Putting one foot before the other at a slow hiking pace, on the steep and seemingly never-ending uphill path surrounded by majestic mountain ridges on this day 2 of the Inca Trail trek in the Peruvian mountains.
I am actually doing it, walking the incredible Inca Trail, to Machu Picchu in the endless mountains in Peru!
And the path to reach the ancient city is so stunning that I promise it will give you goosebumps almost every step of the way!
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G Adventures Inca Trail 4 Days Tour
This Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu in Peru is my third experience with G Adventures, and I have been looking forward to it for months!
G Adventures is a worldwide travel company arranging responsible adventure travels for small groups to the most spectacular corners of the planet!
It was booked early through Kilroy Travels as I wanted to be sure to secure a spot.
The Inca Trail hike is very popular, and you are also required to do it through a certified tour operator, you can not do it as a private adventurer.
But there are a variety of organized treks that you can choose from, from 2 days up to around a week!
Inca Trail 4 Days Trek
The Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is part of the 23,000 kilometers (approx. 14,000 miles) of roads built by the Incas in South America.
This hike to Machu Picchu is the most famous trekking route in Peru, and possibly one of the most spectacular treks in the Americas.
The route of the Inca Trail hike starts from a point known as KM 82 at approximately 2800 meters. From there it climbs to 4200 meters and then back down to Machu Picchu on the last day at 2430 meters above sea level.
Although the classic Inca Trail hike is “only” 42 kilometers in distance, there is a lot of up and down at noticeable altitudes and sometimes with slightly challenging terrain. Therefore the trek as a whole is a bit challenging.
The duration of the trek varies a bit with different companies, but an Inca Trail 4 days trek duration is very common.
The end of the horizon for the photo above is the Dead Woman’s Pass, the absolute highest point of the four-day Inca Trail trek, 4200 meters above sea level.
On this day the air somehow does not feel quite sufficient, as my eyes are focusing on the horizon above. Searching for an end to the uphill as we are about to reach the highest point of the trek. But we all made it!
Inca Trail Trek Regulations
Hiking the Inca Trail is strictly regulated by the Peruvian government on many levels in order to take care of the ancient mountain trail and the relics along the way.
This is why you can`t just head off into these mountain trails on a whim by yourself.
You need to book the trek with a certified tour operator, like G Adventures, that has all the permits needed to conduct the hike according to regulations.
Then you will do the hike in a group with a qualified guide, sherpas, and staff that make sure the trek is conducted in accordance with the regulations of the mountain.
The number of daily trek starters on the Inca Trail hike, and daily visitors to Machu Picchu, are limited. A lot of details are regulated to protect the ancient site, as well as the path and the different ruins and remnants of the Incas along the trail.
There are also different types of Machu Picchu hikes available, with various routes, and lengths that you can choose from.
Below you find the relevant information about regulations for 2023 and links to further relevant pages.
Regulations Inca Trail 4 Days Trek 2023
- The sale of tickets to the Inca Trail for the coming year starts in October each year
- Inca Trail is open all year except for February when the route is closed for maintenance
- All Inca Trail hikers must book an organized trek through an authorized Inca Trail tour operator
- A maximum of 500 persons per day is allowed to start the Inca Trail including guides and porters
- The number of daily permits may be reduced in accordance with Covid 19 regulations
- An Inca Trail hiking group will not exceed 16 persons
- The spaces are limited and popular so book your Inca Trail well ahead of time for your journey
- Your certified tour operator will fix all the permits you need for the hike and enter Machu Picchu
- Porters are not authorized to carry more than 14 kg so pack light
- Check out the G Adventures Inca Trail tour here.
Inca Trail Booking 2023
If you want to check out the Inca Trail booking, research the various Inca Trail treks you can do with G Adventures by following the link below to find your perfect one!
Inca Trail Preparations In Cusco
I traveled to the Inca Trail starting point via Lima, to the Peruvian mountain city of Cusco where I am spending a few days before the trek starts.
