|The Inca Trail||[?]|
|The Inca Trail|
[ edit ]
|Distance||45 kilometers (27.9 miles)|
|Time Required||4-5 days|
|Trail Type||One Way|
|Elevation Gain||2420 meters (7940 feet)|
|High Point||4200 meters (13780 feet)|
|Low Point||2600 meters (8530 feet)|
|Best Months||May - September|
|Nearest City||Cuzco, Peru|
Considered by many to be on the short-list of life-time goal treks, The Inca Trail is a magical, though strenuous, multiday hike to the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu.
The trail must be done through a tour and reservations fill up months in advance, especially during the busiest and best times to visit (May through September).
From Cuzco, your tour operator will pick you up early on your first day (anywhere from 3am to 5am) and take you and your equipment to the town of Ollantaytambo, about 1.5 hours from Cuzco. Ollantaytambo is where the train leaves for Aguas Calientes, and you will return to this town on your way back after you've finished The Inca Trail.
Usually you will have breakfast in Ollantaytambo and then get back in the van or truck and head to the trailhead/entrance at Km. 82, about 45 minutes away.
Keep in mind that there are several different schedules within the 4 or 5 day treks. For example, some tour groups will go to Pacaymayu on the 1st night for camping while others camp at Wayllabamba on the 1st night. All the 4 day treks end up at Winaywayna on the 3rd night.
Starting Altitude: 2,600m (8,528 ft)
Ending Altitude: 3,000m (9,840 ft)
Elevation: Up 550m (1,804 ft), down 100m (328 ft)
Distance: 12 km (7.2 mi)
Approximate Time: 5:30 hours
You will arrive at the trailhead from Ollantaytambo, put on your pack, and head down to the checkpoint/entrance to the trail. Here you will be required to show your physical passport and your guide should have your tickets. After crossing the bridge you will start!
The river you cross and that you will see later from spectacular views is the Urubamba River, which has carved the Sacred Valley that you are walking through. The beginning of the trail is very gentle and quite pleasant with slow ascents and great views. You can see across the river (and hear, eventually) the train and track from Aguas Calientes.
In this beginning section of about 4 km following the river, you will see some interesting local flora including quinoa, elderberries, avocado trees, Angel's Trumpets, and tara trees (which the Incas used the resin of to embalm their mummies). The mountains you see here are made of basalt, in contrast to the granite you will see at Machu Picchu.
After 4 kilometers you will branch away from the river and begin a more steep ascent, though not for too long. There are several local homes along the trail that sell water and snacks in case you need anything. However, you will only see local homes for the first 12 kilometers.
At about 5 km in you will come to a level bluff that overlooks Llactapata, the first of many Incan ruins you will come across. It's believed that Llactapata was a checkpoint on The Inca Trail and the name means "Town On A Mountain". The 5 day trek will camp here on the 1st day.
From Llactapata, you begin a downward hike through switchbacks, finally ending up back near the river at the bottom of the valley. The elevation gains so far are still fairly gentle, and from the bottom of the valley you will continue along a moderate ascent for several kilometers.
Eventually you will reach Wayllabamba, about 12km from the trailhead. Wayllabamba is the stopping point for some groups, while others who have gotten up earlier will have lunch here. Wayllabamba is at the foot of arguably the hardest part of the trek: a 1200 meter ascent to Warmiwanuscca ("Dead Woman's Pass").
Starting Altitude: 3,000m (9,840 ft)
Ending Altitude: 3,500m (11,480 ft)
Elevation: Up 1,200m (3,936 ft) to Dead Woman's Pass, down 800m (2,624 ft) to Pacaymayu
Distance: 11 km (6.6 mi)
Approximate Time: 7:30 hours
From Wayllabamba, you will begin a strenuous ascent up through the mountains. It is interesting to note that 85% of the stones on The Inca Trail are authentic and have been there for 500 years (the Peruvian Institute of National Culture has restored some stones).
