Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is on many travelers’ bucket lists and is one of the most popular hiking locations in the world. When I signed up for the 4-day trek, I didn’t realize how life-changing it would be, and I’m happy to say that I completed the trek (all in one piece) and am living to tell the tale! The trek was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done but one of the most magical!
my brother (who had the flu the entire trek) was pumped for the hike!
I hiked the trail with my friend Carly, my dad, and my brother. We signed up through the trekking company PERU TREKS, which I HIGHLY recommend, and ended up with 14 people on our trek (ages 20-60 from all over the world), 2 guides, and 22 porters. We hiked in November, which is the tail end of the dry season and the beginning of the wet season but booked our trek online in May. Some people on our trek didn’t book until July, but treks do sell out, so it’s essential to book early! The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a total of 26 miles, and each day proposes its own challenges. Here’s my recap of day 1.
Trek from Kilometer 82 to Wayllabamba (6.8 miles 11km)
The start of our trek was SUPER early in the morning. The bus with the rest of our trekkers and our fantastic guide Ernesto picked us up from our Cusco hostel (Pariwana Hostel) at 4 am, and we began our hour-and-a-half bus ride to Ollantaytambo to eat breakfast before the trek. This is the town where all of the porters gather to hop on with their trekking company. After breakfast, we drove a little further to kilometer 82, where the trailhead is located and where we got our passports stamped with the trail stamp.
The trek was pretty easy in the morning. We trekked through some old towns and a few Inca ruins like the one in the photo above, Llactapata. This ruin is built right into the side of the mountain with a great source of water surrounding it. At one point, this ruin had about 100-200 inhabitants!
The majority of day 1 was what they call “Inca Flat,” where you go up, down, and flat most of the way. The views were INCREDIBLE, and it was only the beginning. Ernesto, our guide, taught us how to chew on coca leaves and natural stevia to ward away the altitude sickness, and he also showed us how to perform a little Inca ceremony with the coca leaves for Pachamama (mother earth). This was a great way to be introduced to the Incan and Peruvian highland cultures.
All day long, the weather was HOT, and I got super sunburned! I was really happy. I bought a bandana at the trailhead to cover up my neck and shoulders from the direct sun. Before lunch, we hiked up a pretty steep hill, and at the top, we arrived at a lunch that the porters had already cooked and prepared for us. We had a 4-course meal, drank coca tea for the altitude, and took a siesta for about 30 mins. At this point, I still had high energy and was thinking to myself, “if this is what we’re doing the whole time, it’s a piece of cake!” No problemo!
We then started back up again for about 2 more hours to our campsite at Wayllabamba. Along the trail, we saw many local people who were selling water in different resting spots or hauling food and goods on their donkeys. There were also dogs and chickens scattered all over the place, but since we weren’t in the high mountains yet, we were still trekking around the outskirts of some farms and people’s homes.
The campsite we ended at on the first day was called Wayllabamba and was situated in somewhat of a valley with little farms nestled all around. We stayed on someone’s farm property and even saw some guinea pigs on the kitchen floor of their house. Guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru. After another 4 course dinner, some fun chit-chat getting to know our fellow trekkers and guides, and a welcome and introduction to our porters, we had an early night to prep for Day 2 which was supposedly the hardest day!
All in all, I call Day 1 a “Piece of Cake” compared to what was to come! [Our trekking group with our porters and cooks][Guinea pigs on the floor of the family kitchen] Yay! Day 1 of Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is under my belt!
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 30 something from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. After a trip around the world, my heart chose Idaho. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography, and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.