We set out on our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu adventure from the fertile Urubamba Valley, stopping first at the colorful markets in Ollantaytambo village where the narrow streets wind through foundations laid out by the Inca hundreds of years ago. Our trip leader Holly Wissler, who lives in Cusco and has a seemingly endless amount of knowledge about Andean culture and music, gave us an overview of what was to come on the trail ahead, but there were still plenty of pleasant surprises that greeted us throughout our trip.


The sheer number of Inca ruins that we passed was remarkable; ruins that can only be seen if one hikes the trail. Each day provided unforgettable scenes and held special memories for us. On the second day of the trail we reached the extensive Inca terracing of Llactapata. Day four was not an easy hike, but we passed three ruins all in one day: first the outpost of Runkuracay, then the Sayacmarca ruins (pictured below) came into view after the second pass of the day (13,000 feet!), and finally Phuyupatamarca.

We couldn’t have done this hike without the support of our truly outstanding crew — from our strong and efficient porters to our fabulous cook staff and our amazing leaders! Whenever we’d stop for lunch our dining tent was a welcome site where we could sit and rest and take in nourishment for the afternoon journey.


Then at day’s end we’d be pleased to hike into camp where everything was already set up and our gear all there. After a quick clean-up, we’d gather once again to enjoy dinner together and relive the day’s adventures. The food was delicious — all fresh Peruvian and American cuisine prepared for us by our cook team. Miguel and Marco (pictured below), were especially delightful local guides, providing us even more color commentary of the historical sites around us.


Our last campsite on the Inca Trail had a dramatic and lovely view of the valley below.


On the final morning we hiked to Winay Wayna (‘forever young’), an entire mountainside terraced for growing food, then past Intipata, which likely also supplied food to the thousands of inhabitants of Machu Picchu.


After a false gate and then one final ascent, we made it — Machu Picchu!  We took in the view from above for a while before hiking down into the ruins along the same path the Inca warriors traveled over 500 years ago. For us this was a ‘bucket list’ trip, and what a truly incredible experience it was!


-Photos and text by 2-time WT Adventurers Laura and Fred Jolly, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu