified by science.
The diversity of microclimates in Peru allows a great variety of orchids. They have been appreciated since pre-Columbian times by the native cultures of Peru.
The Orchidaceae family is one of the largest among the superior plants and its distribution is worldwide; the described species are estimated at 25,000, distributed in 750 genera.
Their growth habits are very varied and can be separated into two large groups: epiphytes and terrestrial (within this group are lithophytes), including even an underground species (Rhizanthella gardneri), which grows in Australia. In the tropics most of the orchids are epiphytes and very showy flowers, while those of temperate zones are terrestrial and of little attractive flowers.
The orchid flowers are generally hermaphrodite and bilaterally symmetrical. In the vast majority of the flowers are made up of three external elements called sepals, two lateral and one dorsal, and three internal elements called petals, the lower one modified on a lip or lip, larger and more intense in color than the remaining.
The lip is often trilobed with fleshy ridges or a basal spur, and often with a completely different color pattern than the other two petals.
Orchids are a well-distributed and extremely varied plant family, often with fragrant, colorful and bizarrely shaped blooms. The Orchid family is one of the largest families of flowering plants, containing around 600 genera, and comprising approximately 10% of all seed plants. All orchids are myco-heterotrophic, meaning they form a relationship with fungi in the soil in order to get their nutrients. Because of their vibrantly colorful, often strange and perfumed blooms, orchids seem to possess a certain mystique that has captured the imaginations of humans from time immemorial. In fact, dedicated orchid horticulturists and enthusiasts have been known to compete, fight over and even commit crimes in the service of their obsession.
Its flowers have great diversity in color, shape, size and smell, with the sole purpose of attracting pollinators, most of which are insects, which in many cases are specific to certain species. The flower has evolved to such a degree that some take the shape and smell of the female of the pollinating insect, in order to “attract” the male of the same species. Another developed strategy is to take on the appearance of a male insect, which, when “detected” by another male of the same species within its territory, is attacked and fertilization of the flower is achieved.
The seeds are very small and are produced by thousands and even millions for each fruit. This high production compensates the difficulties for germination, such as the lack of reserve substances in the seeds, its low viability and the need for germination of a type of fungus that provides nutrients until the plant is autonomous.
97% of the orchid species need a pollinator to carry out the transfer of the pollen grains from one plant to the pistils of another, in order to produce fertilization and seed formation. The pollen of orchids is grouped into compact masses called polynyas, in such a way that by itself, or by the action of the wind, the pollen cannot get from one flower to another, so pollinators are essential to ensure their reproduction.
These pollinators are very varied and, depending on the species, they can be flies, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles and birds, especially hummingbirds, which are in charge of collaborating with the reproduction of this beautiful flower.
Orchids are normally pollinated by bees, birds, wasps, moths, beetles, flies, etc. When the orchid opens, it emits aromatic essences, inviting and seducing some pollinators to land on the flower. In Machu Picchu there is a fascinating pollination, as it is a refuge for exotic birds, and more than 300 species of Butterflies, which makes pollination an incredible multi-colored spectacle, in one of the most impressive ecosystems on the planet, made up of covered mountains of abundant vegetation that in turn is home to numerous species of birds and mammals in danger of extinction, such as the spectacled bear and the sachacabra or pudú, the smallest deer in the world.
It takes three to seven months to mature, after this time it opens. Depending on the orchids species of Perú, each fruit can release up to four million seeds that, when released and dragged by air currents or transported by pollinators, manage to germinate if they reach a trunk or branch, giving way to symbiosis with the fungus of the germination, the first leaves appearing. After 5 or 6 years the orchid will reach its adult state, stage from which beautiful flowers will sprout for several years.
Another peculiarity of orchids is found in the roots, which are completely covered by a fluffy, creamy white tissue, called a canopy, which allows it a high uptake and moisture retention.
Orchids are mistakenly thought to be parasitic because they grow on other plants. In reality, the only thing they seek is to reach a maximum of light by locating themselves in the upper parts of the trees; In addition, the orchid feeds on the humus produced by the decomposition of the leaves of the trees and on the nutrients it can collect from the rainwater, never from its host.
WHERE SHOULD I LOOK FOR ORCHIDS?
The regions where orchids species of Perú can be found are those that have the cloud forest ecosystem, such as San Martín, Amazonas, Piura, Huánuco, Junín, Pasco and Cusco, according to Bravo Urtecho. “Where we find orchids most frequently are regions of the central jungle due to the cloud forest ecosystem.
Contrary to popular belief, orchids are not found in the predominantly hot places. Epiphytes and lithophytes grow on trees and stones, including many of the most spectacular species, which tend to concentrate where there is constant and strong rainfall and humidity during the growing season, allowing the forest to allow light to pass through. Diversity tends to peak almost everywhere at around 1500 meters in the tropical and sub-tropical world. Typically, the environment these species need is normally rocky and mountainous, and this is exactly the case in Peru.
The main center for orchids species of Perú is the mountain cloud forest, the point where the Andes end and the jungle begins. These areas of Peru can receive more than 5 meters of rain per year. In these areas diverse valleys unite, some more humid and others drier, as well as the climate itself, where the changes move from North to South. As a result, plants vary greatly, with altitude and valley.
Peru probably has the greatest diversity of orchids worldwide, because we have a wide range of microclimates, which circumscribe species in highly restricted areas with very specific climatic characteristics, making it difficult for many species to grow outside their environment. natural.
Currently in Peru, the Orchidaceae family is highly threatened and with many species in danger of extinction, mainly due to two factors:
Selective depreciation of species, carried out for export purposes by commercial collectors
The massive destruction of habitats due to logging and migratory agriculture, which deforest about 300,000 hectares per year, thus exterminating not only orchids, but also the native flora and fauna of the place.
BEST TIME TO SEE ORCHIDS ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU
Obviously, the rainy season (November to March) is the best time to see orchids in Cusco Perú, especially in the cloud forest; which is an area outside the Inca Trail tour between 1,800 masl and 3,000 masl.
There are 425 varieties of orchids in Machu Picchu Cusco, including several new species for science.
There are more than 400 species of orchids in Machu Picchu Cusco, some of them originating from this natural area protected by the State and several are new to science.
The prestigious international magazine “Icones Orchidacearum” published in 2015 an article about the discovery of three new species unknown to science: “Epidendrum ochoar”, “Epidendrum inca huamani” and “Epidendrum mormontoy”.
Treks to see orchids in Perú:
- 4 day Inca Trail Tour
- 2 day Inca Trail
- Machu Picchu 3 day hike
- 2 day Inca Trail with camping
- One day Inca Trail
- Lares Trek to Machu Picchu
- Choquequirao Trek 5 Days.
- Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek
- Choquequirao Trek 4 Days
ORCHID SPECIES THAT CAN BE FOUND ALONG THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU
Wiñay Wayna Orchid: (Epidendrum Secundum) found at Machu Picchu and along the Inca Trail, this is an orchid with multiple white to fuchsia blooms. Each flower is around an inch in width. Wiñay Wayna means “Forever Young”; Wiñay Wayna Pass on the Inca Trail takes its name from this flower. The orchid is pollinated by both butterflies and birds. Flower essences made from this orchid are said to preserve youth and vitality.
Paradise Orchid: (Sobralia Dichotoma) is one of the most common orchids in the region on the inca trail to Machu Picchu. This orchid has 5-8 flowers per stem, and is deep pink and white in color. It’s an ephemeral orchid, lasting for only a few days and blooming between February and April. Its essence is said to have a calming and grounding effect.
