Hiking the Inca Trail.    Ruins, Nature & the Gringo Killer

Join an epic journey across Peru’s Inca Trail.

4 Days
52 Kilometers
1 Destination: Machu Picchu

After leaving Piscacucho, this is the very first hill you climb on the Inca Trail.
After leaving Piscacucho, this is the very first hill you climb on the Inca Trail.

It’s Finally Here!

You probably booked your trek months ago and the anticipation has been slowly rising.

After spending a few days acclimating to the high altitude in Cuzco, Peru, you arose before dawn to begin your journey.

 

First, there were the bus rides and buffet breakfast.

Then, your  passport was stamped at a guard house in Piscacucho.

Now, at last, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for…

The Inca Trail!

 

You are surrounded by nature throughout the 4 day Inca Trail trek.
You are surrounded by nature throughout the 4 day Inca Trail trek.

 

These amazing people will be your family for the next four days.
These amazing people will be your family for the next four days.

Heading Out into the Great Unknown 

Along with 15 other trekkers, 21 chuskies (the local name for a sherpa or porter), two guides and one gourmet chef, your adventure begins alongside Peru’s Urubamba River.

The initial ascent is moderate; passing through desert-like terrain and up into lush-green mountains.

Along the way, you notice several locals with donkeys; each waiting to offer tired trekkers a “taxi ride” to the next rest stop.

 

For just a few Peruvian Soles, you can ride this donkey or have it carry your bags.
For just a few Peruvian Soles, you can ride this donkey or have it carry your bags.

 

Cactus' are everywhere during the first few hours of the Inca Trail
Cacti are everywhere during the first few hours of the Inca Trail.

Llaqtapata Ruins

With frequent stops and constant conversation amongst new friends, it’s a short three hours before arriving at your first destination: the ruins of Llaqtapata.

Also known as the Valley of the Wind, these ancient terraces precede the Incan era.

 

The Llactapata agricultural terraces predate the Incan empire.
A modern-ish town sits below the Llactapata agricultural terraces.

 

While your guidebook may call it Llactapata, the locals call it the Valley of the Clouds
While your guidebook may call it Llactapata, the locals call it the Valley of the Clouds.

Valleys, Mountains, Rivers and Campsites

Rested and stuffed from a gourmet lunch, only a few more hours of hiking remain.

There are no more ruins today; but, mountainous views and incredible diversity of plants give you plenty to oooh and aaah at.

Plus, if you miss “civilization,” there are of train tracks, giant metal towers and power lines to distract you.

 

Everywhere you look, the Inca Trail is flanked by beautiful mountains.
Everywhere you look, the Inca Trail is flanked by beautiful mountains.

 

Your guide, Freddy, jokes that PeruRail passengers are cheaters: making the 4 day journey to Machu Picchu in just 1.5 hours.
Your guide, Freddy, jokes that PeruRail passengers are cheaters: making the 4 day journey to Machu Picchu in just 1.5 hours.

 

The clouds. Oh, the clouds!
The clouds. Oh, the clouds!

 

This is the view from your campsite in Wayllabamba on the first night.
This is the view from your campsite in Wayllabamba on the first night.

 

With no city lights anywhere, you can almost see every star in the universe above your camp site at Wayllabamba.
With no city lights anywhere, you can see the Milky Way (and every other star in the universe) from your tent.

Day 2: Dead Women, Rainforests & an Epic Climb

After having tea delivered to your tent and enjoying a breakfast of pancakes and fruit, it’s time to begin your day’s climb.

The first thing you notice is how different the terrain is from the day before.

That’s because you’re now hiking through a rainforest!

As you weave up countless tree-flanked switchbacks, be sure to take your time and keep your eyes open.

Exotic trees, caterpillars, insects, rivers, waterfalls, flora and fauna await you at every turn.

 

Good Morning, Inca Trail!
Good Morning, Inca Trail!

 

At 7am, the moon is still visible from your breakfast table.
At 7am, the moon is still visible from your breakfast table.

 

This is your general view for a good chunk of the second morning on the Inca Trail.
This is your general view for a good chunk of the second morning on the Inca Trail.

 

Just try and count how many caterpillars you see on second day of the Inca Trail.
Just try and count how many caterpillars you see on second day of the Inca Trail.

 

Wild plants grow alongside the rainforest segment of the Inca Trail.
Wild plants grow alongside the rainforest segment of the Inca Trail.

 

Don't forget to look up... the trees are amazing!
Don’t forget to look up… the trees are amazing!

