Duration : 4 days and 3 nights
Type of services : Shared and Private
Departures : March to November
Itinerary and description :
DAY 1 : CUSCO / KM 82 / WAYLLABAMBA (12 km)
We will stop for about 30 minutes to buy some goods such as walking sticks, rain ponchos, or to have breakfast. Then we continue down river up to Km. 82 (trailhead). After taking the first group pictures, we cross the Vilcanota River and follow the trail to the right.
After passing through small farms, you will see the Inca fort of Willkaraccay before reaching the mouth of the Cusichaca River (Happy Legs River).
When the Incas conquered the area, they built a fortress here as the site commanded an excellent view across the Urubamba Valley, and controlled the entrance to the Cusichaca Valley.
From this trail, there are great views of the Urubamba mountain range and the snow-capped peak of Veronica (5750m). There is also a great view over the extensive Inca ruins of Llactapata or Patallacta, which means “Upper Town“ in Quechua, and was first discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
was used primarily as an
agricultural station to supply the inhabitants of Machu Picchu with
maize, which was the staple crop of the Incas. The settlement is
comprised of over one hundred buildings, including houses for the
workers and soldiers, and five baths. For a further 7km, the trail
follows the left bank of the river up to the small village of
Wayllabamba (3,000 m). The name in Quechua means “the place of the
morning dew”. It is here we will spend the night. This is the last
inhabited town on the way.
DAY 2 : WAYLLABAMBA / PACAYMAYU (11 km)
On the second day, you will climb up from Wayllabamba following the left bank of the Llulluchayoc River for about one hour. This will bring us to Tres Piedras (three stones) and a small bridge over the Huayruro River.
There is a small campsite here, which is sometimes used on day one if the group is making good progress. The stream is named after the Huayruro, an ornamental tree. Its seeds are red and black. Many of the porters from the Ollantaytambo district are also known as Huayruros because of their traditional red and black ponchos.
A little further on, you’ll enter a
beautiful cloud forest.
During this part of the trail, hikers are exposed to the Andean elements : first the scorching sun and then, closer to the pass, the freezing winds. Once at the top, hikers can celebrate having completed the most difficult section of the trail.
The descent from the pass is steep
although not difficult. It follows the trail on the left side of the
valley to the valley floor to the second campsite at Pacaymayo (3,600m).
DAY 3 : PACAYMAYO TO WIÑAYWAYNA (17 Km.)
The descent down the steps is steep, so take care especially when it is wet. After about one hour from the second pass, you’ll arrive at Sayacmarca by climbing a superbly designed stone staircase. The name Sayacmarca means “Inaccessible Town”, and describes the position of the ruins perfectly, as they are protected on three sides by sheer cliffs.
You will have to backtrack a little
to rejoin the trail as it passes Conchamarca, a small Inca dwelling
situated in the shadows of Sayacmarca. This was probably used as a tambo
(rest stop) for weary travelers on their way to Machu Picchu.
The path then descends into a magnificent cloud forest full of orchids, hanging mosses, tree ferns and flowers, passing through an impressive Inca tunnel, carved into the rock. The trail then climbs up to the third pass (3,700m).
The view from the pass offers excellent views of several snow-capped peaks including Salkantay (6,271m) and Veronica (5,750 m). A few minutes after the pass is Phuyupatamarca, the most impressive of the Inca ruins so far. The meaning of these ruins is “City Inside the Cloud”, which were probably used for the ritual worship of water.
There is a restaurant where you can
purchase soft drinks, snacks, and even a well-deserved beer. You can
also use the hot showers.
There are also many buildings of
good quality stonework and a sequence of 10 baths, which suggests that
the site was probably a religious center associated with the worship of
water. The cleansing ritual may have taken place here for pilgrims on
the final leg of the trail to Machu Picchu.
DAY 4 : WIÑAY WAYNA TO MACHU PICCHU (5 Km) - CUSCO
Suddenly, the whole of Machu Picchu is spread out before you. It is another 30 minutes walk down to Machu Picchu itself. We’ll arrive at the Watchman’s Hut from where you’ll be able to appreciate the ruins in all their glory. This is the classic postcard viewpoint.
If you have any energy left, there is enough time to climb Huayna Picchu, which is the steep mountain you see dominating the background of the ruins; the summit offers superb views. After exploring by yourself, you will take the bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch.
There are regular buses down to the
village ( it takes 25 minutes) or you can walk (60 minutes), so you can
return whenever you want. The guide will tell you a time and location
for the group to meet up in Aguas Calientes so your guide can give you
your return train tickets. After eating lunch, you may want to relax in
the hot springs. We then take the train back to Cusco, the end of our
End of program.
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