The most popular and famous hike in South America – Inca Trail, passes by breathtaking archaeological sites, cuts through an exuberant sea of clouds and climbs steep passes to Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail is an amazing technical achievment, a network of over 22,000 km of road, as it stretches across an entire mountain, a tropical forest and some desert areas of the empire.
Of course, there is a tiny fragment of the road that can be taken today.
So today’s, if you want to hike the Inca trail you have the following options:
Inca Trail 7 days (Salkantay)
The trail starts at the sacred Salkantay mountain and joins the classical Inca Trail on the fourth day at Wayllabamba. This route involves some high passes, mountain sceneries of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Winay Wayna before arriving at Machu Picchu.
Inca trail 5 days (Classical)
This one follows the same route of Inca Trail 4 days plus the ruins of Llactapata where you will camp for the first night.
Inca trail 4 days (Classical)
This is the most popular trekking route and it starts at km 82 (so-called because of 82 km of railroad from Cusco) and takes you to the many Inca ruins like Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and of course Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail 2 days
This is the trail that we chose.
The trail starts at km 104 along the railroad from Cusco, climbs up to the Winay Wayna, then descends to the Machu Picchu right at the time of the sunset.
On the first day we only had the chance to see Machu Picchu from above, but not to visit it. It was only the next day we could go in right at the sunrise.
We woke up very early in the morning, at about 3.00 am. A bus picked us up and drove all the way to Ollantaytambo where we took the Peru Rail train till km 104.
The train is very comfortable with additional windows on the ceiling for you could enjoy the view better.
We hopped of the train and walk down the Shore of Urubamba River, on a wooden bridge.
We started slowly to ascent on the Inca stone steps.
The trail up to Winay Wayna was very steep. We climbed for 2 hours and this was the most difficult part of the trail: the heat and the humidity of the tropical forest all together with the climbing effort on a high altitude, made this ascend quite difficult.
Finally, we reached Winay Wayna situated at 2,650m, but before the visit, we had a lunch break, so we unpacked our lunch boxes provided by our organizers.
Winay Wayna is a very beautiful Inca site. It was built into a steep hillside and there are very cool crop terraces, still in very good condition.
The site was a very important place for the defense system, spiritual and religious culture of the Inca people.
The best thing was the Winay Wayna was not crowded.
From here the trail started to descent, and the landscape changed. The vegetation became greener and the temperature became cooler.
The next destination was Intipunku known as the Sun Gate, and after a long walk, finally, we were there.
Here we had a break to enjoy the view: the first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
We still had quite a walk up to there.
The road is often covered by fog, but if it gets scattered, you can have the perfect view of the valley and the Andean peaks.
The air got thinner at over 2700m, as the ancient stone-paved trail climbs higher. Every step that you take, leaves you breathless, but the final reward is worth the effort.
The clouds passed underneath, next and above us, and then, finally it appeared – The lost city of the Incas, in front of our eyes.
We had seen here the most amazing sunset. We did not want to descend towards our base camp even if our guide kept calling us.
Unfortunately, Machu Picchu had to wait until the following day.
We took the trail down to Aguas Caliente where we had the accommodation for the night.
Inca Trail is one of those bucket list experiences, an experience that happens once in a lifetime – to walk on the steps of an ancient civilization to their majestic city: Machu Picchu.