There are many roads that lead to Machu Picchu but none like the Inca Trail. The most popular among travelers and the most famous pedestrian street of the American continent. From Cuzco, 43 kilometers of path between forests and dense fogs, millenarian stone steps and majestic views. At the end is the reward: the famous Puerta del Sol and its impressive views of the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Doing the Inca Trail is an initiatory rite for the traveler and a unique adventure, but where does Inca Trail start?
In Cusco, different types of treks have been established along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, classified according to their difficulty, as well as their length and the time it takes to cross them. With some variants depending on the operator, these are the most recommended routes.
Classic Inca Trail (4 days / 3 nights)
The total distance of the road is approximately 39.6 km, where does Inca Trail starts is at km 88 of a place called Q’oriwayrachina. To start the road, you need to cross the Kusichaca bridge, (an important Inca bridge that using Inca techniques, which was built with steel cables that allowed visitors to cross the Urubamba River) Then you should head to the left bank of the river through from an Eucalyptus forest to start the day calmly.
Almost immediately, you will arrive at the archaeological complexes of Q’ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. From this last point, you will have to follow the path that is to the left of the Kusichaca River, in the area with the same name, where you will not only see the bridge, but also you will find the tombs, aqueducts, terraces. roads and a canyon. You will have to continue until you reach the small peasant village of Wayllabamba and the Inca aqueducts. It will take around four hours to cover 9 km to this place. The first night you can camp here, but for greater comfort it is recommended to stay in Llullucha, 1.6 km further on.
The second day is more difficult as it will have to climb 4,200 meters, crossing the Warmiwañusqa pass, the first and highest point. If you suffer from soroche (sickness to the heights) it is better that you do not stop and descend quickly to the valley of the Pakaymayu river, where you will be able to camp. This place is 7 km away and approximately 8 hours walking.
The third day is the longest but the most interesting. You can visit impressive resorts such as Runqurakay, the second step, at 3,800 m.s. This is a walled complex with interior niches that maybe was a small place for rest, guard post and place of worship. After crossing the second step, we will descend to Yanacocha (the black lagoon), then climb a path with stone steps to reach another group of buildings that attracts the attention of visitors. This place is called Sayaqmarka, a pre-Hispanic complex with narrow streets, buildings built on different levels; sanctuaries, patios, canals and an exterior protection wall. At the top of the buttress you can see many buildings that lead to suppose that they once became a temple and an astronomical observatory where there was a permanent supply of water and excellent food deposits.
Sayaqmarka is a place full of mystery and charm. The approximate distance to Runkuraqay is 5 km, to 2 hours. This complex is located at 3,600 meters above sea level. There are excellent roads and a tunnel through this complex. We recommend that you camp near the Phuyupatamarca ruins or 3 km later in the Wiñay Wayna Visitor Center, where you can buy food and drinks or use the bathrooms. The Phuyupatamarca ruins are the best preserved of those we have observed so far.
It has been built on a solid base of several meters in some cases. The ruins of Wiñay Wayna took this name possibly due to the abundance of a type of beautiful orchid flowers that blooms almost all year round throughout the area. The Peruvian government and the Viking Fund signed an agreement in 1940 to investigate the area, and sent the Wenner Gren expedition led by Professor Paul Fejos. But despite the expedition, there is no precise information on the specific function of the six housing groups near Machu Picchu. They are divided into four well-defined sectors that are: the agricultural sector with many terraces, the religious sector, the sector of the source and the residential sector where the houses are located.
On the fourth day, which starts around 8 A.M., the walkers arrive at Machu Picchu at approximately 11 A.M. after 8 km of walk through the jungle. You must follow the signposted route and then drink some water at the Wiñay Wayna Visitor Center. The road is clearly marked but we recommend not getting too close to the cliff.
It is forbidden to camp in Inti Punko. You must leave your travel equipment at the control entrance and enjoy, knowing that you will know in this most important monument in this part of the continent. You have time to walk around Machu Picchu until mid-afternoon. We recommend that you check the departure times of the train to return to Cusco.
If you have planned to stay in the city of Machu Picchu (Formerly called “Aguas Calientes”), the distance from the Puente Ruinas station to Machu Picchu is 2 km. It takes about 20 minutes on foot through a narrow road that is located parallel to the train line.
Short Inca Trail (2 days / 1 night)
The walk begins in the city of Cusco, from where the group moves to Ollantaytambo and from there to kilometer 104, where does the Inca Trail start.
After crossing a bridge over the Urubamba River, the settlements of Chachabamba and Choquesuysuy are reached. Then, the Inca trail takes us to a semitropical place, where tourists enjoy the view of the valley, as well as beautiful waterfalls and exotic orchids.
At more than 2600 meters above sea level, the caravan meets Wiñaywayna, a complex formed by circular terraces. Many of these terraces are still used for cultivation.
Here you can also see various Inca buildings, such as the temple of La Fertilidad. Two hours later, the second section leads the group of trekkers to the Inti Punku or Puerta del Sol, considered the official Inca entrance to Machu Picchu.
After a brief tour of the famous Inca citadel, you descend to the town of Aguas Calientes, where you spend the night. The next day very early, climb again to Machu Picchu. Then it returns to Ollantaytambo by train and finally to the city of Cusco.
Where does Inca trail start?
So, where does Inca Trail start depends on the tour you choose. The classic route is four days. It starts at kilometer 82. During the first day 12 kilometers are covered, the second one 13 kilometers and the third 15 kilometers. On the fourth day there is a two-hour walk to reach the citadel of Machu Picchu and take the guided tour.
The Inca Short Trail is two days long. We start from Chachabamba at kilometer 104 and travel around 6 hours until we reach Intipunku. During the second day the guided tour to Machu Picchu takes place.