Cusco is situated at around 3400 meters altitude and circa 80 km from the start point of the Inca Trail hike, and is a really beautiful city! Even if not doing the Inca Trail, you should visit Cusco, check out this 5-day itinerary for Cusco to see what you can do there!
The intention is to get used to the altitude and hopefully not suffer any problems like altitude sickness during the trek.
The highest point of 4200 meters is not extreme, but apparently, you never know if you are prone to altitude sickness or not, or when it may occur.
As I am not an experienced altitude trek person, I have decided some acclimatization is smart, abiding by Murphys Law in this matter (you know, what can go wrong, etc).
Cusco is a beautiful mountain city with just the vibe I had imagined beforehand. There are a lot of fun things to do in and around Cusco for a few days, and one of them is preparing for your incredible hike with another incredible hike to Rainbow Mountain!
The Indian-looking people, the colorful details, the endless airy hazed mountains surrounding the city. Cold, crisp, and stunning!
Also, things I did not know. For example that all the houses and buildings have bright orange terracotta roofs and the temperature was rather low and chilly already in July!
Beautiful Kokopelli Hostel Cusco
I found the Kokopelli Hostel Cusco in one of my new solo-travel favorite apps; Hostelworld. Cocopelli had good reviews and a funny name – and vacancy.
The Cocopelli Hostel building is absolutely gorgeous!
It has just the kind of architecture I imagined for the Peruvian high mountains. The courtyard is large and light, made of dark woodwork and stone with no ceiling.
There is Wi-Fi for travelers to connect to home as well as space for fiestas, barbeque, and socializing with others.
The room was nice, tidy, and clean – although cold! One of the things I learned in Cusco, is that the mountain Peruvians keep their houses cold, and put on more clothes instead of heating the house!
You might want to plan for spending a bit of time in Cusco before your Inca Trail trek starts, not just to get used to the altitude!
On my mini-exploration of Cusco, I find that it is really a charming mountain city with just the vibe I had imagined beforehand.
G Adventures Inca Trail 4 Days Cusco Headquarters
On day one of the trek program, I meet up at G Adventures headquarters in Cusco.
A lovely attic meeting hall where we are introduced to some of the other people in the group and go through the itinerary of the whole trek.
After the introduction, we head downstairs to collect the equipment we need for the trek.
Sleeping bag and sleeping pads, walking poles (I learned in Columbia trekking to The Lost City in Colombia that walking poles is very smart), and the rest of what we will need.
After all the practicals were done, I go back to my hotel to pack my bags as cleverly as possible.
As this trek is part of a six-month journey for me, luckily I was able to leave unnecessary luggage and my beloved Mr. Osprey Fairpoint 80 backpack at the hotel storage.
If you are doing the same, talk to the hotel or hostel you start from and they probably will help you store your excess luggage while hiking.
And at last, an early night to try to be well-rested for the days to come! Heading for the mountains with only my daypack to worry about (Sherpas will carry all the heavy stuff on this trek).
Inca Trail Packing List
When doing your Inca Trail packing list for the hike to Machu Picchu, you need to have a need-to-have mindset as you don’t want to carry more than you need to in the Peruvian mountains and high altitudes.
Also, remember to research the weather during the period you are walking the Inca Trail, especially the night temperatures, as it can get really cold in the mountains.
When I walked the Inca Trail in 2019 with G Adventures, one of the things I learned was not to skimp on the nightly comfort (it was just September, so I thought I was very safe – but no. Temperatures plummet when the sun sets!).
You will be carrying a small day pack yourself, while the porters will take the rest of your luggage including a sleeping bag, mat, personal tent, etc, so be conservative.
Here are my best tips for an Inca Trail packing list that makes sure you have what you need (but not much more!).
Inca Trail 4 Days Trek – Start At Wayllabamba Camp
Departing Cusco SUPER early in the morning (before breakfast) on a minibus we are heading for KM 82.
KM 82 is the starting point of the whole Inca Trail hike, just outside of Ollantaytambo village. The day is a little grey and rainy, with low clouds and tiny droplets hanging in the air.
