(Keywords: Hiking - Peru)
Anticipation builds while hiking the Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu. Early on, the trail will demand your respect with an elevation gain of nearly 2000 meters. Your progress towards each mountain pass and valley thereafter is rewarded by opportunities to explore the remains of mysterious structures and landscapes. Plunging down from the third pass, commanding views will whet your enthusiasm for what lies beyond. And on the final day's journey, your destiny will be framed in the "gateway to the sun."
Photo credit: Roy Davies
Thousands of trekkers explore the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu each year. During the day, the crowds are stretched out along the trail, but at night many camps fill to capacity. Download this GPS Map of the Inca Trail so you will better know what your options are.
GPS Map File Details
Revised: 23 July 2003
Several Class A1 waypoints, otherwise Class B1
Waypoints include: Campsites, Picnic Areas (Primitive Camps), Trailheads, Mountain Passes, Scenic Areas (Ruins), and more.
Day 0 - Travel to Trailhead and Getting Acclimated
The Classic Inca Trail starts near the Km88 railway station at QORIWAYRACHINA [Waypoint IT0010]. Obtain a trail permit (ticket) at the INC (Institute of Culture) control post.
It is best to start the trail with shakedown segment and get acclimated to the high altitude by staying the first night at the primitive campsite near the MISKAY (Waypoint IT010A) ruins, which is about a half hour's walk from the trailhead.
Day 1 - Following the Rivers
Trekkers who opt to get some distance from the trailhead on the first day will likely camp at the first opportunities near WAYLLABAMBA ( Waypoint IT0120).
There are several camping options a little further up the trail in the Rio Llullucha valley. Primitive sites are available at YUNCACHIMPA (Waypoint IT0130) and CORALPUNKU (Waypoint IT0135). There are restrooms located at the campsite at LLULLUCHPAMPA (Waypoint IT0140).
If you made it to camp early, there are ruins to explore back at WAYLLABAMBA and further up the Rio Pampaqawana at PAUKARKANCHA (Waypoint IT012B).
Day 2 - High Mountain Passes
The assent on ABRA WARMIWANUSQA (Waypoint IT0150) will take considerable effort. A good place to lunch is at the campsite in the valley at PAQ'AYMAYO (Waypoint IT0151) between the first two passes. The climb to ABRA RUNKURAKAY (Waypoint IT0155) is as steep as the first but shorter. Take a break on the way up to the second pass by exploring the RUNKURADAY ruins (Waypoint IT0154). There is a primitive campsite between the ruins and the pass.
It is a gradual climb to the third pass and there are several places to stop, explore and have an afternoon snack. The ruins at SAYAQMARKA (Waypoint IT0160) are worth taking some extra time to look around. There is a camp site with facilities nearby, but if the day is long and your legs are strong its best to press on.
If you make the third pass and camp at PHUYUPATAMARKA (Waypoint IT0170), you will be rewarded by a commanding view of the Rio Urubamba Canyon and several ruins dotted along the trail of the next day's journey.
Day 3 - Plunging Down
From the vantage of PHUYUPATAMARKA, you may see congestion around WINAWAYNA (waypoint IT0180). It is very popular to camp in and around the Winawana trekker hotel and visitor center. Especially since the one-day route from the trailhead at Km104 has opened. You may choose not to linger long and press on to visit some of the minor ruins further along.
The "Sun Gate" at INTIPUNKU (Waypoint IT0195) is impressive. Your first glimpse of MACHU PICCHU (Waypoint IT0210) will be framed in the doorway of these ruins. Is is popular for trekkers from Winawayna to make it to this point by dawn and watch the sun rise over Machu Picchu. Intipunku is also a good spot for lunch if you are arriving later in the day.
You will want to spend more than one afternoon exploring around Machu Picchu. Spend the night and soak your tired muscles in the hot springs (Waypoint IT099C) at AQUAS CALIENTES.
Day 4 - Machu Picchu Excursions
The trail north of Machu Picchu leads to the Temple of the Moon (Waypoint IT0220) and on to a difficult and dangerous climb of Huyayna Picchu (Waypoint IT0230). A trail south of the ruins leads to the summit of Cerro Machu Picchu ( Waypoint IT0210 ).
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** Itinerary suggestions are based on several trip reports found on the web, most notably:
*** Amazon.com carries the Inca Trail; Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley Topographic and Tourist Map (Lima 2000) that I used to help create this GPS Map with FUGAWI software.