Camino Inca - Inca Trail, Cusco
So if your thinking about doing the Inca Trail I highly recommend it. It was tough and cold but it was an amazing experience to walk the trail the Inca's originally used. Perhaps the only dissapointing thing is entering Machu Pichu on the last day feeling a sense of achievement to only then be surrounded by masses of fresh looking and smelling tourists straight off the train.
The company I would recommend doing the Inca Trail with is called Adventure Holidays Peru. This company is a small family owned business that prides itself on quality service. Vidal and his family were absolutely amazing. They were so accomodating when we had money issues in Cusco, and were always willing to help. They came to visit us in our hostel a few days before the trek to talk to us about what we needed to take and what we should expect, which I felt was a lot more personal and informative than an email. The amount of people on the trek is always kept to a minimum, less than 10, which is great as huge groups on the trail looked hard to manage (like herding cattle). On the hike the service was amazing, the food fantastic, and the guide knowledgable.
If you are looking for an amazing experience walk Inca Trail with Adventure Holidays Peru!!!!
If you are in decent shape, do the 4-day hike. It is the highlight of most packpackers' trips. It is physically demanding, especially on day 2 when you climb up, up, up to 4200 meters.
But this is good. You feel like you have accomplished something by the end. And of course, the scenery is absolutely stunning.
I took the 4 day trek with Andean life. Their tents are good, and the porters look well cared for. (Important, as some companies do not provide their porters with adequate supplies)
The Inca Trail trek will give you a lifetime of memories! I am extremely happy and proud to have accomplished one of my lifetime travel dreams. Definitely go and do the trail while you are still able to.
Trek either starts at Km 82 or Km 88. The first day's trek to Huayllabamba (3hrs) is not too arduous. Most groups camp at Llulluchayoc (3,200m, 1hr away). Some groups press on another 1.5hrs to Llulluchapampa in order to make the second day's trek easier.
Most people reach Llulluchapampa on the second day and now, this next stage to the first pass Warmiwanuska (Dead Woman's Pass) at 4,200m is an exhausting 2.5hrs hike. Remember your coca leaves! At the top, you will seriously wonder what the Incas were thinking!
After this, it's downhill to Pacamayo valley where you camp at the bottom of the valley (1.5hrs from first pass).
Next, you head up the second pass (3,850m) and should be able to enjoy magnificent views near the summit. A good overnight spot is past Sayacmarca (3,500m) about 1hr after second pass.
Through an Inca tunnel, you get to the third pass and here, a spectacular view of the entire Vilcabamba mountain range can be appreciated. After this, you will dsecend to Phuyopatamarca (3,650m), an Inca ruins, and then, more steps downhill lead to Winay-Wayna (2,700m), another impressive ruins with terraces.
From this point, the path meanders through jungle until the steep staircase up to Intipunku (2hrs) and wow... Machu Picchu!!!
This is the most famous 'tough' way to go to Machu Picchu. Actually, there are several routes, some take up to 7 days, but the classic route takes 4 days.
When I was there in 1999, it was still possible to rent some equipment and head off trekking on your own. But since then, the whole trekking business has become more organised and no independent trekkers are allowed now.
From what I understand, most people have to make a reservation with a tour agency for the hike through the Inca's Trail a few months in advance and more, if you are going there during the peak period like Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) on June 24, Peru's winter solstice.
During off-peak period, perhaps you can get a tour in a few weeks'. But gone are the days that you can just arrive and go.
The Inca's Trail is doable if you are relatively healthy, because most of the gears will be carried by the Peruvian porters, so you are not weighed down by much. These porters would carry your tents, the dinner tents with table and chairs, toilet tent, gas stoves, food and your backpacks and race against one another along the trail wearing only sandals (stuffed with grass for friction).
I remember the breakfasts and lunches as great and dinners were usually fantastic 3-course meals, sometimes served with wine! You can never find such type of pampered trek in any other places in the whole wide world. Take some coca leaves along and chew when necessary.
Do keep the trail clean and tip your guide and porters well. Yes, give them employment, treat them with respect and give thanks to your enjoyable experience!
The 'easy' way to Machu Picchu would be to take the train to Aguas Calientes and then, a bus up the ribbony road. Heading back to Cuzco is only via the bus-and-train way.
1. BOOK IN ADVANCE!!! This is one thing I cannot stress enough. We met a number of people in Cusco that did not book in advance (1 month minimum) and missed the whole Inka Trail experience. This happened to a friend of mine the year before as well. They are very strict on this rule, they check your passports at the entrance and your tickets every morning at the gates.
2. Use an local agency - We paid $290 and met this one guy on the trip that booked with a US travel company and paid $600.
3. Same trail, same campsites - There is only one Inca trail and everyone on the trail stay at generally the same campsites. Don't be fooled by companies that say they offer better campsites because every tour company stay at the same designated camping areas.
to go to Machu Picchu you usually start from Cusco. You have to take a train at St. Pedro Station and go to Aguas Calientes from you take a bus shuttle or go cimb up by foot to reach Machu Picchu...or of course the best of all you do the Inca trek, leaving the train at km 82 and walk on the misterious camino de inca.