The Inca Trail is a dream of many; the hike is one of the most famous in South America. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is a small part of a network of trails and roads built by the Inca around 500 years ago and are said to cover around 23000 to 45000 kilometers in total. The trail connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire with roads from Colombia and Ecuador in the north, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil in the south and varied in width. One interesting fact is that the Inca built the trails with the llama in mind; the roads especially in the highland regions have many steps, which the llama is well adept. Here we will give you an ideal of the trail with our Inca Trail Map, but first a brief history of the trail.
The trails were made to be used for a variety of reasons including trade, efficient transport and for war and were expanded greatly by the Inca Huayna Capac who added around 16000 kilometers to the network. One historian describes that Capac wanted the expansion to make it easier for his armies to crush any rebellions that might have arisen.
Fast forward, a few hundred years to 1911 and American Explorer Hiram Bingham while searching for another legendary city came across Machu Picchu with the help of a local farm boy. Between the years of 1913 and 1915, Bingham and his team uncovered much of the overgrown trail and today some of the trail is still being restored. Thousands of tourists hike the trail every year so you will need to book your ticket early.
The Classic Inca Trail is four days and three-night trek and you will need to make your Inca Trail booking early. In high season, the trek can sell out a year in advance so keep that in mind when thinking about your booking. The best time to do the trail is in the dry season which is from May to September but this is also high season and there may not be Inca Trail availability.
What to expect day to day on the Inca Trail, so let us give you a map and some idea of the trail and the sites that you will see each day.
Day 1. You will be picked up early and travel through the Sacred Valley to the starting point of the trail at KM82, passing the towns Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Once you have reached the start of the trail, ready yourself, you will set off across the Rio Vilcanota and start your climb. Before long, the Urubamba Mountain range will come into view and you will see Mount Veronica. Passing a small village you will see an Inca site called Patallaqta, which was also discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The ruin is thought to have been used to supply food for Machu Picchu.
Continue along another 8kms to the village of Wayllapampa which will be the first campsite for the night, here you see other trekkers joining from other treks like Salkantay and is the last spot pack animals are allowed.
Day 2. Today you will hike around 12kms so it is important to have a good breakfast, the distance my not seem that far but Day 2 is the hardest of the trekking days. After an hour of walking you will cross a bridge at the Huayruro River, here there is a campsite, toilets if you need them. From the bridge, the trail starts to steepen. You will pass through a cloud forest and a small village at around hour three. From this point, you will need to climb to Warmwanusca Pass, or Dead Women´s Pass, which is 4200meters above sea level. This is the highest point on the trail.
After you recover from the climb, there is a descent of 2kms to the campsite of the second night, which is located at Pacamayo. Enjoy dinner that was made by campfire by your camp chef.
Day 3. After trekking for an hour, you will arrive at the ruins of Runkuracay, which was a watchtower over the Pacamayo valley. Travel another hour and reach the Runkuracy Pass, which is at 4000 meters. From here starts the beautifully paved trails and stairs, next arrive at the second pass at Sayacmarca another ruin with more stone staircases, the purpose for Sayacmarca is still unknown. Climbing up to the third pass through an original Inca tunnel, once you reach the top of the pass, the views on a clear day are spectacular.
One of the most impressive ruins on the Inca Trail, besides Machu Picchu is Phuyupatamarca, which means The City above the Clouds, was used for spiritual or ritual purposes. From here, prepare yourself for a hard descent of 1000 stairs; take you time, as this can be hard on your knees. Another 3 hours of walking before your reach Winay Wayna, the campsite for the last night. Near the site are Inca baths that were used to cleanse before reaching Machu Picchu.
Day 4. An early start for the 2-hour trek to the Sun Gate. Be aware that it is still dark at this point so you will need a torch. The trail is through a cloud forest before you reach at set or stone steps, 50 in total, but when you reach the top, you will get your first view of Machu Picchu. Take your time and enjoy the view and take many photos from here. Next walk down to Machu Picchu, your guide will give you a tour of Machu Picchu where you will learn about the ruin and its many different sectors. Take some free time to explore on your own.
Later in the day, travel down by bus to the town below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes where you can have a meal and buy some souvenirs before catching your train back to Cusco. We hope you enjoyed our Inca Trail Map and remember book early to avoid disappointment.