Classic Trek: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – 4 days
Though I have trekked many routes in the Andes, there is something incredibly special about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! The ruins at WinayWayna, pictured left, are still amongst my favourite ruins. And for my trekking tip – the fitter you are, the more enjoyable it will be! Get in shape before you leave home, and wear in your hiking boots! Even if it is just around your office!
Between 4.00 and 4.30am you will be picked up from your hotel and will travel to Piscacucho (2700m/8856ft above sea level), a community located at the 82nd kilometer of the Cusco –Machu Picchu railroad and the site of the trailhead for the trek. You will begin the hike crossing the bridge over the Urubamba River and walking along the south bank of the Urubamba River. Following the trail along a flat terrain, you will arrive to Miskay (2800m/9184ft above sea level), to then ascend and finally see from the highest part of the look-out, the impressive Inca city of Llactapata (2650m/8692ft above sea level). You will continue through the valley created by the Cusichaca River, and will climb gradually for about five hours until you reach the community of Wayllabamba (3000m/9840ft above sea level), where our first campsite is located. Along the way, you will enjoy spectacular views of the Vilcanota ridge on the opposite side of the Urubamba River, where the impressive Veronica peak reigns at 5832 meters above the sea level while also enjoying the diversity of flora and fauna that can be found along the way.
You will wake up at around 6:00am and after breakfast will begin the most difficult part of the trek, which consists of an abrupt and steep ascent that stretches for 9 km. Along this climb, the landscape changes from a more lush valley to the twisted trunks of the native queuna trees and finally puna, a dry and high grassland with little other vegetation). On the way to the first mountain pass, the Abra Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman´s Pass – 4200m/13776ft above sea level), you may see domesticated llamas and alpacas grazing on the ichu, one of the few plants that grow at high altitude. You will also cross an area of cloud forest, which is the habitat for many different kinds of birds like hummingbirds and sparrows, and of the Andean bear also known as the Spectacled Bear.
We recommend that today, your daypack be well stocked with candies, chocolates and coca leaves that will keep your sugar level high, and help with the altitude. Immediately after the pass, you will descend into the Pacaymayo valley (3600m/11808ft above sea level), where you will camp after approximately 7 hours of hiking for this day.
This day is the longest but also the most impressive and the most interesting, due to the number of archaeological sites and the lush cloud forest area that you will cross, rich in Andean flora and fauna. From Pacaymayo you will climb to the second pass, the Abra Runkurakay (3970m/13022ft above sea level). Halfway up, you will stop to visit the archaeological complex with the same name (Runkurakay). This site, located at 3800m/12464ft over the sea level, consists of a small oval structure that is believed to have served as a watchtower. After going over the pass, you will descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lagoon) and enter the cloud forest to finally arrive at Sayacmarca (3624m/11887ft above sea level). This is a beautiful complex made up of semicircular constructions, enclosures at different levels, narrow streets, liturgical fountains, patios and irrigation canals.
Continuing along a gentle ascent, you will arrive at the third pass, the Abra Phuyupatamarca (3700m/12136ft above sea level). Along this climb, you can appreciate the magnitude of the Incas´ ancient engineering, by walking along paths seemingly hanging from the side of the mountain, and seeing rocks fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, saving the trail from the erosion due to the precipitous Andean geography. You will go through an Inca tunnel to later, arrive at the pass, and then continue on to the complex of the same name, Phuyupatamarca.
This is one of the most complete and best-preserved archaeological complexes along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and is located on the highest point of a mountain. Phuyupatamarca means “town over the clouds” and the ethereal shroud of mist makes it easy to bury yourself in its mystery and in the moment. For this reason we will stop here for a short tour and so that you may take in the energy of the site and take the time to really be present in this experience.
You will continue the trek, descending the long stone stairways that lead you to Winay Wayna (2650m/8692ft above sea level), an impressive Inca complex made up of an agricultural center with numerous terraces, religious sector and urban sectors, close to where the camp is located. After visiting the impressive archaeological site, you will enjoy the farewell dinner at our camp.
On this fourth and last day, you will wake up at 4.00am to leave Wiñay Wayna, an hour later climb to the Inti Punku, or The Sun Gate. This will take an hour of hiking along a trail of flat stones on the edges of cliffs in highland jungle. From this fabulous spot, you will see the first rays of sun coming over the mountains and shining down over the sacred citadel of Machu Picchu. From the Inti Punku you will descend towards Machu Picchu, and 40 minutes later you will enter to the citadel from the highest point through the “House of the Guardians”. You must then exit through the control point at the main gate of the site where you will register and
leave your backpacks. You will immediately begin a complete guided tour of this amazing Inca citadel, taking approximately two hours. You will have free time to walk around, to climb Huayna Picchu and visit the Temple of the Moon, to climb Machu Picchu Mountain (both must be reserved at time of booking), where one can experience spectacular views of all of Machu Picchu, the valleys and mountains that surround it, or visit the fabulous Inca Bridge. In the afternoon, we will meet in the town of Aguas Calientes where, if you like, you can visit and relax in its hot springs. From here we take the train back to the city of Cusco, arriving after nightfall.
* The Departure and arrival times are approximate.
** Campsites are subject to change according to the designation of the governmental institution that regulates the use of the Inca Trail.
Would you like to trek the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Please contact us for more details!