Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu

About the Experience

The trail to Machu Picchu can be lifelong. It’s a trip that’s built on a rock solid dream, a commitment to spiritual enlightenment, mental integrity, dark chocolate and intense physical challenge. 

The Andean mountains are daunting. Camping at 4,200m seems impossible! Isn’t that where the stars are located? Guided by our expert Peruvian Wild Women guide and steadfast porters with calves seemingly made out of granite, the dream becomes attainable. Sharing the dream elevates the experience even higher than our maximum daily altitude!

The Lost City of the Incas is a surreal landscape of terraces, ruins, hanging valleys and cloud forests painted with bright orchids. You’ll experience the buzz of the local markets, a bean-to-bar chocolate workshop and the comfort of strong tea as we break for a panorama-filled picnic. Did we mention the poofy llamas that frequent the trail, completely unaware of their #trending nature?

The scene shifts with our careful, measured steps from the fertile plains of the Sacred Valley to Inca-era cobblestones and rare woodlands to 15th-century citadels and the celebrated Gate of the Sun to Machu Picchu’s marvel.

Feel the pulse of the mysterious, religious, ceremonial, agricultural and astronomical powerhouse crisscrossed by stone terraces. You’ll be changed. Your soul will be revived in the buttery sunrise in this most sacred spot and time in your life.

Wild Women Expeditions continue to introduce more women to the magic of the Inca Trail To Machu Picchu Trek. We are in full support of increasing the number of female porters on the Inca Trail–they are necessary to the trail’s evolution! Read more about this in our feature in Lonely Planet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu

About the Experience

The trail to Machu Picchu can be lifelong. It’s a trip that’s built on a rock solid dream, a commitment to spiritual enlightenment, mental integrity, dark chocolate and intense physical challenge. 

The Andean mountains are daunting. Camping at 4,200m seems impossible! Isn’t that where the stars are located? Guided by our expert Peruvian Wild Women guide and steadfast porters with calves seemingly made out of granite, the dream becomes attainable. Sharing the dream elevates the experience even higher than our maximum daily altitude!

The Lost City of the Incas is a surreal landscape of terraces, ruins, hanging valleys and cloud forests painted with bright orchids. You’ll experience the buzz of the local markets, a bean-to-bar chocolate workshop and the comfort of strong tea as we break for a panorama-filled picnic. Did we mention the poofy llamas that frequent the trail, completely unaware of their #trending nature?

The scene shifts with our careful, measured steps from the fertile plains of the Sacred Valley to Inca-era cobblestones and rare woodlands to 15th-century citadels and the celebrated Gate of the Sun to Machu Picchu’s marvel.

Feel the pulse of the mysterious, religious, ceremonial, agricultural and astronomical powerhouse crisscrossed by stone terraces. You’ll be changed. Your soul will be revived in the buttery sunrise in this most sacred spot and time in your life.

Wild Women Expeditions continue to introduce more women to the magic of the Inca Trail To Machu Picchu Trek. We are in full support of increasing the number of female porters on the Inca Trail–they are necessary to the trail’s evolution! Read more about this in our feature in Lonely Planet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY ONE: ARRIVAL IN CUZCO

Upon arrival in Cusco, the former capital of the Incan Empire, your Wild Women Expeditions guide will meet you in the hotel lobby at 2:00 PM. We’ll immerse ourselves in all things Peruvian immediately with a walking tour that includes all the urban must-sees. We’ll admire the fusion of Inca and Spanish influences in the Stone of Twelve Angles at Inca Roca Palace on Hatun Rumilloc street. We’ll also experience the pounding heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by colonial arcades and four formidable churches.

Later, your senses will be overloaded with a sweet fix! We’ll participate in a bean-to-bar chocolate workshop and learn to make Peruvian chocolate under expert direction. During the  workshop, we will be introduced to the entire scratch chocolate-making process from cacao harvest to the familiar “OMG!” We’ll make our own custom 120g milk or dark chocolate bar with more than 15 different decadent flavours to choose from.