As you ascend, porters will be passing you. It is important to always stop and lets porters pass, and you should always stand on the mountain side of the trail (not the cliff side).
About 300 meters from Wayllabamba you will come to a small campground that some groups will use for lunch or to spend the night (depending on schedule). Continuing along, you can see views of the Dead Woman named for Dead Woman's Pass (there was not an actual dead woman, instead it is the shape of the mountain that gives the pass its name: you can see her head's profile as well as breast and nipple). Around this elevation the surroundings change somewhat and you will enter a rainforest type area, which is quite beautiful.
At 3700 meters (700 meters up the steps from Wayllabamba) you will reach Llullucha Pampa, a level and open bluff that many groups use to spend the night. Others will have lunch here, while some simply press on to the final 500 meter section.
From Llullucha Pampa you will be able to see the top of the pass for the rest of the way, as well as turn around and view increasingly impressive sights down to the bottom where you started. Once you reach the top, take a well earned break and your obligatory photos at the high point of the entire trek, 4200 meters.
Don't get too comfortable, however, as no group stops here for too long. After the celebrations are over, you will begin an equally steep downhill trek. This is approximately 800 meters down more stone steps that can be hard on the knees.
About a third of the way down you will reach a relatively level section, before going down a steep section again. Along the way you should be able to spot Pacaymayu, the campsite. About 3 km down the path you should start to be able to see a series of waterfalls that help create the Pacaymayu River you will be getting water from. After crossing a small bridge with a good lockout to these waterfalls, it is a short bit farther to the campsite, Pacaymayu. Some groups will have lunch here while others spend the night.
Starting Altitude: 3,500m (11,480 ft)
Ending Altitude: 2,650m (8,692 ft)
Elevation: Up 400m (1,312 ft) to the 2nd pass; down 400m (1312 ft) down to Sayacmarca; up 150m (492 ft) to 3rd pass; down 1000m (3280 ft) to Winaywayna campsite
Distance: 16 km (9.6 mi)
Approximate Time: 8 hours
From the self named campsite in Pacaymayu Valley, you will begin another fairly steep 600 meter ascent. There are great views all around of the valley and river, and about half way up at 3800m is an Incan ruin, Runkuraqay (meaning "Egg Building", for its shape). It's believed that Runkuraqay was a lookout building for people coming along the Inca Trail, as well as a tavern type site for messengers and other travelers.
Continuing along up, you will pass a small lake and, turning around, you can see another slightly larger lake behind you. Eventually at around 3900m you will come to the 2nd highest pass on the trail and another deserved rest.
From this pass it is a steep 300m descent. There is a small natural tunnel early on and nice views of the valley, but other than that it is fairly nondescript. After about 3.5km from the top of the pass, you will reach a fork. From here you can either go to the Incan ruins of Sayacmarca (meaning "Unreachable City" and gotten to by a steep 10 minute climb), or dip into the valley and back out the other side to the campsite of the same name. Again, some groups will camp here or have lunch, depending on their schedule.
From Sayacmarca campsite, you will once again begin an ascent, although much more gentle than the previous sections. It is only about 150 meters up, and along the way are several lookouts to the valley, waterfalls, and Sayacmarca ruins. You will pass a Incan tunnel half way through the 4km hike to the 3rd pass.
The 3rd pass is a campsite where, again, some groups have lunch, some camp, and some continue along. It is called Puyupatamarca. Continuing from this pass you will reach another Incan ruin that shares the same name. To get here you will have to descend some very steep stairs (with unfortunate porters running up and down them to get to the nearest water source for those groups having lunch at the pass). This site was probably a very religious area, used for sacrifices and ceremonies.
From the ruins of Puyupatamarca you will continue down along the steepest and hardest descent of the trail, a knee-smashing 1000 meter decline. The descent does at least offer great views of the valley, including Machu Picchu Mountain, the small town of Aguas Calientes, and the ruins of Intipata and Winaywayna.
