Today the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - which, as part of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, has been designated a World Heritage natural and cultural site is the most important and most popular hiking trail in South America, followed by many thousands of ecotourists and modern-day pilgrims in the past 3 decades. Its extreme popularity in recent years -- more than 75,000 people a year hike the famous trail -- has led to concerns among environmentalists and historians that the trail is suffering potentially irreparable degradation.
The National Institute of Culture (INC) and the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Integration, and International Trade (MITINCI), reacting to pressure from groups such as UNESCO (which threatened to rescind Machu Picchu's World Heritage Site status), instituted far-reaching changes in practices designed to limit the number of visitors and damage to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, though these alone may not be enough to forestall the trail's damage.
Preparing with us your Inca Trail Experience
The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 days route is along hand-hewn stone stairs and trails through sumptuous mountain scenery and amazing cloud forest, past rushing rivers and dozens of Inca ruins. The zone is inhabited by rare orchids, 419 species of birds, and even the indigenous spectacled bear. The trek begins at Qorihuayrachina near Ollantaytambo- more easily described as Km 88 of the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The 43 km (26-mile) route passes three formidable mountain passes, including the punishing "Dead Woman's Pass", to a maximum altitude of 4,200m (13,800 ft.). Most groups enter the ruins of Machu Picchu at sunrise on the fourth day, although others, whose members are less keen on rising at 3:30am to do it, trickle in throughout the morning.
Meals: Lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner.
Accommodation: Camping facilities.
Distance: 11kms/6.8 mls (6 hours more or less of hiking)
Walking Time: Approximately 6 hours (including picnic lunch in route)
Walk and Terrain: Walk, canter on open roads, some steep ascending
Trekking Km 82 “Piscacucho to Wayllabamba”
Today begins your adventure of a lifetime; We will pick you up from your hotel in our private van very early in the morning at 5:30am. You will be transferred in one hour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where our van going to take us to Piskacucho, which is called kilometer 82, where the Classic Inca Trail begins. On the way, we stop for breakfast in Ollantaytambo at 6:30-7am to load up on energy for our start of the trail. (Breakfast is not included). Upon arrival at kilometer 82 at 11:30am, we will have some time to organize ourselves, At the Inca Trail first control point be ready to show your entrance tickets, passports and (if paying a student rate) your student card.
At the start of the trail (2720m/8923ft) we cross the Vilcanota River and follow its route to the right. The first day is relatively easy, a warm-up along the Inca flat terrain. There are great views of the Incan Fortress (‘Huillca Raccay’), the vast and incredible Inca site of Llactapata, (officially called ‘Patallacta’), and the beautiful snow-capped peak of ‘W’akay Willca’ (5860m/19225ft) known in books as Veronica. Our first campsite is in Wayllabamba (3000m/9842ft) in the temperate green valley with the same name. Temperatures at night are around 5ºC depending on the month.
During the day, we will enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains Veronica, (5,860m/19,337ft), the lush green valley around us and a myriad of flora and fauna.
After waking up at 5 to 5:30am and enjoying a hot breakfast, we start a steep ascent towards the highest pass, abra de Warmihuañusca or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ at 4200m/13779ft. On this day, you will feel a real sense of achievement upon reaching the top! After a well-deserved rest, we begin the descent to where we stop for lunch, which is located at Pacaymayu (3550m/11646ft).
On our way up to the pass, we will be able to see an array of hummingbirds and a combination of other species of bird life. There will be plenty of time to appreciate the incredible variety of native plants and the ´Polylepis´ or Q’ueuña trees which grow in the astonishing cloud forest located at 3650m/11972ft! After lunch, begins the second two-hour steep climb to Runkuraqay pass (almost 4000m/13,123ft). We arrive at our campsite by 5 pm. Temperatures at this campsite are around 4ºC during the night.
This is the most impressive day so far; keep this in mind as you ascend on day three! We wake up for breakfast at 6am and start the day with a gentle climb to visit the archaeological site of ‘Phuyupatamarca’ (meaning ‘Town in the Clouds’). Here we reach the third highest point on the Inca trail (3680m/).
The views of the mountains, canyons and surrounding areas are spectacular! The Inca site of ‘Phuyupatamarca’, is located a few minutes’ walk from the third pass. After visiting this site, we continue walking down 3000 stairs through the cloud forest to the impressive agricultural Incan site of ‘Intipata. After taking some time to visit this site, we continue until we arrive at our third campsite Wiñay Wayna. (2680m/8792ft). Today, we will only walk about 4 to 5 hours.
We arrive at camp by lunchtime! Temperatures during the night are about 12º C. A short walk from our campsite is the famous Incan site of ‘Wiñay Wayna’ (‘Forever Young’). Even if you are feeling tired after your day’s trek, it´s a moment you cannot miss, the most impressive site on the Inca trail.
At around 4:00am it´s time to wake up, have breakfast and start day 4 on the Inca trail to get to Machu Picchu on time. This is the final part of your journey, arriving by 6:00am to reach Inti Punku or The Sun Gate. At that point, the majestic Machu Picchu Citadel is in front of us with its intense beauty – an incredible sight for all to see. The reality of what the Inca people must have encountered on their taxing journey to this expansive temple of Machu Picchu.
At this point, we walk downhill towards the Machu Picchu Citadel. (2400m/7872 ft.) After walking 40 minutes, we enter the citadel from the top through the “House of the Guardians”. From there we proceed to the control point where we register and leave our belongings. Your professional guide will direct you throughout the astounding ruins and its main streets.
You can wander around the town squares as well as climb the intricately carved stairways made from stone. Machu Picchu is considered as the world’s spiritual center by esoteric wisdom. Once the guided tour is over, you will have free time to explore the site on your own.
You will also have time to indulge in a few of the following activities on your own if you choose (not included in the price)
Other optional activities in Aguas Calientes include a visit to the new local museum or bathe in the hot springs.
Back to Cusco: You will descend to Aguas Calientes by bus (included) and later board the Expedition train to the Ollantaytambo Train Station “Train departure time can vary according train schedule and availability”. In Ollantaytambo Train station you will meet our private van and be transferred to your hotel in Cusco.
*** Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountains hike depends on availability; please let us know if you want to add one of these extra hikes at the time of your booking.
*** We only take ITEP EcoTravel clients in our vans / cars – We do not use public transport.
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"I had the pleasure of doing the four day, three night Inca Trail hike with this agency. The guides Primo, and Iza were wonderful. They were encouraging, knowledgeable, patient and kept us on track. The porters are super heroes. The food was phenomenal. I didn’t know it was possible to eat so well..."
"This company, especially Primo and Iza, are the ABSOLUTE BEST!!! Always engaging, always friendly, and always ensuring we were enjoying every moment while reaching our achievements. They provided their knowledge and expertise, but easily felt like part of our group and became family...."
"Primo and Iza were amazing guides. They constantly kept a positive attitude among our group and kept us laughing even during our harder moments on the trail. I appreciate how they both went above and beyond to make our experience on the Inca Trail that much more special. Thank you again!..."