Many countries have mountain ranges with beautiful scenery and Cusco- Peru itself is richly blessed in this respect with many other areas for hiking.
However the scenery is only one of the elements responsible for the magic of the Inca Trail. Can there be any walk anywhere in the world with such a combination of natural beauty, history and sheer mystery and with such an awe-inspiring destination?
There the various Inca buildings along the way serve to heighten the hiker's sense of anticipation as he or she approaches what would surely find a place in any new list of archaeological wonders of the world - Machu Picchu.
The Arqueological places on the trail are all many times less crowded than Machu Picchu, and most are open for exploration without the ropes and blocked-off areas at your final destination. If you're lucky, you'll also see colorful flowers and birds, and possibly even other animals on the trail.
Walking Distance – 11kms/6.8 miles
Starting Elevation – 2700 meters ASL / 8858.268 feet ASL
Highest Elevation – 3000 meters ASL / 9842.52 feet ASL
Campsite Elevation – 3000 meters ASL / 9842.52feet ASL
Meals: Lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner.
Everyone is collected early from their hotels and we all travel by bus for a bit more than three hours, passing by the picturesque villages of Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, until reaching the kilometer 82, the actual start of the trail.
We start our trek escorted by native "Quechua" porters going through semi-arid terrain along the Urubamba River valley, with magnificent views of the snowcapped mountain, Veronica (5822 meters).
We 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 river Cusichaca ("Happy Bridge"). It is then a simple descent down to the Cusichaca River.
For a further 7 km the path follows the left bank of the river up to the village of Wayllabamba (3,000 meters). The name in Quechua means "Grassy plain". We spend the first night here beside some spectacular ruins which, if you have the energy, we have time to explore.
Walking Distance – 16kms/10 miles
Starting Elevation – 3000 meters ASL / 9842.52 feet ASL
Highest Elevation – 4200meters ASL / 13779 feet ASL
Campsite Elevation – 3600meters ASL / 11811.02 feet ASL
Meals: Breakfast, water, lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and Dinner.
Accommodation: Camping facilities.
After a delicious breakfast, we start our second day of trekking, perhaps the most difficult, as we have to climb to the pass of the impressive Warmihuañusca ("Dead woman´s Pass") at 4,200 meters high. In this place, the highest in the Inca Trail, we enjoy a spectacular view of the Andes. The path continues on following a mountain stream up past hummingbirds and amazing stunted cloud forest. We pass by the beautiful grassy area at Llulluchapampa (3680 meters), which also possesses outstanding views down the valley.
After lunch, we start the descent towards the valley of Pacaymayu, where we make our second camp.
Walking Distance – 10kms/6.2 miles
Starting Elevation – 3600meters ASL / 11811.02 feet ASL
Highest Elevation – 4000 meters ASL / 13123.36 feet ASL
Campsite Elevation – 2600meters ASL / 8530.184 feet ASL
Meals: Breakfast, water, lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner
Accommodation: Camping facilities and hot showers.
From Pacaymayu it takes about an hour to climb up to the ruins of Runkuracay. These small circular ruins occupy a commanding position overlooking the Pacaymayu valley below. Another 45 minutes´ hike brings you to the top of the second pass: Abra de Runkuracay (4,000 meters). At last you feel that you are walking along the trail of the Incas with preserved paving for the most part.
The descent down the steps from the pass is steep so take care. This section of the trail, up till the 3rd pass, is particularly beautiful as the path crosses high stone embankments and deep precipices. After about 1 hour from the 2nd pass you arrive at Sayacmarca by way of a superbly designed stone staircase. The name Sayacmarca means "Inaccessible Town" and describes the position of the ruins perfectly, protected on three sides by sheer cliffs. Even though till this very day no one knows the exact purpose of these ruins.
You have to back track a little to rejoin the trail as it passes Conchamarca, a small Inca dwelling situated in the shadows of Sayacmarca, which was probably a Tambo for weary travelers on their way to Machu Picchu.
Walking Distance – 6kms/3.7 miles
Starting Elevation – 2600 meters ASL / 8530.184feet ASL
Highest Elevation – 2700 meters ASL / 8858.268feet ASL
Campsite Elevation –
After an early morning chance to catch the sunrise on the surrounding snowcapped mountains of Salcantay and Veronica, we offer a farewell to our porters with a traditional song and dance. Our final day of hiking brings us down the cloud forest on a series of Inca stairs to Winay Wayna, another interesting ruin full of swallows and orchids. Finally we reach Inti Punku, the gateway of the Sun and our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. We pass through the ruins and catch a bus down to our hotel in the colorful town of Machu Picchu Pueblo (formally known as Aguas Calientes) and celebrate our return to civilization.
