The Inca Trail is one of the best known hikes in all of South America. Four days of walking up and down trails in altitudes that reaches above 4000 meters above sea level, but along the way will have the most spectacular views of mountains and valley, visit ancient ruins, see beautiful flowers and planets and at the end have a sense of achievement you will have never experienced before. The trek is not easy by any means and will test your endurance to the limit, but the pace is as you like it, not rushed, take your time to enjoy the experience and take in the views. You will pass many Inca ruins where your guide will explain the importance of each and you will get many great photo opportunities along the way.
The entire trail is around 40 kilometers and is walked by thousands of travelers each and every year, you will walk past three high Andean passes, with the best views of the Andes that you will see anywhere.
The trek consists of four days and each with its own special scenery and characteristics. Now we will go day by day with a brief description of what to expect each day and tips to make it a little more enjoyable.
Day 1. Normally the trek starts at KM 82 on the railway line to Machu Picchu, where you will cross the Urubamba river at 2600 meters above sea level, after the bridge you will start a steady climb until you reach the archaeological site of Llactapata. Continuing on southward for around 7 kms, you reach the first campsite of Wayllabamba where you will spend the night, here there is a spectacular view of Mount Veronica.
Tips for the first day… Enjoy the first day as the trekking is quiet easy and the distance is not long. At the first stop there is a shop where you can stock up on supplies.
Day 2. Somewhat harder than day one, day two starts climbing after you cross the River Llullucha, after the river there is a very long steep climb for about 3 kms through a warm forest after which you will emerge into a clearing on the mountainside at Llulluchupampa 3750 meters above sea level, from there it is all up until you reach the treacherous Warmiwañusca Pass, also known as Dead Woman pass by the locals because of its altitude of 4200 meters above sea level and the effort required to reach the top. From here you can see the River Pacamayo below. The trail continues down to the river, where there are many campsites, here you will find the ruin of Runkurakay, where you will spend the night.
Tips for the second day…. Probably the hardest day walking up to Dead Woman pass, but also after the pass you will have to walk down which can be hard on your knees so take it slow going both up and down, drink plenty of water, eat snacks to give you energy, and wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Day 3. From Runkurakay the path climbs to a peak then you will pass two pretty lakes to another pass at 3950 meters above sea level. The views from this pass of the mountain Cordillera Vilcabamba are spectacular. Further along the path you will begin to notice a change in the environment to a more jungle climate this is because you now are entering the Amazon basin. While descending you will pass the ruin of Sayaqmarka and will continue down towards the river Aobamba. From here it is a gentle stroll past an impressive Inca causeway through a beautiful cloud forest and an Inca tunnel carved out of the rock to the third and final pass that awaits you with views are lovely of the valley below. Just below the pass is the ruin of Phuyupatamarka at 3570 meters above sea level, these ruins have six ceremonial baths complete with flowing water. Continuing through yet another cloud forest complete with Inca steps the next part of the trail will take you about 3 hours to complete, finally arriving into the final night campsite at Winay Wayna. The ruins at Winay Wayna are about a 500 meter walk from the campsite but it is well worth the walk as the view from the ruins is without a doubt the best on the trail so take plenty of photos.
Tips for the third day…. Still a hard day with lot of kilometers covered, take it at your own pace, drink plenty of fluid and eat energy snacks. The porters generally have clean boiled water so don’t forget to fill your water bottles at breakfast and after lunch.
Day 4. Generally, the last day starts before sunrise with a walk of about 2 hours through a cloud forest and along cliffhanging trails before you reach Inti Punku or the Sun gate. From here one can enjoy their first view of Machu Picchu, this will depend mostly on the cloud cover, but if it is clear you will have an amazing view. The final walk down to Machu Picchu will take around an hour and once you arrive a two hour guided tour of the Inca citadel is normal. The tour guide will explain to you about all the different areas of Machu Picchu and you can take advantage of some free time to explore on your own. The train back to Cusco will leave in the late afternoon so after your time at Machu Picchu you may have time to go down to Aguas Calientes for a refreshing dip in the hot springs.
Tips for the fourth day… As you will be walking in the dark it is a good idea to take a torch to see where you are going, there won´t always be moonlight to light your way. Also be very careful if it has been raining as the trail can be slippery. Once you arrive at Machu Picchu there are storage facilities to store your belongings ask your guide to assist you with this.
Tips on what to pack.
- Hiking gear for cold weather
- 2 changes of clothes
- Clothes for warm weather (when walking it will get warm)
- Wool hat for the night time
- Sun hat for the day time
- Good quality rain gear
- Insect repellent
- Personal Hygiene products and toilet paper
- Walking stick
- Head Lamp or torch
- Comfortable Hiking boots (tried and tested before you leave home)
- A small amount of money, money for your lunch at Machu Picchu
The most important thing to bring is your sense of adventure and of course your camera.