VISIT ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD!!!
Our 4-day Inca Trail Hike traverses above the Sacred Valley for three magical days in the Andean wilderness before emerging at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu on the fourth and final morning of your journey. Along your hike, you’ll experience the transition between the dry, andes environments of the upper Andes and the dense, mountainous Jungle that sheltered the lost Incan city of Machupicchu for so many years.
The Inca Trail is as much an archeological experience as it is a Wilderness Trek; throughout the hike, we’ll be passing through and camping amongst the remnants of ancient Incan cities, a wonderful preview of pre-columbian life before our culminating descent to the Machupicchu citadel at the end of our hike.
Day 1: Pickup in Cuzco, Transport to trailhead, Hike to Huayllabamba
Today’s Hike: 3.5 hours. Early morning pickup from your hotel in Cuzco with transport to the trailhead near the town of Urumbama. This is a scenic, early morning drive road goes through the Inca Sacred Valley, and the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. If you so wish you can have breakfast in Urubamba.
The walk starts and one should take it easy in the beginning. After a few minutes we reach and cross the hanging bridge of Cusichaca , on the Urubamba River , built with steel cables. We turn left after the bridge and after crossing a forest of eucalyptus we reach the Llactapata archaeological site. Llactapata, “village in the highland,” an archaeological site at the foot of a mountain situated on the left bank of the Cusichaca River, a tributary of the Urubamba. It has many cultivation terraces that probably served to feed people from other places and also keep full the “Ambos” (storehouses) of the Inca Road . Its urban sector holds more than one hundred dwellings. It also has an Inca altar called “Pulpituyoq”.
Campsite: We will camp near the village of Huayllabamba. Known as “Green Field, this agrarian indigenous village located in the foothills of a small mountain and surrounded by fields of corn, potatoes and other subsistence crops. Archealogical sites in the area include the Inca Terraces of Patawasi; these are accompanied by a few ancient Incan dwellings.
The normal fatigue felt after a day on the trail slowly dissipates as the traveler rests and smells the perfume of an orchid, while darkness slowly creeps up the majestic peak of the Salkantay in the distance.
Day 2: Hike Huayllabamba to Pacaymayu
Today’s Hike: 6 – 7 hours. For the most challenging part of the trek, you’ll begin the day climbing abruptly to the saddle of Warmihuañusca Pass. At an 13,779 feet above sea level, “Warmihuañusca” literally means “where the woman dies” in the local Quechua language, though we consider the pass to be an equal opportunity destroyer. It is a hard and tedious ascension on a pronounced vertical slope until you reach the pass. Along the climb you will appreciate the changing ecology, as you leave the reasonably mild valley behind and reach treeless pastures and enjoy hiking through high altitude tundra. The high mountain grass called Ichu can be found in these pastures.
Campsite: Once across the pass, we’ll enjoy a victorious break before we start down towards the Pacasmayo River valley where we will reach the campsite with public toilet facilities and a small waterfall. It is here where the stone work of the Inca Trail becomes increasingly visible, almost like a stone-inlaid street. Here, we’ll enjoy a hearty dinner and an early bedtime in our tents under the Southern Cross.
Day 3: Hike Pacaymayu to Winayhuayna
Today’s Hike: 7 hours. Today we’ll embark up and over yet another impressive mountain pass where we’ll be able to see the impressive archaeological remnants of Runkuracay, situated 12,500 feet above sea levels. Runkurakay takes it name from its half circle shape with a single entrance way with seven door-holes leading off into seven different rooms. The semicircular shape allows for shelter from the strong winds in the area.
After cresting the saddle, we’ll descend towards Yanacocha Lake (the “Black Lake”) arriving in Sayaqmarca (the “Dominant Village”) – an interesting Inca ruin on the top of steep mountain with a panoramic view over the Acobamba valley and the snowclad Pumasillo peak. Sayaqmarca is in the shape of a maze of very narrow streets, some which lead off to other places, others that are dead ends. The only way to access these buildings is through a steep but solid staircase of stone on the cliff side. The chasm on one side is filled with exotic plants such as orchids and lichens. It is like being inside a real living picture postcard – memory to cherish forever.
