(919) 696-5133 Best of Durham
Best of Durham

Machu Picchu

This image has been cropped and photoedited. Martin St-Amant (S23678) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Machu Picchu Trekking Itinerary

About Machu Picchu and The Inca Trail

Machu Picchu is located atop a steep, rugged mountain in the Andes of Peru. This lost city with massive ruins, perfect masonry, and strange architecture has baffled researchers for years. The Inca trail to this mysterious city, built in the 15th century by extraordinary craftsmen, is a remarkable journey.

Day 1: Lima (10,225 ft) and transfer to Cusco

You’ll land in Lima and transfer to Cusco. (Try to choose a flight departing Lima by mid-morning to arrive in Cusco by midday). You’ll be met at the Cusco airport and transported to the hotel. For acclimatization, it’s important that you relax this afternoon. We’ll meet at 6 pm for a briefing. [Note: if you’re interested in seeing Lima, you could arrive a day early and take a tour. We won’t be coordinating Lima tours but are happy to offer suggestions.] Photo: Pedro Szekely

Day 2: Cusco & The Sacred Valley Tour to Ollantaytambo (9,158 ft)

Today will be an interesting day of sightseeing. We’ll visit the local ruins of Sacsayhuaman then travel to the Sacred Valley to tour the famous Pisac market and shop for local crafts and goods. Our last stop will be the archeological site of Ollantaytambo that sits above the beautiful town of the same name. Overnight hotel (B,L)

Day 3: Ollantaytambo to Llactapata Camp (9,020 ft)

We’ll depart from Ollantaytambo by vehicle early in the morning after breakfast. We’ll be dropped off at Km 82, the starting point of the Inca Trail. We’ll start our hike along the left shore of the Urubamba River, following the trail along flat terrain. We’ll arrive in Miskay (9,184 ft) then ascend to a view of the Inca city of Llactapata (9,020 ft). From this point we’ll have about a 3-hour descent to the ruins. We’ll set up camp nearby and spend the afternoon exploring and visiting this archaeological site. Overnight in camp (B,L,D)

Day 4: Llactapata Camp to Llullchapampa Camp (12,467ft)

We’ll wake up early, eat breakfast and continue trekking along the valley created by the Kusichaca River. We’ll climb gradually until we reach the farming community of Wayllabamba (9,840 ft). We’ll see spectacular views of the Vilcanota mountain range on the opposite side of the Urubamba River, where the impressive Veronica peak reigns at 19,129 ft. We’ll also take in the diversity of wild flora and fauna along the valley. Continuing along the trail, we’ll begin the most difficult part of the trek that consists of a steep ascent to the first mountain pass of the Inca Trail, the Abra Wuarmihuañusca (Dead Woman’s pass). We’ll climb halfway up the pass today (about 2-3 miles) and stop at Llullchapamba. Along the way, the landscape changes from sierra to puna (a high and dry area with little vegetation) and we’ll have the chance to spot domesticated llamas and alpacas grazing on ichu (highland straw, one of the few plants that grow at this altitude). We’ll also cross a cloud forest, the habitat for many different kinds of birds and the Andean bear (also called the Spectacled Bear). The total hike today will be 6-7 hours and around 7 miles. Overnight in the camp at Llullchapamba. (B,L,D)

Day 5: Llullchapamba to Phuyupatamarca Camp (11,745ft)

After breakfast, we’ll continue ascending for 2-3 miles (~ 2 hours) to the top of Abra Wuarmihuañusca (Dead Woman’s Pass), the highest point on the Inca Trail (13,776 ft). We’ll quickly descend into the Pacaymayo valley (11,808 ft) then begin ascending to the second pass of Abra Runkurakay (13,022 ft). We’ll take a rest halfway up and visit the archaeological complex. A small oval structure believed to have been a watchtower is located at this site (12,464 ft). After going over the pass, we’ll descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lagoon) and enter another cloud forest to arrive at Sayacmarca (11,887 ft), a beautiful complex of semicircular construction with enclosures at different levels, narrow streets, liturgical fountains, patios and irrigation canals. Continuing up an easy climb, we’ll arrive at the third pass, the Abra Phuyupatamarca (12,136 ft). Along the way we’ll take in the magnitude of the Incas´ ancient craft as we walk along semi-detached paths with ravines filled with perfectly ordered rocks that preserve the trail in this multi-leveled Andean geography. We’ll go through an Inca tunnel to access the Abra Phuyupatamarca pass, then descend to the complex of the same name. This is one of the most complete and best -preserved archaeological complexes along the Inca Trail. Phuyupatamarca means “town over the clouds” and from above we’ll be able to see the sophisticated complex of water fountains and impressive views of the Urubamba River valley. We’ll set up camp in Phuyupatamarca. The total distance for today will be a little over 9 miles (8-9 hours of trekking). (B,L,D)

Day 6: Phuyupatamarca Camp to Machu Picchu (8,038 ft) to Aguas Calientes (6,890 ft)

Weather permitting, we’ll see a spectacular sunrise this morning. Then we’ll begin our long descent down the stone steps to Wiñay Wayna (8,692 ft), the second largest archaeological site on the Inca Trail. After leaving Wiñay Wayna, we’ll hike for about an hour to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) along a trail of flat stones bordering cliffs that overlook a highland jungle below. This is a fabulous spot for Machu Picchu views. We’ll then descend to take in ‘the greatest hits’ of Machu Picchu today: the elegant Sun Temple, the surreal Royal Mausoleum, the monolithic shrines of the Sacred Plaza, and the mysteriously carved Intihuatana stones. We’ll meet up with the train group and drive together to the hotel in Aguas Calientes. Overnight hotel (B,L)

Day 7: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu to Cusco

Both groups (trekkers and trainers) will leave the hotel after breakfast and drive to Machu Picchu. We’ll aim to enter the complex around 6 am to beat the crowds and enjoy the sunrise. After a guided tour you may choose to climb Huayna Picchu (the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu) and/or explore lesser known wonders of Machu Picchu. We’ll drive to Aguas Calientes for lunch. We also could choose to return to Aguas Calientes in time to enjoy the hot springs before departing to Cusco by train. Overnight in hotel (B)

Day 8: After breakfast transfer from hotel in Cusco to the airport (B)

Photo credit: Martin St-Amant (S23678) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]