The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, one of the best trekking routes in the world. There are thousands of miles of “Caminos del Inca” throughout Peru; but this one is the most authentic and Classic Inca Trail 4 days, which starts at km 82 of the railroad to Machu Picchu.
This is a route where varied ecosystems are joined with a sequence of monuments of the finest Inca architecture, which end in the classic postcard view of Machu Picchu, Puerta del Sol or Sun Gate. It was a route of pilgrimage and purification to enter the sacred Llacta of Pachacutec; 45 (28ml) kilometers running through the Cusichaca River valley, the open Warmihuañusca, Pacaymayo Clough, it passes through the archaeological sites of Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna.
A modern-day journey on the Inca Trail takes travelers along the most exclusive section of the network, believed to have once been reserved for top-ranking members of the Inca royalty, through the Sun Gate and into Machu Picchu.
All of our sample luxury itineraries are fully customized for you.
Most trekking agencies run buses to the start of the trail, also known as Piscacucho or Km 82 on the railway to Aguas Calientes. After crossing the Río Urubamba (26fl0m) and taking care of registration formalities, you'll climb gently alongside the river to the trail's first archaeological site, Llactapata (Town on Top of the Terraces), before heading south down a side valley of the Río Cusichaca. If you start from Km 88, turn west after crossing the river to see the little-visited site of Q'ente (Hummíngbird), about 1km away, then return east to Llactapata on the main trail.
The trail leads 7km south to the hamlet of Wayllabamba (Grassy Plain; 3000m), near which many tour groups will camp for the first night. You can buy bottled drinks and high-calorie snacks here, and take a breather to look over your shoulder for views of the snowcapped Nevado Verónica (5750m).
Wayllabamba is situated near the fork of the Ríos Llullucha and Cusichaca. The trail crosses the Llullucha, then climbs steeply up along the river. This area is known as Tres Piedras (Three White Stones; 3300rrí), though these boulders are no longer visible. From here it is a long, very steep 3km climb through humid woodlands.
The trail eventually emerges on the high, bare mountainside of Llulluchupampa (3750m), where water is available and the flats are dotted with, campsites, which get very cold at night. This is as far as you can reasonably expect to get on your first day, though many groups will actually spend their second night here.
From Llulluchupampa, a good path up the left-hand side of the valley climbs for a two- to three-hour ascent to the pass of Warmiwañusca, also colorfully known as 'Dead Woman's Pass.' At 4200m above sea level, this is the highest point of the trek, and leaves many a seasoned hiker gasping. From Warmiwañusca you can see the Río Pacamayo (Río Escondido) far below, as well as the rain of Runkurakay halfway up the next Mil, above the river.
The trail continues down a long and knee-jarringly steep descent to the river, where there are large campsites at Paq´amayo. At an altitude of about 3600m, the trail crosses the river over a small foot-bridge and climbs toward Runkurakay (Egg-Shaped Building); at 3750m this round ruin has superb views. It's about an hour's walk away.
Above Runkurakay, the trail climbs to a false summit before continuing past two small lakes to the top of the second pass at 3950m, which has views of the snow-laden Cordillera Vilcabamba. You'll notice a change in ecology as you descend from this pass - you're now on the eastern, Amazon slope of the Andes and things immediately get greener. The trail descends to the ruin of Sayaqmarka (Dominant Town), a tightly constructed complex perched on a small mountain spur, which offers incredible views. The trail continues downward and crosses an upper tributary of the Río Aobamba (Wavy Plata).
The trail then leads on across an Inca causeway and up a gentle climb through some beautiful cloud forest and an Inca tunnel carved from the rock. This is a relatively flat section and you'll soon arrive at the third pass at almost 3600m, which has grand views of the Río Urubamba Valley, and campsites where some groups spend their final night, with the advantage of watching the sun set over a truly spectacular view, but with the disadvantage of having to leave at 3am in the race to reach the Sun Gate in time for sunrise. If you are camping here, be careful in the early morning as the steep incline mates the following steps slippery.
Just below the pass is the beautiful and well-restored ruin of Phuyupatamarka (City Above the Clouds), about 3570m above sea level. The site contains six beautiful ceremonial baths with water running through them. From Phuyupatamarka, the trail makes a dizzying dive into the cloud forest below, following an incredibly well-engineered flight of many hundreds of Inca steps (it's nerve-racking in the early hours; use a headlamp). After two or three hours, the trail eventually zigzags its way down to a collapsed red-roofed white building that marks the final night's campsite.
A 500m trail behind the old, out of use, pub leads to the exquisite little Inca site of Wiñay Wayna (Huiñay Huayna), which is variously translated as 'Forever Young,' "To Plant the Earth Young' and 'Growing Young" (as opposed to 'growing old'). Peter Frost writes that the Quechua name refers to an orchid (Epidendrum secundum) that blooms here year-round. The semitropical campsite at Wiñay Wayna boasts one of the most stunning views on the whole trail, especially at sunrise. For better or worse, the famous pub located here is now deteriorated and no longer functioning. A rough trail leads from this site to another spectacular terraced min, called Intipata, best visited on the day you reach Wiñay Wayna; consider coordinating it with your guide if you are interested.
From the Wiñay Wayna guard post, tile trail winds without much change in elevation through the cliffhanging cloud forest for about two hours to reach intipunku (Sun Gate) - the penultimate site on the trail, where it's tradition to enjoy your first glimpse of majestic Machu Picchu while waiting for the sun to rise over the surrounding mountains.
The final triumphant descent takes almost an hour. Trekkers generally arrive long before the morning trainloads of tourists, and can enjoy the exhausted exhilaration of reaching their goal without having to push past enormous groups of tourists fresh off the first train from Cusco.