Waqanki Orchid (Masdevallia Veitchiana) This orchid’s common name in Quechua, Waqanki, means “ You will Cry.” This is a single-flower orchid that grows in crevices on rocks. It has orange sepals with purple spots on the sides. A Quechua legend recounts that an Inca princess’ forbidden love for a common soldier led to the creation of this orchid.
With beautiful petals in litmus; The great variability in the color and shape of its flowers means that no camera can capture it in all its splendor, being highly appreciated by growers around the world, which has earned it many international awards. Finding a beauty like this in its natural environment is part of the experience offered by the sanctuary of Machu Picchu and Inca Trail hike. It develops between 2,100 and 3,310 meters of altitude, of terrestrial habit and rarely epiphyte. It is used a lot for the creation of hybrid species. It can measure up to 20 cm long by 6 cm wide. The Waqanki orchid is considered a national treasure of Peru.
Cryptocentrum Inaequisepalum C. Schweinf.
This tiny species measures just 8 mm, its strange shape provides its name, which derives from the Greek meaning pointed tongue, it extends from Mexico to Brazil and Bolivia, it develops in rainforests and humid forests with temperatures from warm to cold, from sea level up to 2,600 meters of altitude.
Kefersteinia Koechlinorum Christenson.
It is an epiphytic, medium, uniflora plant, like the tulip or magnolia, with 2.8 x 2.8 cm flowers. It can be perceived by its aroma similar to coriander. Its flowering lasts for 15 days. Discovered by the late gardener Moisés Quispe, (dragged by a huayco years ago) and can be found from sea level.
Odontoglossum Praestans Christenson.
Epiphytic orchid that spreads through countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, Peru (Cusco and Cajamarca) and Bolivia, we can find it between 1,700 and 2,100 meters of altitude. So simply beautiful that it inspires peace. It is found in the humid subtropical jungle and the humid sub-tropical jungle of the sanctuary. It can be found in bouquets of up to a dozen, with a scent between jasmine and roses.
Maxillaria Alpestris Lindl.
This little girl is found growing as an epiphyte and lithophyte, in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru (Amazonas, Cajamarca, Pasco, Cusco, Puno) and Bolivia. In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu it is found from 2,060 to 4,150 meters of altitude, it develops in humid mountainous forests, growing in the form of a vine.
Endemic to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, it blooms between August and October, it is found from 1,500 to 3,600 meters of altitude, especially in cloud forests with cold climates, it presents long-stemmed bouquets of few flowers, of 5 cm. long by 4 cm. Wide.
Chondrorhyncha Aurantiaca Senghas
Epiphytic plant from warm to cold areas, which extends from 500 to 2,400 meters of altitude, it is found in Peru and Bolivia, easy to find in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. It develops in the humid subtropical forest and the humid sub-tropical premountain forest, it presents a single flower of about 10 cm. long, sprouting from the base of the plant simultaneously.
Variable in size with two to four lanceolate leaves. Formosa plant (presents spheroidal bulge), its flower varies from 4 to 5 cm. long, it has stems with about a dozen purple-pink to fuchsia flowers. The highest flowering is from January to February.
Epiphyte. Pseudobulbs: It has impressive bright yellow flowers with red-brown spots, they are 2 to 5 cm in size. long. Lip prominent, discoidal, unifoliate. Its flowering time goes from February to May.
Terrestrial and Epiphyte, with leathery leaves. Petals brownish-purple, large, some of them reach 20 to 80 cm. long. Two blooms a year have been reported, May, June and February. This is the largest orchid flower that exists.
Terrestrial, it has creamy red-brown speckled flowers with elongated pseudobulbs, two to three leaves; It has a size of 2 to 3 cm. long. The largest flowering is from November to April.
Epiphyte and terrestrial, quite smooth leathery leaves. With 1.5 cm long flowers, and creamy green to yellow on sepals and petals. Flowers from October to December.
Ida Macrophylla ( Lycaste macrophylla)
Terrestrial and Epiphyte. Presents cavities, which give the sensation of grooves. Generally 2 to 3 leaves; flowers 6 to 9 cm. wide, dark brown sepals, petals and creamy white lip, its flowers are long lasting. Flowers from November to January.
Terrestrial, it has dark green pseudobulbs, ovoid, with two to three leaves. With a flower that measures 7 cm. long, white with purple-pink spots on the lip, sepals and petals. Flowers from October to November.
Clearly epiphytic. Short stem and oval leaves. It has a flower 4 cm long. Yellow-green sepals and yellow petals, with purple veins. Column with purple brown mushrooms. Flowers from April to June.
Epiphyte or lithophyte. Sepals light purple to pale pink with purple spots. Large leathery leaves, up to 12 cm. long, white petals, with a flower that measures approximately 7 cm. long. New species for science. Flowers from December to January.
Epiphyte. Inflorescence flattened, in racemes, acuminate linear leaves. It has a flower up to 2 cm long. Sepals and yellow petals. Yellow lip with purple veins. Its flowering stage goes from January to February.
Epiphyte with cylindrical pseudobulbs, unifoliate leathery. With flowers up to 2 cm, with purple-pink to fuchsia sepals, petals and lip (with a noticeable spur). Flowers from December to March.
Epiphyte. Leaves with prominent petiole, uniflora. With flowers of 6 to 7 cm. long; Whitish sepals with red-purple dots and veins. This species is new to science. It has beautiful white petals.
Also called “flower of a day” for its short duration and delicacy; It generally grows in the open or under very little shade, in rich, loose soil, somewhat damp. Restricted habitat. 8 cm.
EPIDENDRUM FRIDERICI GUILIELMI
It grows in open places in rocky and mossy soil, with a somewhat restricted habitat, the flower is about 2 cm. Paqaymayu 2,300 masl.
It grows in sunny open places or under little shade; in moist and rich soil, forming considerable colonies; wide habitat; the plant exceeds one meter in height; the floral ear measures 10 cm. Wiñaywayna 2,500 masl.
It grows under the shade of sparse forest; on slightly mossy branches. Gives off an unpleasant odor; it is not very common in the Sanctuary. Restricted habitat. 2 cm. Patallacta 2,800 masl.
BUTTERFLIES ON THE INCA TRAIL
In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, more than 700 species of butterflies have been registered (300 diurnal and 400 nocturnal). Many of these species are endemic and others migratory. Along the Inca Trail they can be seen through their fragile flights. These are very colorful: there are blue, yellow, white, red and even transparent wings.
The mysterious world of butterflies was present in the time of the Incas. These magical insects were present in his ideology since they were related to the “Hanan Pacha”, that is to say, the world above where the tutelary gods lived (the sun, the moon, the stars). Butterflies were related to the soul and longevity. A sample of this are some ceremonial plates, found in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.
The butterflies of Machu Picchu date back more than 100 million years, and have adapted to the environment to survive. These butterflies are very important in Machu Picchu and along the Inca Trail as they help pollination of flowers.
Butterflies are both diurnal and nocturnal insects, they have extremely colorful wings. Their antennas allow them to pick up smells, sounds, and vibrations. Their eyes are made up of ommatidia that allow them to see at great distances. So they capture many colors. His eyes are green, blue and white.
Their long legs have joints through whose plants they capture different flavors. They are fed by their tongue, which has two tubes that function as taste sensors. These tubes wrap them around their head when they are not used.
At Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, butterflies have many predators, of which the most dangerous are birds. However, butterflies have been able to develop a defense mechanism, through their flight, that they do so quickly that they disorient the birds, at the same time that they secrete liquid substances with an unpleasant odor.
SPECTACLED BEAR ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU
The spectacled bear is also called Andean bear because it inhabits the eastern region of the Andes Mountains in South America. In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (an area protected by the Peruvian State) there is a population of approximately 70 bears. These are not easily seen, although sometimes they even roam the Inca city of Machu Picchu. The best occasion to visit their habitat is by doing the 4-day Inca Trail.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu takes 4 days in which visitors walk 39 kilometers. In the last two days of the hike you can see humid tropical landscapes where the spectacled bear lives. This peculiar animal is not aggressive. Likewise, if you spot one, it is recommended to keep a safe distance. In 2021 two spectacled bears walked through the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. In the town of Aguas Calientes there is a conservation center where you can observe these animals.
THE SPECTACLED BEAR
The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is one of the eight species of bear in the world (the others are the giant panda, the Malayan, the black from Asia, the bezudo, the polar, the brown and the black from America).
It is known as ‘ukuko’ by the inhabitants of Cusco. It lives in a tropical Andean geography, between 500 meters to 4,500 meters of altitude. This animal prefers to live in the humid forests of the high jungle where there is a lot of rainfall (and fruits with which to feed).
In Peru there is a population of approximately 18 thousand spectacled bears. It is considered to be an animal in a ‘vulnerable situation’. In 1,800 square kilometers of land area, only 5,000 bears have been registered. Yet Peru has the largest spectacled bear population in South America.
The spectacled bear can measure between 1.30 and 1.90 meters tall (standing on its two legs). It has a large head disproportionate to its body. Its tail is small (it measures approximately 8 centimeters). Males are larger than females. They can weigh from 80 to 125 kilos.
It is considered a plantigrade because it supports the soles of its legs on the ground. It has five fingers, with very sharp claws, which allow it to climb trees with ease. It has a short brown muzzle.
The Machu Picchu Spectacled Bear has long, thick black fur. He has a few yellowish, circle-shaped spots on his face near his eyes. Because of this it has been given the popular name of the spectacled bear.
- Habitat: High humid forests on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains.
- Distribution: Andes Mountains of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia.
- Males: They reach 100 to 200 kilos in weight. Black fur with white spots on the eyes, face, neck and chest (varies according to each individual).
- Female: They only reach between 30 and 85 kilos in weight. They usually give birth to two cubs.
- Feeding: Omnivores (especially wild fruits).
- Behaviour: It has solitary and diurnal habits.
- Danger: Vulnerable.
FOOD AND CUSTOMS
He is a vegetarian bear (only 5% of his diet is of animal origin). It feeds preferably on fruits, roots, cuts, leaves and fungi, insects, honey, eggs, rodents, among others.
It has solitary habits. They walk through wooded areas, climb trees, and mark their territory with scratches and scent. Trees are very important to them. It is there where they find their food and specific places to rest.
The female usually gives birth to two cubs. It is considered as a seed disperser and pollinator. He is a sullen bear. Scared easily. The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is one of the places where ‘ukuku’ can roam freely, although the possibility of being hunted illegally is not ruled out.
Although it is not frequent, on the route of the Inca Trail spectacled bears can be seen. If you see one of these animals, keep your distance with your group. Remember that bears are only looking for food. Don’t scare them away because they can act in self-defense. Follow the directions of the guide who will accompany you.
During the third and last day of the Inca Trail there are more possibilities to know the habitat of the spectacled bear. With a bit of luck, you can even see it walking through the trees of the place. Remember that these animals are protected by the Peruvian State. Therefore, their hunting is a crime.
Threats to the Spectacled Bear in Machu Picchu
In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu there is probably a population of 70 bears.
One threat is deforestation caused by forest fires and forest clearing. Another problem is poaching. The spectacled bear is considered a threat to livestock. They are hunted and taken into captivity as a circus attraction where they are mistreated.
How to protect it?
In 2009, amid the Inca walls of Machu Picchu, a spectacled bear and its calf could be seen. This came as a surprise to the visitors. Since the 1980s, up to four entries of these bears have been recorded in the park. Spectacled bears prefer to do it very early in the morning or after five in the afternoon.
During the Inca Trail it is advisable not to leave food on the route. This helps not alter your diet and eating routine. If you want to see spectacled bears up close in the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), there is a “Spectacled Bear Conservation Project” at the Inkaterra hotel.
This private conservation project together with the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) rescued three bears: one that lived in a Cusco zoo for almost 21 years. The other was saved from a forest fire. The third was brought by a farmer who kept it as a pet.
Currently there are five rescued bears that are in custody and in the process of re-insertion to their natural habitat. The project accepts voluntary donations for the protection of the Spectacled Bear.
The spectacled bear, Ukuku or Ukumari, is present in oral traditions that tell that there was once a hairy young man who was the son of a bear’s love affair with a beautiful peasant woman.
The hairy young man is the Ukuku (a typical Cusco dancer who is especially related to the Qoyllur Riti festival). This festival takes place in the snowy Ausangate, near the city of Cusco. Today this religious festival is the largest pilgrimage in the Andes Mountains (it brings together more than 10 thousand people).
The Ukuku wears a suit made of black wool, a white balaclava and emits sounds similar to that of an animal because it is a mythical character. This dancer is also present in other traditional festivities of Cusco.
DISCOVER THE BEAUTIFUL BIRDS OF THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
The birds of the 2 day inca trail hike km 104 are very picturesque and showy birds. Since, we can find many species of low jungle and high jungle of Peru. For this reason, they are mostly birds of beautiful colors and shapes.
After having enjoyed a relaxing train journey. We arrive at kilometer 104 of the Cusco – Machu Picchu railway. After disembarking from the train we start the walk towards the Inca citadel of Machupicchu through the “Cloud Forest” of the Inca trail. However, let us remember that this area has a considerable concentration of clouds and fogs. As a consequence, we will find ecosystems with a lot of epiphytism and climbing.
Along these 11 km of route on the short Inca trail to machu picchu we will find a large number of species. However, now we will mention the birds of the Inca trail km 104 that can be observed more frequently and we will include some iconic species.
We will find it at the beginning of our trek of the Inca trail km 82 when crossing the Urubamba river in the mighty areas. Probably alone or in pairs swimming against the current or standing on the rocks. Meanwhile, the male has a black and white striped plumage for the lower part of its body. Also ribbed in brown with black for the top. On the other hand, the female is dark scarlet in the lower part and striated in the upper part. In fact, it is easy to recognize since it is the only duck that we will find in this sector of the Urubamba River.
Also, known as Cushuri, it can be seen quite frequently in the Urubamba River. Above all, in the lower current areas of the Inca trail, swimming or perching on the rocks. In addition, its plumage is black with a slender silhouette that is easy to recognize. On the other hand, there is no difference between the plumage of the male and the female (chromatic dimorphism). Rather, the juvenile is dull brown in color and is the only freshwater cormorant on the Inca trail.
FASCIATED TIGUER HERON
It is located on the banks of the river or on the rocks. In addition, it is unmistakable for the design of its plumage. Since, it is brindle with a white line that goes from the chin to the chest in the central part in adults. Meanwhile, juveniles are brindle brown. It is one of the few herons that climbs to these heights and is almost always seen alone.
It is located in the upper parts of the humid montane forests of the short Inca trail. Also, go solo and couples. It measures only 13 centimeters. Consequently, we will see it in the surroundings of the Wiñaywayna camp. Probably perched visibly at the top of bushy areas. Thanks to its brownish color, it is unlikely to be mistaken.
SLATE THROATED REDSTART
It is a very active and attractive highland tealight. Above all, it prefers evergreen pine-oak forests and borders. Most of the time, it walks in pairs foraging mostly at low to medium levels, sometimes even on the ground. Also, forage with mixed flocks. Consequently, they keep the tail fanned by waving it from side to side. Also, both sexes have gray heads and upperparts with a dull crimson tuft as a crest. Also, we find this species in Mexico, Central America and Costa Rica.
