PACKAGE DETAILS | Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
DAY 1: CUSCO – OLLANTAYTAMBO – PISCACUCHO – WAYLLABAMBA (L)(D)
The adventure begins in Cusco. Before leaving the hotel, make sure you are carrying your original passport and ISIC card if you are a student. Travelers are picked up at around 6:00 am from their hotels and taken on a spectacular scenic drive through the mystical Sacred Valley of the Incas, with beautiful views of the Urubamba river, picturesque Andean villages, and the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. Along the way, we may stop at Urubamba or Ollantaytambo for last minute supplies, leg-stretching, or to use the restrooms before continuing to Piscacucho.
In Piscacucho, Km 82, you will meet the rest of the crew and the porters who will be carrying the camping equipment. Here we will pass the first official Inca trail checkpoint and begin our hike.
After clearing the gates and crossing a suspension footbridge across the Urubamba river, the trek begins with a gentle climb. Following the course of the river, the first three hours are on relatively flat terrain.
Superb views of the snow-capped peak of Wakay Willka, also known as Veronica, can be observed, as well as the Urubamba mountain range, which divides the jungle and the Andes. You will then arrive at the Inca fortress of Willka Raccay.
After lunch, you will continue hiking towards the extensive Inca settlement of Llactapata (Patallacta on some maps) and take in the impressive farming terraces of this complex.
The Inca trail follows the left bank of the river up to the village of Wayllabamba at 9840 ft above sea level (3000 masl) to where you will have dinner and camp for the night. Buenas noches, amigos!
(About 5 hr trekking 12 Km/7.5 miles)
DAY 2: WAYLLABAMBA – WARMI WAÑUSKA (DEAD WOMAN’S PASS) – PAQAYMAYU (B)(L)(D)
Early wake-up call today, with hot tea brought to your tent in order to prepare for today’s trek, which is considered by many to be the hardest. This day, you will complete a steep ascent reaching an altitude of 13779 ft above sea level (4200 masl) at the Warmi Wañuska pass.
After breakfast, we depart from the campsite at around 7:00 am. The uphill hike through Llulluchapampa will give you the opportunity to appreciate several species of birds (if we’re lucky, we may see falcons, hummingbirds, or black-chested eagles). From here the trail traverses a beautiful cloud forest full of Polylepis or Queñua trees before entering the puna, a zone characterized by treeless grasslands only found at this particular altitude across the Andes.
Walk at your own pace, stop as many times as you like to catch your breath or to stretch the muscles. The last hard climb takes us to the highest pass of the Inca trail at Warmi Wañuska. Once at the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Andes, the Huananay massif, and the surrounding snow-covered peaks. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment after conquering Dead Woman’s pass. Remember to have a warm jacket and your beanie at hand, when reaching this altitude, as temperatures may drop drastically. After a well-deserved rest, continue traversing the slopes on the left side of the valley all the way to our campsite (toilet facilities are available here) in Paqaymayu at 11811 ft above sea level (3600 masl).
(About 6 – 7 hr trekking)
DAY 3: PAQAYMAYU – SAYACMARCA – PHUYUPATAMARCA – WIÑAYHUAYNA (B)(L)(D)
This is possibly the longest day of Inca trail hiking but one that will bring splendid landscapes and views. A perfectly scheduled cup of hot tea will follow the wake-up call at around 6:00 am. Enjoy breakfast with your trekking comrades and prepare yourself to hike along the well-preserved Inca pathway that is mostly original.
You will start with a steady ascent to the second highest pass at Runkuracay, reaching 12400 ft above sea level (3780 masl), and passing through a circular Inca control point that overlooks the spectacular Vilcabamba mountain range below. Catch your breath, from here the rest of Inca trail is mostly downhill. Be careful of your knees as the descent from the pass to the ruins of Sayacmarca is very steep and you may feel the strain at the end of the day. It is recommended to use trekking poles, additional gel insoles, and perhaps an additional porter.
