The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu

Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu

The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu (photo © Tony Dunnell, click to enlarge)

Many tourists seem to ignore the Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to make the short 30-minute trek to go see it. Or maybe they are too busy taking photos of the main site. Some, of course, just don’t know the Inca Bridge exists.

All of which is a shame, really, as the Inca Bridge (Inka Bridge, Puente Inka) is definitely worth seeing — and the lack of tourists along the narrow, vertiginous, but easy trail makes it a nice escape from the selfie-obsessed hordes.

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What is the Inca Bridge?

The Inca Bridge is often referred to as a “secret entrance” to Machu Picchu. How secret it was is open to debate, but it was definitely an alternative entrance — and one that was easy to defend against unwanted visitors.

The entire trail is built into the cliffs on the western approach to Machu Picchu, snaking impressively along the side of a sheer mountainside. Most of the narrow path is in a state of disrepair and is not accessible. But the last part, which leads into Machu Picchu, has been restored, along with the so-called Inca Bridge — a 20-foot gap in the trail spanned by four or five planks of wood.

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If the Incas at Machu Picchu wished to deny access to anyone coming along this route, they could simply raise the wooden bridge, presenting a far more treacherous approach. With the bridge removed, any attacker would have to climb across the gap — a not impossible task, but a highly risky maneuver considering the sheer drop into the canyon almost 2,000 feet below. Add to that a few jabbing spears and a hail of stones thrown from the defenders and you have a most unappealing climb.

Wooden planks on Inca Bridge, Machu Picchu

Wooden planks bridge the gap along the alternative entrance to Machu Picchu (photo © Tony Dunnell)

Seeing the Inca Bridge

To get to the Inca Bridge, head up from the main entrance to Machu Picchu, passing the Caretaker’s Hut. Near here, you should be able to see a wooden sign pointing the way to the Inca Bridge. If not, ask one of the numerous site wardens to point the way.

The entrance to the Inca Bridge trail begins at a small wooden warden’s hut, which sits opposite Machu Picchu’s meteorological station. Access is free, but you have to sign in, giving your name and time of departure.

From here, it’s a fairly easy 20- to 30-minute walk to the bridge itself. The views from the trail are stunning, with cloud forest, river canyons and mountains stretching out below and beyond the path. In places, the trail narrows to the width of one person, with sheer drops below. If you suffer from severe vertigo, you might have some problems. If not, you should be able to make it, even if you have to take things slowly.

You’ll see the bridge first from above. Getting closer, you’ll eventually come to a wooden gate that completely blocks access to the bridge and the rest of the trail. It’s simply too dangerous to let visitors walk any further along the route (apparently a tourist fell and died a few years ago, before the barrier was erected), but it’s an impressive sight nonetheless.

Once you’ve admired the view for long enough, imagining Inca porters and enemy infiltrators making their way along the trail, head back the way you came. You’ll need to sign out with the warden.

If you want to compare operators for Machu Picchu, we suggest you check out a tour comparison website with heaps of info and all the different options for taking that trip of a lifetime.

Inca Bridge trail to Machu Picchu

The line of vegetation running along the cliff face shows the path of the old Inca trail to the Inca Bridge (photo © Tony Dunnell)


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