Inca Trail Ruins: 7 Amazing Sites You’ll See Along the Way
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. Spanning an approximate 63 KM in distance and crossing through the splendor of the Andean mountains, the Inca Trail grants access to some of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites located in areas otherwise inaccessible.
The Inca Trail hike begins in the Sacred Valley at the trailhead of Piskakucho – KM 82. Hikers are welcomed into the trail by the friendly faces of the local inhabitants, most of who sell last-minute items such as coca leaves and snacks for the intrepid souls ready to take on the trail. From Piskakucho – KM 82 onwards, no cars or cargo animals are allowed. From this point onward, only hikers, porters, and guides proceed to hike along the Inca stone paths leading to Machu Picchu citadel.
The trail not only takes hikers along valleys and through mountain passes, but it also grants hikers access to the archaeological sites of Patallacta/Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Inti Pata, Winay Wayna, and Intipunku. The Inca Trail leads directly to Machu Picchu and offers the hike of a lifetime.
Patallacta is the first archaeological complex along the classic Inca Trail. Located at 2,840 m.a.s.l., this site is thought to have been an agricultural and administrative support site to Machu Picchu. The most impressive feature of this archaeological site is its complex system of terraces dedicated to the cultivation of crops.
As the first stop along the Inca Trail, the Patallacta site serves as a welcome to visitors and sets the stage for even more formidable views of the surrounding landscapes and imposing Inca constructions.
The archaeological site of Runkurakay is known for its semicircular construction seemingly perched above the clouds. This complex is surrounded by thick vegetation and the towering mountain ranges that serve as the perfect backdrop. Based on its prominent location at 3,760 m.a.s.l., this site is thought to have served either as a resting place for travelers and pilgrims, or a control post. This site is a perfect stop along the Inca Trail hike where you can enjoy magnificent views of the Inca trail, and explore the exquisite variety of flora and fauna.
Visitors can enjoy views of the famous Dead Woman´s Pass (Warmi Wañusca Pass) and its mountain silhouette from Runkurakay as well. This pass is the highest location (4,200 m.a.s.l.) reached when hiking to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. Besides its altitude, this mountain pass offers travelers one of the most rewarding moments of the Machu Picchu hike. The altitude and geographic characteristics of the trail leading to the Dead Woman´s Pass create a strenuous hike for most hikers. This is often worsened by altitude sickness experienced due to altitude changes. However, all the efforts exerted by most hikers are then rewarded by the awe-inspiring views of the valleys below.
Sayacmarca rests at the top of a mountain at approximately 3,600 m.a.s.l. The visit to this archaeological site grants views of the Aobamba valley and the Pumasillo snow-capped mountain. The site´s structure is composed of maze-like paths and tightly organized enclosures. Its structures are all built on the edge of the precipice and have led experts to deduce that this location had ceremonial and astrological uses during the Inca empire.
Known as the ¨place of the clouds,¨ Phuyupatamarca is yet another impressive Inca ruin along the Inca trail. Its construction is another prime example of the Inca philosophy of perfect balance between humans and nature. This site is composed of terraces carved into the mountainsides, enclosures, and ritual baths. The latter is still being replenished by an underground river. Another fascinating characteristic of this site is its sophisticated hydraulic system which is still being used today to irrigate the various zones of the complex.
Phuyupatamarca is also an excellent lookout point due to its elevation at 3,670 m.a.s.l., granting views of Intipata and Wiñaywayna.
Intipata archaeological site is considered to be one of the hidden gems of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This site is relatively close to Machu Picchu and is thought to have had a shortcut to reaching the famous UNESCO site. Experts believe the Intipata site to have been built for agricultural purposes. Nowadays, we can still appreciate the evidence of canals to water crips distributed among the levels of terraces in the ruins.
Although the visit to Intipata is often considered optional while on the Inca Trail hike, travelers should not pass the opportunity to watch the splendor of the rising sun rays over the landscape and terraces of the complex.
The Inca complex of Winay Wayna is one of the most impressive along the Inca Trail. Located at 3,800 m.a.s.l., Winay Wayna is only 4 KM away from Machu Picchu and serves as the last camping spot of the Machu Picchu hike. Just as in previous archaeological sites, Winay Wayna was skillfully carved onto the mountainside. There are terraces and enclosures all throughout the complex leading experts to deduce the possible uses of the site as a farming and administrative center. The site is complemented by a high waterfall and views of the Urubamba gorge and Apu Veronica.
