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The Inka Trail

Inca Trail Route Map
Inca Trail Altitude Map

Sample 4-day/3-night itinerary
Sample 2-day/1-night itinerary

Chicago Tribune Article
by John Biemer Jan 2005


More Photos

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Peru’s best-known hike visited by thousands of tourists every year. The classical 43-km trek leading to the Sacred Inca City of Machupicchu combines the visit of mysterious archaeological sites, amazing mountain scenery and lush cloud forest rich in Andean flora and fauna. Machupicchu is reached at sunrise on the fourth day.


Day 1: Cusco – Wayllabamba
Between 4:00 and 4:30 am, we will pick you up at your hotel in our own private bus. We will then drive to Piskacuchu (2700 masl), a community located on the 82nd kilometer of the Cusco –Machupicchu railroad.  Starting at this point, we will cross the bridge and walk along the left shore of the Urubamba River as it flows north-west along the Sacred Valley.  Following the trail along a flat terrain, we will arrive in Miskay (2800 masl), to then ascend and finally see, from the tallest part of an overlook, the Inca city of Patallacta (2750 masl).  We will continue trekking along the valley created by the Kusichaca River, gradually climbing for about five hours until we reach our first campsite in the Wayllabamba village (3000 masl).  All along the way we will see spectacular views of the Vilcanota ridge on the opposite side of the Urubamba River, where the impressive Veronica peak reigns at 5832 meters above sea level.  Not to mention the diversity of wild flora and fauna that can be found all along the valley.  Meals: B, L, D

Total distance:                   12 km (7,47 miles)
Estimated walking time:     5-6 hours
Maximum altitude point:     3,000 m (9,840 ft)
Campsite altitude:               3,000 m (9,840 ft)

Day 2: Wayllabamba – Pacaymayo
We will wake up at around 6:00 am, and after breakfast we will leave Wayllabamba behind 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), we will see domesticated llamas and alpacas grazing on ichu, one of the few plants that grow at that altitude.  We will also cross an area of the so called cloud forest, which is the habitat for many different kinds of birds like hummingbirds and sparrows and the Andean bear, which is also called the Spectacled Bear ( Tremarctus Ornatus).  We advise that on this day specially, your day pack is well stocked with candies, chocolates and coca leaves that will keep your sugar level high, and help with altitude sickness.  Immediately after the pass, we will descend into the Pacaymayo valley (3600 masl), where we will camp after approximately 6h of hiking. Meals: B, L, D

Total distance:                   11 km (6,84 miles)
Estimated walking time:     6-7 hours
Maximum altitude point:      4,200 m (13,776 ft)
Campsite altitude:               3,500 m (11,480 ft)

Day 3: Pacaymayo – Wiñaywayna
This day is the longest but also the most impressive and the most interesting, due the number of archaeological sites that we will visit and learn about from our guide. From Pacaymayo we will climb to the second pass, the Abra de Runkurakay (3970 masl).  Half way up, we will visit the archaeological complex with the same name.  This site, located at 3800 masl, consists of a small oval structure that is believed to have served the purpose of a watchtower.  After going over the pass, we will descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lagoon) and enter the cloud-forest to finally arrive at Sayacmarca (3624 masl).  This is a beautiful complex made up of a semicircular construction, enclosures at different levels, narrow streets, liturgical fountains, patios and irrigation canals. Continuing up an easy climb, we will arrive at the third pass, the Abra de Phuyupatamarca (3700 masl). Along this climb we can appreciate the magnitude of the Incas´ ancient craft, by walking along paths semi-detached from the mountain, and seeing rocks that fill up ravines in perfect order, saving the trail from the multileveled Andean geography. We go through an Inca tunnel to later arrive at the aforementioned pass and down to the complex of the same name. This is one of the most complete and best-preserved archaeological complexes along the Inca Trail to Machupicchu, and is located on the highest point of a mountain. Curiously, Phuyupatamarca means ¨town over the clouds¨.  From above, one can observe a sophisticated sacred complex made up of water fountains with solid foundations, and also impressive views of the Urubamba River valley and the long descending stone steps along which we will continue on to Wiñaywayna (2700 masl).  At this campsite we will find a lodge with a restaurant, bar and bathrooms with hot showers.  The campsite has the same name as the complex located only five minutes away from the lodge.  Wiñaywayna is an impressive complex made up of an agricultural center with numerous terraces, a religious sector and an urban sector. Meals: B, L, D

Total distance:                   16 km (9,94 miles)
Estimated walking time:     8 hours
Maximum altitude point:      3,900 m (12,792 ft)
Campsite altitude:               2,650 m (8,692 ft)

Day 4: Wiñaywayna – Machupicchu
On this fourth and last day we will get up at 4.00 am to leave Wiñaywayna an hour later and climb to Intipunku, or The Sun Gate. This will take an hour of hiking along a trail of flat stones on the edges of cliffs in highland jungle. From this fabulous spot, we will see the sunrise over the sacred citadel of Machupicchu. From Intipunku we will descend into Machupicchu, and 40 minutes later we will enter the citadel from the highest point through the ¨House of the Guardians¨.  We will then descend to the control point where we will register ourselves and leave our backpacks.  We will 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 the Huaynapicchu Mountain, where one can experience spectacular views of all of Machupicchu, the valleys and mountains that surround it, or visit the Temple of the Moon and the fabulous Inca Bridge.  In the afternoon, we will meet in the town of Machu Picchu Pueblo where, if you like, you can visit and relax in the thermal baths.  From here we will take the train to the city of Cusco, where we will arrive after nightfall. Meals: B

Total distance:                   4 km (2,49 miles)
Estimated walking time:     2 hours
Maximum altitude point:      2,700 m (8,829 ft)
Machupicchu altitude:         2,400 m (7,872 ft)

Inca Trail – Important Notice:
According to the Resolution #002-2004-UGM-CD, published in El Peruano on Nov 12, 2004, modifying chapter III of the Inca Trail Regulation which refers to Inca Trail space bookings, bookings will only be guaranteed by the governmental institutions when providing full names, nationalities and passport numbers of passengers, and when having paid the full amount of passengers and staff (cook and team of porters) entrance fees.

Cusco’s climate is divided into two differentiated seasons: the rainy season, from November to April (the heaviest rainfalls occurring usually between January – March); and the dry season, from May to October. The dry season is colder, so temperatures can drop to below 0 degrees at night.

Along the Inca Trail, temperatures range from 15-20ºC during the day if it’s sunny, to 05-10ºC during the day if not sunny or 0-05ºC at night in the first 2 campsites. At Wiñaywayna and Machupicchu, at lower altitude, temperatures are usually warmer though warm clothes are still recommended at night.