Frequently integrates mixed flocks. It is found from the extreme south of Colombia and south to Bolivia. Mostly cloud forests. It has pale gray upperparts. As well as yellow underparts and yellow lens-like feathers around the eye with an orange crest. In addition, it tends to actively feed along the branches, spreading its tail.
STARRED WOOD QUAIL
Almost always, it moves at ground level in groups, pairs or alone. Its diameter ranges from 24 to 26.5 cm. While the male’s crown is reddish, the female’s is brown. Consequently, we will hear it at the Puerta del Sol and Machupicchu and they usually cross the paved road without fear of travelers.
Above all, it lives in the bamboo areas (Chusquea) that are behind the last Wiñayhuayna checkpoint. Also, throughout the descent of the Intipunku (door of the sun) in the direction of Machupicchu. On the other hand, if we follow his song we will have a better chance of observing him. Almost always, this is a duo since it travels mostly in pairs. However, he is reddish-brown in color, with a black and white striped face with a white eyebrow. Similarly, its diameter ranges from 14.5 to 15.5 cm.
Widely distributed in humid mountainous forests ranging from 1700 to 3450 m. However, they walk in groups or alone. Dull brown in color with a small ridge. Also, at first glance it resembles in shape a hen with a slender silhouette. In addition, it is fruitful; It is located in the surroundings of the citadel of Machupichu. Consequently, he is observed on the descent section of the Puerta del Sol. Above all, walking in the sloping branches of medium to large trees where it looks for its food. It is almost always very social if one approaches cautiously otherwise they tend to fly away.
The Emerald Toucanet is all green with chestnut undertail coverts and chestnut tail tip. The lower mandible is always black. The amount of yellow in the upper mandible is variable and color of throat varies according to the sub-species. It can be blue, dusky, or pale. It is similar to Chestnut-tipped Toucanet but is distinguished by having chestnut undertail coverts and yellow in upper mandible. Also similar to Blue-banded Toucanet, but it is distinguished by having a blue or black throat, no red uppertail coverts, and black and yellow bill.
Tangara punctata zamorae
Spotted Tanager is mostly green above and whitish below with dense dusky specks on the upperparts and underparts. It forages in the canopy of montane forests. It is similar to the Yellow-bellied Tanager but is distinguished by having speckled underparts without yellow on the belly.
The Andean Motmot has green upperparts that shade into blue towards the wings. The underparts are greenish tawny. The crown is bright blue with a black center. It has a black mask fringed with blue and a long tail with a bare-shafted racket tip. Andean Motmot is larger, overall greener, and range at higher elevations than closely related Amazonian Motmot.
ANDEAN COCK OF THE ROCK
Male has elegant crimson plumage with black and white wing feathers. It is also easy to recognize as it moves through the treetops. On the other hand, the female has a small crest and is brown in color that helps protect her from predators. In addition, it is hidden under the shelter of the achupallas (reddish tree plants).
It is a very rare bird to observe. Since, it is found in cloud forests located at a lower altitude. However, if there is an opportunity to observe it, it will be at the beginning of the walk in the rocky area of the Urubamba river. Because it was previously reported.
It should be noted that normally this bird moves in the canopy and canopy area of the cloud forest.
SCARLET BELLIED MOUNTAIN TANAGER
Very striking at first glance for its scarlet red and black colors, it measures 18.5 cm in length. Meanwhile, the juveniles have the same color as the adults. However, this one is more opaque. Consequently, it is observed in the descent of the second and third mountain passes that are covered on the second day, they alight quite frequently among the upper part of the bushes.
GOLDEN COLLARED TANAGER
One of the most striking tanagers for the Inca trail. Due to its golden necklace located towards the back of the head that makes it very attractive. Also, both genera have the same plumage color. Above all, its habitat is dwarf forests, humid scrub between 2,900 – 3,700 m and can descend to 2,500 m. Consequently, it moves with mixed flocks (a combined group of birds that move through the cloud forest hunting for insects). Also, there is the entire descent of the third mountain pass “Phuyupatamarca” along the entire length. Above all, it moves in the middle and upper part of trees and bushes.
Consequently, it is found in the upper part of the bushes near the banks of the river. However, it can be seen accompanying the mixed flocks that we can hear all the way to the Puerta del Sol. Since it measures 22 cm, it is a medium-sized bird. In addition, it has a gray crest and chin with an inconspicuous black stripe at eye level. Next, the chest and abdomen are pale yellow.
It is located in high montane forests (1100 to 3300 m). Almost always we can find it perched on the branches of medium and large trees in the wooded area of the Wiñaywayna camp. In addition, it should be noted that it is one of the most beautiful birds on this route, it measures between 25 and 26 cm. Likewise, it presents chromatic dimorphism. The male is bright black, green and red in color. Meanwhile, the female has a black mask around the eye, a red abdomen and the rest is brown.
DUSKY GREEN OROPENDOLA
The male measures between 41 to 43 cm. Meanwhile, the female is smaller in size 33 cm. Also, both genera have the same plumage color. It is located in humid montamos forests that are located between 800 to 2600 m. During the first three hours of Inca Trail 104 we can easily locate it. Because their nests are built like gray pendulums that are very striking. In addition, they present a lot of activity. Since, parents are observed entering and leaving them frequently. His song is loud and very loud.
BLUE GRAY TANAGER
Despite the fact that they are normally distributed at 2000 m it can be found on the Inca trail. On the other hand, the juvenile has almost the same colors as the adult. However, it is of a duller shade and without a white marking on the brim. Meanwhile, it moves in the cloud forest, we will place it in the lower layer of the canopy. Also, we can observe it perched on cables and trees found in the town of Aguas Calientes.
2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TRIP OVERVIEW
Day 01: Cusco – Ollantaytambo – Km 104 – Aguas Calientes
Day 02: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
Highlights of the 2-Day Inca Trail:
- A hike passing through the cloud forest around the Lost City of the Incas.
- Enjoyment of the surrounding landscapes, flora, and fauna.
- Trekking the Inca Trail for 2 days only.
- Explanations of a professional Tour Guide.
- Visit of Wiñay Wayna Inca site.
- Walking through the Sun Gate.
- Exploration of the mystical Machu Picchu
The Short 2-day Inca Trail consists on a hike for the entirity of day 1, and day 2 is the guided tour to the Machu Picchu citadel.
Pick up is very early in the morning at your hotel for a private transportation ride until the Ollantaytambo train station, traveling along beautiful sights on a very comfortable ride. In Ollantaytambo you will board a train until km 104 of the old Cusco city-Machu Picchu railroad. The hike begins right there on km 104.
From km 104 the hike goes until the archaeological Inca site of Chachabamba, passing through the wonderful Andean mountainside and along the Urubamba river, a priceless, majestic landscape. The Inca site of Chachabamba displays the amazing Inca building style, and is a quite interesting place to visit, with a complete explanation by our professional guide.
From Chachabamba the inca trail turns uphill, and after 2 hours approximately, you will reach the impressive Inca site of Winaywayna, a very skilled construction adapted on a slope, with many of the typical Inca terraces on the mountainside which were used for cultivation and also administrative buildings where Inca workers could control the production of crops. This site is located at an adventurous 2.650 meters above sea level.
After leaving Winaywayna, we’re back on the trail again, along unforgettable landscapes and the beautiful Urubamba river flowing at the bottom of the valley. This section of the trail actually begins to enter the Peruvian western jungle, and you will arrive at the famous Inti Punku (Sun Gate), which is the entrance to the city of Machu Picchu; from there you can have a striking panoramic view of the citadel from a distance, and afterward a downhill hike begins until the surroundings of the Machu Picchu site, for a closer look. And then, after you have thoroughly enjoyed the view from this nearby spot, you will take the bus from the citadel to the nearby village of Aguas Calientes.
