You are in: Home » Destinations: Inca Trail

INCA TRAIL

THE INCA TRAIL

In order to do the hike, today people use one start point: Piscacucho Km2 (we call PIscacucho or Km 82 because from Cusco to here there are 82 Km). in this case it is possible to drive to Piscacucho Km 82 departing from Cusco. Trekking from the Piscacucho Km 82 (Ch'illca is also a native medicinal bush which biological name is Baccharis polyantha) takes normally about 4 days; in this village there is a bridge over the Urubamba River that must be crossed in order showing our permits or entrance fee of inca trail those which must book in advance (only 500 people per day, tourist, porter, cooks and guide are inside of 500 places) following the dusty trail that is parallel to the river. The first hiking day in this option is relatively easy and serves as a training for the next days; the terrain is almost flat. From some sectors there are great views of the Cordillera of Urubamba (Range of Mountains of Urubamba) and the La Veronica glacier (its original name was "Weqey Willka" -"Sacred Tear"- 5860 masl; 19225 feet). During the first hiking day it is still possible to find small shops where they sell soft drinks, beer and cookies; besides, on the way is the community of Meskay where there is a school, and nearby there are archaeological groups such as Willkaraqay, Kiswarpata and Tunasmoqo. Even further is Patallaqta ("Upper Town" -others call it Llaqtapata-) that was an important Incan town that keeps remains of "pirka" type walls and farming terraces. The southern part of this complex is named Kusichaka (Happy Bridge) as well as the stream. This is a good spot to camp, otherwise, it will be okay to go on as far as Wayllabamba.

 

The hike to Qoriwayrachina (Gold Blower) also known as " Kilometer 88", one you are in Meskay are close but you should quick hike and need one more day out of the normal 4 days. Soon after, the trek is towards the east through the eucalyptus woodland in order to get to Patallaqta and later follow upstream the small Kusichaka River on its left bank towards the south. Further away it will be necessary to cross the small wooden bridge called Hatunchaka (Big Bridge) and the Yunkachinpa community to finally arrive at the settlement of Wayllabamba (Wayllapanpa = Prairie Plain) where there are houses of peasants, a school and some material remains of the Incan Culture. This is the last spot where it is possible to get some goods and drinks. From Wayllabamba, that stands over about 2800 masl. (9180 feet.), there is a path towards the northwest that must be taken, following the right bank of the Llullucha stream (Llulluch'a is an aquatic plant with the shape of small dark balls, its biological name is Nostoc S.P.). Over here starts the longest climb of the trail that ends on the Warmiwañusqa pass. From Wayllabamba starts the way up to get to " Tres Piedras Blancas" (Three White Stones) which is a proper space to set campsite close to the Wayruro stream (Wayruro is an ornamental tree that has red seeds with black patches, its biological name is Citharexylum herrerae. In the tourist slang, porters from Ollantaytambo who serve tourists in the Inka Trail are known as "wayruros" because of their red ponchos). Around this zone and upwards is what is named as "Montane Rain Forest" characterized by the abundance of trees such as Intimpa or Romerillo (Podocarpus glomeratus), Q'euña (Polylepis incana), Unca (Eugenia oreophilla), etc. There is also an abundance of lichens, mosses, ferns and orchids of diverse species. Inside this Historic Sanctuary there are more than 30 genera and over a hundred species or orchidacea; likewise, over here it is possible to find many species of wild begoniae. Among some other tree species here are: cedar (Cedrela herrerae), pisonay or coral tree (Erythrina falcata), lambran or alder tree (Alnus jorulensis), laurel (Nectandra sp.), kiswar (Buddleia incana), walnut (Juglands neotropica), sauco or elderberry (Sambucus Peruviana), etc. By the end of the woodland is Llulluchapampa that is another proper campsite over about 3660 masl. (12000 feet.). The temperatures around here are low because it is the beginning of the "High Andean Zone" simply known as "puna" with an abundance of the wild native bunch grass ichu (Stipa ichu). Following the climb is the highest point of the trek in the pass of Warmiwañuska (Dead Woman) over 4200 masl. (13780 feet.). In this pass there is a pile that looks like artificial, possibly it is an "apacheta", that is, a heap of stones and other objects that travellers used to leave as presents in the highest passes. The air is cold over here and in many cases it is possible to get snow; it is recommendable not to stay a long time in this pass because of its rarefied air with oxygen scarcity.

 

From the Warmiwañuska pass starts a descent through a rough path around which it is possible to perceive the slow formation of a stream that in the bottom of the small valley is named Pacaymayu (Hidden River). By the bottom of the valley the trail is visible without reaching the thick vegetation; this is another of the recommended campsites, over 3600 masl. (11800 feet.).

 

Be careful the middle of the descent and on the left side there is another genuine ancient paved trail that follows almost horizontally on the mountainside surpassing another pass to go down then into the Aobamba Valley; it is necessary to follow an abandoned trail and further away towards the right hand is Sayaqmarka. That last way is not recommendable because the trail is abandoned and in some sectors it disappeared by the effect of natural erosion; it is not used and it has no maintenance, thus it offers many dangers.

