The Inca Trail is quite possibly one of the most famous hiking treks in the world.
The Inca Trail starts in Cusco and ends at Machu Picchu. There are several hiking options to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu. We decided to do the Classic Inca Trail, 4 day/3 night trek, with our favorite Peru Travel Agency, Alpaca Expeditions. The Classic Inca Trail in Peru stretches a vast 42km (26 miles) from the starting point of 82km (which is 51 miles from Cusco).
Hiking the Inca Trail was one of the most liberating and rewarding experiences of our lives. I would highly recommend this trek to all those looking for a truly unique and physical, once in a lifetime experience. I want to walk you through each day and what to expect on the trail to see if this adventure is right for you.
Before we get into that, I want to say a huge thank you to our guides, Daniel & Marcial, our head chef Sicilio, and our head porter, Alejandro and his team of 25 porters. Without our porters, this trek would not be possible. These men are the backbone of this hike and I have deep respect and admiration for them. They each carry 25kg (55lbs) on their backs throughout the duration of our 26 mile journey which could include anything from our duffel bags, sleeping bags, mattresses, food, propane tanks, and the list goes on. On top of that, they are nearly running from site to site, setting up our tents, and cooking us food. They wake up before us, go to sleep after us and always great each and every hiker with a big smile and a friendly “Hola!” These people are the ones who make the entire Inca Trail experience and I will be forever grateful to them.
I also wanted to mention that all meals, snacks and water are included on this trek and the food does not disappoint! These are gourmet meals served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was out of this world and I can assure you that you will be well-fed! Now, moving on to the details!
Day One on the Inca Trail was an early start. From Cusco, we were picked up at our hotel at 4AM, took a bus to Piskacucho for breakfast, and then started our 14km (8.69 mile) hike to our first campsite. The first day was absolutely beautiful. It is a moderately difficult day compared to the third and fourth day of the hike, but not quite as difficult as Day Two. In total, we spent 6.5 hours hiking up to our first resting spot which was almost completely uphill. We hiked alongside the river and the views were breathtaking.
Day Two on the Inca Trail was an early start as well. We had a 5AM wake up call with coca tea and were off on the trail by 6AM. Day 2 is the most challenging day of the entire trail. We hiked for a total of 16km (9.94 miles) which took us about 10 hours to complete. Most of Day 2 is either a steep incline or a steep decline. There really is no flat part of the trail. But let me tell you, that when you reach the top of the first pass, Dead Woman’s Pass, you feel like a champion. It was here that we felt the most accomplished. We had completed the hardest part of our journey and were standing at a whopping 4200 meters (13,779ft). We declined the pass to have a lovely lunch, and then headed onward for another 4 hours to make our final resting spot before Day 3.
Day Three on the Inca Trail is the most “leisurely” day on the trail (if there were such a thing). We hiked a total of 10km (6.2 miles) which took about 5 hours. Majority of Day 3 is either fairly level or completely downhill. Day 3 was one of our favorite days on the trail. We made it to our final campsite by noon, enjoyed lunch with our team and then set off on a private group journey to a not-too-known waterfall. It was breathtaking to hike down ancient Inca ruins, around winding roads to finally set your eyes upon this waterfall. Because we hiked in dry season, there wasn’t as much water as would’ve been seen in wet season but it was still absolutely amazing. Some of the group even braved the cold waters for a bath!
Day Four on the Inca Trail was the earliest and most rewarding of ALL the days on the trail. We had a 3AM wake up call, scurried on down to the last checkpoint and waited in line until 5:30AM when the checkpoint opened to be let through. Once the gates opened, we sprinted to our first stop before reaching Machu Picchu, the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate sits at 2730 meters (8.956ft) and has an incredible view of Machu Picchu. Watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu was something we will never forget. After some photos and a quick resting spot, we scurried along down to our final destination, Machu Picchu. This was the goal. We had hiked 26 miles to reach this point and man, did it feel good!
After 26 miles of exhausting work hiking through the mountains to finally walk into Machu Picchu is the most rewarding feeling. I found that the appreciation and awe of Machu Picchu was that much sweeter. We spent a couple hours exploring the grounds and like two crazy people, we had previously signed up to hike a 1.5 mile round trip hike up Waynapicchu (more on this in another blog soon!).
We cannot recommend hiking the Inca Trail more. We spent four days working hard, appreciating nature and the history that surrounded us. We cannot say enough great things about our guides, the chef and our hard working porters with Alpaca Expeditions. These men are the hardest working people I’ve ever met and without them, this trek would be impossible. Thank you to Daniel, Marical and the rest of Alpaca Expeditions for this once in a lifetime experience!
For those wanting more information on the hike we took to Machu Picchu, check out Alpaca Expedition’s website and click the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: 4 Days / 3 Nights.