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Hiking the Inca Trail

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Inca Trail

The most famous trek in South America, this four-day trail to Machu Picchu is walked by thousands of backpackers every year. Although the total distance is only 33km, the ancient trail laid by the Incas winds its way up,down and around the mountains, snaking over three high passes en route. The views of snowy peaks and cloud forest can be stupendous,and walking from one cliff-huggingruin to thenext is a mystical and unforgettable experience-except that you´ll rarely have a moment´s peace to enjoy it. Think about taking an alternative trek instead.


The Hike

Most agencies run mini buses to the starf of the Inca trail past the village of Chilca at Piscacucho (km 82). After cressing the RioUrubamba and taking care of trail fees and registration formalities, the trail climbs gently alongside the riverto the first archaeologicalsite of Llactapata before headingsouth doen a side valley of the Río Kusichaca. The trail south leads 7kmto the hamlet of Wayllabamba (3100 m)  , where you can take a breather to appreciate views of snowy Veronica (5750 m).


You´ll cross the Río Llullucha, then climb steeply up along the river. This areais known as Tres Piedras (three white stones), and fromhere it is a long, very steep 3km, climb. At some points, the trail and stream bed become one, but stone stairs keep hikers abovethe water. The trail eventuallyemerges on the high, baremountainsideof Llulluchapampa, where the flats are dotter with campsites.


From  Llulluchapampa, a good pathup the left-hand side of the valley climbs for thetwo-hour ascent to Warmiwañusca (4198m); colorfully known as Dead Woman´s pass. This is the highest point of the trek, which leaves many a backpaker gasping. From Warmiwañusca, the trail continues down a long,knee-jarringly steep descent to the river,wherethere are alrge campsites at Paqaymayu (3500 m). The trail crossesthe riverover a small footbridge and climbs right toward Runkurakay, a round ruin with superb views about an hour´swalk above the river.Above Runkurakay, the trail climbs to afalse summit before continuing past two small lakesto the topof the second pass at 3950 m, which has views about an hour´s walk abovethe river.


Above Runkurakay, the trail climbs to alakes to the top of the second pass at 3950m,which has views of the snowcapped Cordillera Vilcabamba, The trail descends to the ruin of Sayaqmarka,a tightly constucted complex preched on a small mountain spur with incredible views, then continues downward crossing a tributary of the rio Aobamba

The trail leadson across an Inca causesway and up again through cloud forest and an Inca tunnel carvedinto the rock to the third pass at 3670m. Soon afterward, you´ll reach the beautiful, well-restored ruin of Phuyupatamarka (3600m above sea level). The site contains a beautiful series of ceremonial baths with water running throug them.

From Puyupatamarka, the trail takes a dizzying dive into the cloud forest below,  following an incredibly well-enineered flight of many hundreds of Inca steps. After passing through a tunnel, the trail eventually zigzags its way down to Wiñay Wayna, where a trekker`s lodge sells hot showers, hot meals and cold beer, for those who want to pay a bit extra.

From the Wiñay Wayna guard post, the trail contours around through cliff-hanging cloud forest for about two hours to reach Intipuku (Sun gate), where you may get lucky enough to catch your first glimpse of majestic Machu Picchu as you wait for the sun to rise over the mountaintops.


the final triumphant descent takes almost an hour. Backs are not allowed into the ruins, and guards arenot allowed into the ruins, and guards will pounce upon you to check tour Backpacks are not allowed into the ruins, and guards will pounce upon you to check your pack and to stamp tour trail morning trainloadsof tourists, so you can enjoy the exhilarated exhaustion of reaching your goal without having to push through as many crushing crowds.






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