Cusco Stories and Tips

HIKING THE INCA TRAIL

Machu Picchu Photo, Cusco, Peru

The distances involved in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are not that great. The entire 4-day trek is only 26.25 miles (42 km). However, the altitude can cause problems in the strongest hikers. For this reason all Adventure Life trips involving this hike spend a number of days at high altitude in order to acclimatize. The Machu Picchu Pilgrimage 11 Day tour spends nearly 3 days before beginning the hike and the Inca Pathways 15 Day tour spends nearly 6 days at altitude. NOTE: Many tour operators have Inca Trail tours that last only 7 or 8 days. This does NOT allow enough time to acclimatize to the altitude and clients will have greater difficulties on the trek.

It is generally accepted that anyone who is accustomed to hiking and camping (i.e. walking for several hours and then sleeping in tents) can hike the Inca Trail. For those less initiated in the arts of camping, a few weekend trips near home are strongly suggested to get accustomed to life in the great outdoors. Hiking the Inca Trail should be a highlight of a trip, and travelers should have an idea of what they are getting themselves into before setting out. We have had all ages on our high altitude treks, from 16 to 72. The right state of mind and several weekend day hikes near home can make all the difference!

Trip Detail

The appeal of this particular trek is the stunning combination of Inca ruins, magnificent mountains, exotic vegetation and extraordinary ecological variety. The trail goes over high passes with unforgettable views, through cloud forest, and finally into subtropical vegetation. Over 250 species of orchid have been counted in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, as well as numerous rare birds, animals, reptiles. Several species on this hike are also considered to be in danger of extinction. Peter Frost (author of exploring Cusco) recently reported seeing a pair of spectacled bears.

DAY 1: (6.25 miles or 10 km)
We take a bus to Kilometer 82 where we begin the trek at about 10:00 AM. The first day is relatively easy, walking 6.25 miles (10 km) over a 4 ½ hour period. Lunch is eaten at just before Llactapata. Camp at Wayllabamba, (10,000 ft or 3000 m)

DAY 2: (7.5 miles or 12 km)
This is the most difficult day. After climbing the first pass, the rest of the hike is quite easy.
Rise and shine at 6:00 AM, breakfast at 6:30 AM, wide awake and full of enthusiasm (!) to commence hiking at 7:00 AM.
The trail from Wayllabamba to the first pass of Warmiwañusca (14,000 ft or 4200m) climbs nearly 4000 feet (1200 m) and takes about 5½ hours. Lunch is provided 10 minutes after the pass.
It’s another 1½ hours of easy walking to our camp at Pacaymayu (12,000 ft or 3600m), near to Runkuraqay, where we'll cook dinner.

DAY 3: (9.4 miles or 15 km)
Leaving the camp at 7:00 AM you'll walk another 15 km (approx. 7 hours) to the ruins of Winaywayna (8667 ft or 2600 m) passing the smaller ruins of Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca on the way, as well as stopping for lunch and snacks.
At Winay Wayna we'll set up camp and have dinner. There's also a place to take a hot shower ($1) and a small restaurant where travelers can buy beer, wine and liquor.

DAY 4:(3.1 miles or 5 km)
Up before the sunrise at 4:30 AM, breakfast 5:00 AM and back on the trek to Machu Picchu early to arrive at Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) just prior to sunrise at about 6:45 AM for beautiful views of Machu Pichu if the weather is favorable.
Arrive at Machu Picchu ruins (8000 ft or 2400 m) at 7:30 AM. Guided tour and some time alone to appreciate the views. Short bus trip to Aguas Calientes (or you can race one of the chaskis or Inca Runners to the bottom) for a hot shower in our hotel!
NOTE: The exact locations where you will have lunch and camp is subject to change depending weather conditions, current Park regulations and the abilities of the group.

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