In the late morning we have Machu Picchu virtually to ourselves for a full guided tour, after which you have a couple of hours for more exploring on your own, or just collapse under a tree in the central plaza area. If you are exhausted from so much walking just stay in Aguas Calientes and enjoy its hot springs as you have a second opportunity to see all of Machu Picchu well rested the day after!
Machupicchu is officially open from 6 am to 5:30 pm so could also soak in the hot springs in the afternoon or evening after you Machu Picchu tour.
Walking Distance – 2.5km / 1553.50miles
Starting Elevation – 2400 meters ASL / 7874.016 feet ASL
Highest Elevation – 2700 meters ASL / 8858.268 feet ASL
Campsite Elevation –
After an early breakfast you can walk or take the bus back up to explore more of Machu Picchu and of course go for your climb of Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. If you were tired yesterday then this is the right time to really capture Machu Picchu today so better start out early as buses are available from 5:30 am and depart every 10 minutes.
You can store your backpack in your hotel and make sure you get back down to Aguas Calientes at least an hour before your train departure which is generally at 6:45 pm but you should recheck this with your guide on day 4. Grab some snacks and drinks before boarding the train as the journey back to Cusco is about 4 hours long!
Transfers In / Out.
Transportation from Cusco to Km 82/Piscacucho (where we start walking).
Professional bilingual tour guide (English/Spanish).
Guided visit to Machu Picchu and the ruins along the trail.
Entrance Fee to Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
2nd entrance fee to Machupicchu and Machupicchu or Huaynapicchu Mountain.
Bus tickets to Machupicchu Inca City and to Machupicchu town.
4 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners and various snacks to be eaten throughout the day.
Professional Cook: all our fresh vegetables are washed in iodine water prior serving and we provide only boiled, filtered or iodized water for drinking. Vegetarian food on request at no extra cost! All dietary requirements from vegans, lacto-allergies and general dislikes can be catered so long as prior warning is given when booking the trip.
Porters service (to carry the tents and cooking equipment only).
Drinking water along the Inka trail.
Dining tent with tables and chairs.
First Aid equipment.
1 Oxygen Tank.
1 night in a basic hotel in Aguas Calientes.
Bus tickets to Machupicchu Inca City and to Machupicchu town (Aguas Calientes).
Expedition train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.
Transfer from Ollantaytambo train station to your Hotel in Cusco.
Extra porter for personal items.
Tips are not included but it is optional.
You should bring your original passport (International Student card (ISIC) if applicable)
Waterproof jacket/rain jacket
Warm jacket, hat and gloves
Sun protection cream (factor 35 recommended)
Re-usable plastic or metal water container or camel bags
Water for the first day, but on the way it is possible to buy bottles of water from local families.
Camera and films
Limited Spaces: YES. To protect the historical trail of the Inkas, the number of people allowed to hike the Inca Trail each day is limited to 250. That is why, you should reserve your space as soon as possible. Spaces can be filled up three to six months in advance. Spaces fill more quickly in the high tourist season, from May to September.
You Book, You Go…Don’t Worry… We Won’t Cancel: While other tour companies generally cancel their trips due to low participation of travelers or pass their travelers to other big groups tour operators, we guarantee that we will never cancel a trip because of low signing-up or participation for the departure date neither get our travelers to other tour operators! This makes to our travelers the assurance and peace of mind to know their travel plans are insured and guaranteed.
Preparing for the INCA Trek
We recommend that our guests spend at least 2 nights in Cusco prior to departure. This helps with acclimatization to the altitude and also provides an opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Cusco.
Travelers can feel the effects of higher altitudes as low as 6000 feet (2000 meters) above sea level. They differ in their tolerance for high altitude conditions and how their bodies react to the changes in air pressure and oxygen level. Therefore we encourage our guests to undergo appropriate preparation by regular cardio-vascular exercise, even if conduct- ed at low elevation, and to adopt a healthy, balanced diet prior to the trip.
Without at least some pre-trip training, or a good basic level of fitness, trekking is hard work. Let’s be real – it’s hard work anyway. The toll for a great trek is paid in sweat. Sore calves and aching quads are badges of honor, with blisters and lost toenails marks of pride.
