Hiking to Inti Punku: The Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

Inti Punku Blog Post Decoration

Inti Punku, also known as the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu is an Incan ruin that’s located in the Cusco Region of Peru. Inti Punku means “sun gate” in Quechua—which was the language of the Incans. The Incans lived in Peru between the years of 1400 and 1533 CE. During this time, they built several pieces of architecture that still stand. Inti Punku served as the entrance to Machu Picchu—which is now one of the 7 wonders of the world. What is now referred to as, “The Sun Gate at Machu Picchu” was once protected by Incan military and dedicated to the Sun God.

Accessing Inti Punku, the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu is possible by foot. The hike begins in Ollantaytambo (located in the Cusco Region) and lasts about 7 hours in total. It takes about 3.5 hours to hike up-hill to the Sun Gate, and another 3.5 hours to hike down.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Inti Punku and will give step-by-step instructions on how to hike to this famous Incan Ruin.

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    History of Inti Punku

    The Inti Punku Sun Gate at Machu Picchu
    Inti Punku is one of the many ancient Incan ruins located in the Cusco Region of Peru. Inti Punku has been around since the 15th century, and served as the main entrance to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Archaeologists think that Machu Picchu served as an estate for Inca Emperor Pachacuti and as a fortress for Incans that lived in the area at the time. 
     
    It’s likely that Inti Punku was protected by Incan military. Archeologists believe that guards stood at the entrance and controlled who was allowed to enter (and exit) the sacred grounds.
     
    Machu Picchu is the most iconic representation of Incan civilization that exists. Historians speculate that the Incans abandoned Machu Picchu when the Spanish invaded Peru and tried to take over the Cusco Region. Another possibility is that many of the Incans that inhabited the area died of small-pox, which was brought over by the Spanish during their conquest. 

    A Brief Overview of the Inti Punku Hike

    A rainbow setting over mountains. The picture was taken on the Inti Punku Inca Trail.

    Hiking to Inti Punku—the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, is a full-day event. The hike takes about 7-9 hours in total—that’s 3.5 hours up-hill and 3.5 hours down-hill. The extra time needed depends on how often you stop. There are several moments throughout the hike where visitors can stop and rest. Once visitors reach the Sun Gate, they usually like to eat a meal and relax before heading back down.

    The up-hill part of the hike can feel grueling. The walk to the Sun Gate is about 85% inclined. The difficulty level is moderate—it helps if you’re in-shape while walking up the mountain. If you experience any difficulty while hiking, then stopping and breathing intermittently helps. The altitude of Inti Punku is about 2745 meters above sea level.

    The hike itself is beautiful. For the first part of the hike, visitors walk along the Urubamba River. Once visitors reach the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, they’ll see the mountain range in Cusco from a great vantage point. Snow-capped mountains are visible from the Sun Gate, which is a rare sight in the Cusco Region.

    How to Access the Sun Gate Inca Trail

    Inca Bridge. Bridge is orange and green.

    The Sun Gate Inca Trail is the path that you’ll take to get to Inti Punku—the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu. To access the trail, visitors must first go to the Plaza de Armas in Ollantaytambo. If you aren’t staying in Ollantaytambo then you can get there via ground transportation. The most common method of ground transportation in the Cusco Region is a colectivo. A colectivo is a van that’s shared amongst 20 or so passengers. Colectivo’s are available in every major town within the Cusco Region—including, Cusco City, Pisac, Urubamba, and Calca.

    When you get to the Plaza de Armas in Ollantaytambo, walk to the Inca Bridge. The bridge is orange and green. You’ll see the entrance to the Sun Gate Inca Trail at the end of the Inca Bridge. Walk into the entrance, and then begin your hike.

    Navigating the Sun Gate Inca Trail

    Map that shows how to hike to Inku Punku
    Navigating the Sun Gate Inca Trail is easy. You’ll see a map labeled, “Circuito Turistico Canteras Cachiccata” when you enter. The path to the Sun Gate is very direct. As long as you stay on the path you won’t get lost. There are also arrows scattered throughout the trail, which that point to the correct direction whenever it’s questionable.
     
    As you near the end of the trail, you’ll see the window of the sun gate in the distance. Once you see the window, you have about 30 minutes of walking left before you reach the top.
     
    There are usually a handful of locals & tourists on the trail, so if you have any questions, you can always stop and ask someone for direction.
     

    What to Pack for the Hike to Inti Punku

    The Sun Gate on top of a hill in Cusco Peru

    The hike to Inti Punku—the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu is moderately challenging, so it’s best to be well prepared before you go. Here’s a list of things that you should bring with you on your hike:

    • Good hiking shoes: shoes with a good grip are ideal, as you’ll walk up & down a steep incline at times.

    • Water: Bring a lot of water with you on this hike. The altitude is steep, the hike is challenging, and it can get very hot depending on the time of year that you go.

    • Food: This will be an all-day event. You’ll want to bring snacks with you that you can eat while you pause for breaks, as well as a lunch to have when you reach the Sun Gate.

    • Comfortable Clothing & Layers: Comfortable clothing (such as yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt) will make a difference. Dress as comfortably as possible in clothes that allow for easeful movement. The temperature changes throughout the hike—switching from hot to cold throughout the day. Dress in layers so that you can acclimate to the change in temperature.

    • Rain Gear: It can rain unexpectedly on the mountain, especially during the rainy season (from November to March). Bring a poncho or other rain gear to prepare yourself.

    • Camera: Bring a camera with you! The views from the hike are incredible, and you’ll want to capture some memories.

    Enjoy The Hike!

    View from the Inti Punku Inca trail. Shows many mountains and the Sacred Valley in Peru.

    The Hike to Inti Punku—the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my travels. It’s not an easy hike but once you finish you’ll feel accomplished. The views of the hike are incredible, and well worth taking the trek along the Inti Punku Inca Trail.

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    1 thought on “Hiking to Inti Punku: The Sun Gate at Machu Picchu”

    1. This is such an incredible place to go on a hike! This area has always been at the top of my bucket list so I love reading more information about different sites!

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