Take a pause at this archeological complex located at 11472 ft above sea level (3497 masl) for an in-depth tour and explanation. The name Sayacmarca means “inaccessible town” and clearly describes the position of the site, perfectly perched on the edgy rocks.
The Inca trail, now a monumental structure of granite stones, continues through ever-changing layers of cloud forest, full of rare orchids, hanging mosses, bromeliads, and tree ferns. Past the Inca tunnel, a gentle climb will take you to the third pass at 12139 ft above sea level (3700 masl), offering incredible views of several snow-capped peaks including Salkantay (20574 ft./6271m) and Veronica (18865 ft./5750m).
Close to the pass you will find the impressive ruins of Phuyupatamarca (a cloud-level town). You’ll hear a brief explanation of the mysteries of Inca architecture before continuing along paved Inca road to the impressive agricultural site of Intipata and up to the third and last campsite at Wiñayhuayna (“forever young” in Quechua) located at 8856 ft above sea level (2700 masl).
Wiñayhuayna, named after a variety of pink orchids that grow here, is the last official campsite before Machu Picchu. The most impressive ruins are located just minutes away, so even if you are tired after today’s hike, it is a good idea to explore the Wiñayhuayna archeological. Then, rest.
(about 7 hrs trekking)
DAY 4: WIÑAYHUAYNA – INTIPUNKU – MACHU PICCHU – AGUAS CALIENTES – CUSCO (B)
Today begins earlier than normal. After breakfast we say a farewell to the porters and set off on the trail by 4:00 am to Machu Picchu. This last part of the trail from Wiñayhuayna to Machu Picchu takes about one hour and a half of hiking and is clearly marked, but you will be walking in the dark. It is highly recommended to bring a headlamp. The path is narrow, traverses a lush cloud forest of giant ferns and brings an almost vertical ascent of about 50 steps to Intipunku, the gate of the sun at 8920 ft above sea level (2719 masl).
All your efforts from the last few days are rewarded with an unforgettable sight: a backdrop of natural beauty, human art, and forested peaks framing the magical city of Machu Picchu. You will have plenty of time to take photos of the Lost City of the Incas from the classic postcard view and additional angles. A final short hike will bring us to the entrance and into the heart of Machu Picchu itself, where we will spend the rest of the morning with a 2-hr guided tour and some more exploring on your own.
The shuttle bus ticket from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes is included, departs every 15 minutes, and will be available for you to descend whenever you decide it is time to head back down. Double check your train schedule and be at the train station 1 hr before departure. The train ticket included departs at 6:45 pm. arriving to Ollantaytambo at approximately 8:18 pm. It is recommended to upgrade your train to Vistadome service, giving you more train departure times and superior seat comfort for the ride back to Cusco. Whichever train station at which you arrive (Ollantaytambo or Poroy), transportation from this location to Cusco will be provided. You will arrive in Cusco at around 10:30 pm.
(B)=Breakfast ; (L)=Lunch ; (D)=Dinner
Important note: Campsite allocations are subject to change depending on availability provided by the National Institute of Culture (government office in charge of the Inca Trail)
IN MACHU PICCHU:
If you are looking for an extra challenge once you arrive at Machu Picchu, there are some excellent hiking options.
SUN GATE: It is a short hike up from the ruins and is always available and free to the public. This is a wonderful place to visit with amazing views of Machu Picchu.
HUAYNAPICCHU MOUNTAIN: The most famous additional climb to do while there and provides spectacular views of the ruins and surrounding area. This must be booked in advance and costs an additional $25/person. The climb takes 45 minutes and is moderately difficult. This is not recommended if you have vertigo or do not like heights.
MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN: Another great option to climb up and see the ruins from down below. It is a 1.5 hour steep climb up and can be very physically demanding, but the spectacular views from the top definitely make it worthwhile. Additional $25 per person and usually does not sell out.
Groups of more than 5 people
Students with a valid international ID presented at time of booking
Children under 17
Campsite allocations are subject to change depending on availability provided by the National Institute of Culture (government office in charge of the Inca Trail)