But in return, you get some of the most untouched, pristine and jaw-dropping scenery on the planet. And you know what? The more you train for your epic hike, the easier it’ll be. And you don’t have to be an Iron Woman/Man to climb to Andean Mountains or reach the top of Mt Machupicchu. Far from it. Trekking is available to anyone; you just have to be sensible and work a bit for it. Here are a few of our top prep tips for your upcoming trek:
1. Start walking now (it’s never too early to start training)
This may seem like the most obvious step to start with (pardon the pun), but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. The best way to prepare for a really long walk? Do some really long walks. You should start with small-ish distances and work up to the length you’ll be trekking on your trip. When you start your training, leave a day in between each walk to let your body recover. But as your body gets fitter, try to do back-to-back sessions each day – it’ll help build your stamina for the relentless nature of a ten-day trek, where you won’t have the luxury of rest days. Ideally, you want to be able to walk 4-6 hours – comfortably – before you leave.
2. Make leg-based cardio part of your routine…
As well as doing long walks, you should also work some leg-based cardio into your daily routine. Cycling is awesome for building up muscle in your legs, but soccer, football, squash and swimming are all great too. If you’re more into gym workouts, mix up your spin classes or cycling bursts with squats and lunges (the more weight, the better).
3. …and take the stairs every chance you get
Stair climbing is also a good one for building up calves and quads, so take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator when you’re at work or the train station.
4. Make sure you’re walking properly
You’ve been doing it since you were around one year old, but it’s super important to monitor how you’re walking and if you’re doing it correctly. Make sure you’re hitting the ground with your heel first, then rolling onto your toe, which propels you onto the next step (this will help reduce the risk of shin splints and tendon pulls – ouch). Walk with your head up, eyes forward and shoulders level.
5. Mix up your training terrain…
When you’re on your trek, it’s unlikely you’ll be walking on level footpaths and roads, so avoid training solely on level footpaths and roads. Instead, try to train on surfaces that will be similar to the trails on the trek. If you’re heading to Everest or Kili, aim to train on steep, rocky terrain and loose shale; if it’s Kokoda, try to find muddy paths. It’s really important you prepare your feet, ankles and knees for the stress they’ll experience on the trip.
6. …and walk in all types of weather
It’s also unlikely you’ll get ten straight days of perfect weather on your trek, so prepare yourself for all conditions by walking in cold, windy, rainy, warm and humid conditions (where possible, of course!).
7. Try using walking poles
When you’re navigating Kili’s gravel trails or lumbering down Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail, walking poles will become your two new best friends. They take the pressure off your knees on the downs, and give you extra support on the ups. Incorporate poles into your training sessions so you get used to walking with them.
8. Train with a backpack
On almost all of our trekking trips, you won’t be carrying your main pack, but you will need to carry a small daypack, packed with essentials like your camera, snacks, sunscreen, water and wet-weather gear. So with all your days/weeks/months of training, make sure you’re challenging yourself with a weighted bag. If you really want to push it, pack your bag with a few extras, so it’s a little heavier than what you’re planning to hike with on the trip – it’ll make the eventual trek feel like a walk in the park (chortle).
9. Keep the tank fuelled
It’s SO important you’re stocked with enough water and food during a trek (hydration is key!). Nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars and chocolate are all good, quick sources of energy and protein; keep a selection of these healthy snacks in your daypack. Also, bring along a reusable canteen; alpine streams are usually a great source of fresh water, but our guides provide boiled (and cooled) water daily throughout your trek. While you’re in training-mode, try to eat and drink ‘on the go’ as much as you can, so your body can get used to digesting during strenuous exercise.
10. Invest in a good pair of shoes
Your feet are your most crucial body part on a trek, and it doesn’t take much to keep them in toe-tappingly tip-top shape. First, invest in a pair of good-quality, water-resistant hiking boots; you want plenty of support and ventilation too. Then, wear them in. How do you do this? Wear ‘em everywhere. On your training runs, on walks to the shops, to work, to formal events (well, maybe not). You get the idea though; by wearing them in as much as possible in the weeks and months leading up to the trek, it’ll help avoid blisters, bunions and lost toenails. Then, stock up on a few pairs of really good hiking socks (preferably a wool/nylon blend), that will wick moisture and keep your feet dry. If you want to get a bit crazy, wear two pairs while walking to minimise your chance of blisters.
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