The Inca Trail was hardship, incredible elation, stunning views, and a history lesson all rolled into one. From start to finish our eyes feasted on everything that came our way. What blew me away was just how dramatic the scenery was all around us and how diverse the the trail takes you through. From farm lands, to flat lands, mountain passes, jungle, cliffs, and stairs that never end, there was an abundance of terrain and climates.
There are way too many photos to show here but for the visual readers out there, I thought that this would be a great way to give you a sense of what the whole 4 day journey was like.
Got your gear and ready to go? Come along for the ride!
Day 1 – Pumped
Morning breakfast stop in Ollantaytambo.
Just outside Marker 82, our porters get their gear ready by the Inca Trail office.
I could look at this view all day long.
The official start to the Inca Trail
The first of many check points along the Inca Trail.
We didn’t know how much we’d miss this “Inca Flat” terrain the rest of the hike. The beginning was pretty easy going.
The kids sure grow up fast around here.
Along the way we see a few small Inca sites and our guide even shows us where red dye comes from via sacrifice of a bug.
Quick pit stop. There were a few of these on the first day but these comforts were nowhere to be found on the other days.
The path below shows one of the climbs we had to do on the first day.
And then around the corner is this crazy ruin that was something literally carved out of the mountain. It’s called Llacatapata.
Quite a bit of climbing continued until we reached out lunch campsite at 2:30PM.
A glimpse at some of the pretty awesome food they were able to cook for us each meal.
The final stretch on Day 1 was pretty tough because we were really pushing the pace. This is me on the verge of collapse after making camp at around 5:20PM.
Everything was set up for us when we got to the campsite. They provided hot bowls of water and we were able to wash up.
Day 2 – Morale Crushing Day
It was a rainy start to Day 2 so we put on our ponchos and hit the trail!
Quite the change in landscape as we hiked up a trail full of lush green life and a waterfall.
This was part of the waystation before the start of the hike to Deadwoman’s Pass. Lots of locals were selling food here. I wasn’t feeling so well so I picked up a bottle of Gatorade. This place was also a good spot for a bathroom break. I remember just being really cold at this point already.
The climb up to Deadwoman’s Pass was incredibly punishing. You got to the point where your mind could only focus on the next 3 steps because there wasn’t energy left for anything more and to think about how much was left was morale crushing.
You can’t imagine how much of a relief it was to reach the top. Ponchos were on and off throughout which added to the difficulty of it all. Emotions were also running high at this point. We saw a girl come up in TEARS.
You can barely trace it but the whole trail up is in here.
It was nice of Alpaca Expeditions to leave one porter behind to serve us fresh cups of coca tea and sandwiches.
After Deadwoman’s Pass, things were a lot easier. Turns out I’m way better at going down hill.
The downhill seemed to go on forever and ever until we finally make it to our lunch campsite at 1PM
Peruvian Lomo Saltado served up for lunch.
You can see our lunch spot behind but we continued along our way. One more pass needed to be made.
We were taking breaks wherever we could and this one was a nice long one as Juan Carlos explained a bit about this Inca site.
This lake in the mountains captures the beauty of the Inca Trail and the incredible surroundings you pass through.
I thought we were doing a decent pace for the second leg of the day but apparently not. The sun was rapidly setting in front of us until there was no light left. The headlamps came on and we made it to camp way later than everyone else at 6:20PM.
My attempt to do a longer timelapse with our tents failed because it was so cold that it just killed what power was left in the battery. It was a cold COLD night.
Day 3 – Finally An Easier Day
Morning look at our campsite. There were other groups to the left and right of us but we pretty much had our own reserve space.
Tons and tons of food for breakfast.
The Incas just powered through whatever was in their way
Things were looking up on Day 3 because we could finally see Aguas Calientes and the flag for Machu Picchu.
After Deadwoman’s Pass, these sections weren’t as bad. Don’t get me wrong though, there was still a lot of uphill to do.
The typical scene of porters zipping past us.
Day 3 was filled with beautiful Inca Sites along the trail. This one’s called Phuyupatamarca.
From this perch, Juan Carlos gave us a lesson on how to braid our own Inca-strength rope.
These parts of the hike were my favourite. With no other hikers in site, we had a chance to explore and take photos from wherever we wanted.
