Inca Trail Hike
From Km 88, cross the Rio Urubamba on the suspension bridge, turn left and climb gently through a eucalyptus grove for 1km. You will pass the minor ruin of Llactapata on your right; cross the Rio Cusichaca on a footbridge and head south along the east bank of the river. It’s 6km along the river to the tiny village of Huayllabamba. climbing gently all the way and recrossing the river after 4km. Huayllabamba is a few minutes above the fork of the Llullucha and Cusichaca rivers, at an elevation of 2750 m.
The Inca Trail climbs steeply along the southern bank of the Rio Llullucha. After an hour, the river forks. Continue up the left fork for 500m and then cross the river on a log bridge. There are campsites on both sides of the bridge. The area is called tres piedras blancas (three white stones) and is the first and recommended camp for many people. Beyond this camp, the trail turns right after the log bridge and then sweeps back to the Llullucha. It is a long, steep climb to the 4198m high point of the trek, the Warmi Wañusca (Dead Woman’s) Pass. The trail passes through cloud forest for 1 1/2 hours before emerging on the high, bare mountain. At some points, the trail and the streambed become one. Llulluchupampa is a flat area above the forest, where water is available and camping is good, though it’s cold at night. From here, follow the left- hand side of the valley and climb for two to three hours to the pass. At Warmiwañusca, you’ll see the Rio Pacamayo far below and the Runturacay ruin halfway up the hill above the river. The trail descends to the river where there are good campsites. The trail crosses the river (via a foot bridge) below a small waterfall.
Climb up to the right toward Runkuracay, an ovalshaped ruin with superb views that is an hour’s walk from the river. Above Runturacay, the trail climbs to a false summit, then continues past two small lakes to the top of the second pass at 3998m (about one hour). The trail descends past another lake to the ruin of Sayacmarca, which is visible from the trail 1 km before you get there. The site is most impressive: a tightly constructed town on a small mountain spur with superb views. The trail continues downward and crosses the headwaters of the Rio Aobamba, where there is a small campsite.
On the gentle climb to the third pass, there is a causeway across a dried-up swampy lake and later on, a tunnel – both Inca constructions. The trail goes through beautiful cloud forest, but the high point of the pass, at almost 3700m, isn’t very obvious. There are great views of the Urubamba valley, and soon you reach the beautiful ruin of Phuyupatamarca at 3650m, three hours beyond Sayacmarca. Phuyupatamarca has been well restored and contains a beautiful series of ceremonial baths, which have water running through them. A ridge above the ruin offers campsites with spectacular views.
From Phuyupatamarca a newer section of the trail takes a dizzying drop down hundreds of Inca steps into the cloud forest below.
Climb down to the lowest part of the town, where it tapers off into a tiny exposed ledge overlooking the Rio Urubamba far below. This ruin called Wiñay Huayna is a three-hour descent from Phuyupatamarca. The very difficult climb down to the Rio Urubamba is prohibited. From Wiñay Huayna, the trail continues through the cliff-hanging cloud forest and is very thin in places, so watch your step. It takes two hours to reach the penultimate site on the trail, Intipunku (Sun Gate).
Machu Picchu comes into view here. There is room for a couple of tents, but there’s no water. This is the last place to camp on the Inca Trail. From Intipunku, Machu Picchu is an hour’s descent. Backpacks aren’t allowed into the ruins; on arrival, check your pack at the lower entrance gate and have your one-day trail permit stamped.
Traditional Inca Trail is one of the paths that belongs to Network Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.