A moderately challenging trek to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) that was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. The hike follows an original Inca Trail that steadily climbs though Machu Picchu’s agricultural terraces high in to the mountains directly south of the citadel. The trek takes about 3 – 4 hours to complete (round trip).
Booking your ticket
It is free to hike to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) but one must be in Machu Picchu with a combination ticket. The following content explains the details of hiking to the Sun Gate, however if you wish to search options for tours to Machu Picchu right away take a look at this page on FindLocalTrips.com
Finding the Trail Head
From the main entrance gate of Machu Picchu follow the upper trail around Machu Picchu (see trail head map below). At the Caretakers Hut (or Guardhouse) you need to turn left and follow the path that leads away from Machu Picchu through the agricultural terraces. Wooden signs stating Inti Punku clearly mark the way. There is no official trail head for hiking to the Sun Gate, but you could consider the start to be at the Caretakers Hut (or Guardhouse) view point.
From the Caretakers Hut (or Guardhouse) view point, the trail follows a straight path along an original stone stepped Inca Trail. Unlike the tougher Machu Picchu Mountain Trek which runs nearly parallel, the Sun Gate Trek follows a path which is more gradual at no more than 30 degrees in angle. As you approach the Sun Gate the trail becomes more inclined and a little tougher (the last 20 minutes). The Sun Gate Trail is also the main entry point for hikers finishing the classic 4 days Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and if decide to trek to the Sun Gate before 10 am in the morning you will be sure to meet Inca Trail trekkers coming the other way. Imperial guards used the Sun Gate to control entrance to Machu Picchu. It’s remote location was strategic and for this reason it was believed that Machu Picchu only welcomed selected visitors of the imperial elite. The trail continues past the Sun Gate for another 2 hours to the last control point of the Inca Trail at Winay Wayna, another beautiful Inca citadel. Entrance past the control point is restricted and special Inca Trail permits are needed to enter. For this reason most people finish the hike at Inti Punku.
A good level of fitness is required to hike the Sun Gate Trail, but the path is wide and not as steeply graduated as other treks in Peru.
Trail Difficulty: moderate
Time needed: 3 – 4 hours round trip (total time).
Terrain: Dirt trail and Inca stone pathways.
Altitude of Summit: 2,720 meters (8,924 feet).
Altitude to climb from Machu Picchu: 290 meters (951 feet).
Recommended footwear: Training shoes, light weight walking boots.
Entrance time: Can enter anytime during the regular opening times of Machu Picchu. Not recommended to start any later than 2pm.
Trail head: Located close to the Caretakers Hut in the Agricultural Sector of Machu Picchu.
Tickets: Free to enter with Machu Picchu combination ticket.
Preparation before trekking to the Sun Gate
If planning to trek to the Sun Gate, one must be sure to prepare accordingly. For the majority of travellers, especially those who take time to acclimatize, adjusting to the altitude should be a top priority. Planning in advance is essential for this. Altitude sickness can be shortness of breath and mild headaches or have you bedridden for days requiring medical attention. To ensure your health is looked after properly, it is recommended only ever ascending 2000ft at a time and staying 24 hours at that altitude before moving on. This can be done by taking a bus rather than simply catching a flight from Lima to Cusco. For this journey, we strongly recommend taking Peru Hop‘s route along the coast and up to Cusco. By doing this you will be gradually adjusting to a high altitude, decreasing the chance of altitude sickness when visiting Machu Picchu.
Best Time to Trek
The Sun Gate Trek is accessible all year round. During the wet season (November – April) there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall. The region has a sub-tropical feel throughout the year with average daily temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F). During the dry season the humidity is around 40 – 45%, rising to 60 – 65% during the wet season. Early morning trekking offers cooler temperatures and better shade from the sun.
What to Bring
The weather in this region of Peru can often be un-predictable any time of the year, so you must be prepared with clothing for rain and sun. The Sun Gate trek is made up of dirt track and many stone steps, so comfortable lightweight training or hiking shoes are recommended. A light weight rain coat or poncho and sun protection is advised. It is recommended to take one small bottle of water on the trek.
- 1 ½ – 2 litres of water.
- Snacks for the top.
- Sun hat, sun glasses & sun block.
- Walking stick with rubber tip (if required).
- Strong insect repellent.
- Light weight rain coat or poncho.