When looking to visit Machu Picchu, many people want to experience it as the Incas did and hike to reach the famous Lost City of the Incas. To hike to Machu Picchu there are several options but the best known and most famous is hiking the 4 day Classic Inca Trail. This hike, one of the most popular in South America, obviously has a great number of visitors and as it is an original Inca road, the trail is protected and needs to be maintained yearly. February, being the month with most rain and few visitors, has been chosen some time ago by the INC to be the month maintenance is done on the Inca Trail.
The INC, the National Culture Institute of Peru, is the body that governs and manages all historic sites in Peru such as Cusco, Chan Chan, the Sacred Valley and of course Machu Picchu. All of these are UNESCO protected and therefore have to comply with some rules and regulations when it comes to the maintenance and management of these sites.
One of these obligations is the yearly maintenance of these sites and the area they are located in. For sites such as Machu Picchu and Cusco, this is an ongoing project and done all year round. For the 32 Kilometer long Inca Trail to Machu Picchu there are also year round cleaning and maintenance groups active, but for one month a year the INC decided to close the Inca Trail in order for larger maintenance to take place. As February is the month with on average the most rain and few visitors, from 1998 it was decided to close the Inca Trail in February. During this month the INC takes forward restorations and reparations to the ancient Inca Highway and tries to diminish the influence of the thousands of hikers who hike the trail yearly.
The Inca Trail starts at KM88 of the train traject to Aguas Calientes. From here visitors will be treated to some of the best views of their holiday, walking over the ancient and original Inca paths. Visit lesser known Inca sites, climb and descend into the Peruvian Highlands and camp among snowcapped mountains and large Andean Plains. The Inca Trail is also the only way to get to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, the official entrance gate to the Lost City.
A popular myth is that the 2 day Inca Trail is accessible during February. The 2 day Inca Trail starts at KM104 and is a one day hike to the Sun Gate and overnight in Aguas Calientes. Even though you may find information saying that the 2 day Inca Trail is accessible during February, please be warned that it isn’t.
Nevertheless there are alternatives for those who can only travel in February and really want to do a hike to Machu Picchu. The best known alternatives that are operated year round and are your best options for February would be the 5 day Salkantay Hike or the 4 day Lares Hike.
The 5 day Salkantay Hike leads you from a small town Mollepata over several high passes to the Machu Picchu area. Here you will cross some original Inca paths before reaching Santa Teresa. From here you will continue to Aguas Calientes and the 5th day hike up to Machu Picchu. This is the only alternative that gets you to Machu Picchu on foot. This hike involves 4 days of walking and 3 nights camping. The last night you will spend in Aguas Calientes.
The 4 day Lares Hike is a hike that takes you over the backbone of the Sacred Valley until you reach the train station in Ollantaytambo for your train to Aguas Calientes. On day one you will leave for Calca, one of the oldest villages in the Sacred Valley. From here you will start hiking for 3 days and 2 nights, crossing amazing highlands, small Quechua villages and Inca sites until you will head down into the Sacred Valley again and make it to Ollantaytambo. Here you will embark on train to Aguas Calientes where you will spend the night. The next day you will have a whole day at the site before returning by train to Cusco.
Finally there is also an option for people wanting to hike to an Inca Site but does not necessarily have to be Machu Picchu. For these people there is a great alternative; Choquequirao. This amazing 4 or 5 day hike takes you to the one site that may match Machu Picchu’s beauty. Choquequirao means cradle of gold in Quechua and is the second largest site found after Machu Picchu. The site is less visited and in February you may as well have the site to yourself on arrival. It is an extensive site so it is best to add one day to see the entire site. From Choquequirao there are also connecting paths to Salkantay and the Inca Trail, but these are hikes lasting more than a week.
For more information about Machu Picchu, Choquequirao, the Inca Trail or Peru, please visit the following websites;
If you liked this article and found it useful please share with others and click the like or send button below