This 43km ancient Inca path leading to Machu Picchu is the most famous trek in South America and must be booked well in advance. I did this trek in 2005 and it was very hard to me because I was a little bit sick and weak. Still, I believe that amongst all the possible treks and other options proposed, the Inca Trail is the best way to reach Machu Picchu so ten years later I decided to challenge myself again.
The official Inca Trail lasts 4 days and 3 nights, arriving to the Gate of the Sun in Macchu Picchu on the forth day at dawn. This time our trek company announced us that we could not sleep in the third camp due to a landslide so they decided to complete the trek in only three days, sleep the third night at Aguas Calientes and dedicate the fourth day only to visit the Sacred City. That meant we needed to walk more kilometres every day so double challenge for me, yay!
On the first day the group left Cusco by 5.30 am to Ollantaytambo under a very heavy rain. A strike in the area threatened to block our road from 8.00am so we had to pass before! After a good breakfast in Ollantaytambo we crossed the Río Urubamba and arrived to the starting point or Km 82 on the railway to Aguas Calientes. Mules are forbidden along the Inca Trail so everything (tents, cooking tools, food) must be carried by porters and the load per porter cannot exceed 20kgs. Watching them to prepare everything was very impressive.
I was in a nice group with Americans, Danish, British and a guy from Malaysia. After the check in and the official picture at the Km 82 (2720m) we were ready to start the trek, let’s go!
Fortunately the rain did not bother us too much that day and we could walk with a good rythm and enjoy the landscape and the first Inca ruins. These ruins were basically viewpoints and a kind of resting places for chaskis (messengers) going from Cusco or the jungle to Machu Picchu. On this considered “easy day” we went beyond Wayllabamba (the first official campsite at 3100m) to sleep in Ayapata campsite (3350m), we walked about 17km and I was feeling very good 🙂
The second day started with a super breakfast: fruit salad, yogurt, cereals, pancakes, jam butter . . . we needed all this for the most challenging day! On this day we reached the highest point of the trek, Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200m.
This day we walked through three passes instead of two, walked about 18km and went beyond the second campsite to sleep at Puyutapamarka campsite (3680m). Unfortunately at the beginning of this day we lost three mates: our youngest member was completely dehydrated with vomits every 5 minutes and had to go back to Ollantaytambo with her mum and one of the guides, so sad! 🙁
The third day is considered the unforgettable day of the trek, crossing cloud forests and also an Inca tunnel carved from the rock.
There were also grand views of the Río Urubamba Valley and the Inca architecture was getting finer. My favourite ruins were Winaywayna, at 2700m. With these ruins and superb views over the river, who cared about Machu Picchu?, lol.
We had the last lunch of the trek at WinayWayna campsite, usually used to sleep the third night. I don’t know how they did it but our cooks were waiting for us with a nice surprise, a cake!
After the meal we walked the last kilometres to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate (2730m). The rain made these final km even harder and climbing the gate was a torture. On the top one can usually enjoy the first glimpse of Machu Picchu but that day everything was covered by a thick mist and we all were very disappointed, after all this effort that was not fair! Fortunately after 10 minutes the mist disappeared for some minutes and we could take the so expected pictures with Machu Picchu in the background. The Inca Trail finished there and we spent the third night in Aguas Calientes.
The forth day was dedicated to Machu Picchu. There are many theories about the real use of this 15th century Inca City, at 2430m. The only truth is that Machu Picchu is an engineering marvel of Inca times and an incredibly beautiful place. After a guided tour of the main constructions we had some hours to explore the site by ourselves. We all met back to Aguas Calientes at lunch time for our certificate, some piscos and the last pictures. Late in the afternoon we took the train back to Ollantaytambo where a bus took us to our hotels in Cusco. In the end I was very happy to repeat this experience, the group was very cool, I felt super fit with good walking times and yes, this time I enjoyed every second of this mythical path 😉
My Tips :
Website with recommended licensed Inca Trail operators. I did the Inca Trail with Peru Treks and I was very satisfied with the guides, equipment and food;
In high season you must book this trek 5-6 months in advance;
For a good acclimatization arrive to Cusco 2-3 days before starting the Inca Trail;
Pack light! You are walking at high altitudes and a heavy backpack can bother your Inca experience. I decided to book half a porter (8kg) and I was walking with only a small backpack, that made the difference for me!
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Quirky explorer with a preference for lesser-known sights, I am continuously looking for new ideas and tips to help you plan your dream World Tour!