The Inca Trail in Peru is one of the world’s most spectacular walks. In this World Travel Blogger series, share one hiker’s experience to the heady heights of Machu Picchu and back …
My breath was shallow in my chest. The air up here in the Andes was thin, but the view was what was really taking my breath away. There, ahead of me, my first glimpse of the Lost City of the Incas. It had been my dream to hike the world famous Inca Trail, to this mysterious city of Machu Picchu, and now, there it was.
This was my birthday present to me. When I turned 35, I wanted to cross something big off my life’s list. So, David (my partner) and I saved up and splurged on this incredible hike. On our 10-day adventure, there were some sore feet, some incredible moments, and a magical feeling of utter joy.
After a night in a beautiful guesthouse in Lima, our first stop; Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, the Inca believed Cuzco was the bellybutton of the world, the centre of their Universe. We spent a few days here to acclimatize to the high altitude before our hike began, staying at the Aranwa Cusco Hotel, a pretty 16th century Spanish townhouse.
Cuzco is stunning. The best part was our beginner hike to the Incan ruins at Sacsayhuaman, where the Incan people lived a thousand years ago, and where view of the city and the valley ate up the first of my camera’s memory cards.
The next day, we began our hike up the world famous Inca Trail in style. We met up with our porters, carried the camping equipment and supplies, and then together we made our way along the banks of the rushing Urubamba River. At night, we set up at Llactapata, where we poked around some more ruins after the cook served an incredible dinner. (I mentioned to David that he doesn’t cook like that when we camp back home, but he didn’t seem to hear me.)
From there, it was up to the Cusichaca Valley, through a cloud forest and out into an incredible mountain field of emerald grass.
The hike was challenging, but not unmanageable. The hardest day with the last day, and I appreciated the work that David and I had done hiking on weekends to get ready for the trip. My favourite night was definitely the last night before arriving at Machu Picchu. I was giddy with excitement, and the majesty of our campsite at the ruins at Phuyupatamarca was picture perfect. The Inca name means ‘the place above the clouds’, and when the sun set behind the mountain peaks, I wanted to keep the moment forever.
The whole train ride back to Cuzco, David and I were buzzing. Laughing and telling stories with our group, and so excited that we still had two days together in Cuzco to re-acclimatize again, and to enjoy more time together with our new friends in this fabulous city.
Great to read this – a place on many people’s dream list – and good to hear how tough it is as well as all the positives. Definitely worth the effort.
Fantastic article! I want to go even more now! 🙂
Thanks for your comment Hayley – let’s get a trip organised!
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon is also a wonderful place. Although you can visit the outer edges of the reserve as a tourist you have to be on a research trip or one of the indigenous people to go to the interior. I joined a group of scientist mapping the movement of endangered species, among other things, through Earthwatch. As well as seeing a part of the world I would never have had the opportunity to visit, I felt that I was actually â€˜doing some good', not just taking a holiday.