The 2 day inca trail hike is a very enjoyable and light one, indeed it can be done by people aged from 8 to 65 years. There’s no need to set camping nights the final destination is in Aguas Calientes with the possibility of staying at a very comfortable hotel.
This option is also the best for people who want to have a good taste of the Classic 4-day Inca Trail, but don’t have much time available for travelling or are not well-prepared for longer hikes.
You will have plenty of time to take pictures of the Machu Picchu citadel first from the Sun Gate and then closer outside the site; besides, since the arrival is in the afternoon, you will find fewer people and thus it will be a calmer and less crowded place.
This 2 day inca trail hike also offers the great advantage of its everyday availability, since it is not as demanding as the Classic 4-day Inca Trail. We offer it on a very accessible daily basis.
So, if you don’t have much time available for your vacation and are a little bit intimidated by long hikes and altitude mountain camping, but still want to experience a touristic adventure, the 2 day inca trail hike to machu picchu surely is your best choice!
Sustainable Tourism: At Andean Great Treks, we are happy to promote and practice sustainable tourism by being eco-friendly and supporting local communities
2 Day Inca Trail Operator: Andean Great Treks
Service Level: Comfortable, tourist-class accommodation, tourist-class train, and private transport.
Trek’s Difficulty: 2 – moderate; a low-altitude hike, accessible to healthy travelers.
Age Requirement: 4+. Please note: all participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Inca Trail Permits: It is included in your hike. Please note: the trail is fully booked months in advance during the high season.
Crew: A professional Tour Guide.
Meals: 1x breakfast, 1x lunch, 1x dinner, 1x bag of snacks.
Transportation: Private van, 2x train (Inka Rail train service).
Accommodation: Hotel, 1 night. During the 2-day Inca Trail tour, you will spend a night in a comfortable hotel with a private bathroom.
Departure Point: We pick you up from your hotel (please check the Starting Point & Pick-Up section under the Essential Info bookmark).
Return Point: Cusco – our driver will drop-off at your hotel/hostel/Airbnb apartment.
2 Day Inca Trail Permits 2022
You might check the 2 day Inca Trail Permits Real-Time Availability for 2022 by yourself. It is very important that you complete all details correctly to obtain your Inca Trail permits and Machu Picchu tickets! Once arrived at the trailhead, you need to present your original passport and Inca Trail permits. In case, any details are incorrect, you must book and buy a new ticket to the trail!
Short Inca Trail Camping
If you would like to experience more adventure, you can book the 2 Day Inca Trail Hike with Camping, and spend the night observing stars at the campsite “Puente Ruinas”.
DAY 1: CUSCO - OLLANTAYTAMBO - KM 104 - AGUAS CALIENTES
First of all, you start from your hotel in Cusco in our transport. Then we go to the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. Later, we take the train that will take us through impressive Andean landscapes. After just over an hour we will arrive at the starting point, kilometer 104. Our adventure will begin on the banks of the Urubamba River and after a slow ascent we will arrive at the Original 4 day Inca Trail. That begins in the Wiñay Huayna area, before continuing to the “Puerta del Sol” (Inti Punku) and later to Machu Picchu.
Similarly, along our journey through Cloud Forest, we will cross its lush and green landscapes of cloud forests. That completely cover the mountains, where we will appreciate an immense variety of plants, flowers and birds. We will also be able to appreciate some mammals such as the Vizcachas (rabbit similar to the chinchilla) and the spectacled bear (if we are lucky).
Continuing the walk, we will reach the Puerta del Sol (Inti Punku), where in the evening we will get our first views of Machu Picchu. Then, we begin the descent along the beautiful stone paved path to the citadel of Machu Picchu. But, only up to the famous “Mirador” at the top of the citadel. From this point, we descend again towards the town of Aguas Calientes to make our check-in at the hotel and for dinner.
- Accommodation: Hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes
- Distance Traveled – 10km / 6.21 miles
- From Km 104 to Wiñay Huayna (lunch place) it is 4 hours
- From Wiñaywayna to Machu Picchu (visiting point) it is 2 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
DAY 2: MACHU PICCHU - RETURN TO CUSCO
This day is the most important, after having woken up very early, we will take the first bus to go up to Machu Picchu. To enter the site while it is opening and start the first visit shift. Here we will have a tour guide of approximately 2 hours “in-situ”. During which we will learn about the Incas and visit the most important areas of the citadel.
After that, if you have the permit and / or entrance tickets, you can ascend to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. In the afternoon we will take the train that will take us back to Ollantaytambo. From where we will continue in the car for the return to the city of Cusco.
- Distance Traveled – 9km / 5.59 miles
- The guided tour in Machupicchu lasts approximately 2 hours
- From Aguas Calientes to Machupicchu it is 25 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
ATTRACTIONS TO SEE ON THE 2 DAY INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU
The 2 day inca trail hike to machu picchu includes beautiful places. Among them, archaeological remains and natural areas that are located at different heights throughout the entire journey.
CHACHABAMBA 2200 M / 7218FT:
This archaeological site was probably a point of control and access to Machu Picchu. It is mentioned that he fulfilled religious and surveillance functions. It has stone buildings, there are some enclosures with preserved infrastructure. Possibly, its name derives from 2 words in Quechua. “Chacha” which means welts and / or bites, and “Bamba” which means valley or place. Which would mean Valley where mosquitoes bite you.
WIÑAY HUAYNA 2680M / 8792FT:
Magnificent archaeological site that covers the entire slope of the mountain, its name comes from Quechua and means “Eternally Young.” This site was a small town which can be appreciated by the constructions in a central courtyard and is surrounded by platforms that were used for agriculture and possibly also as containment. Simply a magical and historical place.
INTI PUNKU 2730M / 8956FT:
Site that was the gateway to the Citadel of Machu Picchu in Inca times. Its name comes from Quechua and means “Sun Gate”. It is made up of enclosures with windows and a door by which its name is attributed. At this point, you have an incredible view to the citadel of Machu Picchu.
MACHU PICCHU 2400M / 7873FT:
The name of the impressive Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, comes from the Quechua “Old Mountain” and is the end point of the walk for tourists. Surprise anyone with its greatness, architecture and engineering. The architecture and engineering of this place is unique, here you can appreciate the urban area that shows: the religious precincts, enclosures for the Inca and the residential part. The other area is the agricultural area, where an incredible network of platforms can be seen on the slope of the hill and which also serve as retaining walls. There is also an irrigation system and aqueducts throughout the citadel.
AGUAS CALIENTES 2050M / 6561 FT:
Town located on the banks of the Urubamba River, it serves as the main route of entry to the Citadel of Machu Picchu. The train tracks pass through here and you can also find the hot springs of Aguas Calientes. There is also an artisan market. Its climate is hot and humid, because it is located in the jungle.
OLLANTAYTAMBO 2750M / 8950 FT:
Ancient Inca town, very important before and now, for being the main point of passage to get to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Here is the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, which features exquisite Inca architecture. Like the temple of the sun, the bath of the ñusta, the enclosures on the Pinkuylluna hill and an impressive terraces. In addition, there is a typical handicraft market and the train station to Aguas Calientes.
WHAT IS THE INCA TRAIL NETWORK?
The network of Inca trails, known in the Quechua language as ‘qhapac’ (main road or path of the powerful), is an immense connection of Inca trails built for the most part by Emperor Pachacutec in the 15th century.
These roads linked the main cities of the empire with Cusco, the capital of the empire. The Inca himself was led from the ‘sacred city’ to the various points of the empire through the qhapac ñan.
