Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
Trip Start Mar 18, 2008
23Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
250 people are allowed to hike the Inca Trail each day, so it would be easy to feel swamped by gringos but luckily we had a small group of four and a guide who liked to vary our schedule, so that we could spend time away from the crowds. The first day of the trek followed the Urubamba River past some small Inca ruins before heading up the valley to our campsite. 10km of fairly level walking helped us to get the legs back in action.
The next morning we woke up at 5am and started the long hike to Dead Womans Pass, 1,200 vertical metres above our campsite at an altitude of 4,200m
Camping at 3,500m the second night was chilly and we woke at 5am again to head to the second pass at 3,800m, passing more Inca ruins along the way. The third day of hiking was the longest (14km) but the most spectacular. From the second pass, there were views over snow-capped mountains covered by cloud and valleys of dense cloud forest. The trail narrowed and followed the contours of several ridges covered in lush green vegetation. We passed through tunnels carved into huge rocks by the Incas hundreds of years ago and after reaching the third pass, where the views were amazing, we began the steep 1,000m descent along the original Inca staircases to our final campsite. We visited a number of small Inca sites during the day, which popped up more frequently the closer we came to Machu Picchu. As we headed down into the forest, the weather became very hot and we all hiked in shorts and t-shirts. At the final campsite, we enjoyed a beer and a hot shower before exploring an impressive Inca ruin nearby called Winna Waynu.
Throughout the trek, the porters are eternal reminders of who really rules the high country
The final morning of the Inca Trail is a little crazy, with all 250 people rising around 4am and then waiting in a queue at the check point for the gates to open at 5:30am. The trail is narrow and everyone is hiking in the dark, but some people push past in their haste to get to the Sun Gate before sunrise and one lady lay on the side of the trail with a twisted ankle, unable to go any further. We hiked the 6km stretch in 45 minutes, without getting wrapped up in the mayhem.
With the sun still not quite over the mountains, we passed through the ancient Sun Gate and caught our first glimpse of the famous Machu Picchu
The ruins at Machu Picchu are so extensive that after our guide gave a two hour tour, we spent a few more hours exploring the different areas of the lost city. Plus another hour just sitting on one of the terraces and taking in the view. The cliffs drop away for hundreds of metres on three sides of Machu Picchu into the Urubamba River and with forested mountains all around, we couldn´t help but think that the Incas really knew how to pick prime real estate. The craftmanship of the stone walls would be hard to match with today´s modern equipment and the ability to build such a huge site during the reign of the Inca Empire which spanned less than 150 years, is hard to comprehend.
In the afternoon we headed down to the small town of Aguas Calientes and then caught the train back through the Sacred Valley to Cusco. Without a doubt, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu goes straight into our highlights package!