by PROJECT CORDILLERA
Cordillera Urubamba, Perú
Arguably the most famous and sought after trek in Peru, the Inca Trail is a mystifying journey through time, bursting with evidence of a once mighty civilization. The trail whispers stories of legends, beckoning you to its crown jewel, Machu Picchu. Showcasing the architectural effort, spiritual dedication and sweeping influence of the ancient Inca, the opportunity for amazement here is endless.
Begin your itinerary in the Sacred Valley. High passes over grassy plains soon turn to striking views of architectural design found in the ensuing ruins such as Phuyupatamarca and the impressive Wiñay Wayna.
As the trail transforms into living stairways of granite, it feels as though the jungle is voluntarily ushering you forward to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) where you are confronted with breathtaking views of a holy city nestled within the mountains.
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Post Machu Picchu adventure? Sand dunes, anyone?
After an early morning rendezvous embark via bus through the Sacred Valley en route to Piskacucho (also called Km. 82) where the trail officially begins. The first day of the trek is moderately easy. Cross the Vilcanota River and continue on a pleasant hike among the Incan flat terrain, with beautiful views of the Urubamba mountain range splitting the jungle and the Andes. After passing an Incan Fortress and the incredible site of Patallacta, you will make camp in the temperate green valley of Wayllabamba.
A steep start to the day takes you to the highest pass on the trail, Warmiwañusca or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ at 4200m. Native Queuña trees scatter the trail through a Polylepis woodland, with hummingbirds filling the cloud forest's tropical flowers as well. Gazing at distant mountain peaks relieved and accomplished, you will descend for lunch at Pacaymayu. After lunch begins the second charge up another two hour steep climb on the Incan stairway to Runkuraqay pass where you will make camp and temperatures can drop to 4C.
Having earned a good night’s rest, Day 3 starts off gentle with exploration of the archaeological complex of ‘Phuyupatamarca’ (Town in the Clouds) spectacularly viewed alongside canyons, valleys, and mountain tops from the third highest point on the trail. Appreciate the ever expansive infrastructure of stone towers, stairs, and fountains that spill off the mountainside, and pass an Incan agricultural ruin until reaching campsite for the night. Arrival is by lunch time, so you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to explore the most impressive and largest of Incan trail sites ‘Wiñay Wayna’ (Forever Young).
Departure for your last day is issued early in order to catch sunrise at ‘Inti Punku’ (Sun Gate), for the hopeful dramatic view of Machu Picchu. Cross the threshold of the Sun Gate and complete the final leg down the royal flagstone walkway, capturing the ancient city in all its glory. A walking tour by your guide is administered with spare time afterwards to wander the stone hallways in personal amazement. Bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch and your trip is wrapped up with a reflective train ride back to Ollantaytambo where you’ll find your final bus back to Cusco.