At the starting point, I will meet up with the rest of the trekkers that are part of my group on the Inca Trail with G Adventures in July 2019.
As my bus arrives early at Ollantaytambo, I have time to shop for some extra chocolate bars and mosquito repellant as a last-minute thing just to be safe.
Also, I find a place that has already opened its doors and can serve me a smoking hot coffee and an omelet really quickly! Made my morning perfect.
As the rest of the participants arrive, we head to a spot where all the trekking kit is neatly organized and dissembled.
I end up with a neat little daypack with water, some dry clothing, and chocolate bars. And of course, the walking poles that I have come to love. All set for this Peruvian mountain adventure!
This is the first time I do a trek with the help of Sherpas as well.
Quickly Learning To Appreciate The Porters, Or Sherpas
It does feel a little strange to have someone else “do my heavy lifting” for me.
But in the higher parts of the trek, I am going to appreciate not having to fend for myself in the thinner air of course.
On the first day of the Inca Trail 4 days trek, the path is not very physically challenging as we only climb a few hundred meters of altitude.
We are wandering through beautiful scenery with a variety of flora that changes with the seasons and also changes with the altitude.
On this first day, we are passing several smaller ruin sites already, like Llactapata.
Getting the first sight of Llactapata, we are able to admire the amazing view of the impressive complex system of terraces.
It is dedicated since ancestral times to the cultivation of food up here at more than 2800 meters altitude.
Entering The High City Llactapata
The name Llactapata literally means “high city”.
It is an important landmark on the Inca Trail located at the confluence of the Cusichaca and Urumba rivers. Overall it is an impressive ruin that is made up of the ceremonial center of Pulpituyoq.
These ruins were discovered in 1912, but not until later was it concluded that they were a resting point on the actual original old road to Machu Picchu.
The Wayllabamba camp is our first night camp; a tenting site where the Sherpas of course have arrived long before the rest of us and our tents are already in place. Sleeping bags and everything inside. What a luxury!
After admiring the old engineering art and intelligent systems built by the Incas, the trek continues. Today’s goal is the Wayllabamba camp situated at around 3000 meters altitude.
The first evening meal is also served exquisitely in a large “old fashion style” army tent with a long table and cutlery. I don’t know what I expected in the ancient mountains, but this was not it!
Feeling utterly pampered, after an amazing dinner that included three courses and snacks, I headed for my tent for a nice night’s sleep after a long first day.
Day 2 will be a little more challenging as it includes passing the highest point of the trek – the Dead Woman’s Pass.
Day 2 Of Inca Trail 4 Days Trek – The Dead Woman’s Pass
Waking up early ready for the second day of trekking the Inca Trail I also realized that I underestimated the chilly night temperature in the Peruvian mountains in July.
I absolutely should have accepted the extra sleeping pad that I was offered, it is freezing! BUT- too late to ponder that now.
Even the wake-up on this trek is absolutely wonderful, consisting of soft voices of the Sherpas outside the tent providing hot water for us to wash and start our day.
Following a nice mountaineers breakfast, we all pack our daypacks and slowly get ready to leave.
During the same time, the Sherpas packed the dining tent, the kitchen tent, and all the tents used by us. All assembled in different HUGE backpacks and set off for today’s hike.
Everything before I have my shoes tied and daypack in a ready-to-go position. Amazing, I feel a bit spoiled.
The hike starts early heading for the long steep path to Warmiwanusca, better known as the Dead Woman’s Pass at 4198 meters.
Inca Trail’s Highest Peak Altitude IS Noticeable
The pace I choose for the day two trek is slow and sturdy. One foot before the other in a steady and determined manner below the acid threshold of my muscles.
After starting with a steep uphill path we had a short “technical break” to adjust clothing and gear and catch our breaths before soldering on.
Although I have to say my breathing the last few hundred meters up to the Dead Woman’s Pass was a bit of a workout.
As we slowly ascend up the hill, I have to admit I feel the air is getting a bit lighter and thinner.
Because this is my first hiking ascent to over 4000 meters altitude, I was a little nervous about how my body would react as apparently you never can know for sure.