 

From the campsite in Pacaymayu starts another climb towards Runkuraqay; this time the hike is over a trail paved with flagstones that offers a lot of safety specially in rainy days. Runkuraqay is by the middle of the way up and has an ovoid shape; possibly the name with which it was baptized by one of Bingham's native guides in 1915 was "Runturaqay" (Egg-shaped Enclosure). The walls of its buildings are of the "pirka" type. Because of its location and the layout of its rooms, it seems that it served as a "tambo" (lodge for travellers). Continuing the climb through the cobbled stairway, on the trail's left side there is a very small lagoon called Yanaqocha ("Black Lake"), on the right side and on an upper level is another one having the same size. In this zone occasionally it is possible to see Guemals or Tarucas (Hippocamelus antisensis) that come down in order to drink water, and Mountain Vizcachas (Lagidium Peruvianum). Inside the Machupicchu Historic Sanctuary it is also possible to find species such as the Puma or Mountain Lion (Felis concolor), Andean Cats (Felis jacovita), Ocelots (Felis pardalis), Hog-nosed Skunks (Conepatus rex), South-American Foxes (Dusicyon culpaeus), White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Tanka or Dwarf Brocket Deer (Mazama Chunyi) -endangered species-, Weasels (Mustela frenata), Pudus (Pudu mephistophiles), Tayras (Eyra barbara), Amazon Otters (Luthra incarum), Spectacled Bears (Tremarctos ornatus) -endangered species-; among the main birds are the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), K'illichu or Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius), Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis), Torrents Duck (Merganetta arnata), Cu-cu (Momotus momota), Quien-quien (Cyanocorax inca), Cuvier's Toucan (Ramphastos cuvieri), Chiguanco (Turdus chiguanco), Razor-billed Curassow (Crax mitu), Chinalinda (Phalacoboenus albogularis), Andean Gull (Larus serranus), Yanavico (Plegadis ridwayi), Cock of the Rock (Rupicola Peruviana) -endangered species-. Moreover, there are vipers, lizards, diverse amphibious, butterflies and insects, etc., etc. If you decide to go into the undisturbed forest, far away from the trail, be aware of some dangers like finding lethal snakes such as the bushmaster (Lachesis muta) or the viperine fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox) which possesses a virulent venom that is destructive of tissue destroying blood cells and mucous membranes as well.

 

At the end of the climb is the second highest spot named Runkuraqay Pass, over 3900 masl. (12800 feet.). From this pass starts another steep descent towards Sayaqmarka. By the middle of the way down, and on the right side there is another interesting green colored lagoon having a lot of algae, it is known as Q'omer-qocha (Green Lake).

 

Sayaqmarka is an archaeological group located over 3500 masl. (11500 feet.) and was explored by Bingham's expedition in 1915 which native guides named it "Cedrobamba" ("Cedropanpa" = Plain of cedars). By the end of 1941 a Viking Fund expedition headed by Paul Fejos explored the area and baptized it as "Sayaqmarka" (Steep Spot) considering its geographic location almost by the end of a mountain spur that dominates visually the Aobamba valley. In this complex there are different constructions that are somewhat intricate because of having been adapted to the rough mountain shape; in spite of the difficult environment there is also an aqueduct capriciously carved on the mountain crest, fountains that seem to have had a ritual purpose, narrow streets, a semi-ovoid dominant building, etc. Because of the area where it is located, this site must had a duty almost strictly administrative and ceremonial; perhaps for management of the territory and the nearby roads. Thus, it is possible that it could have been inhabited by soldiers, state officials, and priests, who were not farmers as there are no farmlands around. Normally this site has little maintenance, therefore, occasionally one may encounter vipers or some other animals; moreover, around here there are almost always large amounts of very small biting mosquitoes called "manta blanca" (white blanket) that are almost invisible but they exist by the millions and have good resistance against repellents. This is another place that serves as campsite. Near Sayaqmarka, on the right side of the trail there is another building that must had a close relationship with the "Steep Spot", it is Qonchamarka (Cooking Stove Spot) which is also built with "pirka" type walls, its original duty is unknown.