After the workshop, we’ll gather for a set menu welcome dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly–you get to have dessert first!

Disclaimer: Dreams come true on this trip.

 

DAY TWO:  SACRED VALLEY

In the morning, we’ll depart for the embrace of the Sacred Valley. On the way, we’ll stop at El Mirador, for an uninterrupted view of the entire Sacred Valley and Inca History 101 lesson. 

The Sacred Valley was a critical settlement area to the Incas. The agreeable climate and fertile plains made for perfect alchemy and an unusual bounty for the high Andes. The Incas intelligently sculpted the mountain flanks with contour terracing and irrigation channels. Gardeners and farmers will appreciate the thoughtful blueprint process and proactive planning.

Later, we’ll drive to the ruins of Pisac. Here, we’ll learn about the dynamic aspects of Inca culture from the impressive agricultural terraces to the expert stonework. In the town of Pisac, we’ll wander through the local market known for its brilliant, multi-coloured textiles, exotic fruit and vegetables and indigenous clothing. This is the perfect spot to support the local economy and indie artisans. If you wish to take photos in the marketplace, be sure to ask first!

We will then head to the Awamaki community to learn about traditional Andean life. If our visit coincides with their buzzing market day we’ll be able to browse the stalls in search of take-home treasures like hand-painted beads or a warm poncho. This is also the ideal spot to practice your Quechua! Best to start with “Allillachu!” (Hello!)

Later, we will tour Ollantaytambo. Located on the 725km-long (450 mile) Urubamba River, the Inca-era cobblestones and adobe buildings of this town are otherworldly. 

This is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning and one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish. Ollantaytambo’s archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer extraordinary photo opps of the tidy square-grid town below. After a full day of amazement, we’ll transfer back to our hotel to chill out and hang out over dinner.

 

DAY THREE: HUAYALLABAMBA

After a big hiker’s fill of carbs and protein at breakfast, we will depart for the archeological site of Ollantaytambo. Situated on a hilltop landscape, the  surrounding terracing and Ciclopean rock carvings are part of the unspoken story. We will notice the prevalence of cut stones known as “tired stones” in the ancient quarry. These abandoned, carved stones never made it to their intended last stop in the village–adding to the mystery (and understandable fatigue!).

From the tiptop, there is a mind-stretching view of the village below and surrounding countryside. Painters and poets in the group will be making mental notes!

Later, we’ll drive to Km 82 (Piscacucho) where we will hike a section that follows the original Inca to the Urubamba river and cross it at Km 88. We’ll have a celebratory lunch at Tarayoc and then continue hiking for another 3 gratifying hours to our maximum altitude at Huayllabamba. 

The skinny on today’s hike:

  • Hiking Distance: 16 km(9.94 miles)
  • Hours: 8–10hrs (dependent on the group’s pace and skill)
  • Altitude: 2750m(9,022ft) 
  • Maximum Altitude + Campsite Elevation: 3,100 m(10,170ft)
  • Elevation Gain: 350m(1,148ft)

 

DAY FOUR: PACAYMAYU

We will begin walking around 7AM after a filling early bird breakfast. For 3–5 hours we’ll follow the trail’s steep ascent to Llullcha Pampa below the first pass, where we will have lunch with a killer view of Mt. Huayanay. Along this narrow hanging valley and its unfolding trail, we will begin to see the surreal cloud forest that shrouds the Queñua (polilepis) woodlands, a rare and precious Andean forest.

After lunch, we’ll continue for 2–4 hours to the daunting Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215m (13,828ft). This is the highest point of the Inca Trail (in elevation and heart rate!) and so-named for the mountain crests and their resemblance to a woman’s supine body. 

From here, we’ll continue downhill for 2–4 hours, depending on the group’s pace and affection for taking photos! We will be spending the night in the en plein air serenity of the Pacaymayu campsite.

