From October 7 to October 10, we conquered the Inca Trail Trek with Alpaca Expeditions. For those of you who want to trek to Machu Picchu, DEFINITELY book your trip with them. Their customer service is amazing, they treat their porters extremely well, and their knowledge of Inca history is impressive. Also, for those of you wanting to trek to Machu Picchu, there are a few treks to chose from: Classic Inca Trail, Salkantay, and Lares. Each trek is different and unique, but we highly recommend the Classic Inca Trail 😉. This trek is not as touristy as the Salkantay trek because the number of passes distributed to enter the trail each day is regulated by the government. Also, the Classic Inca Trail starts at a lower elevation than the Salkantay trek, but the amount of elevation gained during the trek is way more than the Salkantay and therefore thought to be more challenging. The one consideration of the Inca Trail Trek is (due to the monitored amount of passes distributed per day), you will most likely need to book the trek at least 8-9 months in advance!!
The overall trek details from our journey with Alpaca Expeditions are below:
Day 1: Oct 7
At 4am we got picked up from our hostel in Cusco to begin our trek! We then drove about two hours to the starting point of the trek called Km 82. After a delicious breakfast prepared by our cook (yes, almost all groups that travel on the Inca Trail have cooks and porters), we went through the first Inca Trail checkpoint to begin our trek.
The first two hours of the trek were relatively flat and easy. We walked through many villages, learned about some of the vegetation along the path, and passed many donkeys and alpacas carrying goods back to the town where Km 82 is.
From Patallacta we hiked another two hours to our lunch stop. Lunch was incredible and exceeded all of our expections: guacamole with wanton crackers, fresh soup with garlic bread, and trout from the trout farm in the nearby village! We all over ate since we didn’t realize how many courses there would be…but boy was it good!!
After lunch we hiked for another three hours to reach our first night’s campsite at Ayapata (3300m above sea level).
It started to rain a few minutes after we got to our campsite (we were very lucky)! We had a delicious dinner and went to bed early to prepare ourselves for the most challenging day: Day 2!!
Day 2: Oct 8
The porters woke us up at 4:00am with a hot cup of coca tea (coca tea is very popular in Peru and supposedly helps people acclimate to the altitude). We quickly got dressed, packed up our bags, had breakfast, and set out for our initial leg of the day’s hike. We hiked for roughly four hours to the highest pass of the trek, Dead Woman’s Pass (4215m).
After lunch we ascended about two more hours to the second pass of the trek. Along the way we passed a small Inca site called Runcu Raccay and saw some waterfalls cascading down the opposite side of the valley.
After the second pass, it was another hour downhill hike to reach the magnificent Inca site, Sayacmarca (an otherwise inaccessible village).
We stopped for a quick rest, but we saw the rain clouds approaching so we decided to make our way towards the campsite Chaquicocha (3600m). The rain subsided before dinner. We celebrated at dinner since we had completed the most strenuous day of the trek!
Day 3: Oct 9
We were able to sleep in and woke up at 5:30am 😜! The views of the valley with the sun rising were breathtaking!
We had another amazing breakfast and began our hike for about two hours along what is called “Inca flat” (gradual inclines) to enter the jungle known as the Cloud Forest. As we walked we had the opportunity to see the majesty of Salkantay, the second highest snow-capped mountain in the Sacred Valley, and a fantastic panoramic view of the Vilcabamba mountain range.
Towards the end of the Inca flats we made our way up to the last peak at Phuyupatamarka (3600m) from where we had great views overlooking the Urubamba River. Down the valley we also got to see our first views of Machu Picchu Mountain, but the site itself was still hidden from view.
From Phuyupatamarka, we hiked three hours to our last campsite. During the descent we visited two Inca ruins. The first was Phuyupatamarka (Town in the Clouds).
As we made our way to the second Inca site, we ran into some llamas on the path!
Finally, we got to Intipata (Terraces of the Sun), which had absolutely amazing views!
We arrived at our campsite for lunch and then relaxed for the entire afternoon. Before dinner, we walked about 10 minuets from the campsite to visit the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young). Wiñay Wayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu, and it is the most popular campsite because of its proximity to Machu Picchu.
The last supper was so incredible! The chef made us a cake and all of the platters were very impressive!
After dinner we performed an Inca Trail tradition by having a ceremony with the porters and chef to thank them. We then went straight to bed since we were told that wake up for our last day was 3am!
Day 4: Oct 10
We woke up at 3am to secure our spot in line at the trekking checkpoint to Machu Picchu. Our chef made us bag breakfasts and we had coffee as we waited (they never ceased to amaze us!). At 5:30am sharp we started the one hour trek to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). The views at the Sun Gate were spectacular; we were able to see the mountains and Machu Picchu in all its glory.
We then trekked another hour to reach the Lost City of the Incas. As we approached Machu Picchu, the views of the city just get better and better!
We arrived at Machu Picchu and took some iconic photos before getting a two hour tour of the ruins.
After the tour, we were exhausted but decided to conquer one more challenge by climbing the neighboring mountain, Huaynapicchu. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the top (there were steep stairs and cables to help hoist ourselves up), but the views at the top were absolutely worth it!
After our last trek, we took a bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, where we met the rest of our group for one last lunch. We then took a two hour train to Ollyantambo where we met our cab driver to take us to The Green House, the bed and breakfast where we will be staying for the next two nights.
Overall, our journey to Machu Picchu exceeded all of our expectations. Each view from every direction along the trek was breathtaking! For those planning on visiting Machu Picchu, definitely do the trek to the destination. Machu Picchu itself is beautiful, but it is so touristy and crowded. The journey to the destination was even better!!!