DAY 1: CUSCO – OLLANTAYTAMBO – PISCACUCHO – WAYLLABAMBA (L)(D)
The adventure begins in Cusco, Peru. Before leaving the hotel, make sure you are carrying your original passport and ISIC card, if student. Travelers are picked up at around 6:00 am. from their hotels and start a spectacular scenic drive through the mythical 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 might stop at Urubamba or Ollantaytambo for last minute supplies, leg-stretching or to use the restrooms, before continuing to Piscacucho.
In Piscacucho, kilometer eighty two, you will get acquainted with the rest of the crew and the porters who will be carrying the camping equipment. This point is where our hiking trail begins, it is also the location of the first official Inca trail check point. 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 known as Veronica can be observed, as well as the Urubamba mountain range, which divides the jungle and the Andes. You are now approaching the Inca fortress of Willka Raccay.
After lunch you will continue hiking towards the extensive Inca settlement of Llactapata (Patallacta on some maps) and appreciate 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 feet above sea level (3000 masl) where you will enjoy 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, with hot tea brought to your tent, in order to prepare for today’s trek, which is considered by many the hardest. You need to complete a steep ascent reaching an altitude of 13779 feet above sea level (4200 masl) at Warmi Wañuska pass.
After breakfast we depart from the campsite at around 07:00 hrs. The uphill hike through Llulluchapampa will give you the opportunity to appreciate several species of birds (with luck you 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 altitude across the Andes.
Walk at your own pace, stop as many times as you like, to catch your breath or to stretch the muscle. The last hard climb takes us right 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 also 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 deserved rest, continue traversing the slopes on the left side of the valley all the way to our campsite in Paqaymayu at 11811 feet above sea level (3600 masl). You will find toilet facilities here.
(about 6 – 7 hr. trekking)
DAY 3: PAQAYMAYU – SAYACMARCA – PHUYUPATAMARCA – WIÑAYHUAYNA (B)(L)(D)
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 06:00 hrs. Enjoy breakfast with your trekking comrades and prepare yourself to hike along well preserved Inca pathway, for the most part being original.
Start with a steady ascent to the second highest pass at Runkuracay reaching 12400 feet above sea level (3780 masl) and passing through a circular inca control point, that occupies a commanding position overlooking the spectacular Vilcabamba mountain range below. Catch your breath and realize the rest of Inca trail is mostly downhill. Be careful with your knees, as the descent from the pass to the ruins ofSayacmarca is very steep and you may feel the strain at the end of the day. It is recommended the use of trekking poles, additional gel insoles and perhaps an additional porter.
Take a pause at this archeological complex located at 11472 feet 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 one of a kind 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 feet 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 (cloud-level town). A brief explanation of the mysteries of Inca architecture, before continuing along splendid paved Inca road to the impressive agricultural site of Intipata and up to the third and last campsite at Wiñayhuayna (forever young) located at 8856 feet above sea level (2700 masl).
Wiñayhuayna, named after a variety of pink orchid that grows here, is the last official campsite before Machu Picchu. The most impressive ruins until this point are located minutes away, even if you are tired after today’s hike, it is a good idea to explore the Wiñayhuayna archeological or just rest.
(about 7 hr. 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 04:00 hrs, in order to get 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 darkness. It is highly recommended to bring a head lamp. 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 feet above sea level (2719 masl).
Suddenly all efforts until this point 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 different angles around. A final short hike will bring us to the entrance and into the heart of Machu Picchu itself, where we spend the rest of the morning with a 2 hours 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 go. Just double check your train schedule and be at the train station one hour before departure. The train ticket included departs at 18:45 hrs. arriving to Ollantaytambo at approximately 20:18 hrs. It is recommended to upgrade your train to Vistadome service, giving you more train departure times and superior seat comfort for the ride back toCusco. Whichever train station you arrive (Ollantaytambo or Poroy) transfer from this location to Cusco will be provided. You will arrive to Cusco at around 22:30 hrs. with the included service.
(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)