Places like this felt like we were transported to some other worldly place.
This was the view we were treated with as we walked towards Intipata. The valley just opened up below.
By about 3PM we make it to our camp fashionably late and we chow down what we can of lunch.
Day 3’s campsite was a winner. You don’t get views like this from your tent everyday.
The “Inca Shower” I was telling you about.
With a little time to spare after a refreshing shower, we walk 5 minutes to the nearby Winay Wayna.
We get back to our camp at around 6PM and that’s when the party began. Look at our dining tent all decked out in toilet paper streamers and balloons!
Chef Yuri even baked a cake for us. Whaaaat!
Our hardworking porters huddle into the tent to introduce themselves and say goodbye.
Day 4 – Magical Reveal
Waking up at 3AM and finishing breakfast at 3:30AM, we get in line with the rest of the Inca Trail trekkers to wait for the gates to open at 5:30AM. For an hour, we wait in a first come first serve line. This is the final check point before the final ascent up to the Sun Gate.
Pumping with adrenaline and the overwhelming feeling of being so close, we hike at our fastest pace we’ve ever done for fear of being overtaken.
This is one of the last few shots of our group before Chantelle ended up tripping and twisting her ankle.
Our pace slowed down considerably afterwards but all of us eventually make it to the entrance of the Sun Gate
To our disappointment though, the fog cover was still too thick to see through. We took a break here hoping the fog would lift.
We waited and waited but it didn’t get any better.
The sun started peeking out of the gate at this point and that’s when we decided that it was time to get moving again.
The last stretch of the Inca Trail was perhaps the most scenic and magical. It was mostly a gradual downhill and we literally watched the fog part with the sun shining at our backs to reveal Machu Picchu below.
At this point, the Inca Trail is more or less over and we ended up taking quite a bit of time taking group photos of the supposedly “classic” shot of Machu Picchu.
You’ll see here that the place was crawling with tourists. It was impossible to get a clean shot and was far from the perfect shot of Machu Picchu. It’s too bad we spent so much time here.
We secretly made our way up from where we were (without our packs since they’re not allowed) and took a few more shots. Oh and guess who we found up here!
It was way better shooting from this vantage point. I wish we had more time to explore the far left parts from here that I’m sure would’ve provided a great spot for shooting.
That being said, I found a ton of unique vantage points for Machu Picchu that you typically don’t see in the postcards.
After exiting Machu Picchu and entering back in sans hiking sticks, our guide Juan Carlos gave us a thorough tour of the entire city ruins.
Fast forward to 11:10AM when we finally make it to the front gates of Huaynu Picchu. We’re 10 minutes late but the guard eventually gives in and lets us through. I will say that Huaynu Picchu looked way more terrifying than up close like this.
After a ton of switchbacks and chained stretches, we finally make it up to top of Huaynu Picchu where you get this alternate view of Machu Picchu. I was way too scared to stand up.
At the top of Huaynu Picchu, things become vertical real fast. To use the steps here, you pretty much have to monkey climb.
A look at what it was like to go down Huaynu Picchu. We ended up finishing at 12:48PM. I couldn’t believe we did it that fast.
At the bottom where Chantelle was waiting for us, there were a bunch of llamas vying for our granola bars.
Juan Carlos continued the tour of the complex after we finished Huaynu Picchu. This is just a little piece of Inca ingenuity. They were so obsessed with the sun that they built this pool of water to study the sun. Genius!
More alternate looks back at Machu Picchu
After taking the bus down, we walked over to our designated restaurant. It looked like each tour operator had their own designated restaurant as we saw other groups scattered around Aguas Calientes. This is where we ate our lunch (not covered) and said goodbye to Juan Carlos.
The town of Aguas Calientes is literally built around the train tracks and the train station.
After lunch, we walked our way towards the train station. There wasn’t much time for anything else.
The crazy amount of tourists that were with us as we waited for the gates to open.
Getting ready to board our Peru Rail train.
I was very impressed with our train ride back to Ollantaytambo. The cars were extremely clean, comfortable, and even came with free drinks and snacks. All of us passed out on the train ride. What an adventure.
And there you have it! 4 unforgettable days. It wasn’t easy but 100% worth it.
Feel like planning your own trip? Make sure you check out my super complete guide of what you need to think about when planning your Inca Trail trip.
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