The network of Inca roads covered part of the territories of the current countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. Due to their historical importance, they are currently considered ‘Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ by Unesco. Because of this they are protected and preserved for the future.
What was the importance of the Inca Trails?
The Qhapaq ñan is the word that defines the road system of the Inca civilization. It is the best proof of the development reached by the Incas in civil engineering. It is worth mentioning that this network of roads was built on one of the most rugged territories in the world. He managed to cross the rugged Andes Mountains and the arid deserts of the South American coast.
This network of Inca roads crossed the empire of the Incas by routes drawn from north to south (from end to end) along the coast and through the Andes Mountains. There were small sections for the common population. There were also wide sections dedicated to Inca royalty. The Inca roads of the sierra had sections completely paved while those of the coast were built simply of earth.
The world famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is just one part of this complex network of roads. Go up the Urubamba river basin to the Inca city, after winding difficult mountains. At present it is considered the best hiking route in Peru. You can visit it in four days through a perfectly planned tour.
The roads of the Incas were built with the main purpose of keeping a huge territory communicated. This made it possible to mobilize armies very quickly. It also served as a trade route in a civilization prone to redistribution and exchange. Another extremely important purpose was the culturalization of the newly conquered peoples. It should be noted that these roads were built in the expansionist time of the Incas.
What is the length of the Inca trails?
At present, more than 60 thousand kilometers of roads that formed this enormous network have been identified. But studies carried out reveal that the Qhapaq ñan would be made up of more than double that identified throughout the South American territory.
What was its function?
The route of the Inca roads, in addition to connecting one town with another, served to connect the culture of the peoples of the time. Likewise, its function was that of a trade route and strategic routes of cultural connection between the different towns of the immense Inca empire. This is how Inca cities were integrated such as: Vilcashuaman, Pumpu, Hatun Xauxa, Huánuco Pampa, Cajamarca, Quito, etc.
The Qhapaq ñan shows many sections in which there are two parallel roads in a trunk route. It is known that the Inca, his court and his armies would go through one of them, while the other was destined for the people.
Likewise, this road network had a commercial function as it supplied different cities with products that were harvested at different altitudes. For example, the city of Cusco was able to supply itself with: chili, cotton, coca, corn, fish, mullu and even the famous spondylus shell.
How is it designed?
The Inca trails are designed in response to the coastal and mountain geography. There are stretches in immense arid plains up to the most rugged mountains of the Andes mountain range. There are also countless slopes, cliffs, mountains, pampas, swamps, gorges, and canyons. In many cases, the most difficult sections were solved with bridges and uneven roads.
Main Inca trails
The Inca roads were made up of several longitudinal and transversal sections. However, the longest and most important sections were two: the longitudinal route that crossed the Andes Mountains and the longitudinal route that crossed the desert coast:
The coastal roads: As its name indicates, this longitudinal route ran along the coastline of the empire, from the south of Ecuador to the north of Chile. The roads reached 3,943 kilometers. It is calculated that the minimum width measured 3.5 meters while the maximum width reached 20 meters. It crossed up to 52 Cusco valleys including important religious centers such as Tambo Inga, Armatambo and Pachacamac. The Inca Huayna Cápac had these roads built after conquering Quito (Ecuador) in the 15th century.
The roads of the mountains: This road was initially built by Emperor Pachacutec and finished by his successors Túpac Inca Yupanqui and Huayna Cápac. This route connects the current cities of Quito (Ecuador) with Santiago (Chile), crossing the difficult geography of the Andes Mountains. In total it has an area of 5,658 kilometers. Due to the mountainous slopes, this road was built with stone pavers, bridges, as well as administrative centers, tambos (rest centers for walkers) and colcas (food centers for walkers). The narrowest sections were 3 meters wide. The widest sections, eighteen meters.
Constructions along the roads
The difficult South American geography and the immense distances that the Inca roads traveled forced the Incas to build certain structures necessary for the proper functioning of the roads.
The bridges: There were several bridges that allowed crossing rivers or spaces with abysses. These bridges could be woven of straw (the icchu or wild straw of the Andes) and were characterized by being hanging. And there were other bridges that were built of tree trunks, supported by abutments of huge stone blocks. Also noteworthy are the ‘oroyas’, wooden rafts that were used to flow through the lakes. Currently the Queswachaka bridge in Cusco is an example of the tradition of the Andean peoples in the construction and maintenance of Inca bridges.
The tambos: These constructions had the function of shelters and deposits of food, wool, firewood, clothes. These products were stored both for people who traveled and for emergencies. It is estimated that on the main roads there were dairy farms every 20 or 30 kilometers. These housed the “chasquis” or emissaries who were young runners who went from tambo to tambo carrying the Inca’s messages through a relay system. Through this system it is said that a message could reach from Cusco to Ecuador in 10 days (approximately 2,000 kilometers).
The Inca Trails to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the small network of roads that connects the towns of Cusco with the Inca city of Machu Picchu. With the discovery of this archaeological site in 1911, part of this section of the Qhapac ñan was unearthed. Since then these trails have been valued.
Due to its location on the slopes of mountain ranges, this section of the Inca Trail was built following the characteristics of the mountain roads. The Incas first made the layout of the road, then the foundation of the soil with several layers of stone and earth. Next the paving and the drainage system were made. Due to their complex construction, these trails are kept in good condition.
This section of the Inca Trail was not discovered by the Spanish. It is also believed that they did not give it the necessary importance. In any case, the Spanish did not reach Machu Picchu, which, after being abandoned, was hidden in the thick vegetation over the years. The section from qhapac ñan to the Inca city also suffered the same fate.
The Inca Trail today
Currently, the section of qhapac ñan that connects Cusco with Machu Picchu was valued and adapted to be traveled by tourists. It is a route of almost 40 kilometers that is crossed in 3 days and 3 nights. The fourth day is dedicated to visiting Machu Picchu.
Unlike other hiking trails in Cusco, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is protected by the Peruvian State. This is due to the historical value of the sections of qhapac ñan that it runs through. Therefore, no unauthorized person can walk its ways.
The only way to get this authorization and travel the Inca Trail is to hire a tour through an authorized tourism agency. Tourism agencies manage permits with the Ministry of Culture of Peru and add a tour guide service, camping equipment, food, tickets to Machu Picchu and more services for the visitor.
Currently there are many tourists who want to make the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Due to the high demand of visitors, tours must be purchased online 6 or 7 months in advance. It is the best hiking trail in Peru.
THE HISTORY OF KUELAP
This city, also known as “the fortress” was built and inhabited by the Chachapoyas between 1000 and 1400 AD, but Kuelap did not remain that way much longer. First it was the Incas who imposed their domain and somewhat later, in 1532, it was the Spanish conquerors with Diego de Alvarado at the head who took control of it, moving all its inhabitants to a new city with easier control.
From that moment the city was abandoned and was forgotten until 1843, when a judge from Chachapoyas, Don Juan Crisóstomo Nieto, went to the area to resolve some land disputes and found a large stone wall on which the ruins of hundreds of houses of the same material. From that moment Kuelap came to light and with time came the investigations that revealed everything we know today about this enormous ghost city.
Although it has been largely forgotten and one of the best kept secrets in Peruvian archaeology, Kuelap is gradually becoming a new Machu Picchu, saving the distance, of course. If until recently there were only a few brave people who reached it, the recent construction of a cable car to go up to its ruins has made it a much more popular and crowded place.
WHY VISIT THE KUELAP FORTRESS IN PERU?
Kuelap has been a hidden gem in Peru for many years, one that was only accessible on foot and unknown even to Peruvians. It has only been in the last few years that the Peruvian government has been making an effort to make this place more accessible.