 


Dead Woman’s Pass

Topping out at 4,215 meters (nearly 3 miles) above sea level, Dead Woman’s Pass is considered the toughest part of the Inca Trail.

Many people on the trek have been worrying about it since booking their trip.

However, as you tackle the steep ascent, it doesn’t seem so bad.

More worrisome is the distant roar of thunder and a dense cloud covering the valley below.

 

Rejoice! You've just climbed up all of this to reach Dead Woman's Pass.
Rejoice! You’ve just climbed up all of this to reach Dead Woman’s Pass.

At the Top

Like something out of a Stephen King novel, you reach the top of Dead Woman’s Pass to find yourself enveloped in a dense rolling cloud.

While waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, Pachamama (Mother Earth) decides to soak you with rain and hail.

Your pants and shoes don’t stand a chance; but, at least you packed a rain jacket.

 

The foggy view from atop Dead Woman's Pass might be even more beautiful than on a clear day.
You may not be able to see much; but wow… what a view from atop Dead Woman’s Pass

 

Don't forget to take the obligatory photo next to the sign atop Dead Woman's Pass.
Don’t forget to take the obligatory photo next to the altitude sign atop Dead Woman’s Pass.

Heading Down

Soaked and at the front of the line, you find yourself singing in joy while carefully walking down each steep step.

Up above: a rainbow of colored ponchos peeks through the foggy path.

Down below: hot chocolate, popcorn, dry clothes, dinner and good night sleep await.

 

One step at a time is the best way to get down from Dead Woman's Pass.
One step at a time is the best way to get down from Dead Woman’s Pass.

 

Down below, your campsite awaits at Pacaymayu.
It’s not a mirage; it’s your campsite at Pacaymayu.

 

Before going to bed, don't forget to take in the spectacular night sky at 3,800 meters above sea level.
Before going to bed, don’t forget to take in the spectacular night sky at 3,800 meters above sea level.

Day 3: Ruins, More Ruins & the Gringo Killer

Wakey wakey… it’s time for the hardest day of your trek.

After huffing and puffing your way past ancient ruins, you arrive at the Qochapata lookout point.

Located at 3,670 meters (12,000 feet), it’s a great place to catch your breath, enjoy the vista and imagine swimming in the nearby lake.

 

Then, it’s time to head down…

with a brief bit of up to explore more ruins…

then more down…

until you finally reach an unforgettable tunnel of trees and vegetation…

with lunch waiting on the other side.

 

Shortly after beginning your day's hike, you will stop and explore the Pacaymayu ruins.
Shortly after beginning your day’s hike, you will stop and explore the Pacaymayu ruins.

 

Qochapata is the highest point on Day 3 of the Inca Trail... and treats you to this spectacular view.
This spectacular view is from Qochapata: the highest point on Day 3 of the Inca Trail.

 

In addition to natural tunnels, the Incas carved through solid rock in a few places.
In addition to naturally-occurring tunnels, the Incas carved through solid rock to create their own.

 

The Sayaqmarka ruins sit on a steep cliffside.
The Sayaqmarka ruins sit on a steep cliffside.

 

Your guide, Freddie, jokes that this type of moss is called "the Cancer of the Inca Trail," due to how quickly it grows and covers the path.
Freddy jokes that this moss is nicknamed “the Cancer of the Inca Trail;” because of how quickly it grows and covers the path.

 

I would advise against eating these berries.
I would advise against eating these berries.

 

After a morning of hiking up and down steep hills, be sure to savor the gentle incline of the rainforest segment near Chaquiqocha.
After a morning of hiking up and down steep hills, be sure to savor the gentle incline of the rainforest segment near Chaquiqocha.

 

You will see so many yellow flowers along the Inca Trail... like these at Sayaqmarka.
You will see so many yellow flowers along the Inca Trail… like these at Sayaqmarka.

 

Sometimes, the Inca Trail passes over chasms and needs a bridge.
Sometimes, the Inca Trail passes over chasms and needs a bridge.

Ouch, Your Knees!

Finally, you’ve reached the segment Freddy’s been joking about for days: the Gringo Killer.

Beginning at the Phuyupatamarka ruins – aka “The Spot Above the Coulds” – get ready to walk down 2,000+ stairs to reach your campsite.

 

More than an hour into the descent, you are faced with a choice:

  • The short way takes about 30 minutes, but is 100% steep steps.
  • The long way takes about an hour, but has a more gentle incline and rewards you with the spectacular Intipata ruins.

Despite the incredible shaking in your knees and legs, you opt for the long way.