Luckily apart from a light sense of needing to breathe deep for lack of juice, I did not feel sick or lightheaded or experience headaches or anything.
Luckily the views are awesome, making you forget at least half the struggle!
Inca Trail Hike “Summit” Push
For the last part of the ascent today before I was able to actually spot the end of today’s uphill battle.
People before me (who started earlier of course, not that they walked faster) started shouting muffled ecstatic messages in the distance.
Excellent comrade motivation for us further back, and I found a little extra energy to send to my feet for the final push for the “summit”!
An absolutely super feeling taking the last few steps uphill for the day and being rewarded with happy smiles, high fives, and a summit beer from someone’s backpack.
The mountain ranges and scenery around the Dead Woman’s Pass (once I had caught my breath (and got some chocolate)) were impressive.
There were greenish blue mountains and ridges behind us and in front of us, and ridges above us both to the left and right higher up.
The point we were crossing really was a pass or a tiny ridge of a few meters before the descent started abruptly on the other side.
We stayed on the windy ridge at 4200 meters only in time to assemble the group and congratulate each other (and have a “summit”-beer). Then started the much less challenging part two of the second trekking day – downhill!
Gratitude And Praise For Reaching The Inca Trail Summit
From the pass, it was all downhill, immediately out of the wind on a rocky path all the way to the campsite for the night.
This part of the hike is a little tough on the knees after several hours uphill, but apart from that, the path is a smooth descent.
At camp, the Sherpas of course were way ahead of us and ready with congratulations and high-fives for the accomplishment.
All ready to serve drinks and snacks for us all upon arrival. My only responsibility is to throw my shoes off outside my all-set tent this afternoon as well.
With no other chores, it is lovely to have a little nap and rest before dinner is served in the same immaculate manner as the day before.
My expectations beforehand about this five-day trek in the Peruvian mountains were more like “water and hiking meals” standard, and have nothing to do with G Adventures’ actual reality of mountain luxury.
The amenities and service are way beyond what I would have expected. And 4200 meters really was not THAT hard!
Are You Worried About The Inca Trail Altitude?
For those of you who worry about the level of challenge and altitude hiking the Inca Trail, my assessment is that you do not need to.
The second day of the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is the most demanding because of the altitude and altitude meters you walk up and down.
It is also the highest point of the Inca Trail at 4200 meters altitude where you notice the air has less oxygen.
However, I saw senior hikers and also quite young children completing this day hike, so I will say it is achiaveble for any person with a normal health.
Disclaimer: If you have any condition/illness that may be affected by altitude, or take any medications that may be affected by altitude you need to consult your physician.
Here is how to thrive on the Inca Trail!
- Drink enough water, have energy bars in your pocket, and keep a pace that is in accordance with your general form
- Walk slowly and listen to what your body is telling you (it is a “marathon” – not a “sprint”)
- Breath calmly and “normal”, stop for a minute when you need to
- Remember that at 4200 meters you have more than enough air! If it feels insufficient it is because you are walking too fast for your body
- Bring extra clothes in your daypack for breaks when it can feel cold
- Most hikers reach camp by early afternoon on this day, with ample time to rest and relax
- If you are in normal health you will not have any problems hiking the Inca Trail
Day 3 Of Inca Trail 4 Days – Paqaymayo Camp – Winaywayna
Waking softly up to the Sherpa wake-up team and hot water outside my tent door again on the third Inca Trail trekking day, I feel a bit tired but ok.
Despite constant reminders during the night of my poor decision to NOT bring the extra sleeping pad, waking up freezing, my extra clothes serves as my insulation and allow for at least some sleep!
After the routine morning packing and breakfast, this third day of hiking starts with a challenge.
What the G Adventures guides call the Sherpa Challenge – where we the guest/tourist/rookie hikers can try out as a Sherpa for the first half-hour or so of the day.
Of course, that is a challenge I am not missing out on.
The G Adventures Sherpa Challenge
We are a couple of girls and a bunch of guys starting out on the G Adventures sherpa challenge with the oversized backpacks on our shoulders, while the rest of the group prefers to hold on to their daypack.
