The Classic Inca Trail: From Wayllabamba
|Difficulty||Mainly good paths and moderate gradients.|
|Total Distance||43 km / 26,72 miles|
|Aproximate Walking Time||Day 01: 5 – 6 hours|
Day 02: 6 – 7 hours
Day 03: 7 – 8 hours
|Maximum Altitude||4,217 m / 13,780 ft|
|Minimum Altitude||2,700 m / 8,956 ft|
The Classic Inca Trail usually begins at one of three train halts, generally known as Km 77,82 or 88 (after their respective distances from Cusco by train). The village of Chilca (Km 77) is often reached instead by road, whereas Km 82 is used mainly, and Km 88 exclusively, by train passengers. Anyone travelling by train should be ready to jump out quickly; watch the kilometre posts along the trackside, or ask someone to warn you when you are near. As the railway runs north of the river and the trail on its south, you start by crossing a bridge, usually a short distance to the west of (ie beyond) the halt.
From the tiny village of Chilca (2800 metres), the walk begins gently westward, following a path along the south bank of the River Urubamba (Vilcanota). After a moderate descent, you pass through eucalyptus trees, and about half-way to Km 82 the Inca Trail swings north-west. Look out for interesting large cacti in this section. About 90 minutes after Chilca, note the bridge where walkers from Km 82 cross the river and turn right to join the trail (altitude 2600 metres). Look behind you from time to time, especially in clear weather, to see the snow-capped Waqaywillka (Verónica) towering over the flat valley floor.
From Km 82 the trail runs south-west, at first Climbing Steeply away from the river. Soon it levels out, and you pass through a small village, shortly reaching Miskay where there is a control point for selling and inspecting Inca Trail tickets. Here the path runs south then immediately west, taking you down a deep gully and back up the other side.
Soon you reach the ruined hill fort of Willkaraqay, an ancient pre-lnca very small town, first inhabited around 500 BC. Its superb position commands the Kusichaca and Urubamba rivers, and it is said to have been the first site developed by the Incas after they arrived. From here, the view of Llaqtapata some distance below gives a clear idea of its layout.
Next you travel a short way west and steeply downhill to meet the trail from Km 88 to Wayllabamba, turning left (southward) near the River Cusichaca, which flows into the Urubamba. Shortly you reach the campsite of Tunasmoqo, where those who began at Chilca may spend their first night.
From Km 88 (or Qoriwayrachina),the trail differs at fírst. From the bridge, you start by walking back upstream along the Urubamba,then turn right up the Kusichaca. Soon you pass the important site of Llaqtapata, also known as Patallacta, first excavated by Bingham’s team in 1915. Its fine terraces were used for growing maize and other crops, and it supplied food to Machu Picchu.
Llactapata was a major site, and its strategic position underlined the Inca presence and dominance. It housed a large number of inhabitants, including travellers and soldiers who manned the hill fort of Willkaraqay. It had religious and ceremonial functions, centred on the complex known as Pulpituyoc, the shrine with rounded walls visible at far right in the photograph below. It was probably built around 1450 and was abandoned 90 years later, after the Spanish invasion.
After crossing the river, you climb up the hillside steeply, shortly to be joined from above by the trail from Km 82; you arrive at Tunasmoqo (altitude 2800 metres) just afterwards. From here on, the path is common from all starting-points, and it’s only another five kilometres to Wayllabamba (altitude 3000 metres).
The path undulates but overall it climbs, whilst the valley narrows as you approach the bridge over the river. (Just before the bridge you can buy soft drinks from the trailside huts.) After a further half hour you cross the Llullucha river and arrive at the edge of Wayllabamba. The campsite here tends to be busy, and once it had a bad reputation for theft. Most groups press on for a few hours to another campsite (eg Llulluchapampa, at 3750 metres).
Traditional Inca Trail is one of the paths that belongs to Network Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.