 

They don't call Phuyupatamarka "the Place Above the Clouds" for nothing.
They don’t call Phuyupatamarka “the Place Above the Clouds” for nothing.

 

Phuyupatamarka is one of the most spectacular ruins you will see on the Inca Trail.
Phuyupatamarka is one of the most spectacular ruins you will see on the Inca Trail.

 

Beware the Gringo Killer!
Beware the Gringo Killer!

 

Sitting above Aguas Callientes and facing Machu Picchu Mountain, the Intipata ruins are a spectacular place to rest after conquering the Gringo Killer.
Sitting above Aguas Callientes and facing Machu Picchu Mountain, the Intipata ruins are a spectacular place to rest after conquering the Gringo Killer.

 

Don't forget to look up on the way out of the Intipata Ruins.
Don’t forget to look up on the way out of the Intipata Ruins.

Day 4: Machu Picchu!

As rain beats down on your tent, you stumble out at 4:00 am to find a wall of mist shrouding the campsite.

Missing are the usual sounds of chuskies offering coca tea and saying good morning.

In their place: the semi-frantic sounds of “let’s go!”

 

Before Dawn…

Dressed and ready to hike, you instead find yourself waiting in an unruly line for the ticket checker office to open.

An hour later, with the sound of the river rushing below, your group is finally on the move.

Looking back, you see a line of headlamps dotting the mountainside like a string of Christmas lights.

Everyone has one destination on their mind…

 

Almost at Machu Picchu!
Gordon, a member of your group, jokes that this looks like a bunch of coal miners going down to work in the morning.

To the Sun Gate!

As the dark night slowly turns to a deep misty blue, you gaze at the clouds and wonder if you will actually be able to see Machu Picchu.

Even upon arriving at the Sun Gate, fog still obstructs your view.

Then, as if Mother Nature waved her hand, the wall of white gives way to the majestic sight before you.

Machu Picchu!

 

There it is! Machu Picchu!!!
There it is! Machu Picchu!!!

 

Click here for a photo tour of Machu Picchu.

or let us know

What is the longest trek you’ve ever taken?

Would you hike the Inca Trail?

 

  • If I could be sure to be able to do it physically yes, I would love to do the Inca Trail. It looks amazing.

    And so do your pictures. :)

    • Thanks so much. And just so you know, people up to age 65 regularly hike the trail :)

  • Amelia Lynch

    This is the most persuasive presentation of the Inca Trail I have ever seen. Pretty sure it would kill me but I want to go right now! Guess I better start training…

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! As for the other part of your comment, it won’t kill you… but if it does, what an incredible way to go! :)

  • Monica Irauzqui

    Most beautiful photos of Inca Trail and love the title of this blog. Nicely done.

  • I took this trail couple of years ago and it was such an unforgettble experience! After all the views of course, the best part was chasing and hugging llamas :) Looking at your pictures, your experience must have been very diffferent from mine because we were there in late May, so it wasn’t as lush

    • Oh, the llamas. SO many llamas. Also, it’s fascinating what a difference a month must make, as we went in the end of April. That said, it’s been especially rainy this year… all the locals call it “crazy weather.”

  • Jerick Parrone

    Great photos Greg! I found the second day the most challenging and most rewarding. Day 3 for me was a piece of cake after ascending Dead Women’s pass. One of my favourite moments in Peru, now thinking of doing Salkantay when I get back!

    • Thanks Jerick. If you ever do Salkantay, you have to send me some photos so I can see it. Sounds like an amazing view!

  • Agness

    This is just amazing – especially the landscape. I’m glad you made it there! I’ll be heading to Peru next year. We’re currently planning a trip in South America so I’ll be following your foot steps!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Agness. If I can ever help you with any questions about your Peru itinerary, just let me know!

  • Katy Bullen

    I want to jump into your pictures and just keep on going… and going… and going…

    • Awww, Katy! Let’s go travel somewhere together!!!

      • Katy Bullen

        It’s done :)

  • Amazing photographs! Well done Greg! :-)

  • Tourven

    TOURISM is not physical in the future, NOW it is DIGITAL. TourVen Initiative is a prove of this. In its web site http://WWW.TOURVZLA.COM you will find a database of High Quality Images and Natural Wild Videos that will make You feel an undescriptable Experience in Venezuela. Therefore, we have focused specially to the internal characteristic elements such as beaches, mountains, flat lands, rivers, forest, etc, as well as endemic factors like Amazonia, Pico Bolivar, Roraima, Endorreic and Exorreic Rivers. We are changing the World, We are showing the new stage of Tourism. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter like @tourvenpro