Kuelap was the political center of the Chachapoya civilization, but the civilization collapsed in the mid-16th century due to the Spanish conquest and Kuelap was abandoned.
The fortress deteriorated over time due to rain, wind erosion, and the lack of a drainage system, as well as the growth of tree roots. Now these trees are part of most of the buildings that still stand on the site.
Time, nature and stones have become one, and that is one of the most attractive things about Kuelap, the feeling of authenticity and reality that you do not have in other ruins.
The Chachapoyas people, also known as the cloud warriors, are one of the most important cultures in Peru. They built this fortress on top of a mountain 3000 meters above sea level from where they could see the entire Utcubamba Valley.
WHERE IS THE KUELAP FORTRESS LOCATED?
Kuelap, located in the north of Peru in the department of Amazonas. It is one of the largest fortresses in the country and older than Machu Pichu.
It was accidentally rediscovered in 1843 and since the 1980s many Peruvian and foreign archaeologists have continued with excavations and studies, despite that only a small part has been studied, since funds are generally not available.
Kuelap was included in the 2004 World Monuments Watch, a program of the private NGO World Monuments Fund to draw attention to its continuing deterioration and need for improvement.
Kuelap was also voted Best Overseas Attraction in 2017 by the National Geographic Traveler Reader Awards and in 2018 it was one of the 10 must-see destinations mentioned by the Wall Street Journal.
HOW IS THE KUELAP FORTRESS ORGANIZED INSIDE?
Kuelap is amazing inside and out. The first thing you find when you arrive at the settlement is the 20 meter high wall that protected the citadel.
The Chachapoyas built a real fortress here, the wall only has three entrances and they all start as a narrow corridor, almost becoming a funnel that only allows one person at a time.
Inside the fortress there are more than 500 structures, of most of them only their foundations or walls remain. What is different about the architecture of the place is that the buildings were circular and other strange shapes.
HOW TO GET TO KUELAP?
There is no very direct way to get there from Lima or other major cities in Peru. So first you have to get to the city closest to this beautiful attraction, we are talking about Chachapoyas, where you can get there by plane or bus. You can also get there by plane to Jaén and from there take a 3-hour bus. Once in Chachapoyas, you have several options to visit Kuelap.
There are 3 options to get from Chachapoyas to the Kuelap fortress. You can do the excursion from El Tingo, book a tour or take the cable car.
- Hike to Kuelap:
From Chachapoyas, take a one-hour van to El Tingo, the closest town to the ruins, and spend the night there.
There are a couple of rustic hostels in the town that do not need a reservation. There is nothing to do in El Tingo except hang out there, but if you sleep there you will be able to get up early for the excursion to the ruins. A path along the left bank of the Tingo River will take you to Marcapampa, a small town near the ruins.
It is impossible to get lost and any local person along the way will be able to point you in the right direction. The walk takes us 4 hours, and it is not difficult, the main difficulty is the altitude. Finishing the walk in front of the massive fortress walls is a rewarding feeling.
Only some of the structures have been restored to give an idea of what the houses were like, but most are in the state of how they were found, with the forest devouring part of the buildings, this makes the place unique.
- Book a tour:
You can book a tour with Andean Great Treks. They will take you very close to the ruins and they will show you the place, an option if you prefer not to worry and have it planned.
- Kuelap cable car:
In recent years, a cable car has been built that goes from Nuevo Tingo to Kuelap.
It takes visitors 2 km from the entrance in about 20 minutes, from there you only need to walk a bit, or if you prefer you can rent a horse, you will reach the ruins without breaking a sweat.
The cost of the cable car is 21 soles (€5), you can only buy the ticket directly at the El Tingo station.
TIPS TO VISIT KUELAP
- Whatever option you choose to get there, make sure you bring water and some food. Between the visit and the travel time you will probably spend a full morning and you don’t want to be hungry or thirsty, plus being hydrated will help with altitude sickness.
- Carry cash and leave your cards, most entrances like the cable car ticket can only be paid with cash. Outside the fortress, there are food and souvenir stalls that only accept cash. Basically, get your money out in Chachapoyas and make sure you have enough cash for everything.
- Bring a jacket or warm clothing. Even if you are visiting during the Peruvian summer, Kuelap is at 3000 meters high, it is windy and in the shade you will want an extra shell.
Kuelap is open all year round, however, the best time to visit is from June to October, during the summer. During the rainy season, from November to April, you may encounter some complications and it can be uncomfortable.
4 BENEFITS OF VISITING THE NORTH OF PERU WITH ANDEAN GREAT TREKS
We know Peru, both north and south, like the back of our hands, but we thought it was worth clarifying exactly how we make our new trip to northern Peru so unique and memorable:
The experience of local leaders
The reason we feel so confident in saying that we know the country like the back of our hands is because of the experience of our wonderful local leaders.
Our Andean Great Treks tour guides are all locals. And, more than that, everyone is passionate about showing off their country. So whether you’re looking for a non-touristy bar in Chachapoyas, a behind-the-scenes look at Peruvian culture, or some extra pick to get you on that trek, they’ve got your back.
Other world accommodation
We carefully select all of our accommodations on all of our trips, ensuring comfort, safety and an insight into the local culture. But this one is special. If you are visiting northern Peru, you will be staying in a lodge built for the sole purpose of providing views of the impressive Gocta Falls.
In other words, it is nestled in the Andes, facing the waterfall and surrounded by all the gardens, pools, terraces and llamas.
Full day guided tour of Kuelap
If it wasn’t already obvious, we’re very excited about Kuelap. Because it is one of the most significant and impressive pre-Columbian ruins in all of South America.
Therefore, to ensure that visitors do this wonder justice, we offer a full-day guided tour of the site. It is quite spectacular and the local knowledge that you will receive when you do it makes it even more spectacular. Honestly pay him a visit and you’ll wonder why he gets so few hits.
The new Machu Picchu has much to offer the explorer in South America.
WHAT TO BRING ON YOUR KUELAP TOUR
Come prepared for your Kuelap adventure. Be sure to bring the following items along for your tour.
- You need to have your original passport, that was used to purchase the tickets.
- Hiking shoes or comfortable sneakers are a must.
- We also recommend bringing a rain jacket or poncho.
- Due to the high altitude, the sun is very strong, so bring along a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Pack a water bottle and some light snacks.
- The Kuelap Fortress of northern Peru sits about 9,842 feet (3,000 m) above sea level. If you are concerned about altitude sickness, check out our altitude sickness guide here and pack medication or another remedy.
HOW TO VISIT KUELAP
While most tours include transportation from and to your hotel, it is important to know the logistics of how to get to Kuelap before embarking on your tour.
Tours to Kuelap take a full day, starting in the morning at around 8 AM and lasting about 8 hours, depending on where you are staying. From Chachapoyas or hotels nearby, you are a drive, cable car ride, and short walk away from the fortress. To reach the Kuelap cable car station, the first step is to drive one hour from Chachapoyas or 1.5 hours from Gocta Andes Lodge.
The recent installation of a cable car system has greatly improved the ease of access. It carries visitors from the town of Nuevo Tingo to an area that is a 30-minute uphill walk from the archaeological site. Horses are available to hire for the walk from the cable car station to the entrance of Kuelap if necessary.
The Kuelap cable car system stretches about 14,435 feet (4,400 m) up the mountainside, taking about 20 minutes each way. This new improvement cuts out 90 additional minutes driving on a winding dirt road. Keep in mind that the cable car is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 AM to 5 PM. If traveling to Kuelap on a Monday, additional driving time should be considered.
KUELAP POINTS OF INTEREST
There are several main points of interest in the Kuelap Fortress.