 

Be careful one more time  because from Sayaqmarka departs a somewhat abrupt trail towards Machupicchu, and very few kilometres away is a short humid and swampy plain named Chakilqocha (it should be "Ch'aki Qocha" = Dry Lake) that is often used as a campsite. Farther away, continuing on the trail carefully paved with flagstones, there is a wide and comfortable tunnel carved in the mountain rock; it is about 20 meters. (66 feet.) long and has carved steps, walls and floor. Advancing through the comfortable trail the traveller gains altitude in order to get to Phuyupatamarka that is found over 3680 masl. (12070 feet.). Likewise, that archaeological group was "discovered" by Bingham in 1915 who named it as "Qoriwayrachina". But, in 1941 Paul Fejos and his expedition rebaptized the site with the name of "Phuyupatamarka" (Spot over the clouds), because it is almost always over the clouds and mist formed in the valleys around. It is placed in a space that dominates visually a broad territory and must have been an important religious and administrative core. Its features include a superior almost ovoid platform, aligned fountains that must had a religious duty with well-disposed channels and water that is still flowing; very well carved stairways, rough wall constructions, terraces, etc. From this spot there are two trails in order to go down to Wiñaywayna; one of them is projected almost horizontally towards the west and then it descends abruptly to the next archaeological group (this trail reaches also "Wayraqpunku" -Windy Doorway- on a mountain pass, where there was a project in order to build a modern hotel); that way is not used anymore because of the dangerous descent. The other trail, cleared up in 1983 goes down from the western end of this site, this one is a flight having so many and very well built steps by the middle of the thick forest where there is also another small tunnel carved in the rock; by the end of this Incan path there is another dusty and zigzagging one built by those who raised the electricity towers by the 1960s. Even lower is the Wiñaywayna Visitors Center consisting in a group of concrete and red roof buildings, that offers basic lodging and eating facilities; however, it is possible to camp around here. Towards this center's southeast is the Archaeological Group of the same name that is practically hung over the Urubamba canyon.

 

Wiñaywayna is an important archaeological group near Machupicchu, over an altitude of 2700 masl. (8860 feet). It was found by Paul Fejos in 1941, and subsequently in 1942 the Peruvian scholar Julio C. Tello baptized the site as "Wiñaywayna" (Forever Young) after the Quechua name of an orchid specie (Epidendrum crassilabium). The Epidendrum genus has here about 20 species of white, red, yellow or violet beautiful flowers that are abundant in the zone; another very common genus is Pleurothalis. In Wiñaywayna there are diverse buildings among which is an upper semicircular one that is traditionally known as the "palace" or the "tower", built partially with carved stones. Towards the right side of the descending stairway there is a range of 10 successive ritual fountains that are classical in every important settlement. Towards the north is the farming sector with a large amount of artificial terraces; lower are some other buildings on the precipice's edge with "pirka" type walls from where there is a nice view of the mountains' lower part and the valley. Toward the northeast of Wiñaywayna and in an upper level is Intipata (Spot of the Sun); an archaeological site formed mainly by agricultural terraces. Down, in the valley's bottom, on Km. 107 of the railway Qosqo-Quillabamba is the dam for the Machupicchu Hydroelectric Power Plant, constructed between 1958 to 1962. From that dam there are a couple of 3 Km. long tunnels drilled in the Machupicchu granite mountain; they carry the water of the Urubamba River to the other side of the mountain in the San Miguel sector. Taking advantage of the difference in altitude the water is transformed in 110,000 KW of electric power, for the Qosqo and Puno departments. Near the dam is the Archaeological Group of Choquesuysuy (Gold-ore Sifter) that includes some few buildings and farming terraces.

 

The last tract of the hike from Wiñaywayna is through an impressive somewhat horizontal trail, carved in the mountain face in which on the right side there are deep precipices. Almost by the end of the relatively flat trail there is a stairway arising in order to finally get to Intipunku (Sun Gate), located on the pass over an altitude of 2650 masl. (8700 feet.). From Intipunku you will get for the first time a panoramic view of Machupicchu. In the Inkan Society this must have been something like a watchtower and customhouse in order to enable checking those wanting to enter Machupicchu, as well as for its protection.

TOURS: INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL 4D/3N - CLASSIC

INCA TRAIL 4D/3N - CLASSIC

INCA TRAIL 4DAYS/3NIGHTS CLASSICAL OPTION The classic inca trail is not a common trail, is a PILGRIMAGE, which at inca ...

INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL 5D/4N - COMFORT

INCA TRAIL 5D/4N - COMFORT

INCA TRAIL 5 DAYS / 4 NIGHTS COMFORT TRIP Inca trail is a pilgrimage which at Inca time, the Inca I mean the emperor ...

INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL 3D/2N - CHALLENGE

INCA TRAIL 3D/2N - CHALLENGE

INCA TRAIL 3 DAYS /2 NIGHTS CHALLENGE The classic inca trail is not a common trail, is a PILGRIMAGE, which at inca time ...

INCA TRAIL

INCA TRAIL 2D/1N - SHORT WITH HOTELS

INCA TRAIL 2D/1N - SHORT WITH HOTELS

CLASSICAL INCA TRAIL – SHORT ONE 2D/1N CONFORT HOTEL If you don’t have enough time to stay in Cusco, no ...

INCA TRAIL

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2d/1n SHORT TRIP

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2d/1n SHORT TRIP

CLASSICAL INCA TRAIL – SHORT ONE 2D/1N If you don’t have enough time to stay in Cusco, no worries, because we ...