The first day of the trek starts early as you will depart Cusco around 6.00am in the morning. There is a three hour bus ride to the trail head at Kilometre 82 past the village of Ollantaytambo. Most trekking companies will stop in Ollantaytambo for breakfast and this is also you chance to purchase provisions and walking sticks.
From the trail head you will pass through the Inca Trail check point to join the trail. You will need your passports and trail permits. The first section of the trail is gentle and passes by the ruins of Llactapata before descending through the valley of Kusichaca. You will stop at the campsite of Miskay for lunch. After lunch the trail continues at a gentle pace to the campsite for the evening; Wayllabamba. This campsite is at 3000 meters and can feel cold at night, so be prepared with warm clothing.
Trekking time: 5 hours
Today is by far the toughest day of trekking, as you will climb through the highest pass on the Inca Trail, known as Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman’s Pass) at 4,200 meters. After breakfast around 6am, you will start the ascent which will take about 4 – 5 hours. This part of the trek is taken at a very slow pace, and there are many opportunities to rest. The pass can be quite cold and windy depending on the time of the year, so be prepared with warm clothing. The trail then descends for about two hours to the campsite Pacaymayo, where you will stay for the evening.
Advice: It is possible to contract the services of porters to carry your backpacks for the whole journey. Alternatively, you might like to contract them to carry them to the Pass or to the campsite of Pacaymayo. This is recommended if you don’t feel prepared for the altitude and the long hike, it is more important to enjoy the walk than suffer under your backpack. You can coordinate this with your guide and pay your porter directly.
Trekking time: 6 – 7 hours
The third day is considered the most interesting, but it is also the longest. The trail begins with an ascent of an hour and a half to the Pass of Runkurakay at an altitude of 3950 metres.
After the pass the rest of the trail is mostly downhill. The trail follows a route past four points of interest. The first being Sayacmarca which in the Inca period was a control point for the trails that headed towards Machu Picchu. After visiting these ruins, you will continue to Phuyupatamarca where groups often lunch.
After lunch you will arrive at the ruins of Intipata, a complex of terraces constructed in the middle of a heavily vegetated mountain. The trail winds finally to the campsite of Wiñya Wayna. From this campsite there is an optional short walk (5 minutes at the most) to the best ruins on the trail Wiñya Wayna.
The Wiñya Wayna campsite more developed than the other campsites along the trail, and has several permanent buildings, where you can buy beer, have a hot shower and even get a massage.
Trekking time: 7 – 8 hours
This is the easiest and very best day of the trail, as the hiking is short and you will arrive at your destination of Machu Picchu.
Most groups will depart the campsite around sunrise, so that you arrive into Machu Picchu around 8 – 9 am when the site less is crammed with visitors. After one hour and a half of hiking you will arrive to Inti Punku (The Sun Gate), where it is it possible to see for the first time the majestic Inca city of Machu Picchu. From here it is only a half hour descent until you arrive at the ruins.
Most trekking companies will stop for a snack and refreshments, before proceeding to take a 2 hour guided tour of Machu Picchu. It is recommended, if you have the energy, to climb the peak of Huayna Picchu from where you can have a spectacular view of the lost city.
Trekking time: 2 – 3 hours