Sitting at the top of many people’s Bucket List (including my own!) the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a once in a life time experience that will take you through windswept mountain passes, lush tropical jungles and bustling local villages as you make your way to the lost city of the Incas.
Image Courtesy of Amazonas Explorer
A popular trek that is limited to just 500 people per day (including guides and porters), the Inca Trail is always fully booked, and so if you book the standard 4-day trek, you can expect to share the trail with hundreds of other hikers. But… there is a way in which you could have this mythical trail all to yourself (well, almost!), and that is by booking the longer 5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The beauty of the 5-day trek is that it starts later than the standard tours, and so your whole trek is out of sync with other hikers, and you have an extra day to really appreciate the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ruins. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:
Inca Trail: Day 1
The day starts with a visit to the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo, where you can look around and enjoy lunch before driving the short distance to the trailhead at Piscacucho (km 82). Here you meet the porters and cooks that will support your journey to Machu Picchu.
With the crowds now long gone, your hike begins with an undulating trail above the Urubamba river to camp beside the spectacular ruins of Llactapata (2,788m / 9,146ft).
Inca Trail: Day 2
After breakfast on day 2, you climb gently up the Cusichaca valley to the small hamlet of Huayllabamba. This is the last inhabited place on the trail. From here, you continue past the stunted cloud forest to your camp at Llulluchapampa (3,680m / 12,073ft).
Inca Trail: Day 3
Today is the most challenging day but also the most exhilarating. You start with a climb to Dead Woman’s Pass (4,212m / 13,819ft), the highest point of the trail, before dropping into the Pacaymayu valley. After passing the Inca control post of Runcuracay, you will tackle the second pass of the day (3,998m/13,117ft), before continuing through Sayacmarca to your stunning campsite for the night, Phuyupatamarca, or ‘the place above the clouds’ (3,650m / 11,975ft).
Inca Trail: Day 4
Today is the day that you finally reach Machu Picchu. As you step out of your tent the views are stunning, and after saying a fond farewell to your porters it is time to put on your boots and head to Machu Picchu. You descend through the cloud forest on beautiful Inca stairways, to Wiñay Wayna, before continuing to Inti Punku, the gateway of the Sun. As you step through the old stone gate-way, Machu Picchu appears laid out before your eyes. After plenty of photos you carry on past this wonder of the world to catch the bus down to the lively town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and a well-deserved hotel and shower.
Inca Trail: Day 5
Today you have a full day to explore the pinnacle of Inca engineering – Machu Picchu.
You will start early, allowing plenty of time to explore the ruins in the company of your guide, before they get too busy. The guided tour takes around two hours leaving you a few hours free to wander amongst the old Inca walls and just sit and take in the scale of the place on your own. For those who want to walk a bit more, you could take the hour-long trail up to the Sun Gate, or a shorter trail to visit the Inca Bridge which once spanned a sheer cliff face.
Eventually the time comes to catch the bus down to Machu Picchu Pueblo and board your train back along the Urubamba River. The scenery is beautiful and the train jolts softly along, allowing you to sit, stare out the window and reflect on all you have seen…
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