The skinny on today’s hike:

  • Hiking Distance: 10km(6.21 miles)
  • Time: 6-8hrs
  • Altitude : 3,100 m(10,170ft)
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,800m(12,467ft)
  • Campsite Elevation: 3,600 meters (1,1811ft)
  • Elevation Gain : 900m(3,000ft)
  • Personal Gain: OFF THE CHARTS!

 

DAY FIVE: PHUYOPATAMARKA

We’ll kick-start the day with a steep and quad-quivering climb to the second pass at 3,975m(13,038ft). Then, after a few recovery bites of chocolate, we’ll challenge our hamstrings until they’re humming on the descent. We’ll follow ancient Incan stairs down to the ridgetop ruins of Sayaqmarka to pass through a 20m(65ft) tunnel that the Incas created without the convenience of modern tools or an Ikea allen key. We’ll slip into the dripping, verdant cloud forest vegetation, spellbound by the transitions.

After visiting Sayaqmarka it will take nearly one hour to reach Chaquicocha where we will have lunch. Satiated and refuelled, we’ll walk another 2–4 hours to the remarkable Phuyopatamarka ruins (3,679m/12,067ft) that overlook the fast flow of the Vilcanota River far below.

Phuyopatamarka is suitably named. In Quechua, it means the “City above the Clouds.” The views from our campsite toward the sacred peak of Salcantay are sublime. There are three short trails that split off from the campsite that we can explore if we want to pack some more hiking into our extraordinary day.

The skinny on today’s hike:

  • Hiking Distance: 12km(7.456 miles)
  • Time: 5-6 hrs
  • Altitude: 3,600m(11,811ft) 
  • Maximum Altitude + Campsite Elevation: 4,200m(13,779ft)
  • Elevation Gain: 600m(2,000ft)
  • Peruvian Chocolate Bar Cravings: SKY HIGH

 

DAY SIX: MACHU PICCHU

This morning will be our last opportunity to say a grateful thank you to our lean and mean porter team. There will be a formal tipping ceremony to demonstrate our appreciation for their kindness, encouragement, enthusiasm and rock solid backs! Remember, they made this trip as smooth as pudding for us and carried the weight of the world (well, our packs) on their shoulders!

We will descend steeply all day, following the famed Royal Highway through a cloud forest seemingly painted with delicate orchids to Winya Wayna ruins. The final part of the trail (on the east side of Machu Picchu) is a gorgeous traverse across the remarkable Inca stonework leading to the iconic Gate of the Sun overlooking Machu Picchu. We will reach this monumental highlight in the marmalade sunshine of the late afternoon, and descend to the Inca city at a time when the crush of tourists have long departed.

We will celebrate this dream-come-true journey and lap up all the pampering at our hotel in Aguas Calientes. Hot showers! A pisco sour! Real beds! It’s the small things (after the BIG things, of course). 

The skinny on today’s hike:

  • Hiking Distance: 9km(5.59 miles)
  • Time: 6–7hrs
  • Altitude: 2,400 m(7,874ft) 
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,600m(11,811ft)
  • Campsite Elevation: 2,400m(7,874ft)

 

DAY SEVEN: MACHU PICCHU/CUZCO

It will be a SUPER early but rewarding rise at 4–5AM for breakfast. Afterwards, in the transcendent light of dawn, we will begin our journey to Machu Picchu with a short and rollicking uphill bus ride. As we enter the “Sanctuary” (as locals refer to it), the buttery morning sun rises ceremoniously over the iconic Sun Gate and bathes the 15th-century Incan Citadel and terraces with resplendent light. We’ll have an in-depth guided tour of the ridge-top city to fully appreciate the ancient marvel as the sun rises into the sky.

Prepare to be silenced by the imposing architecture of the Watchtower, the Temple of the Sun and the royal Inca residences. Take an unhurried moment to reflect on this sacred spot and time in your life. Our guide will share the unbelievable stories behind the Incan city’s Intiwatana (solar clock) and the urban and agricultural sector.

Contemplating the origins, mysticism and resilience of Machu Picchu under the rising sun is life affirming. There may be an option to hike to Huayna Picchu as well, depending on ticket availability.  

