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What to see on the Short Inca Trail


The name comes from Quechua, where “chacha” refers to mosquito bites, and “bamba” means “valley.” Therefore, “Chachabamba” would translate to the “valley of mosquito bites.” Located at an altitude of approximately 2,200 meters/7,217 feet above sea level, this site was used as a military fortress to control the area and regulate entry to Machu Picchu. Additionally, it is believed to have been a religious complex, where water worship took place.


The name Wiñay Wayna comes from Quechua and means “Eternally Young” or “Forever Young.” This name is due to the abundance of orchids in the area. Situated at an altitude of 2,650 meters/8,694 feet above sea level, it played a significant role in the religious practices of the Inca civilization. Wiñay Wayna is considered one of the main highlights on the way to Machu Picchu, adding an additional element of beauty and meaning to this historic journey.


Known as the “Sun Gate” in Spanish and “Inti Punku” in Quechua, this site holds great historical and astronomical importance. During the height of the Inca Empire, Inti Punku served as a checkpoint and an astronomical observatory. Here, people following the Inca Trail had their first view of Machu Picchu, the majestic Inca city. Currently, access through this gate is only allowed if you have hiked the Inca Trail. Inti Punku is located at an altitude of 2,730 meters (8,957 feet) above sea level, offering breathtaking views of the archaeological wonder that is Machu Picchu.


The undisputed reward at the end of this hike is reaching Machu Picchu, one of Peru’s most precious treasures. This impressive citadel was built during the 15th century under the orders of the ninth Inca of Tawantinsuyo, Pachacutec. The name “Machu Picchu” comes from Quechua, where “Machu” means “old” and “Picchu” translates to “mountain,” interpreted as “old mountain.” This archaeological gem is located at an altitude of 2,400 meters/7,873 feet above sea level and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Its history and natural beauty make it an absolutely must-visit destination for any traveler.


Huayna Picchu, derived from two Quechua terms, means “New Mountain” and is located north of the Machu Picchu citadel at an altitude of approximately 2,667 meters/8,750 feet above sea level. Historians believe that Huayna Picchu served as a surveillance point for the Inca citadel. From this strategic location, the Incas maintained a constant state of alert against potential external threats.


Machu Picchu Mountain rises to 3,061 meters/10,042 feet and is located in front of Huayna Picchu Mountain. This mountain, frequently traversed by the Incas, played a strategic role, especially for military purposes. From its summit, you can enjoy a panoramic 360-degree view of the entire valley, allowing for alerts to possible threats or invasions. For visitors, Machu Picchu Mountain offers one of the most stunning views of the Machu Picchu citadel and the Vilcanota River, also known as “Wilcamayu.”


Along the Inca Trail, bromeliads can be observed, a plant family that adds beauty to the passages of Machu Picchu. Among the approximately 30 species present in the region, the most common is the one with spiny leaves arranged in a rosette.


During the Inca Trail, travelers can marvel at a variety of orchid species, some of which are endemic to the Andean region. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, orchids play a crucial ecological role by providing shelter and food to various insect and bird species. Notable orchids include Darwin’s orchids, named in honor of naturalist Charles Darwin, and fragrant Cattleya orchids.


These plants play a significant role in the ecosystem, contributing to biodiversity, conserving soil moisture, and preventing erosion. Some ferns reach impressive heights, forming dense foliage that serves as shelter and food for local wildlife. In addition to their ecological relevance, these ferns have cultural connotations in the region, adding an additional dimension to the natural and cultural richness of this iconic area in Peru.


The Cantuta, also known as Peru’s national flower, goes by various names in the region. During your journey, you may encounter names such as the “Sacred Flower of the Incas,” “Cantu,” “Cantuta,” “Ccelmo,” “Flower of the Inca,” “Jinilla,” or “Ccantuta.” According to Spanish conquest chronicles and historical narratives, the petals of this beautiful flower were used to decorate the paths where the Inca passed during various ceremonies. This special meaning earned it the title of the “Sacred Flower of the Inca.”


Queuñas, also known as queñuas, are small trees that grow in the high mountain regions of the Andes. Although they do not reach large sizes compared to other trees, their twisted appearance makes them distinctive. These trees play a crucial role in high mountain ecosystems by regulating the climate, preventing soil erosion, and storing large amounts of water, which later feeds springs and water sources. Additionally, they are known for their resilience to the harsh climatic conditions of these regions, thanks to their peeling bark.


lamas are relatives of camels known for their woolly fur and long necks. They are herbivores that adapt well to the altitude of the Andes. In Inca times, these creatures played an essential role as pack animals, transporting supplies, goods, and even providing wool and meat. Their adaptability and strength made them valuable allies of the Incas. During your visit to the Inca citadel, you will have the opportunity to admire llamas freely roaming the area.


Hummingbirds are small, colorful birds known for their striking plumage and rapid flight. They have a fast metabolism and need to constantly feed on nectar. They are key pollinators in the Andean region, helping maintain plant diversity, including flowers along the Inca Trail, by transporting pollen from one flower to another.


Cock-of-the-rocks are vibrant and brightly colored birds with orange and blue plumage. Males have flashy feathers and crests. They are famous for their striking mating rituals, where males perform courtship displays to attract females. These birds are emblematic of the Peruvian Andes and are considered a national symbol. Although not always easy to spot along the Inca Trail, if you’re lucky, you might witness their dazzling beauty in certain areas.


The Andean condor is known as the “King of the Andes of Cusco.” These magnificent birds are true symbols of this region. Not only are they impressive to behold, but they also play a vital role in the ecosystem by cleaning carrion from dead animals, helping maintain ecological balance. When you see these giants in the sky, it will become clear why they are called the “kings.” You won’t want to miss this thrilling encounter with the king of the Andean skies!


The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, is the only bear species found in South America. It is characterized by facial markings that resemble glasses. Although rarely seen, Andean bears are part of the rich biodiversity of the Andean region. Their presence highlights the importance of conserving these ecosystems and protecting the fauna that inhabits them.

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