Travel tips

Published on April 30th, 2014 | by Geckos Tales Team

The other way to Machu Picchu: a guide to tackling the Quarry Trail

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

Machu Picchu, Image courtesy of Funkz, Flickr

Though the ‘classic’ Inca Trail gets a lot of press, the Quarry Trail is an awesome alternative. It’s usually used when trekking permits for the Inca Trail are unavailable, but the Quarry Trail is a worthwhile undertaking in its own right. Here’s why it’s worth it and how to get on it. You’re welcome. 

The same, but different

You’ll be surrounded by the archetypal scenery of the South American Andes, have the opportunity to get to know some local communities and stop by loads of lesser-known Inca sites along the way.

Less crowded

One thing people who’ve completed the Quarry Trail love about it is that there are far fewer people along the way. It’s still possible, if you get the timing right, to not see any other trekkers en route to the top.

Vital statistics

The overall distance hiked on the Quarry Trail is roughly 26km/16 miles, the maximum altitude  is 4,450 metres/14,600 feet above sea level.

Horses for courses

On the Inca Trail, your baggage is carried by porters. on the Quarry Trail, it’s carried by horses. We don’t know if this will mean all that much to you, but we think it makes for a more interesting experience.

The route

Set off from Rafq’a, the starting point of the trek and where you’ll meet the horsemen that’ll join you along the way. Once you set off, you’ll hit the small community of Socma after around an hour. Another hour of trekking, and you’ll end up at the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. Things to do here: take photos and eat snacks.

From here, you’ll crack on to your campsite, at  around 3,700 meters/12,139 feet above sea level.

The second day’s pretty tough going, but it’s definitely worth it. You’ll hike for three hours to the top of the first pass, known as Puccaqasa (4,370 metres/14,337 feet) – where there are some pretty incredible views to be taken in. Next up (hopefully after some good and rest), you’ve got the two hour hike to the highest pass of the trek: Kuychicassa (4,450 metres/14,600 feet).

Then you’ve got another two hours of downhill hilking to a site the Incas called Inti Punku (which means Sun Gate – but it’s not THE Sun Gate), which boast some pretty killer views of the valley below.  imposing views over the valley bellow and the Veronica mountain jolting towards the sky in the background. Impressive stuff. You’ll camp near Choquetacarpo, about 3,600 metres/11,811 feet above sea level.

On the third day, you’ll be heading downhill. You’ll pass Kachiqata quarry where you can witness the work the Incas could not complete due to the Spanish conquest. And at around midday, you’ll arrive at Kachiqata, from where – if you’re heading on to Machu Picchu – you’ll get the train to Aguas Calientes (enjoying the hot springs on arrival, we should hope) before taking a bus to Machu Picchu the following day.

You may not get to hike the whole way to the ancient city of the Incas, but you’ll have had an experience few can lay claim to.

Fitness levels

When you’re venturing over 3,500 metres/11,482 feet, altitude sickness is always a potential risk. The ability to acclimatise has little to do with the fitness or health of an individual, and more to do with taking appropriate time to acclimatise properly. Most people complete the trek without problems. Drink plenty of water as soon as you reach altitude, don’t think alcohol for the few days before your trek, walk slowly, wear sunglasses, avoid day-napping and wear appropriately warm clothing.

Feeling short of breath and experiencing headaches once hitting isn’t rare, so just make sure you take it easy. Usually, it’s nothing a solid night’s sleep and plenty of water can’t fix. Seek medical advice before booking, and let your travelling party know if you’re taking any medication before the trek.

To prepare for the trek, full-day hikes with a weighted pack are a good idea. Wear whatever boots you’re going to wear on the trek to be sure they’re broken in before you hit the real thing. Nothing worse than blisters. Nothing at all.

What to pack

– Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card
– Money belt and small padlocks
– Small first-aid kit
– Daypack
– Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries)
– Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts, travel itinerary and this document
– Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets
– Spare passport photos
– Electrical adapter plug
– Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes/ tissues
– Insect repellent
– Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
– Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers)
– Warm clothes – when travelling in cooler climates
– Wind and waterproof rain jacket
– Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
– Camera and spare film (or recharge for digital cameras)
– Binoculars
– Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required)
– 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain) and dry bags
– Refillable water bottle
– Phrase book

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About the Author

We run awesome trips around the world. But when we're not on the road, we're sitting here and writing loads of travel-related insights, tips, information and advice. Geckos Tales is your go-to source for whenever you need to find something out about pretty much anything.

6 Responses to The other way to Machu Picchu: a guide to tackling the Quarry Trail

  1.' Michael Wallach says:

    Hallo, i’m travelling around Southamerica and i would like to book the Quarry trail Tour.
    I’ ll be in Cusco in about 6-8 days.
    How much cost the tour ?

  2.' Andrew & Val says:

    Hi. What are the typical and steepest gradients on the Quarry Trek. At our gym we have machines that go up to 15%. we are thinking of using these for some of our training.
    We have already booked the trek.

    • Emily Kratzmann says:

      Hi guys,
      Thanks for the comment! I don’t have specific info on gradients, but if you have a machine with an incline of 15%, this will certainly help with your training. Day one of the trek is fairly flat with a few slight inclines, while day two is quite challenging. You’ll trek from roughly 3,700 metres to 4,370 metres above sea level, however the incline is pretty gradual, and there are only a few points that are quite steep. I’d definitely recommend getting out to do a couple of day treks before you head off too 🙂
      Let me know if you need any extra info.
      Emily – Geckos Adventures.

  3.' Mei Mackleer says:

    Hi there! I saw on your list of what to pack for Machu Picchu and it said to bring a phrase book. Does that mean I should bring a phrase book in Quechua or Spanish? Or both?

    • Emily Kratzmann says:

      Hi Mei! Pack a Spanish phrasebook, if you’ve got room. Most of our porters and groups leaders on the trail speak Spanish 🙂

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