Inti Punku is directly translated into ¨Sun Gate¨ or ¨Sun Door.¨ It serves as the entry point to Machu Picchu citadel when hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Experts indicate that during the Inca empire, the Inti Punku served as an entry and checkpoint for pilgrims entering the citadel. It was also used for ceremonial purposes in the worship of Inti (Sun God) during the winter solstice.
Nowadays, the Inti Punku offers spectacular and unmatched views of the Machu Picchu complex before entering. Travelers along the Inca Trail are rewarded with such views upon completion of the Machu Picchu hike.
The enigmatic citadel of Machu Picchu is world-renowned and recognized for its architecture and historical importance. Named Cultural and Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO, Machu Picchu is without a doubt, a prime example of ancient ingenuity and balance between nature and humans. The complex of Machu Picchu is located at 2,400 m.a.s.l., between the high Andes and tropical rainforest, better known as cloud forest. It is rich not only in history but also in flora and fauna endemic to the region.
To date, the exact purpose of the complex is still a mystery. Its temples, terraces, walls, palaces, and enclosures leave visitors and experts with immense wonder. Most visitors are left without sufficient words to describe the intricate constructions and precise rock shapes.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most emblematic travel experiences in the modern world. In contrast to any other hike in the region, the Inca Trail does not finish in the town of Aguas Calientes. In fact, the Inca Trail is the only trail that leads directly into Machu Picchu via the imposing Inti Punku. As a result, the Inca Trail offers direct access to the mysteries of the Inca empire and some of the most exquisite views and landscapes of the region.
Hiking to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail should be on every traveler´s checklist. This hike is an example of the type of adventure that cannot be described just by words. The Inca Trail hike along with all the archaeological sites found along the way have to be experienced in person to be fully embraced and understood.
Alpaca Expeditions Recognitions
ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
In the pursuit to stand out from the rest, Alpaca Expeditions has obtained four ISOs plus our carbon footprint certificate to date. These achievements result from our efforts to implement the internationally-recognized integrated management system. They also represent our commitment to all of our clients and staff of operating sustainability and responsibility in every way possible.
World Travel Awards
Alpaca Expeditions is internationally recognized as a leading tourism company in Peru. As proof, we have been awarded the World Travel Award for Peru´s Best Tour Operator 2021 for the second time.
Our goal at Alpaca Expeditions is to create the best experience for all of our clients. We create journeys that are to be remembered for a lifetime. Journeys you can be proud of and can share with everybody around you.
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Hotel to Hotel service
Regarding the transportation provided by Alpaca Expeditions, we are committed to delivering a quality service. We strive to ensure that passengers feel supported throughout their journey. To achieve this, we coordinate closely with our guides and representatives to ensure timely pick-up at the start of their tours. Additionally, we have representatives responsible for escorting our passengers to their hotels at the conclusion of any tour.
Our drivers are not only trained in customer service but also come properly uniformed, and many are fluent in English.
Typically, all transportation types are included in each of our services. For instance, if you have booked a trekking tour, we will pick you up early, typically between 4 AM and 5 AM.
When visiting Cusco, it's important to note that traffic here is generally moderate. However, there are peak traffic times, such as between 7 AM and 8 AM, which coincide with school hours, and in the evening between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Therefore, if you have a flight during these times, it's crucial to be at the airport at least 2 hours in advance. The drivers of Alpaca Expeditions ensure their vehicles are prepared with all necessities before each service. They are acutely aware that delays can lead to missed trains, flights, or other connections. Consequently, they are always more than punctual, arriving at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time for any service, understanding the responsibility they carry in executing these tasks.
Personal Porter of 7KG
Remember that Alpaca Expeditions offers an extra 7 kg allowance for your personal belongings on any of our tours. We include a personal porter who is responsible for carrying your duffel bag without any additional fee. You will not have access to your duffel bag until you reach your evening campsite. The bag should not exceed 7 kg, which includes 4 kg for clothes and 3 kg for your sleeping bag and sleeping mat.
When you visit our Alpaca Expeditions office, you will receive your duffel bags at your briefing. The porters will carry them and return them to you at each campsite. The bags measure 66 cm in length and 36 cm in width (approximately 2 ft long by 1 ft wide).
Porters will carry up to 7 kg of your personal items, which must include your sleeping bag and air mat (if you bring or rent one). From us, these two items weigh a combined total of 3.5 kg.
