While most who take a Machu Picchu tour arrive by train, a lucky few arrive on foot via the Inca Trail Trek. To arrive through the Sun Gate on your fourth day of trekking is a memory that stays with people for ever. This world famous Inca Trail is the main reason many people come to Machu Picchu. There are of course many Inca trails stretching from Colombia down to Chile but this is the four day trek is the famous one. Some call it the Royal Inca Trail as in the time of the Incas it was only nobility and priests who used it, the commoners travelling down in the valley.
Why did they build the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail is considered by many to have been a pilgrimage route and your guide will point out the water features that many think were used for ritual cleansing in order to prepare for arrival at the sacred place of Machu Picchu. As you walk take time to think about the spectacular locations that they decided to build in. This was clearly built by people who appreciated natural beauty. Sayaqmarka site is perched on a hillside with spectacular view and is at the crossroads of a couple of Inca trails, though most of them have been reclaimed by the forest. Some of the archeological sites were resting places or perhaps look out points such as Runcurucay which has a commanding position looking down the valley and again lies at the juncture of a number of Inca trails. My personal favourite is Phuyupatamarca, perched high on the last pass before you descend to your last night´s camp. Its location is stunning.
Machu Picchu lies in the Vilcabamba region between the the Apurimac and Urubamba rivers. The Inca Trail winds its way through breath taking scenery passing through a number of different ecosystems on its way. As it goes it links a range of stunningly preserved Inca ruins. You will have fantastic views of snowcapped mountains and the opportunities to see orchids, tons of birdlife and if you are lucky even a spectacled bear. Cap it off with a guided Machu Picchu tour and you will begin to see why many of our clients decide to include the Inca Trail trek in their Peru vacation package.
How hard is the Inca Trail?
This world famous trek is considered of moderate difficulty but does include long climbs and also long descents. The exact itinerary can vary as different campsites are used depending upon availability. The highest point is reached on Day 2. You reach Dead Woman´s Pass after a tough 4000 feet ( 1200 metre) climb. The pass lies at 138018 feet (4212 metres) and you will certainly feel it. However the reward is fantastic views across the distant snow caps. For many people much of the difficulty lies in the long descents, the third day having the most descent , almost 4000 feet (1200m) but the views along the way are stunning and more than make up for it. Having personally led many groups on the Inca Trail over the years, I have realised the most important quality you need is determination. This is a moderate trail albeit hard in places due to the altitude but you will be extremely well supported by guides, porters and cooks. It may not be easy but there is no doubt this is the best way to arrive for your Machu Picchu tour and it really is the experience of a lifetime.
Include a Machu Picchu tour?
We certainly do. Your trek guide is also an expert Machu Picchu guide having studied at university for between three and five years to learn all about the history of the country and its cultures and archeology. All Inca Trail guides must undergo a revalidation course every year to update their knowledge of first aid and of the flora and fauna as well as being brought up to date with all the latest archaeological discoveries and theories at Machu Picchu. So you really are in the hands of experts. Your Machu Picchu tour will last about two hours and add to the knowledge that you have learned along the way. Afterwards you will have free time to explore the wonderful site. We encourage our clients to spend a night in the town of Aguas Calientes to enable you to revisit Machu Picchu the next day after a hot shower and perhaps take up the challenge of climbing Huayna Picchu for some stunning views over Machu Picchu and the surrounding area.
Inca Trail Day 1 – Km 82 to Huayllabamba:
You will be collected from your hotel early in the morning for a three-hour drive to the start of the Inca Trail at Kilometre 82 . The first day breaks you in gently as you follow the left bank of the Urubamba River for a couple of hours until you reach the first archaeological ruins at Llactapata (2300m). From here you leave the vast Urubamba canyon and begin to climb gently up the narrow Cusichaca valley towards the small farming community of Huayllabamba (3100m). There are small shops along the way to buy soft drinks or chocolates.
Inca Trail Day 2 – Up and over Dead Woman´s Pass:
After Huayllabamba comes the hardest part of the trek as the trail begins to climb steeply uphill through beautiful forests, before emerging onto open meadows at Llulluchapampa. From here it is a further two to three hour strenuous climb towards the Warmiwañusqa (Dead Woman´ s) pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 4200m, affording spectacular views before the trail descends into the Pacamayo Valley.
Inca Trail Day 3 – Two passes and then downhill all the way:
Climbing up original Inca steps, you pass the ruins of Runkuracay and a couple of small lagoons on the way to the second pass at 3850m where, clouds permitting, snow-capped mountains heave into sight. The trail then snakes down towards the ruins of Sayacmarca, from where there are sweeping vistas of distant valleys and hills. Continuing along the paved Inca road you pass through a tunnel before reaching the third pass and, soon after, the ruins of Phuyupatamarca. From a nearby hilltop there are often incredible views of the snow-capped Mount Salkantay, the most beautiful mountain in the region. This is followed by a steep, knee-crunching one kilometre descent to Wiñay Wayna. This exquisite Inca site, containing a series of fine ceremonial fountains and elegantly curved terracing, overlooks the Urubamba River and is home to the orchid of the same name. You will enjoy the relatively low altitude, as the site lies at 8858 feet (2700m)
Inca Trail Day 4 – Through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu:
From here, it’s just a two hour, relatively flat walk through wonderful cloud forest to the Intipunku or Sun Gate, from where you have your first superb view of the celebrated Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. You then carry on for 30 minutes to the ruins themselves. You will be given a two hour Machu Picchu tour by your expert guide. He will lead you through the maze of fine stone temples and palaces, spectacularly perched on a high, narrow ridge and you will then have time to explore on your own.
Combine you Machu Picchu tour with the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cuzco the ancient capital, or how about relaxing in the Amazon Jungle after your trek. You tell us where you want to go and we will arrange it for you.