After about 7km of descent, you will reach a fork in the road. To the left you can visit Intipata (meaning "The Sun Terraces") and then get to the campsite at Winaywayna, or you can take a shorter and steeper direct route to the Winaywayna campsite by going right.
If you go left to Intipata, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the Urubamba Valley and River, as well as a most impressive Incan site. From Intipata you will descend again to the Winaywayna campsite, where all groups on the 4 day trek will converge.
If your schedule gets you to Winaywayna early enough, you will have the opportunity to visit the Winaywayna ruins (some call it "Mini Machu Picchu") as well as a waterfall you can use to bathe in. To get to the ruins and waterfall, go past the old hostel and restaurant. The Winaywayna ruins are usually almost empty and the backdrop of the valley behind them makes it a truly special place. The waterfall is maybe a 10-15 minute walk along the path from Winaywayna and is usually similarly empty of people.
Starting Altitude: 2,650m (8,692 ft)
Ending Altitude: 2,400m (7,872 ft)
Elevation: Up 120m (394 ft) to Intipunku; down 320m (1,049 ft) to Machu Picchu
Distance: 6 km (3.6 mi)
Approximate Time: 2:30 hours
All the groups will end their treks at Winaywayna campground (arriving at different times the previous day) so they can make the final section to Machu Picchu early in the morning. The checkpoint opens at 5:30am, but most groups will have queued by around 4:30-5:00am (this is because the porters must leave fairly early to catch a local bus that brings them home). All this equates to a wake up time around 3:30-4:00am.
After standing in line at the checkpoint and finally being admitted, you will begin the final section of The Inca Trail, snaking around Machu Picchu Mountain. The first 1-2km are fairly gentle ascents, but take care as people have fallen off the sides of the cliffs here and been killed.
About 2.5 km from the checkpoint you will reach the "Inca Elevator", a series of 50 extremely steep stones that leave most trekkers gasping for breath at the top. You can turn around here and have one last look at the Urubamba Valley, or continue along toward Intipunku, or "The Sun Gate". To get to Intipunku you will need to ascend the final section of stones that go for about 0.5 km.
Intipunku marks the last high point of the trek and, more importantly, the first view of Machu Picchu. This is a point of celebration for most groups, with photos and high fives all around.
From Intipunku, the trail is a gentler descent (aside from a few short sections) with picturesque views of Machu Picchu the whole way down. The end of the trail is, of course, Machu Picchu itself, which you should have the rest of the day to explore.
First and foremost: The Inca Trail is not an easy hike. You should be in good physical condition and mentally positive. You will be hiking over great elevation changes miles and miles, usually carrying your own things (unless you hire a porter).
Altitude sickness is a very serious condition affecting people from all ages and fitness levels to different degrees. If at all possible, you should arrive in Cuzco at least 3 days early to acclimate.
Symptoms of altitude sickness include:
Immediately arriving in a high altitude area (Cuzco), you should start drinking lots of water. Try to abstain from alcohol and smoking while you acclimate.
You can chew coca leaves like the locals to combat altitude sickness; there are many coca shops around Cusco and tours usually start the days with coca tea. There are also altitude sickness pills called Sorochji that you can buy from the local pharmacies that seem to work quite well.
Be careful of loose rocks on the long descents, especially near the end of the season before the maintenance month of February.
There is a LOT of elevation gain and loss on this trail - if you have weak knees or are not in good physical condition, consider hiring a porter to carry your gear, as well as bringing hiking sticks.
There are 500 people a day admitted to the trail, so you will see many other hikers and porters along the way. This is not a hike for those looking for seclusion.
Fog and rain is a serious "problem" on The Inca Trail. Throughout almost the entire year fog comes up through the valley and obscures views and photographs through at least parts of the day. You will want to bring a poncho as rain is frequent and can ruin a good trek if not prepared for.
