Come and join us in one of South Americas most famous hikes. This amazing ancient trail goes through spectacular paths of the Andes mountains. Through this itinerary, you will be able to discover the way to the fascinating citadel of Machu Picchu, the world’s the best-known archaeological site on the continent.
The Classic Inca Trail is one of the world’s most renowned treks, a four-day adventure that takes you through some of Peru’s most captivating scenery to arrive at the mountain citadel of Machu Picchu. The Incas built a highly advanced network of nearly 40,000 thousand kilometres of trails to connect the distant corners of their vast empire that stretched from Quito in Ecuador down to Santiago in Chile and east to Mendoza in Argentina. The most famous section of this network is the 43km route that winds through the Sacred Valley and connects the important Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and, of course, Machu Picchu.
Your Classic Inca Trail begins this morning with an early pick up from your hotel in Cuzco/ Sacred Valley, and a road transfer to the trailhead at Kilometre 82. The porters will go ahead with the camping equipment and the bulk of your gear; you need only carry a daypack with water, camera and other personal items.
Cross the Vilcanota River and follow the trail to the right as it climbs steeply up from the river. After passing through a small village, the ruins of the Inca hillfort of Huillca Raccay come into view high above the mouth of the Cusichaca River. It is a simple descent down to the banks of the river, and from here a gentle ascent to the Piscacucho Valley and the village of Huayllabamba, where we make camp.
Maximum elevation: 2954m/ Minimum elevation: 2670m/ Campsite elevation: 2954m/ Distance: 12km/ Approximate trek time: 5 – 6 hours
You’ll be woken this morning with a mug of hot tea and a healthy, filling breakfast to help prepare you for the day’s trekking. From the campsite, we hike around three hours uphill through woods and increasingly spectacular mountain terrain to the Llulluchapampa plateau. From here it takes around one more hour to arrive at the highest pass of the trek, Warmiwañusca (Dead Women’s Pass, 4,200m). Pause for a rest and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding Vilcabamba and Vilcanota Ranges with their snowy peaks, and the sweeping valleys below.
The decent from the pass is steep although not difficult, following the trail on the left side of the valley to the valley floor and to the second night’s campsite at Pacamayo (3,600m). Congratulations! You have completed the most challenging part of the trek!
Maximum elevation: 4226m/ Minimum elevation: 2954m/ Campsite elevation: 3500m/ Distance: 11km/ Approximate trek time: 6 – 7 hours
After another delicious breakfast, we start climbing to the ruins of Runcuracay (3900m), which occupy a commanding position overlooking the Pacamayo Valley below. Another 45 minutes walking will bring you to the top of the second pass, Abra de Runkuracay (4,000m), where the Inca Trail becomes paved, mostly with original stonework. From here it is a steep two hour descent towards the Sayacmarca archaeological complex. This section of the trail, up till the third pass, is particularly beautiful as the path crosses high stone embankments and skirts deep precipices.
From here, we enter the cloud forest full of orchids, hanging moss, tree ferns and flowers, creating a magical landscape. The trail climbs to the third pass (3,700m), from where you can enjoy views of several snow-capped peaks including Salkantay (6,271m) and Veronica (5,750m).
A few minutes’ walk from the pass, you will find the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (‘Town in the Clouds’), the most impressive Inca ruins so far. Leaving the site via an impressive Inca staircase leading from the west side of the ruins (the far end from the baths) you descend a thousand or so steps. Be careful with your knees which will feel the strain by the end of the day. It is around two hours further to our final campsite at Wiñay Wayna.
The ruins of Wiñay Wayna are just a short walk from the campsite and comprise magnificent agricultural terraces set in an impressive location. There are also many buildings of good quality stonework and a sequence of 10 baths, suggesting that the site was probably a religious centre associated with the worship of water. Ritual cleansing may have taken place here for pilgrims on the final leg of the trail to Machu Picchu.
Maximum elevation: 3974m/ Minimum elevation: 2729m/ Campsite elevation: 2650m/ Distance: 16km/ Approximate trek time: 8 hours
Most people try to get up as early as possible this morning in order to leave the campsite at 5:30am, and reach the Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) by day break. The sky starts getting light by 6am and the first rays of the sun reach Machu Picchu at about 7am. Leaving Wiñay Wayna, the trail follows the mountainside and drops into cloud forest before coming to an almost vertical flight of 50 steps leading up to the final pass at Intipunku (Sun Gate). Suddenly the whole of Machu Picchu is spread out before you in all its glory – a fantastic sight for all. Enioy a well-deserved rest before we begin our two hour guided tour. Afterwards take the minibus to Aguas Calientes and board a train to Ollantaytambo.
Maximum elevation: 2732m/ Minimum elevation: 2400m/ Distance: 4km/ Approximate trek time: 2 hours