- There are three traditional entrances to Kuelap
- The main entrance has a trapezoidal shape with mythical and magical figures displayed on large stones.
- The second entrance on the opposite side may have been an escape route and/or a place where offerings to the gods were launched.
- The third entrance, the smallest, was for deliveries of daily and ceremonial items.
- The main temple was the most important religious structure in Kuelap. Many human remains were buried here and only the elites had access to this temple.
- The circular platform was the residence of an important elite family. This site is near the main temple.
- The external wall surrounds the site. The massive, thick wall took several generations to finish. Human burials and other offerings were found in the foundations of the wall.
- The tower is where many re-buried human remains were found, along with many pebbles. Researchers suggest that the pebbles may have been used as projectiles to hurl at the sky, calling for rain.
- The upper town is an elevated section of the site that includes three sectors:
- The north sector is home to the tower and faces an abyss on the western side.
- The central sector has three rectangular buildings. According to researchers, these rectangular structures originated during the Inca occupation and are superimposed on original Chachapoyas circular structures.
- The south sector has two platforms completely covered by circular houses. Its perimeter wall is the highest point of the fortress.
WHERE TO STAY
Keep in mind that this is a remote destination and there are no 5-star luxury options available. However, the 3-star Gocta Andes Lodge has everything you need for a comfortable stay. While there are quite a few lodges in the area, Gocta Andes Lodge stands out among the rest. An infinity pool overlooking the Gocta Falls in the distance is an impressive perk of staying here. Each room has its own balcony or terrace with views of the falls as well.
It takes about 1.5 hours to drive from Gocta Andes Lodge to the cable car station that heads to Kuelap. The Gocta Waterfall is a 3.4 mile (5.5 km) hike from Gocta Andes Lodge.
There are two other top hotels near Kuelap. The Gocta Nature Reserve is also close to the Gocta Waterfall. Kentitambo, also known as the Hummingbird Inn, is across the street from the Leymebamba Museum and closer to Kuelap. Budget travelers can find several small hotels and hostels in the area.
OTHER SITES NEARBY
While Kuelap is the main highlight in the area, there are several other impressive places to visit nearby. Consider adding any of the following options to your Kuelap travel package with an extra day!
Visit the impressive Gocta Waterfall on a full day tour. Hike to the falls while birdwatching for a chance at seeing the Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru.
Visit Karajia to see several sarcophagi typical of the Chachapoyas funerary traditions. Afterwards, enter the Quiocta Caverns where you will find interesting rock formations and ancient cave drawings from the Chachapoyas people.
Head to the Revash Mausoleums and Leymebamba Museum, where you will find 261 mummies and learn about the Chachapoyas culture. If you happen to take this tour on a Sunday, make a stop at Yerbabuena to visit the largest market in the region.
Head on a day trip to the Mayo River Valley, the land of incredible coffee, breathtaking orchids, and towering palms known as aguajales. This trip explores the biodiversity of the forest nearby, bringing you closer to nature and the Amazon Rainforest.
Take a day to visit Huembo Reserve and the Pomacochas Lagoon for a chance to see the endangered marvellous spatuletail hummingbird and up to 10 other species of native hummingbirds.
Karajía is located 48 kilometers north of the city of Chachapoyas. This place has a set of seven anthropomorphic coffins that measure 2.5 meters high. These sarcophagi are made with a mixture of clay, stones and sticks.
The sarcophagi look towards a cliff about 200 meters high and it is quite an enigma what it meant for the culture and how they got there.
KUELAP VS MACHU PICCHU
Government officials in the Chachapoyas region are pushing for infrastructure developments to increase the popularity of the Kuelap Fortress. The goal is to make Kuelap the second most visited attraction in Peru, behind Machu Picchu.
But, how does Kuelap compare with Machu Picchu, the most famous ruins in Peru? Both sites are breathtaking, but they are quite different. From different times, cultures, and regions of Peru, the two sites offer visitors their own distinct experience.
|COMPARING KUELAP AND MACHU PICCHU
||Between 900 and 1,100 years old. Some structures are up to 1,500 years old.
||About 600 years old
|Size of the main complex
||1,968 ft (600 m) long, 394 ft (120 m) wide
||1,739 ft (530 m) long, 656 ft (200 m) wide
||9,800 feet (3,000 m)
||7,970 feet (2,430 m)
|Visitors per year
||About 1.5 million
GOCTA WATERFALL: PERU’S TALLEST FREE-FALLING CASCADE
Visit one of the world’s tallest waterfalls on your trip to Peru! Learn all about the Gocta Waterfall, a breathtaking place where the Amazon Rainforest meets the Andes Mountains.
The Gocta Waterfall in Peru, commonly known as Gocta Falls, is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. This 2,530-foot (771 m) waterfall has just two drops, and the powerful free-fall from the second drop is among the tallest in the world.
Named after the closest settlement, the local communities have appreciated the Gocta Waterfall for centuries. “Discovered” by an outsider in 2002, this impressive waterfall has only been on the world’s radar for a short time. With improved infrastructure in the area, the Gocta Waterfall is garnering more popularity than ever before.
HISTORY OF GOCTA WATERFALL
The Catarata Gocta, its official Spanish name, or La Chorrera, its local name, sits in the Amazonas department of Peru near the city of Chachapoyas. Flowing into the Cocahuayco River, the Gocta Waterfall is in full view from nearby villages and has been for centuries.
However, the world didn’t know it existed until 2002 when German researcher Stefan Ziemendorff and a group of locals took an expedition to the waterfall. Following their visit and subsequent pressure on the government, the waterfall was finally measured in 2006. Since then, thousands of domestic and international tourists visit each year and tourism makes up a large part of the area’s income.
Its official rank among the tallest waterfalls in the world has varied and changed over time. According to the World Waterfall Database, this soaring waterfall currently ranks 17th by overall height and 4th by tallest free-falling drop. The second drop free-falls an impressive 1,772 feet (540 m).
Two other waterfalls in Peru, Las Tres Hermanas and Yumbilla, are taller by overall height, but the Gocta Waterfall is the most well-known and easiest to access.
LOCAL LEGENDS ABOUT GOCTA WATERFALL
The world has only known about this waterfall’s existence for a short time. The waterfall gained some fame in 2002 after an outsider visited the area with some locals, but it wasn’t until the official measurement in 2006 that the world really took notice. Before this, only locals knew of the Gocta Waterfall.
But why didn’t the locals tell others about such a beautiful place in their backyard? In short, the local people feared a curse if they got too close.
Legend has it that a beautiful blonde mermaid, protecting a pot of gold, would curse whoever approached her waters. At the bottom of the waterfall, the water even splits into a U-shape, mimicking the mermaid’s hair. Making matters worse, a giant snake, the mermaid’s bodyguard, inhabits the pool below.
Today, many travelers reach the falls without experiencing a curse or seeing these mythical creatures. Nonetheless, the enchantment and disappearance of a local farmer named Juan Mendoza strengthens the claim of this local legend.
BEST TIME TO GO TO GOCTA WATERFALLS
There is no bad time to visit the Gocta Waterfall, as it flows year-round. However, the recommended time to go is on the cusp of the rainy season and dry season, from April to June. As the rainy season comes to a close, the falls are still full and powerful, but the likelihood of getting rained on is less.
If traveling during the rainy season from October to April, you can expect a full and powerful waterfall, but be sure to bring a rain jacket or poncho along. During the dry season, from May to September, there’s less rain and more sunny days. However, this is when the waterfall has less water rushing through.
While there are never that many tourists in this area, the busiest months are July and August. We recommend beginning your Gocta Waterfall hike early in the morning, around 7 or 8 AM, to beat any small crowds.