During the walk we’ll pass by Conchamarka, a recently discovered small archaeological site and the Chakicocha camp, a spacious open area with public toilet facilities and water. After taking a break here, we’ll continue uphill and until we reach the first tunnel along the trail. The Incan-built tunnel is about 60 feet long, sloping downwards with steps hewn out of the living rock.
Emerging from this marvel of pre-Columbian engineering, we’ll continue uphill until we reach the third and last pass along the trail with the citadel of Phuyupatamarca (“village above the clouds”), which is undoubtedly one of the most original citadels along the Inca Trail. It is surrounded by the Cloud Forest. It is located on the edge of a gulch that overlooks the Urubamba. Here you will find many cultivation terraces and ceremonial fountains with fresh water.
In the upper part of the citadel, there is a small square, where on sunny days one can appreciate the beauty of the Urubamba and the nearby snowclad peaks. In the lower part there are circular constructions that look like they were following the gradient of the terrain. Close to the Phuyupatamarca pass, the road starts winding downwards on circling snail shell like massive stone gradients until it reaches a second tunnel. After that the road goes along relatively plane cornices that follow the Urubamba River until we reach Wiñayhuayna.
Campsite: Wiñayhuayna (“for ever young”) rests at an altitude of 8675 feet. The name is derived from the orchids that can be found here all year round with their red, yellow and violet flowers. This is possibly the most attractive of all the citadels along the Inca Trail, and the last ancient urban center before reaching Machu Picchu. It was built on the steep mountain slopes on the left bank of the Urubamba – divided into four principal parts: the living quarters, in the lower part with more than 20 buildings, the area holding the ritual fountains, the area with cultivation terraces and the tower area. This last holds the best architecture of the whole complex, thus being assumed to have served religious purposes or belonged to the Inca Royalty. This is a truly spectacular place to spend the night before the culmination of our journey.
Day 4: Hike Winayhuayna to Machupicchu, Explore Machupicchu, Return Rail Journey to Cuzco.
Today’s Hike: 3 hours. Transcending between the alpine and jungle ecosystems, we’ll reach the Machu Picchu citadel early in the morning. The Incas always built their fortresses from which they could see without being seen, from where they could attack but not be attacked. The mysterious citadel of Machu Picchu, hidden away on a mountaintop on the edge of the tropical cloud forest region was a very difficult place to find.
The trail continues along the side of a massif hanging over a wide chasm with green slopes that come down to the noisy and foaming rapids of the Urubamba River, thousands of meters further down. Each turn of the trail reveals a different species of plant life or wildlife and beyond them, a new perspective of the impressive surrounding landscape. After three hours’ walk, we’ll suddenly find ourselves at Intipunku (“the sun gate”) – a modest complex of small buildings that seem to have been used as a control and outlook post. It is an excellent photo opportunity for panorama shots of all of Machu Picchu. By starting out early, we’ll be able to arrive here just at dawn. This is maybe the best place and moment to contemplate the majestic grandeur of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.
After taking the day to explore the monument, we’ll return to the city of Cuzco via the historic train service, which snakes through the lowe Sacred Valley along the Urumbamba River.
What to Expect
Whether you’re an experienced wilderness backpacker, or a casual novice with a lust for life, our classic 4-day, 3-night trek provides a great balance of challenge, comfort and both scenic and cultural beauty. On the first morning of your journey, we’ll pick you up from your hotel in Cuzco, transporting you to the trailhead where we’ll begin our adventure with an invigorating 3.5-hour hiking day, camping near an agrarian, indigenous village. The next two days are full of hiking and wonder, finding us camped each night under the Southern Cross next to ancient Incan ruins. On the final morning of our hike, we’ll descend into the jungle and reach the Sun Gate of Machupicchu at dawn.
After the day to explore the Machupicchu monument, we’ll return by train to the colonial city of Cuzco for a night of much deserved rest and celebration.
As a word of warning, during the dry season (May – September), the Inca Trail is very popular and, due to daily permit limitations, can be booked several months in advance; make reservations as soon as you’re able.
NOTE: Price per person in a double or twin room.