Each Alpaca Expeditions porter is paid directly after each trek, allowing them to return home more quickly. They receive better wages than our competitors, health insurance, and all their equipment free of charge, including hiking boots, pants, jerseys, fleeces, jackets, hats, flashlights, sleeping bags, and high-quality food. We ensure each of our porters has a comfortable bed in a pleasant room to sleep in before and after each trek. We also visit the communities they live in, providing toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and other necessary supplies to their families, along with books for their children.
This is just the beginning for us, and we are always looking for ways to do more.
While the government allows each porter to carry up to 25 kg, we limit this to 20 kg to prioritize their health and safety. Each porter carries up to 15 kg of company equipment and 5 kg of personal items. This is why it is crucial to keep your personal duffel bag weight under our 7 kg limit. You might see other companies allowing their porters to carry more than the allotted weight, but at Alpaca Expeditions, we strictly adhere to these limits to ensure our porters' well-being.
Clases de Cocina
Alpaca Expeditions offers its passengers the chance to experience local cooking. We aim to immerse trekkers in Inca life by walking them through the original Inca paths and teaching them about Inca culture. Food is a significant part of Inca life, making it a special element in any tour or trek with Alpaca Expeditions.
In 2022, Alpaca Expeditions introduced a cooking class as part of each of our treks, conducted by our amazing trekking chefs and interpreted by our guides.
We will transform your dining tent into a makeshift kitchen, providing all the necessary supplies to prepare a Peruvian specialty. Your chef will guide you step by step through the process of making a traditional Peruvian meal, such as Lomo Saltado, and share some essential mountain cooking tips.
Peru is recognized as a top culinary destination, largely thanks to the popularity of our renowned beef dish, Lomo Saltado. This is most often the meal you will learn to cook, but there is also the opportunity to learn how to prepare other dishes like traditional Peruvian ceviche or even our signature drink, the pisco sour.
Cooking Class on the Inca Trail: These classes are voluntary and designed to be a fun, educational experience. Our clients consistently marvel at the amazing ability of our chefs to create culinary magic on a mountaintop. As you learn to prepare and cook Peruvian specialties, you will also see firsthand how such elaborate meals can be created on a small campsite stove.
Enjoy a cooking class in the mountains and be sure to take plenty of photos, just in case your friends won't believe your incredible experience.
The best way to hike in the mountains of Peru is to completely disconnect from technology, especially the internet and cell phones. The most impressive and exciting aspect is the opportunity to experience the true and wonderful nature that we often miss when we are at home, watching TV or absorbed in our cell phones during our leisure time. The feeling of being disconnected from work and the daily routine left at home is incredible.
However, this remoteness means limited access to emergency resources. That's why Alpaca Expeditions has invested in satellite phones for every trek.
We are prepared to assist you in case of any emergency, particularly health-related issues. For this reason, Alpaca Expeditions has invested in satellite phones, as they are one of the most crucial tools for any operator trekking in remote areas where telephone or television signals are absent. This means that every guide on our treks will be equipped with a fully charged satellite phone as well as radios. While these are primarily for emergencies, we allow our clients to use them at any time.
We ask that you cover the cost, which is $2.50 per minute. This fee can be paid in cash at our office or via PayPal once you have completed the trek.
Being just a phone call away from any doctor, hospital, or friend helps everyone feel assured of their safety. Radios, which all our guides carry, have limited reach, so Alpaca Expeditions includes satellite phones to ensure that we can connect no matter where we are on the mountain.
Portable private toilet
We understand that our clients will need restroom facilities at various times and locations during their journey. Along the Inca Trail, there are restrooms available, particularly those belonging to the communities near the trail. Alpaca Expeditions provides portable toilets to enhance this service, which will be set up at each meal site or campsite.
As with any mountain trip where we are exposed to nature, it is possible to use natural areas as restrooms. However, it is crucial to be mindful of the waste we generate, such as toilet paper or wet wipes used for cleaning. These should be carried with us and not discarded on the ground or left along the trail. Remember, the Inca Trail is a protected area overseen by a government institution. In places where garbage bins are unavailable, particularly at our camps, we provide special plastic bags for waste. Our porter team will be responsible for carrying out our waste.
Please be aware that although there are designated bathrooms for men and women, in practice, both genders often use the same facilities. Functionally, there is no significant difference between men's and women's bathrooms. Therefore, it is common for people of all genders to use whichever bathroom is available.