This towering mountain sits directly behind Machu Picchu and the views of the Citadel, temple remnants, terraces and magnitude of the site are even more impressive from here.  

After the guided tour, we will return to the town by bus and in the afternoon, we will board the super scenic tourist train back to Ollantaytambo, followed by a private transfer to our hotel in Cusco.

In Cusco, we’ll gather for a reflective farewell dinner still giddy and goosebumpy from our Machu Picchu experience.

 

DAY EIGHT: CUZCO

After a nourishing breakfast, the rest of the day is unscheduled! Unless you have a flight to catch, of course! For those who are lingering a little longer, explore the city’s colourful pockets a little deeper. Sit down with Andean mint or toronjil (lemon balm) tea or chicha morada (made with purple corn). Or, sip a genuine emoliente (a medicinal mixture of several herbs).

Note: If you are joining the Amazon extension, you must book your own early morning flight to Puerto Maldonado on this day.

IMPORTANT: If your passport is due to expire before your trip please send in new passport details as soon as possible before the trip commences. If applicable, please bring both passports on the Inca Trail (the original you used to book your trip and your new passport) as officials may request to see both.

What now? Start dreaming about your next DREAM destination with your shiny new Wild Women BFFs!

 

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!

AMAZON RAINFOREST LODGE EXTENSION (4 DAYS)

Want to stay on for a few extra days of high octane adventure and explore the lush and lively Amazon? We are offering the option of a 4-day package based at the Refugio Amazonas Lodge. This biodiverse private 200-hectare reserve is located in a brilliant Brazilian nut forest within the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve.

This exclusive extension($1,195 USD, optional single upgrade $295 USD) is only offered as an add-on to the Inca Trail Trek To Machu Picchu trip.

Please note that flights are not included in the Amazon extension price. However, WWE will arrange and book these flights for you from Cusco to Lima to Puerto Maldonado (on the last day of your Inca Trail trip–note, there is no direct flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado) and from Puerto Maldonado back to Lima (on the last day of your Amazon extension/Day 4) OR you may choose to book your own flight back to Lima and onward. Bookings by WWE will be made approximately 3 months before your trip start date. Flight prices are subject to change and these flights are non-refundable. If you are booking your own flight please note that Puerto Maldonado International Airport is also referred to as Padre Aldamiz International Airport (PEM).

What’s included during your stay? Three daily savoury meals, tea/coffee, a rainbow of macaws, activities, guided excursions (a shared service with other lodge guests) and transfers to and from the airport.

Things you should know:

  • The order and scheduling of activities may be modified due to weather. 
  • You will have to bring a small bag to re-pack your luggage for the three nights at the lodge as your main luggage will NOT travel with you. Fret not, it will be securely stored in the lodge’s office in town. 
  • Rooms at the lodge are simple but comfortable with en suite flush toilets, mosquito nets and (brace yourself) showers with cold water only.
  • Your visit to Refugio Amazonas contributes directly to the Wired Amazon Project and its efforts to conserve and learn more about the biodiversity of the Tambopata National Reserve.

Please contact us at adventure@wildwomenexpeditions.com to book! 

 

 

DAY ONE: JOURNEY TO TAMBOPATA

Upon arrival in Puerto Maldonado, the “gateway city to the Amazon jungle”, we will be greeted by our energetic bilingual guide and board a bus for a one-hour transfer to our next mode of transport: a one-hour boat ride along the serene Tambopata River to Refugio Amazonas Lodge. Instead of planes, trains and automobiles– it’s a plane, bus and boat! Our first taste of Amazonian cuisine will be alfresco, on the boat!

Be binocular-ready! We’ll scan the riverbanks, branches and skies for our first sightings: the rainbow blur of macaws, stock-still herons, caiman and even capybara! In the treetops, we’ll be on high alert for curious brown capuchin and dusky titi monkeys. 

This jungle refuge with its low-impact design sits in the pounding heart of the rainforest and has all the amenities and necessary pampering pleasures (yes, massage!). 

