Inca Trail Description: day by day
Inca Trail Description: Overview
Visitors come from all parts of the world to Peru, not only to see Machu Picchu but to walk the Inca Trail, the most famous hike in South America. They come to see the ruins and the scenery which makes this trail so famous. The total distance of the Inca trail is approximately 43 kilometres, departing from the place known as Kilometre 88. To begin the trip, one crosses the narrow bridge at Kusicancha, and afterwards heads towards the left hand side of a forest of Eucalyptus trees. Camping on this night is either in Wayllabamba or Llullucha. The second day is more difficult, as you have to climb to 4200 metres at the Pass of Warmiwañusqa (Dead Woman’s pass). The third day is the longest, but also the most interesting for many people as you can visit impressive ruins like Runkuracay and Sayaqmarca. Camping is either in Phuyupatamarca or Wiñayhuayna. On the final day many groups leave early to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku (sun gate). The remainder of the day is spent exploring this fabulous ancient city.
First day – Kilometre 88 to Wayllabamba Campsite
This day begins early as passengers are collected from their hotels between 6.30am and 7am. We travel for about 3 hours in the bus with a one hour stop in Urubamba
to buy provisions, continuing onto Kilometre 88, which is past the village of Ollantaytambo. Here the passengers must register at the check point in order to begin their hike. From there, there are just 42 kilometres of mountains, Andean valleys, rivers and tropical forests that separate you from Machu Picchu.
The first section, heading to the campsite of Miskay, where we can lunch, takes just one hour and is mostly flat with light climbs. After lunch, we cross a canyon. Once out of the canyon, we can see the ruins of the small city of Llactapata. The trail descends to enter the valley of the Kusichaca river, and from there the trail has a light climb to the campsite of Wayllabamba
, where we arrive after 2 or 3 hours after the lunch break. The campsite is at 3,000 metres and one can feel the cold at night. After dinner, and before going to bed, it’s great to observe the stars. On nights without stars, it is possible to see the Milky Way.
Second day - Wayllabamba Campsite to Pacaymayo Campsite
The Porters wake up the passengers at 6am so that they can pack their things and have breakfast. The second day is considered by many the most difficult because one must climb 1200 metres to the highest point on the trail, the Warmiwañusca Pass (or Dead Woman’s Pass) at 4200 metres. This climb will take about four or five hours. When you arrive at the pass, you may feel like a rest. It can get quite cold at such an altitude so it is necessary to have lots of warm clothes. If you have contracted a porter to carr
y your things, don’t forget to have a thick jacket and long pants on hand for the pass.
Once we have conquered the pass, we continue with a descent to the campsite. The descent takes about two hours, however, some groups like to stop and prepare lunch in the middle of the descent, in order to rest a little. Other groups like to have lunch in the campsite for the night - at Pacaymayo. In this form, you can rest for the whole afternoon. There are cold showers available at this campsite.
It is possible to contract the services of porters to carry your backpacks for the whole journey. Alternatively, you might like to contract them to carry them to the Pass or to the campsite of Pacaymayo. This is recommended if you don’t feel prepared for the altitude and the long hike, it is more important to enjoy the walk than suffer under your backpack. You can coordinate this with your guide and pay your porter directly.
Third Day: Pacaymayo Campsite to Wiñaywayna campsite
The third day is considered the most interesting, but it is also the longest. We begin with an ascent of an hour and a half to the Pass of Runkurakay, at an altitude of 3950 metres. On the trail we visit an ancient control post of the Incas
, as well as a lagoon where it is possible to occasionally see deer drinking.
Once we have climbed the pass, the rest of the trail is mostly downhill. While on the trail we visit four more ruins, the first being Sayacmarca which in the Inca period was a control point for the trails that headed toward Machu Picchu
. After visiting these ruins, we will continue to Phuyupatamarca where groups often lunch. From here, the descent is inclined and tiring because it is mostly stairs. Finally, we arrive at the ruins of Intipata, a complex of terraces and andenes constructed in the middle of the slope of a heavily vegetated mountain. The trail winds finally to the campsite of Wiñaywayna where one can camp, buy a well deserved beer, or take a cold shower. You should also visit the ruins of Wiñaywayna which are similar in type to those of Intipata, but more impressive.
Fourth day Wiñaywayna campsite to Machu Picchu
This day begins earlier than normal, at 5.30am, as the groups begin their walk towards Machu Picchu. It is important to carry a torch because it is dark at this time and the path is narrow. We arrive after an hour and a half of hiking at Inti Punku
– or the sun gate, where it is it possible to see for the first time the majestic Inca city of Machu Picchu
. From here it is only a half hour more to arrive at the ruins where you will have plenty of time to explore. It is recommended, if you have the energy, to climb the peak of Huayna Picchu from where you can have a spectacular view of the lost city.