My daughter found this trip last year and she and my wife did all the planning, I just followed my daughter like a good Dad. We spent 6 days in Cusco and Urubamba exploring the Sacred Valley and the city prior to the trek, acclimating to the 11,000 foot altitude in the process. The days of hiking the Inca Trail on your own ended in 2010; now you must hire a guide and travel company. There are many available, but in our case we hired Valencia Travel Cusco (guide was Nico) and couldn’t have been happier with the experience. On any day there are 500 people on the trail, with 200 being hikers and the other 300 spots occupied by porters and guides. One may think this out of whack, until you see the incredible logistics involved in pampering us trekkers. Cassie and I shared a 4 person tent, always set up and waiting for us at the end of the day, along with containers of hot water with soap and a washcloth. Our group had a total of 7, all wonderful people who made this journey a true delight. My daughter and I ended up hiking mostly with Sarah and Kenny, a younger fit couple. Sarah was a beast, always beating us to the passes…..she even carried a 6 pack of beer to 13,776 feet, passing everyone including porters. Speaking of which, you have the option of hiring a personal porter to carry up to 7 KG of your belongings. To our surprise, Cassie and I were the only ones carrying all our accoutrements; sleeping bags, pads and clothing. However, our loads were quite light nonetheless since all meals were provided. We barely touched our snack foods.
I should mention that I used the phrase “this is ridiculous” many times as mountains of food were placed in front of us worthy of any restaurant. One evening, when we arrived at camp over an hour before the rest of our group, a huge plate of popcorn appeared along with some won tons with fried banana. We had purchased some Pisco and beer along the way so a good time was had by all. Vegetarian options (my daughter and myself) were offered along with delights like flaming dessert and even a cake! The grapes were peeled! We had a proper table cloth, folding chairs and a gas powered light in the dining tent. In the morning our alarm was an offering of hot tea along with hot water for bathing. I should also mention that everyone had a covered foam mattress in their tents…we just put our pads on top.
Weather along the trail was mostly good, with occasional rain showers but never a steady soaking rain. Evenings were not that cold; my daughter’s 35 degree Feathered Friends bag was more than adequate for the conditions. Considering the numbers of people along this entire 26 mile route, we were surprised at how often we hiked in solitude, sometimes for hours. However, be prepared for steps, and lots of them. Most of this route is stone laid and one’s knees might take a beating on the downhills depending on personal conditioning. Cassie and I found that the days were easily negotiated with plenty of spare energy to explore the ruins or climb to catch that extra view. Some may complain that this trek and Machu Picchu itself are too “touristy”, but my daughter and I found that this experience was one of our most enjoyable times outdoors. Immense views, sometimes empty trail, ever changing vistas, good company, an engaging guide, a multitude of ruins along the way, gourmet food….this was truly a lifetime experience. For the full photo set please click here.
The following video samples some of the trail from a shoulder mounted GoPro 7, including the climb to the prominent peak overlooking Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu (this must be arranged beforehand). In the video I used the local spelling of the peak printed on the guide, “Wayna Picchu.”
“Huayna Picchu (aka Wayna Picchu or Wayna Pikchu), which means 'Young Peak' in Quechua, is the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu. For many trekkers, climbing Huayna Picchu is one of the highlights of a visit to Machu Picchu.”