- Starting Altitude – 2100m / 6900ft.
- Highest Altitude – 2730m / 8,956ft.
- Walking Distance – 12km / 7.5 miles
On our trip to Peru, with everything we wanted to do during our 2-week trip, we didn’t have the time to do the 4-day classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu so we opted for the 2-day Machu Picchu trip. This trip actually involved one day of hiking to Machu Picchu and one day of exploring the ruins themselves. This way we could still experience hiking part of the Inca Trail and get a taste of the full 4-day trek.
We were picked up at our hotel in Cusco at 5:00am by our tour guide, Hever, and headed out in the van (just Hever, Lisa, Josh and myself) to the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley where we would catch a train to the dropping off point for the start of the hike. The drive to Ollantaytambo was beautiful. A few shots from the moving van as we climbed up from Cusco, headed across the high plateau of the Andes before dropping down into the Sacred Valley and the town of Ollantaytambo.
We arrived in Ollantaytambo around 6:25am and stopped for a wonderful breakfast at a local restaurant.
After breakfast we headed to the train station to board our train for our 7:50am departure to start our journey up to Machu Picchu.
A few shots from the train window as we made our way to Kilometer 104, our starting point.
We passed Kilometer 82, the start of the classic 4-day trek to Machu Picchu (a total of 26 miles hiking on the Inca Trail).
Some ruins seen from the train window.
We reached Kilometer 104, our stopping point, shortly before 9:00am. The train stopped literally in the middle of nowhere and we got off the train with Hever to begin our trek.
Our official picture at the start of the Inca Trail.
After crossing a bridge over the Urubamba River, we passed the checkpoint for the official entry to the Inca Trail where we had to show our trail permits and passports.
Our starting elevation for the hike was 6,900’, quite a bit lower than the 11,200’ elevation in Cusco. Only a short distance up the trail, we arrived at the ruins of Chachabamba. These ruins, discovered in 1940, are located on the old Inca road that ran along the southern bank of the Urubamba River. The style of buildings and stonework suggest that this used to be an important religious site, as well as having the secondary function as a gate house guarding this entrance to Machu Picchu.
A few of many wildflowers seen along the trail.
Another bridge crossing along the trail.
We continued to climb up from the valley floor. Looking back down along the valley and the Urubamba River.
We continued our trek up.
You can see some of the ruins of Winay Wayna in the distance.
More wildflowers along the trail.
Our first views of the ruins of Winay Wayna.
We continued along the trail, past a waterfall, and made our final push up to the ruins.
Beautiful views along the trail of the “cloud forest”.
Looking back in the direction we had come from. It’s hard to see in the thick forest, but if you look closely you can make out the trail.
Whenever we came to a steep uphill section of the trail, our guide, Hever, would say, “we have a little surprise ahead” meaning we needed to climb a pretty steep section. At one point along the trail, he pulled out a small bottle of liquid and asked us to hold out cupped hands and he poured some of the liquid into our hands and told us to rub the liquid all over over them. He then told us to raise our cupped hands to our faces and inhale as deeply as we could. He told us this scent would help with the altitude and make us feel better. We blindly followed his instructions and inhaled deeply. After doing so, he told us the liquid in the bottle was condor pee! We didn’t know for sure what it was but the scent did revive us and gave us energy to continue on up the trail. Later on our trip we were in the market in Cusco and Lisa found a similar type bottle of scent. The lady at the market said it was good for altitude so we bought a bottle to bring home. Agua De Florida is a cologne made in Peru, and widely used by shaman all over South America for purification, cleansing, healing and flowering. Components of the scent include citrus and herbal notes along with spice and floral undertones. These elements are provided by Bergamot, Neroli, Lemon, Cloves, Cinnamon, Lavender, Rose and Orange flower. The fragrance of the water is inhaled deeply to induce grounding, connection and healing.
We made a final push up some steep steps to arrive at Winay Wayna at around 1:00pm.
Winay Wayna (which means “Forever Young” in Quechua) sits at an elevation of 8,792’. The site consists of upper and lower house complexes connected by a staircase and fountain structures. Above and below the houses the people built areas of agricultural terraces which are still visible.
Looking back along the trail we had come on.
After a lunch break, we continued on up the trail, heading for the Sun Gate.
Looking back across the valley on the trail we had come up.
More wildflowers along the trail.
After a few “little more surprises” along the trail, we finally arrived at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), elevation 8,956’, at 3:40pm where we had our first view of Machu Picchu.
Here’s a shot of the road coming up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
After a few pictures at the Sun Gate, we started down towards Machu Picchu. After a 40 minute hike down from the Sun Gate, we arrived at Machu Picchu (elevation 7,873’).
After a few pictures (actually a lot of pictures!), it was time to head on down to Aguas Calientes. Our tickets today only allowed us to pass through Machu Picchu but not tour it. We will head down to our hotel in town and be back up bright and early in the morning with Hever to tour Machu Picchu and spend the day exploring the grounds. Today we had the option of hiking down to town (another 2 hours) or taking the shuttle bus down the road. Since we were tired from hiking all day and it was already nearly 5:00pm and it was raining at this point, we opted to take the shuttle down.
We arrived at our hotel close to 6:00pm. Time for a quick shower and then meet up with Hever for dinner in town. After dinner it was off to bed so we could be up before 5:00am the next morning to spend the tour touring Machu Picchu!
It was amazing to be able to hike part of the Inca Trail and arrive at Machu Picchu via the trail and the Sun Gate rather than just coming up by bus the way the majority of the people do. Our guide, Hever, was wonderful. He was very informative, had a great sense of humor, and had a great little “he he he” laugh! We will be looking forward to our guided tour of Machu Picchu tomorrow with Hever.