The city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, is a must on every traveler's list. One of the best ways to reach it is via the ancient Inca Trail. With paved stone paths and stairs cut into mountainsides, the trait passes Inca citadels, such as Runturakay, Wiñay Wayna, and Phuyupatamarca, through cloud forests speckled with orchids, across high Andean plains and up on to the oxygen-starved Warmiwañusca Pass. At a height of 13,780 ft (4,200 m), the pass leaves many a hiker panting for breath. It is worth remembering that the Incas used to run along this trail, which they used to send messages across the kingdom. The chasquis (dispatch carriers) carried memorized official messages and each could cover over 250 miles (400 km) a day. Ironically, the Spanish used the same roads to infiltrate the country.
4 miles. (6 km) from KM82. 2,000. Crop terraces, houses, and other edifices show Patallacta's significance in the region. At 9,843 ft (3,000 m) above sea level, it supplled Machu Picchu with maize, their staple crop.
The stone houses were believed to be occupied by the nobility and religious authorities, while the rest of the people lived in humble mud and cane homes.
Pulpituyu, the large circular tower built on a huge rock, may have served as an altar or prion prison. Its name comes from the Spanish word pulpito (pulpit) and the Quechua word yuj, which means a place with a pulpit. Around 15 families still farm the surrounding land.
8 miles (13 km) from KM82. 6,000 (district). San Diego (Jul 25). Huayllabamba, which means "grassy plain ‘in Quechua, is the largest and the last Andean community found on this trail. At 10,040 ft (3,060 m), the village, located at the foot of a mountain, is set W amid terraces where maize and potato crops are cultivated. On clear days, one can see the snow-covered peak of Mount Verónica (18,640 ft/5,682 m) in the Urubamba Cordillera in the distance. Many hiking groups camp here on the first night of the trail. Interestingly, in colonial times, the village resisted independence.
14 miles (23 km) from KM82.
This mountain pass is 13,780 ft (4,200 m) above sea level.
According to Inca mythology, the Andes were formed by giants turned into stones. This pass was perceived to be a reclining woman. The Incas believed they had to climb over her stomach to get to the other side. Warmiwañusca translates as "dead woman" in Quechua, hence the name Dead Woman's Pass.
The landscape changes here to barren and cold high plains, with the wind whistling through the pass. Hikers often place a stone on an apacheta (mound of rocks) located at the highest points on the trail as a payment to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).
17 miles (28 km) from KM82.
The ruins at Runkurakay, discovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1915, have only a single north-facing entrance and exit. Some believe that Runkurakay was used as a marker by travelers going to and from Machu Picchu to determine how much traveling time they had left. Others suggest that it was simply a post used to guard the road.
The round shape of the structure apparently inspired the workers employed to clean the site by Bingham to christen it Runkurakay, refering to its egg or basket shape.
22 miles (35 Km), from KM82.
Perched high on a ridge at a helgt of 11,8010 ft (3,600 m) above sea level, Sayacmarka tan only be reached by a narrow stairway cut into the mountain. It is thought to have been a sacred ceremonial center devoted to astronomy.
Sayacmarka means the 'inaccessible town, “in Quechua, but it did have a permanent supply of water and excellent food storehouses, an indication of its importance.
Hiram Bingham named the site Cedrobamba in 1915 after discovering a cedar wood forest nearby. It was renamed in 1941 by anthropologist Paul Fejos to reflect the site more accurately.
25 miles (41 km) from KM82.
One of the best-preserved towns on the trail, it is called the "town above the clouds" because at night the clouds settle in the ravines and the complex rises majestically above them. However, at sunrise the clouds disappear.
Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins in 1915 and christened them Qorihuayrachina. As at Sayacmarka, Paul Fejos renamed the ruins in 1941.
The curved walls and geometric terraces superbly blend with the shape of the mountains, illustrating the deep respect the Incas had for their natural environment. The ceremonial baths reflect the Inca mastery at controlling a natural force, spring water.
27 miles (44 km) from KM82.
This impressive Inca complex is situated at 8,860 ft (2,700 m) above sea level. The ruins were discovered in 1941 by, Paul Fejos, but it was Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello who named it Wiñay Wayna in 1942. Meaning "forever young," Wiñay Wayna is also the name of a local orchid that blooms perennially.
Its location near a major access road and the striking architecture suggests that Wiñay Wayna was an important township for the Incas. The town is divided into four distinct sectors. There is the agricultural area with terraces, the religious or ritual area, the tower area, which boasts some of the best architecture, and the urban sector. The latter is made of rectangular single and double story buildings with trapezoidal windows, doors and wall niches, as well as stairways and fountains. Significant sections of the complex illustrate the high-quality cut stone assembly of the Incas. This is the last ruin before Machu Picchu, which is just 4 miles (6 km) from here. It offers fantastic views of the beautiful valley and the surrounding mountains.
5 miles (8 km) from Machu Picchu. Km 2,000 to Cusco to Machu Picchu in Town Hall, in thetmal baths.
Aguas Calientes, meaning "hot springs' in Spanish, is popular among visitors for its natural pools. Also known as Machu Picchu, it is the last town for visitors going to the ruins and the end of the line for travelers arriving by train from Cusco (seep180).
The town's economy revolves around tourism so there are many hotels, restaurants, and countless souvenir and handicrafts stalls. The streets are filled with vendors touting for trade. Even the railroad track changes into an open market once the train eaves the station.
For hikers with aching muscles, there are thermal pools just out of town, including a bracing one filled with icy mountain water. The pools were destroyed by floods but have been re-built.