DAY 1: Inca Trail (day 1)
In the morning, a GOTOPERU rep will pick you up from Cusco and take you through a beautiful, unique two-hour drive through the Sacred Valley’s landscape en route to Ollantaytambo. Don’t fill up on snacks, however; a delicious breakfast will be waiting for you when you arrive.
After eating, you will receive food and equipment for the beginning of your journey. You will then meet up with your trek team, which includes experts on the terrain and the culture, and then it’s off via bus to the start of your journey, Piscacucho.
The first leg of your journey will take you over the Urubamba River, where after you will begin to hike up the scenic landscape until reaching the small Miskay village. Take a break, soak up the scenery, and then it’s off to a plateau, where you will be able to look down and see the majestic Inca ruins of Patallacta – the Village in the Heights.
Located on the left back of the Cusicancha mountain basin, this village is perhaps the most picturesque destination in all of Peru, with deep, rich greens and a perfect sunlit backdrop that provides professional-quality photo opportunities for everyone. Enjoy your lunch as you look out upon and learn about the many tambos (the traveler’s rest stops).
After lunch, it’s a two-hour push to the Wayllabama campsite. From this high location, you get a bird’s eye view of the Vilcanota ridge, and you can even see the snowy-peaked Mount Veronica as clear as day. Rest up; day two takes you even further along this historic trail.
DAY 2: Inca Trail (day 2)
This leg of the excursion is where your mettle will be tested. It is only for those who appreciate hiking, and those who are healthy enough to participate in such activities. It isn’t overly strenuous, but the path is steep – its name is very apt: Dead Woman’s Pass (Abra de Warmiwanusca). It is 16,000 feet above sea level, and you will experience the atmospheric change as you climb higher. The temperatures go from sticky and humid to dry and cool.
Although this might sound refreshing, it can actually sap your energy. So remember to pace yourself along this journey, stopping frequently to soak up the surroundings. But, before you know it, you will arrive at your second campsite: Llulluchapampa.
This campsite is bordered by two clear, pristine mountain streams that are unadulterated by outside influence. Though this is only a rest stop for the weary traveler; you can use the bathroom, drink some pure water, and catch your breath. Check out the many indigenous varieties of birds, and you might even be lucky enough to see the golden-eyed Andean bears before you start marching toward your overnight campsite: Pacaymayo Valley.
Once arriving at your overnight campsite, you will get to choose from a wide variety of food to reenergize yourself after a full day’s excursion. You won’t have to be reminded to rest. The sounds of the environment and the hard day’s work will lull you right to sleep.
DAY 3: Inca Trail (day 3)
Continuing on the Inca Trail after a hearty breakfast, you will pass many smaller archeologically-significant areas en route to Runkurakay Pass. Your guide will fill you in on your surroundings; your job is to enjoy the scenery and savor the journey. Because, in the seeming blink of an eye, you will be atop the pass and looking down at the Pacaymayo Valley and the “Hidden River.”
Take some time to appreciate your surroundings and get ready to experience the hike up the steep and ancient Incan steps – painstakingly carved pathways that are thousands of years old.
Along your climb, you will see breathtaking mountain ranges like Pumasillo and Vilcabama, and also huge mountain lakes like Yanacocha and Sayacmarca. The latter of which is a lake named after a town that many believe to be inaccessible. Sayacmarca is an eclectic mix of ancient ruins that are as diverse as the Incan culture itself. And it’s not only the ground that will keep you captivated. All around the valley, you can vividly see the snow-covered hills.
Pumasillo and the valley of Aobamba are beautiful sites, but visiting Sayacmarca’s ruins is the highlight of the day. The ruins present a fun and complex labyrinth of various tunnels and corridors. You’ll have to climb the steep stone steps to reach them, but it is well worth the effort. Once exiting the ruins, it feels like you’re entering a different world. From stone grey to a wide and wild assortment of flowers like orchids and lichens, these ruins present destinations inside of destinations.
Continuing along the pass after the excitement is over, you get the privilege of being amongst the first people to step foot in the newly discovered Conchamarca ruins, before continuing up a narrow, stone-stepped path that leads you to the final mountain pass of the journey. Once at the pass of Abra de Phuyupatamarca, you will start to go downhill toward the Towns in the Cloud, which itself is a famous archeological site of the area.
From here, it’s on to the Wiñaywayna ruins, where it’s time to soak up the sights and sounds of this famous area before having dinner and making camp. You will notice that various agricultural trenches used to produce crops for the entire region. This location was economical and very spiritual, bringing in travelers, traders, and even those who worshipped water.
Wiñaywayna offers you a superb restaurant to dine in, and also a hot bath house, which goes perfectly with the ice-cold beer you can opt for. One-of-a-kind sites, world-class local cuisine, a steaming hot bath, and a cold brew. This is the perfect way to say goodbye to the Incan Trail. And also the perfect way to prepare for your next day, because the journey is far from over.
Note: The team at Wiñaywayna works hard to provide a unique experience for tired and hungry travelers, and they exist on tips. Tips will be divided amongst the tour guide, the porters, and the cook, and a tip from $10/$40 per person is greatly appreciated, although not mandatory.
DAY 4: Inca Trail (day 4)
The fourth day of your trip starts with a pre-dawn breakfast at 4:30 a.m.; after which, you will head straight to the famous and historic Sun Gate entrance at Machu Picchu. After arriving and walking a slim trail to reach the gate, you will witness what was considered literally godly by the ancient Incans: A sunrise over the Sun Gate. Watch in awe as the fog suddenly lifts like a CGI effect and the sunlight drenches over the entire area, until completely covering Machu Picchu in an orange blanket.
The vision of such a sunrise will instantly make you aware of why so many ancient peoples worshipped the sun. And just as your cold chills are subsiding, the journey will continue with a two-hour tour through the downhill areas of Machu Picchu, which includes the amazing and sophisticated “mortarless stones” – megaton stones that were carved and dragged manually and stacked with extreme precision using nothing to bind them.
You will cover three separate zones of this ancient stone city: The agricultural, adjacent, and urban zones. Along the way, you will see:
- The Principle Baths
- The Intihuatana
- The Temple of the Sun
- Many roadways
- A center square
- Narrow tunnels
- Ancient residential dwellings
- And much, much more
After the tour has concluded, you are allowed to go back through many of the city’s areas on your own, truly experiencing the wonder of Machu Picchu in the silence that enables you to grasp the wonder of the ruins. After your city experience is over, you have two options:
- You can choose to take a hike to Huayna Picchu, which is very steep and rugged, but more than rewarding. Once you reach the overlook atop the pass, you will get to witness an overhead view of the city that only a handful of people in history have ever seen – past or present.
- You can choose to spend the rest of your morning exploring the town and village in and around Machu Picchu. You guide can tell you about different hotspots you can check out, just make sure you catch the afternoon train back to your Cusco Hotel.