A gentle 30-minute walk from the lodge will lead us to a 35m canopy tower (a staircase with railings provides safe access to the top for those who are jittery and vertigo-prone). From the top, it’s a mesmerizing view of the National Reserve of Tambopata. Toucans, macaws and raptors enjoy the same view, but often from a little higher in the sky.

We’ll immerse ourselves in the full-throttle jungle hospitality with a welcome drink before checking into our rooms. There will be time to chill out before dinner with the natural soundtrack on HIGH! There’s actually a bird called the horned screamer!

Fun fact: This eco-hostel is the headquarters of Wired Amazon, the first citizen science project that permits guests to be citizen scientists and contribute to the region’s dynamic research on species like the elusive jaguar and white-lipped peccary!  Frequently, a lucky guest discovers a brand new tiger-moth, scorpion-wasp, caddisfly or treehopper species. It could be you!

 

DAY TWO-THREE: AMAZON RAINFOREST

The next two days will be an awesome and educational combo of birds, Brazil nuts, lessons in sustainability and the goosebumpy thrill of a night walk through the jungle!

DAY TWO: Lake Condenado/Don Manuel’s Organic Farm/Night Hike

Today, we will navigate around Lake Condenado in search of the dramatic hoatzin, a tropical bird of many names! It’s also known as the stinkbird, reptile bird and Canje pheasant. We’ll also look for the brilliant Martin Fisherman (kingfisher), alligators and rare river otters while learning about the differences of a lake and river ecosystem.

Later,  we’ll visit the neighbouring organic farm of Don Manuel, which is just five minutes along the river (by boat)from the lodge. He will show us the typical crops of the area and no doubt surprise us with some of his exotic fruit bounty. 

We will have the option of taking a daring night walk through the jungle just as most of the nocturnal mammals come to life. They might be difficult to see but we’ll definitely hear them! The frogs and their nightly chorus are truly a marvel. 

DAY 3: Brazil Nut Farm Visit, Medicinal Plant Trail and Wired Amazon Lecture

Today is going to be NUTS! We are going to learn everything about the vital and decadent Brazil nut and its origin at a Brazil nut farm that’s situated close to the lodge. Locally, this nut is often referred to as a ‘chestnut’ but it differs greatly from the North American interpretation of a chestnut. 

Brazil nut harvesting is a valuable, sustainable source of income for residents of Puerto Maldonado who collect and process the divine nut once a year in the dry months between the rainy season. 

Later, we’ll learn about the other treasures that are grown in the forest on a medicinal plant trail. We’ll be introduced to a wide variety of healing plants and trees that the local population has relied on for years. The Amazon forest’s medicine cabinet includes an ever-growing list of remedies like Sacha-Ajos (“forest garlic”), Uña De Gato (Cat’s Claw) and Ayahuasca, a South American psychoactive brew. This ‘tea’ is gaining interest with travelers desperate for enlightenment from its guaranteed high and curative powers. The sacred elixir is still used in ceremony by some tribes. The Psychotria viridis shrub along with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine are cleaned, smashed, brewed and distilled into a highly-concentrated formula. Free samples will not be provided!

Later, we’ll take advantage of a lecture presented by researchers from the Wired Amazon Project about the opportunities and challenges of their unique projects in the Tambopata National Reserve. 

 

DAY FOUR: DEPARTURE

After a nourishing early breakfast, we’ll start our trip back to Puerto Maldonado following our original boat and bus route. 

We will be able to experience a surreal sunrise over the river–one that will no doubt lead to quiet reflection and meditation on the amazing Amazon days behind us. 

We’ll emerge from the jungle restored (and probably with an unexpected Brazil nut craving!) and pick up our stored luggage from the lodge’s office in town before continuing to the airport for flights back to Lima or Cusco and onward! A guide will be present until the departure flight in case there are any last minute changes or needs.

Please note: Flights from Puerto Maldonado to Lima usually arrive between 4pm and 5pm. Please take note of this incase you have an international connection flight.