I start the ascent somewhere in the middle of the group and stick to my normal game plan – one foot before the other at a slow but steady pace. Staying clear of acid in my thighs, or too little oxygen in my lungs.
As we ascend, one by one, the chicas and some of the chicos throw in the towel and hand over the humongous backpack to the responsible super-Sherpa.
I think at this point I thoroughly benefit from my army training and many hours of putting one foot before the other without thinking too far ahead.
Further up the ascent I also start passing some of the other guys who started out too fast and are now “out of juice”.
In fact, it turns out that slowly but surely I pass all of the other guys in the G Adventures Sherpa challenge!
Not that I am super competitive really, but I actually WON the whole Sherpa Challenge!
I have to admit I feel more than a little proud. Although I know “my” Sherpa is a tiny little guy carrying this huge backpack millions of altitude meters every year.
But I don’t, so I decide to be very satisfied with my achievement. Look at that smile!
Heading On To Runquraqay And Phuyupatamarca (Puh)
After catching our breath and admiring the views the hike continues uphill for a while, now with the luxury of only my tiny little daypack.
On this third day of the Inca Trail hike, you will cross two more passes and several Inca ruins.
The first pass to be conquered is Runquraqay (yeah, I can not pronounce that either) at 3950 meters where on a clear day, hikers can catch a glimpse of the snowcapped Cordillera Vilcabamba, a mountain top on the horizon.
Further, we hike through cloud forests before a gentler climb to the second pass of the day.
Walking through original Incan constructions, the highest point of this pass is 3700 meters where on clear days you can enjoy the views of the Urubamba Valley or the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
At 3650 meters we reach the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (puh), which roughly translated means “the town above the clouds”.
At this altitude, Phuyupatamarca contains Inca ruins with five small stone baths. During the wet season, in ancient times they provided the Incas with constant fresh running water.
It is impossible not to be impressed again and again with the advanced engineering and agricultural solutions the Incas developed along the trail to survive and live in the mountains all those years ago!
The Mountain Ridge Infinite View
A lot of the hike on day three is following a mountain ridge, and I am walking this ridge practically alone in complete silence having “escaped” from my group a little.
There are floating pieces of clouds passing like ghosts above and below us in shifting patterns.
There is hardly any wind, and the view is of mountain ridges behind mountain ridges in the distance. In multiple shades of green and blue immersed in clouds for as far as the eye and horizon allow.
The ambiance surrounding this mountain silence and the indescribable energy of the majestic views is hard to put into words.
It actually made me choke a few times along the way, quite overwhelming at times. I really think you just have to see it.
The day ends with a lot of downhill, good for sore muscles in the thighs but not so good for the knees!
Forever Young At The End Of Day Three?
The last campsite of the Inca Trail is the Winaywayna ruins, in plain English “forever young”.
Winaywayna is a ruin that consists of upper and lower house clusters, interconnected by a long steep staircase with accompanying fountain structures that often are referred to as “baths.”
A large area of what probably was agricultural terraces lies just north of the house-staircase complex.
This site is located at 2650 meters, where we find our tents for the last night in the mountains. We can see the endpoint long before we get there, and when we get there, we realize that here we are definitely not alone!
This appears to be the collection point of a lot of different trekking groups wandering the Inca Trail.
The last stop before passing through the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu early on the last day.
We find our assigned tents among a myriad of other colorful tents from other guided groups.
Our G Adventures team has of course found a perfect spot for the dinner tent, which is served with three courses (as normal) in this little tent city just a couple of hours away from Machu Picchu.
The next day is the last walk, heading for the last leg of the Inca Trail.
The Sun Gate Machu Picchu
The final day of the Inca Trail hike starts a little pre-dawn to reach the Sun Gate Machu Picchu before sunrise.
We wake up, pack our stuff and start walking to reach the checkpoint for entering when it opens.
From camp, the hike starts in the dark with headlamps while the horizon to the east slowly starts lighting up as we walk.
