On the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

On the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Author: Carolyn Boyle (More Trip Reviews by Carolyn Boyle)
Date of Trip: September 2016

This review describes an eight-night, small group package tour of Peru with G Adventures. This was the National Geographic Journeys “Explore Machu Picchu (SPENG)” seven-night tour plus one additional night at the joining hotel in Lima. In addition to the extra night, we booked a one-day trek on the “short” Inca Trail (from KM 104 to Machu Picchu) and the “Peru Culinary Bundle” (cooking lessons in Lima and Cusco). This review is primarily a journal of how we spent each day, including suggested resources and web links to tourist information web sites and maps.


Lima: Cooking Class, Huaca Pucllana, Guided Walking Tour of Colonial Lima, San Francisco Catacombs, Larco Museum

Sacred Valley: Weaving Cooperative, Pottery Demonstration, Pisac Ruins, Moray Ruins, Salinas Salt Pans, Ollantaytambo Ruins

Aguas Calientes: 1-Day Inca Trail (from KM 104 to Machu Picchu), Machu Picchu

Cusco: Guided Walking Tour, Museo de Machu Picchu, Cooking Class, Cusco Planeterium, Koricancha (Temple of the Sun), Cathedral, Templo de la Compania de Jesus (Jesuit Church)


John and I (Carolyn) are retired Mississippi State University professors in our mid-sixties, who currently reside in central North Carolina. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food (and wine!) and good times.

We have traveled extensively worldwide and enjoy both land tours and cruises; often our trips combine the two. We generally make our own travel arrangements; this is only the second package tour we have taken. On our trips, we favor nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view.

Hiking the “short” Inca Trail requires a moderate level of physical fitness and preparation. For comparison, John and I live at an altitude of about 344 ft (105 m) a.s.l. and have no medical conditions. We routinely walk 6 miles (~10 km) for five days a week on hard surfaces and gravel paths over rolling terrain with a trivial elevation change of about 200 ft (61 m). The “short” Inca Trail is about 7 miles (11.2 km) from the trail head to Machu Picchu but the trail rises from 6,890 ft (2,100 m) to a maximum of 8,858 ft (2,700 m) a.s.l. The path has uneven footing and many rough steps with a high rise (18 in/0.5 m). Another issue is that the effective oxygen concentration is only 72-77% of what we normally inhale. Nevertheless, by pacing ourselves and taking periodic breaks, we were able to complete the hike with only minor difficulties. For more details about the hike, see “Day 4” below.


G Adventures “Explore Machu Picchu (SPENG)”, www.gadventures.com/trips/explore-machu-picchu/2588/

Andean Travel Web, www.andeantravelweb.com/peru/index.html

The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour, Revised edition (July 1, 2011), by Ruth M. Wright and Alfredo Valencia Zegarra (ISBN-10: 1555663273, ISBN-13: 978-1555663278)

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams (ISBN-10: 0452297982, ISBN-13: 978-0452297982)

NOVA: Secrets of Lost Empires – Inca (2), Season 24, Episode 14 (1997) (www.imdb.com/title/tt1406043/?ref_=tt_ep_nx) This NOVA episode focuses on the citadel at Ollantaytambo: how were the stones moved to the site from the quarry on the other side of the Urubamba River, how were they cut to fit so perfectly together and how were they raised into position. There is also a segment on building a bridge out of grass cables.

Secret of the Incas (1954) (www.imdb.com/title/tt0047464/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) This was the first major movie to be filmed on location at Machu Picchu; scenes were also filmed in Cusco. Five hundred indigenous people were used as extras in the film, which also prominently featured the Peruvian singer, Yma Suma. The Harry Steele character (Charlton Heston) is widely regarded as the direct inspiration for the Indian Jones character in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”; however, except for the fedora that they have in common, we see few other similarities.


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