STEP BY STEP
A day before the tour, you and your fellow trekkers are given a "briefing" session where you receive information and recommendations about the trek schedule, campsites, park ecological regulations (Machu Picchu is a Natural Reserve protected by the Peruvian State), equipment and essential materials, clothing, food, security aspects, first aid, transportation and a customer suggestion sheet.
Trip to Ollantaytambo, Chilca and Piscacucho
Early in the morning ( 4:30 - 5:00 ) we will pick you up at your hotel by bus and transfer you to Piscacucho in Chilca, passing through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. There is an optional breakfast at Urubamba.
Beginning the Trek
At km. 82 on the railway line ( Piscacucho ) you and your fellow travelers prepare your backpacks and, accompanied by your guide and porters, begin the trek by crossing the suspension bridge over the Urubamba river. Your adventure on The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu starts at this point.
Patallaqta ("Town on the Heights")
This is an Archaeological Complex at the foot of a mountain on the left bank of the Cusichaca River, a tributary of the Urubamba River. There is a large number of agricultural terraces that probably served to feed other towns and " tambos" on the Inca Trail. Its urban sector has more than one hundred buildings. It also has an Inca altar named " Pulpituyoq".
Wayllabamba ("Grassy Prairie")
This is a small Indigenous village located at the foot of a mountain and surrounded by fields of corn, potatoes, etc. On sunny days, you can see the snow covering peaks of the Cordillera of Urubamba, including Mt.Veronica . Most groups normally camp here on their first night because it has public baths and plenty of water. In Patawasi, an archeological site nearby, there are Inca terraces and some ancient buildings.
Abra de Warmiwa˝iusca ("Dead Woman's Pass")
This is the highest point on the Inca Trail. The trail is steep here, and so the trek is hard and tedious. A definite change in nature can be appreciated on the way, from temperate valley forest to the treeless grasslands of the windswept puna. A highland grass called "ichu", used for pasture, grows here. There is a campsite called "llulluchapampa" just before the pass, situated on a flat area surrounded by two streams of crystalline water, and again with public baths. Many hikers rest here before the final trek to the pass which is cold and windy.
We recommend not to stay too long in order to avoid altitude sickness (soroche).
Runkuraqay ("Oval Buiding")
This is an Inca "tambo" built in a semi circular shape that overlooks the valley of Paqaymayu ("Hidden River"). On the way to the Inca site, at the bottom of the valley, there is the Paqaymayu campsite, with plenty of water, public baths and a small waterfall. You can rest here and have some lunch. The trail then climbs to the Runkuraqay Pass (4,000 m.a.s.l. / 13,114 f.a.s.l.), passing by the twin lakes of "Yanacocha" ("Black Lake"). It's also possible to camp here.
Sayaqmarka ("Dominant Town")
This is a magnificient Inca site situated on the edge of a mountain with a panoramic view of the Aobamba Valley, and in the distance the snow covering the peak of Mt. Pumasillo. This ruin has narrow mazelike halls. The only access to the site is by a steep, but solid stone staircase built into the edge of the mountain. Descending quickly by the same stairs, on our way back to the Trail, we will find a cloud forest full of exotic plants, such us orchids, moss, and lichens, and the song of the birds and calls of the native wildlife, all perfectly harmonized in this unique environment. The sensation of being in these diverse natural environments is an experience to treasure for the rest of your life.
On our way to the trail, we also pass by Conchamarka, a small, recently discovered archaeological complex, and Chakicocha ("Dry Lake") campsite, a spacious flat area with public baths and good water supply. The trail then starts to climb again by the edge of the mountains arriving at the first tunnel on the Trail. The tunnel is 20 meters long and has stairs carved out of solid rock. Coming out of the other end of the tunnel, we climb a little more and arrive at the third and last pass on the trail, Phuyupatamarka Pass.
Phuyupatamarka ("Town above the Clouds")
This is one of the most singular cities on the Inca Trail. Almost always surrounded by clouds typical of a cloud forest environment, Phuyupatamarka is located on the edge of a gorge that dominates the Urubamba valley. The town has many agricultural terraces and a group of ritual fountains with fresh running water.
At the top of the site, there is a square from where, with good weather, one can appreciate the gorgeous scenery of the Urubamba Valley and the snow covering peaks of the mountain range. At the lower part of the site, there is a group of circular and curved buildings that seem to follow the geographic form of the terrain, illustrating graphically the great skill of Inca engineers to harmonize man labor with nature. Near the Phuyupatamarka Pass, there are several small campsites with superb views of the surrounding landscape. Then the Inca Trail descends quite abruptly, going down by several stone staircases, and passing through a second tunnel, to continue on a cornice like path above the Urubamba Valley, and finally descending towards Wi˝aywayna.
Wi˝aywayna ("Forever Young")
This site is named after an orchid native in the area, which blooms all year-round, decorating the site with vibrant reds, violets and yellows. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful citadels on the trail, and the last urban center before Machu Picchu. The place was built on the steepest side of the valley over the left bank of the Urubamba River. It has four main sectors: the urban sector on the lower part of the town, with more that twenty buildings, the ritual fountains sector, the agricultural terraces sector and the Tower sector. The last sector has the finest architecture of the complex, leading experts to believe that it was a religious or royal quarter.
The following day, very early in the morning at about 4.15 a.m, we leave Wi˝aywayna for the Intipunku or Gate of the Sun, to watch the sun rise over Machu Picchu. From this point, the astonished traveler can contemplate the majesty and grandeur of Machu Picchu, the Sacred City of the Incas, under the first dawn rays.
Machu Picchu is the Inca city, and many claim it to be the most beautiful, best preserved and most famous fortress in the world. It is the climax of the Inca Trail trip. The city was considered lost for many centuries, covered as it was by a lush vegetation typical of the Southern Peruvian Andes cloud forest, until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham, the American historian, on July 24, 1911.
The city is divided in three main sectors: urban, agricultural and adjacent areas. The urban sector has, amongst other attractions, the following archaelogical sites: the City Gate, the Đusta's bedroom, the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Tomb, ritual fountains, the Royal Palace, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Main Temple, the Intiwatana (The Hitching Post of the Sun), the Main Plaza, the Sacred Rock, artisan workshops, the industrial quarter, and the jails. The agricultural sector includes the terraces, the funerary rock and the cementery. Finally the adjacent areas are: the Intipunku, the Temple of the Moon, Wayna Picchu (a mountain peak beside the city) and the Inca drawbridge.
The Incas worshiped the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains and the mother earth and Machu Picchu and the citadels all along the Inca trail were built primarily for religious purposes. Traveling along this Sacred Path, therefore, is now as it was in Inca times, a pilgrimage to the religious heart of the Inca Civilization.