So you want to hike to Machu Picchu, but the Classic Inca Trail has sold out? That doesn’t surprise us as only 200 tourists are allowed to hike the Inca Trail per day which means if you didn’t book well in advance it is most likely sold out for quite some time.
But did you know there is more than one way to hike there?!
The Inca Trail may be the famous route, but there is also the Quarry Trail (which we think could even be the better of the two). The nature is ridiculously incredible, there is next to no tourists on this route, you will bump into amazing locals along the way and the best bit – you are guaranteed to get to Machu Picchu for sunrise!
If you’re keen to learn more, here is everything you need to know about Gecko Adventures Inca Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu.
*Before you read this post we recommend you also watch our two videos documenting our entire Machu Picchu hiking experience
The Route: The Inca Quarry Trail
Day One: Starting from Raf’q, you will meet your horsemen and guides who will be with you over the next four days. After breakfast, you will set off on the trail passing through a little town called Socma, before continuing on to the stunning Perolniyoc cascade lookout. This is a great spot for some photos and a snack. After a rest you will pass by a lush waterfall before arriving at your lunch spot – next to an old Inca Ruin! The afternoon is spent pushing on to the campsite, which sits about 3,700m above sea level.
Day 2: The second day of the Quarry Trail is the toughest. You’ll climb to the pass of Puccagasa (4370m) for some of the best views in the Andes, then hike for about two hours to the highest point on the trek: the mammoth Kuychicassa pass (4450m)! After that it’s downhill for over two hours arriving at a site the Incas called Inti Punku (which means the Sun Gate, although it’s not THE Sun Gate). A couple more hours later and you will arrive at your campsite, about 3,600m above sea level with incredible views of the Veronica mountain.
Day 3: Today is the easiest day and mostly downhill -yay! You’ll walk past Kachiqata quarry (were the Quarry Trail got its name). This is a rock quarry that the Incas never completed during the Spanish conquest. By midday you’ll arrive at Ollantaytambo town, where the hiking part of the journey ends. Here you will take a train to Machu Picchu town for a much needed shower and rest.
Day 4: The next morning is a short bus ride (we recommend waking up at 3am to get the first bus at 5am) to arrive at the spot you have been waiting for – Machu Picchu!
Distance & Height
The Quarry Trail is 26km (the Inca Trail is 43km).
The maximum altitude is 4,450m above sea level (the Inca Trail’s highest point is 4,215m).
We were given a couple of days in Cuzco to acclimatise, but sometimes altitude sickness can be a problem. We were fine during our entire trek, and here are some ways you can help prevent altitude sickness during your hike.
How Long Is The Hike
It’s a four day trek, the same amount of time as the Inca Trail, but you will only be hiking for three of those days. Your third night is spent sleeping in a much needed bed at Machu Picchu Town before waking up super early to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu.
When Should You Go
Machu Picchu is at the top of most travellers bucket lists – which means crowds. We recommend going during shoulder season. May or October are great months – we went in October! Peak time is June, July and August due to the great weather, but sunny days means photos of Machu Picchu full of tourists. We prefer going just before or after the rainy seasons and having the Andes all to ourselves.
Is It Crowded
75,000 people a year trek the Inca – but the Quarry Trail doesn’t even come close! During our three day hike we only ever saw one other hiking group (and of course some super friendly locals).
What Level of Fitness Should You Need
Anyone trekking for three solid days over 3,500m above sea level needs a reasonable level of fitness. However, we must say we are not the fittest people and had barely any training before this hike – and we did it wooo! Our top tips would be to drink lots of water as you go, pace yourself – it is not a race (we were at the back of the pack for most of the hike), wear sunglasses and comfortable shoes/boots.
Horses Not Porters
On the Inca Trail your main luggage is carried by porters. On the Quarry Trail it’s carried by horses. You still have trained guides that are with you during the entire hike and a couple of porters to help set up camp and cook you food each night.
We weren’t sure what to expect when it came to food on the trail – and we were sooo impressed! Breakfasts consisted of omelettes and pancakes and our lunch/dinners were three course meals with soup, meat, salads and yummy desserts!
What To Pack
A small first-aid kit
Watch/alarm clock (mobile phone will do) and torch/flashlight
Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance
Electrical adapter plug
Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes/ tissues
Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers)
Wind and waterproof rain jacket
Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
Camera and plenty of batteries
2 strong plastic garbage bags or dry bags
Refillable water bottle
You are guaranteed to get to Machu Picchu for Sunrise
As long as you are prepared to wake up super early – you can be one of the first people to enter Machu Picchu like we did. Those on our Geckos trip that did the Inca Trail arrived to Machu Picchu at around 8am, the sun was already high in the sky and tourists were flooding the place.
Those that did the Quarry Trail, arrived to the bus stop in Machu Picchu town at 3am, waited 2 hours for the first bus and arrived at Machu Picchu as the first rays of sun hit the mountain – a sight we will never forget!
Want to explore South America? Make sure you check out Geckos Adventures South America Highlights Tour
Thanks to Geckos Adventure for allowing us to be apart of your ambassador program for 2017!