Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Day 01: Cusco – Hatunchaka
Between 5.30 and 6.00 a.m., we pick you up at your hotel in our own private transportation. We then drive to Piskacuchu, a community located on Km 82 of the Cusco Machu Picchu railroad. Starting at this point, which is 2700 m/8,856 ft, we cross the bridge and walk along the left shore of the Urubamba River (which is known in the Quechua language as Wilkamayu or "Sacred River"). The river flows northwest along the Sacred Valley. On the way to the first campsite, we have a view of one of the most beautiful glaciated mountains which local people called Wakay Willka (5,835 m/19,139 ft), or "Sacred Tears." Following the trail along flat terrain for about 2 hours, we arrive in Miskay (2800 m/9,184 ft), a tiny local community where you can share the local corn beer (known as chicha). Here we finally see, from the tallest part of an overlook, the Inca City of Llaqtapata also known as Patallaqta which means "Town on a Hillside" in Quechua (2750 m/8,856 ft). This city served as the local center for agricultural administration for the Inka, and it has more than 100 buildings organized into kanchas, or streets and squares. A few meters down is a hermitage called Pulpituyoq. We continue trekking along the valley created by the Kusichaca River, gradually climbing for about 3 hours. On the way we can view Inka farming terraces that local people are still using. We reach our first campsite in the Hatunchaka (2,950 m/9,676 ft ), the last local community on the way to Machu Picchu. Throughout the day we will have spectacular views of the Alto Urubamba Mountain Range on the opposite side of the Urubamba River, where the impressive Veronica peak reign ( at 5,835 m/19,139 ft ) and we will have close encounters with a diversity of wild flora and fauna along the valley trail.
Hiking time: 6 hours
Walking distance: 12 km
Day 02: Hatunchaka – Pacaymayo
We wake up at around 6:00 am, and after a big breakfast we leave Wayllabamba Village to begin the most difficult part of the trek, which consists of an abrupt and steep ascent that stretches for 9 km. Along this climb, the landscape changes from sierra to puna (a dry and high area with little vegetation). On the way to the first mountain pass, the Abra Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman´s Pass) 4,200 m/13,776 ft, we see domesticated llamas and alpacas grazing on ichu, one of the few plants that grow at that altitude. We also cross an area of the so-called mountain forest, which is the habitat for many different kinds of birds and animals, like hummingbirds, sparrows, and the Andean or Spectacled Bear (Tremarctus Ornatus). Local trees such as Queuñas, Pisonay, Chachacomo, Unka grow well in this area. (They are much strongest than the eucalyptus tree which is native to Australia). We advise that on this day especially that your day pack is well stocked with candies, chocolates and coca leaves because these will keep your sugar level high and help with altitude sickness. Immediately after the pass, we descend into the Pacaymayo Valley (3,600 m/11,808 ft l) Camp Site. On the way down we can see nice mountains, big water falls, and quiet places to meditate. We will have the entire afternoon to relax and explore.
Hiking time: 8 hours
Walking distance: 12 km
Day 03: Pacaymayo – Wiñaywayna
This day is the longest but also the most impressive and the most interesting, due the number of archaeological sites that we visit along the way. Our tour guide will share a great deal of information about the archaeology, history, and religion of the area as well as about the local environment including native flora and fauna. From Pacaymayo we climb to the second pass, the Abra de Runkurakay (3,950 m/12,956 ft). Half way up, we visit the first archaeological site Runkuraqay; at 3800 m/12,464 ft, it consists of a small oval structure with only a single north-facing entrance and exit. Believed to have served as a watchtower during the time of the Inca, Runkurakay was discovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1915. From this place we can see the first pass Abra Warmiwañuska and water falls located and the second camp site. After going over Runkuraqay Pass, we descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lagoon) and enter the cloud-forest. We then arrive at Sayacmarca (3,624 m/11,887 ft), or Innaccessible Town. This is a beautiful semi-circular complex consisting of enclosures at different levels, narrow streets, liturgical fountains, patios, and irrigation canals. Hiram Bingham named the site Cedrobamba in 1915 after discovering a cedar wood forest nearby. In 1941 antrhoplogist Paul Fejos renamed the site. Continuing up an easy climb, we will enjoy a quiet landscape of beautiful trees and flowers and spectacular views of mountains and glaciars. The third pass, the Abra de Phuyupatamarca (3,700 m/12,136 ft), is easily attained.
On the way down, we visit Phuyupatamarca Complex, or Town Above the Clouds. Phuyupatamarca is so named becase in the evenings clouds settle into the ravines in this area, and the complex rises majestically above them. Along the way to this site, we can appreciate the magnitude of the Incas´ ancient craft: Paths that are semi-detached from the mountain and rocks that fill up ravines in perfect order maintain a level trail in spite of the multileveled Andean geography. We go through an Inca tunnel to later arrive at the pass and then walk down to the ruins. This is one of the most complete and best-preserved archaeological complexes along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Located on the highest point of a mountain, one can observe a sophisticated sacred complex made up of water fountains with solid foundations, impressive views of the Urubamba River Valley, and the long descending stone steps along which we will continue. The next site we will visit is called Wiñaywayna Complex, or ¨Forever Young¨ (2,700 m/8,856 ft). This is one of the most beautiful archaeological site we see before getting to Machu Picchu. Wiñaywayna was an important township for the Incas, divided into four distinct sectors.The agricultural area with extensive terraces, the religious or ritual area, the tower area which boasts some of the best architecture we will see, and the urban sector make this an awe-inspiring archaeological site. After we visit this site we will settle into the final campsite where a lodge with a restaurant, bar, bathrooms with hot showers, and massages await.
Hiking time: 10 hours
Walking distance: 16 km
Day 04: Wiñaywayna – Machu Picchu
On this fourth and last day we will wake up at 4.00 am and will leave Wiñaywayna an hour later. We will climb to Intipunku, or The Sun Gate (2,720 m/8,891 ft) along a trail of flat stones on the edges of cliffs in highland jungle. From this fabulous spot, we may see the sunrise over the sacred citadel of Machu Picchu. From Intipunku, we begin our descent into Machu Picchu, and just 40 minutes later, we enter the citadel from the ¨House of the Guardians,¨ the highest point. We then descend to the control point of Machu Picchu, where we will register and leave our backpacks. We immediately begin a complete guided tour of the Inca citadel that will take approximately two hours. You will then have free time to walk around, climb Huaynapicchu Mountain (where one can experience spectacular views of all of Machu Picchu, the valleys and mountains that surround it), visit the Temple of the Moon, and see the spectacular Inca Bridge (restored). In the afternoon, we will meet in the town of Aguas Calientes where, if you like, you can visit and relax in the thermal baths. From Aguas Calientes we will take the train back to the city of Cusco, where we will arrive after nightfall.
Hiking time: 2 hours
Walking distance: 5 km