It gradually gets lighter, a grey appearing on the sky to the right of the trail and slowly the terrain and surroundings become visible as the sky turns to a cold pink above the mountains on the horizon. It is incredibly beautiful.
The sun appears just as the group reaches the Sun Gate Machu Picchu, and the Sun Gate is where the Inka Trail trek ends.
We reach the Sun Gate along with everyone else this early morning.
It is a stunning sight.
In the pink tiny light from the morning sun just as it gently puts its cold veil over the mountains slowly heating up the earth.
Transcending Through The Sun Gate Machu Picchu In Light Pink Sunrise
The moment you walk through the ancient stone sun gate you catch the first views of the breathtaking city ruins of Machu Picchu below the gate only a short downhill stroll away.
Hiking down the last path towards Machu Picchu, the air gets warmer and colors thicker and greener. When you reach the entrance to the old Machu Picchu city it has become a warm summer day.
Suddenly our mountain group is transformed from trekkers to normal tourists it seems.
Like the ones that came by train this same morning and took the bus up the steep mountainsides to experience the magic of the ancient mountain structures.
But unlike them, we are all dirty and sweaty with bad hair and rough clothes.
We feel just the way you should feel when you have completed a four-day mountain trek with a respectable altitude to reach your goal – happy and tired.
And a little melancholic, as of course it is never really about the goal, is it – but about the journey.
Finally Entering The Ancient City Of Machu Picchu
As we enter the structures of the ancient city in the mountains, the realization of the grandeur of it all is striking.
You can see from the distant Sun Gate that it is really a large area.
Yet, when in the midst of it you see every little stone, fence, wall, and house, that was constructed here all those years ago. It is HUGE!
The work is exquisite, the solutions incredible, and the location impossible.
How did they do it?
I encourage you to just enjoy the photos, as trying to describe the sight will be a little waste of energy.
Of course, I encourage you even stronger to get there yourself, do the entire hike, or just take the day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco to experience it.
One option while inside Machu Picchu is to visit the Inca Bridge if time allows.
Or just catch the bus to Aquas Calientes, the little city below Machu Picchu where your train back to Cusco leaves from.
In Aquas Calientes, you have time to eat and relax (and have a glass of wine or a pint?) before your train back to Cusco in the afternoon when this whole experience comes to an end.
Wrap-Up Inca Trail Booking 4 Days Trek In Spectacular Peru
You Change After Walking The Ancient Footsteps Of The Incas. Not just after the Inca Trail of course, or Machu Picchu.
People change after experiencing large moments, experiences that simply humble their existence, and expand their minds and understanding of the vast history and humanity.
And the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of these experiences that gives you perspective and both the time and the infinite views to meditate!
My expectations about this four-day trek in the Peruvian mountains were NOTHING like the reality.
Inca Trail Luxury
For starters, the level of Inca Trail luxury in the mountains with G Adventure is nothing but impressive. Calling it a glamping Inca Trail is not to exaggerate, the service and food are way beyond what I could have dreamed about!
The adventure and experience in itself – to wander the mountains in Peru where people have been walking out of necessity and a sense of adventure for centuries, in the middle of the large nature, is just amazing!
It is one of those humbling moments.
Like when you picture the planet from the point of view of outer space, the magnitude of the milky way, and ponder upon your own microscopic place in the mix of time and space (in a good way, of course!).
If you want to experience this magnificent place in the Peruvian mountains without doing several days of trekking, it is possible to buy a day pass for only Machu Picchu as well.
Check out this comprehensive guide from Along Dusty Roads on all the details, tickets, and entry options you have for visiting Machu Picchu in 2022.
Regulated with new measures both due to Covid 19 and a need for a sustainable display of the ancient ruins.
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Do you have any questions about the Inca Trail? Leave a comment, or send me an e-mail! Happy to help!
Looking at the ruins of Machu Pichu is definitely fascinating, especially when trying to imagine how it actually looks like back in those days. =)
It is so spectacular! And a beautiful sight after four days of hiking as well! 🙂
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