The coldest months are also the most popular and clearest. During the Peruvian winter months of June-August, night temperatures can get down to -10C so you will need to plan accordingly with your warm clothing.
Important: The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.
You WILL need to book a guided tour in advance, and a tour is the only way to go on The Inca Trail. The Peruvian government is very conscious about the historic and cultural value of this area and limits the number of people on the trail to 500 per day (this is total, for all porters, guides, and trekkers).
Expect to pay at least $450 for a 4 day/3 night guided trek with a reputable company.
You must carry your passport with you at all times on the trek; there are checkpoints that will require you to show your passport.
Tipping: Tipping is a big question for trekkers. It is certainly expected unless you have a bad experience. Usually the average is a tipping pool of around 10% of your package fee. For example if your tour fee was $500, a good tipping pool is about $50. You will have to tip the porters and the guide (the guide should get more than the porters). Of course, this is all up to your own discretion.
Additional Costs: Most things are included in your tour package, entrance fees, transporation, and most food. However, you will need to pay for your own breakfast on the first day and any food you eat once you reach Aguas Calientes. Obviously tipping will also require your own money.
An optional choice is to hire a porter to carry your gear, aside from a daypack. Usually this costs around $100-120 plus a tip to the porter, who can carry about 14 kilos of your gear.
Food prepared along The Inca Trail is actually quite good. Expect to have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all good sizes. Additionally, snacks are usually supplied and you will have an opportunity every day to fill up your water bottles with boiled water.
There is little opportunity to shower along the trail, although on the 3rd night at Winaywayna there are cold showers. There is also a waterfall near the ruins of Winaywayna that one can sponge bathe in. There is talk of creating a pay shower at Winaywayna, but in 2011 it was not completed.
Arguably the worst "amenity" on the trail is the toilet situation. The toilets are all of the squat variety and, because hundreds of people use them (usually all at once in the morning or evening), they can become very filthy. Usually a pile of used toilet paper is in the corner, with mud, feces, and urine in different quantities around the hole.
Recommended items to bring (most tours do not include these):
Once you reach Machu Picchu, there are several day hikes you can do. The most popular is to Wayna Picchu, an extremely steep hike behind Machu Picchu that must be reserved in advance. Alternatively you can hike to the Inca Bridge, a very dangerous and narrow path. Daytrippers to Machu Picchu will often hike up to Intipunku (but of course you just came from there!).
Trailhead (-13.215912, -72.383802) : KM-82, 2500 meters|
Point Of Interest (-13.235187, -72.422938) : Llactapata, 2660 meters
Point Of Interest (-13.264294, -72.44716) : Wayllabamba, 3000 meters, some groups camp or have lunch here
Point Of Interest (-13.235572, -72.497218) : Pacaymayu, 3700 meters, some groups camp or have lunch here
Point Of Interest (-13.228086, -72.516506) : Sayacmarca, 3525 meters, some groups camp or have lunch here
Point Of Interest (-13.20652, -72.531969) : Puyupatamarca, 3580 meters
Point Of Interest (-13.19032, -72.537625) : Winaywayna Campsite, 2650 meters
Point Of Interest (-13.24258, -72.483979) : Dead Woman's Pass, 4200 meters, high point of the trek
Point Of Interest (-13.171341, -72.534585) : Intipunku, 2700 meters, "The Sun Gate", first view of Machu Picchu
Point Of Interest (-13.186554, -72.541472) : Intipata, 2850 meters, "Sun Terraces"
Point Of Interest (-13.194827, -72.535721) : Waterfall
Point Of Interest (-13.19278, -72.536065) : Winaywayna Ruins, 2600 meters
Point Of Interest (-13.251547, -72.470857) : Llullucha Pampa, 3700 meters, some groups camp or have lunch here
Trail End (-13.163948, -72.54589) : Machu Picchu
Current user rating: 91/100 (2 votes)
|powered by||Recent comments|