The Machu Picchu hike (Camino Inca in Spanish), a 50 km (31 mi) sector of the stone path that once extended from Cusco to Machu Picchu, is one of the world´s signature outdoor excursions, Nothing matches the sensation of walking over the ridge that leads to the Lost City of the Inca just as the sun casts its first yellow glow over the ancient stone buildings.
Though the journey by PeruRail is the easiest way to get to Machu Picchu, most travelers who arrive via the Inca Trail wouldn´t have done it any other way. There are limits on the number of trail users, but you´ll still see a lot of fellow trekkers along the way. The four - day trek takes you past ruins and through stunning scenery, starting in the thin air of the highlands and ending in cloud forests. The orchids, humming birds, Andean condors, and spectacular mountains aren´t bad either.
The majority of agencies begin the Machu Picchu hike at km 82 after a two-to-three-hour bus ride from Cusco.
Compared to what lies ahead, the first day´s hike is a reasonably easy 12 km. You´ll encounter fantastic ruins almost immediately. An easy ascent takes you to the first of those, Patallaqta (also called Llactapata). The name means town on a hillside in Quechua, and the ruins are thought to have been a village in Inca times. Bingham and company camped here on their first excursion to Machu Picchu. As at most Inca sites, you´ll see three levels of architecture representing the three spiritual worlds of the Inca - the world above (a guard tower), the world we live in (the main complex), and the world below (the river and hidden aqueducts).
At the end of the day, you arrive at Huayllabamba (also called as Wayllamba), the only inhabited village on the trail and your first overnight.
It´s another 12km hike, but with a gain of 1,200 m (3,940 ft) in elevation. The day is most memorable for the spectacular views and muscular aches after ascending Dead Woman´s Pass (also known as Warmiwañusca) at 4,200 m (13,780 ft). The pass is named for the silhouette created by its mountain ridges - they resemble a woman´s head, nose, chin, and chest. A tricky descent takes you to Pacaymayu, the second night´s campsite, and you can pat yourself on the back for completing the hardest section of the Inca trail.
Downhill! You descend to the subtropical cloud forest where the Amazon basin begins. There´s some of the most stunning mountain scenery you´ll see during the four days. The ruins of Runkuraqay were a circular Inca storage depot for products transported between Machu Picchu and Cusco. You also pass by Sayacmarca, possibly a way station for priests traversing the trail. Most Inca Trail lodge to lodge arrive by mid-afternoon at Huiñay Huayna (also known as Wiñaywayna), the third-night´s stopping point, at what may now seem a low and balmy 2,712 m (8,900 ft). The first possibility of a hot shower and a cold beer are here. There is time to see the ruins of Puyupatamarca (also known as Phuyupatamarca) a beautifully restored site with ceremonial baths, and perhaps the best ruins on the hike. At this point you catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu peak, but from the back side.
This is it. Day 4 means the grand finale, arrival at Machu Picchu, the reason for the Inca Trail lodge to lodge. You´ll be roused from your sleeping bag well before dawn to arrive at the ruins in time to catch the sunrise. You´ll be amazed at the number of fellow travelers who forget about their aching muscles and sprint this last stretch. The Machu Picchu hike takes you past the Intipunku, the Sun Gate. Bask in your first sight of the ruins and your accomplishment, but you´ll need to circle around and enter Machu Picchu officially through the entrance gate.