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The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The four days classic Inca Trail

The history behind the Inca Trail: 

Although there are many trails and treks that lead to Machu Picchu, the classic four-day Inca Trail is the most famous trek because of the history behind it. In the mountains around Cusco and the Sacred Valley one finds many ancient paths that were once used by the Incas and their predecessors. Along these paths there are numerous archaeological sites that once had a religious, ceremonial or agricultural background or purpose. During this four-day trek we pass several of these archaeological sites and get an excellent picture of how the Incas used to live. The Inca Trail was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham. Bingham realized that the Inca Trail he had found could lead to the Lost City. It is believed that the Inca Trail was a pilgrimage route to Machu Picchu that was used by the Incas in the 15th century. The Incas believed that the mountains (Apus) were sacred. This Inca Trail was built by very difficult terrain, with bridges of stone or wood, and even tunnels carved through the mountains. There were more simple trails through simpler terrain to Machu Picchu, which makes it believed that the Inca Trail was probably only used for religious purposes because one had a practhig view of the incas-sacred mountains such as the Wakaywilka, the Veronica, as well as the 6,096-meter-high Salkantay, the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain region. 

What is known today as the "classic Inca Trail" is a four-day trek that starts at km 82 along the track and winds through the mountains, past incredible incaruines such as Llaqtapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuypatamarca and Wiñaywayna. On day four you walk from above and see Machu Picchu at the first rays of the sun at the bottom of the mountain.

Day 1

Day one of the Inca Trail

Day 1 (12km): You will be picked up at the agreed time and from Cusco, we will travel in private transport (van) to km 82. We start the tour at river Vilcanota. At the Check Point we cross the bridge at Kusikancha and start with the four-day classic Inca Trail. We first walk a part along the river over flat or even slightly descending terrain. Then we start with the climb. After lunch at Miskay we walk on and see below above the river the impressive ruins of Llaqtapata where we can clearly see how the Incas built terraces for agriculture. The next 7 km follows the road the left bank of the river to the village of Wayllabamba located at 3000 meters altitude. The name in Quechua means 'grassy plain'. Here we will spend the first night in tents.

Day  2

Day two of the Inca Trail

Day 2 (11km): Climbing up from Wayllabamba, about 3 hours through the ever steeper forest and an increasingly impressive terrain we arrive at a forest edge and meadow known as Llulluchapampa (3,680m). After this it is another hour and a half of climbing to the highest pass of the trip (Warmi Wauska - a or 'The Pass of the Deceased Woman) at an altitude of 4,200 meters. During this part of the tour, the hikers are exposed to the characteristic Andean climate with its first searing sun and later closer to the pass a freezing wind. Arriving at the summit we can celebrate the completion of the most difficult part of this four-day trip. The descent is then steep although not difficult. After continuing the trip on the left flank of the valley we arrive at the campsite of the 2nd night called Pacamayo (3,600m).

Day  3

Day three of the Inca Trail

Day 3 (16km): From Pacamayo it takes about an hour to the ruins of Runkuracay. These small circular ruins occupy a strategic position in Pacamayo overlooking the valley. A small climb of about three quarters of an hour will then take you to the top of the second pass: Runkuracay (4,000m). The descent from this pass is steeply running over large Inca steps and will have to be taken with great care. The next section of the tour, up to the 3rd pass, is particularly beautiful as the road is characterized by high steps carved in stone running along impressively deep abysses. After about 1 hour of walking from Runkuracay we will arrive in Sayacmarca. The name Sayacmarca means "Inaccessible City" and describes the position of these ruins in finality as these are protected on three sides by impregnable steep cliffs. To date, there is no clarity on the exact purpose of these ruins. Then we will have to walk back a bit to continue our Inca path in Conchamarca, a small Inca settlement that is situated in the shadow of Sayacmarca. This was probably a 'tambo' - resting place - for weary travelers on their route to Machu Picchu. From here the path descends through a beautiful forest full of orchids, hanging mosses, tree ferns and flowers and then walks through an impressive Tunnel carved out by the Incas into the rocks. Then the path leads us to the 3rd pass (3,700m). The view from this pass is impressive and gives a view of snow-cappled peaks such as the Salkantay (6,271m) and Veronica (5,750m). A few minutes after this pass we arrive in Phuyupatamarca, the most impressive ruins so far. The name means "City in the Clouds". The entrance to the ruins is via a steep passage of steps coming along six "Inca baths" which were probably used for the ritual worship of water. We leave the place via an impressive Inca staircase from the west side of the ruins that certainly consists of a thousand steps. At the end of the day you will definitely feel this descent in your knees. After about an hour of walking we arrive at our last camping pitch. From here it is still possible to visit the ruins of Wiñay Wayna via a short walk. The name in Quechua means "forever young" and is named after a variety of pink orchids that grow here. The ruins consist of beautiful agricultural terraces situated in a breathtaking setting. There are also many buildings and a succession of 10 baths indicating that the place was probably a religious center for the worship of water. Ritual cleansing could have taken place here on the last stretch before Machu Picchu.

Day 4

Day four of the Inca Trail - Machu Picchu

Day 4 (6km): The last part up to Machu Picchu is clearly signposted and takes about an hour and a half. Most people try to get up at 4.30 in the morning so that they can leave Wiñay Wayna before 5.30 to reach Machu Picchu before sunrise and to be able to experience the Sunrise through the so-called Sun Gate. It begins to become light around six o'clock and the first rays of the sun illuminate Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate at about seven o'clock. The last climb of the tour consists of about fifty almost vertical steps before arrive at the Sun Gate where you can see the spectacular view of Machu Picchu in all its glory surrounded by an idyllic landscape. In Machu Picchu you will then have a two-hour guided tour with the guide after which you will be free to walk around on your own/ on your own. In the afternoon you could still try the hot water baths of Aguas Calientes. At the time indicated by the guide we finally leave in train and bus back to Cusco.