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Inca Trail | The mystical journey to Machu Picchu

Hthe sweat pours from your forehead. Your legs feel heavy, your calves are swollen. In front of you you see the huge steps of a weathered staircase that goes up several meters. You fill your lungs with thin air and get ready for one last effort. You almost need hands and feet to climb the next step. A few more meters, through the sun gate, and then you see it… there in the distance, in the shadowy morning mist, your final destination slowly looms. The sheer size of the glorious ruins is immediately apparent. Your journey on the Inca Trail is complete. And finally you come face to face with the world famous Machu Picchu in Peru, one of the only 7 modern wonders of the world.

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What was once a network of trails with a circumference of some 40.000 km has now been reduced to a fantastic 43 km hike known as the Inca Trail. The ancient Inca route is a stunning trek past ruins and temples of the mythical indian people, the Incas. A glorious nation that was wiped out 400 years ago by western diseases and merciless Spaniards. At its height, the Inca empire stretched from Ecuador tot Chile en Argentina† The story of the Incas still has an irresistible appeal. Time to experience the magic of the Incas and their Inca Trail!

Arrive in Cusco, Peru

Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco, Peru

To get there you first travel to Cusco (also called Cuzco) in Peru, located at an altitude of 2400 km. So be sure to take some time to acclimatize.

Book Machu Picchu trekking

In Cusco it is in principle possible to book with a recognized travel agent. Unfortunately, it must be said right away that the offer is very limited. It is an extremely popular trek and the daily permits that are issued (only 500 per day) are very limited. Even in corona times, it is recommended to book far in advance as tourists from all over the world try to get these permits.

The guides must also have the correct license. This is strictly checked, so make sure that your papers are in order. Again, we recommend that you arrange this in advance via GetYourGuide, for example, where you will find reputable travel agents who have things in order. Click here to view the current offer.

Those who want to do the Machu Picchu trek would do well to know which alternatives there are. There are several shorter alternatives, but the 43 km hike is the most popular and well-known. A day tour is possible, but those who have more time would do well to set aside several days for this unique tour.

The multi-day Inca Trail

Once you have your papers and luggage (anti-mosquito lotion, sunblock, rain poncho, hiking boots) in order, it is time to travel on to the official starting point of the route, which is the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, near the river Rio Urubamba. Here you and your guides and porters (also called porters) take your first steps on the Inca Trail, to arrive at Machu Picchu in four days. The journey has now really begun!

Day 1 | Ollantaytambo – Wayllabamba

Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo

The trek starts at the well-known starting point 'km82' with a crossing that takes you over the Rio Urubamba. Rest assured, the walk starts slowly, not too hard. Occasionally you will see llamas grazing in the fields next to you. Giants of mountains show you the way. In the afternoon the accompanying cook will prepare a delicious lunch for you so that you can continue with an energetic feeling to your first overnight place, Wayllabamba.

Nearby you can see the beautiful ruins of Llaqtapata, behind you the snow-capped peaks of Mount Veronica. Tired and satisfied you sleep your first night in a sleeping bag with the deep black Peruvian sky above you.

Day 2 | Wayllabamba – Pacaymayu

Inca Trail, Pacaymayu
Inca Trail, Pacaymayu

I hope you slept well, because today the real work begins! The second day is undeniably the toughest. World travelers who are not with 100% motivation have left will have a very hard time. You start already at 3000 meters and will continue up during the day through a beautiful forest environment, to end at 4200 meters.

The day begins with a steep climb past weathered rocks and mountain peaks. During lunch you will be amazed at the qualities of the cook. How on earth is it possible that he cooks so deliciously in this inhospitable area? Flavorful rice with chicken, excellent soup, followed by fragrant tea and coffee. Eventually you will reach the top of this trek: Dead Woman's Pass. Here at an altitude of 4200 meters you get the feeling that the world is at your feet.

Enjoy it before descending again through countless steps to arrive at Pacaymayu. Here you will sleep the second night. Your legs feel tired, but the thoughts of the beautiful views and icy mountain sides make up for a lot.

Day 3 | Pacaymayu – Winaywayna

Winaywayna
Winaywayna

Breakfast and ready for day three? Then you can get ready for another climb along narrow mountain paths and steep hills. On day three you will pass the impressive ruins of Sayacmarca, located at an altitude of 3800 meters. At the top of the second mountain pass, the view is phenomenal. A selfie with towering mountain ranges behind you, shrouded in a misty mist? I say go for it!

From now on, the Inca Trail mainly runs downhill. A little climb every now and then, but you've had the worst. At the end of the afternoon you will stop near Wiñaywayna to eat and relax with an invigorating coca tea. The Machu Picchu is now nearby, you probably already see it in your dreams.

Day 4 | Machu Picchu

machu picchu trekking peru
Machu Picchu

The last day of the trek, the day you've been looking forward to. After a very early breakfast, you continue down the Inca steps to arrive at Wiñaywayna, at an altitude of 2700 meters. From here you walk on to Inti Punku, the mystical sun gate and official entrance to Machu Picchu. The last stretch is the hardest, because the steps at the sun gate are huge and rise almost vertically. With your hands and feet you climb on to finally see the Machu Picchu in front of you. You will undoubtedly never forget this view and it cannot be described in one word. Perhaps something along the lines of phenomenally-stunning-impressive-impressive-monumental-majestic. In any case unforgettable.

The complex of this hidden city is peaceful, its wild stone temples and countless aisles exude serenity. A place to pause and take a moment for yourself. Are the images with the Machu Picchu often already beautiful, to be able to walk in the midst of ruins and to be able to touch the walls of the building, that is something else. And remember, you've done it! You have experienced what it is like to walk through another time. The Incas were your companion for four days along this beautiful route. With a thousand and one memories and an authentic Inca Trail medal in your pocket, you board the train back to Cusco.

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