The Classic Inca Trail
Peru, South America
Part 2

Inca Trail View 18
Camino Inca Tradicional – the Highs and the Lows

Things we learned on the Inca Trail:

It is not a competition.
It is not about fitness, but endurance.
It is not so much about endurance of the body, but of the mind.
The speed of your progress depends on how much luggage you are carrying, physically and mentally.
At the end of the trail you are bound to have lost some baggage along the way.
You will meet many different types of hikers. In terms of hiking gear, from the most technologically advanced to the least.
Often you will notice the least equipped hikers doing much better than the most equipped.
Every day will bring a variety of feelings, sensations and emotions.
Varying altitudes will have physical and mental side effects.
One moment you will think: “I’m not doing too badly”.
(Sometimes you will pass the fittest and most experienced guides and hikers.)
Not long afterwards you will think: “I’m not doing too well.”
(Sometimes the least fit or least experienced hikers will pass you.)
The best approach is: one step at a time.
Focus on your breathing.
Everyone is hiking on their own even though they are part of a group.
The highest points are best spent on your own for reflection.
Socialising and camaraderie is very important in the evenings at the camp sites.
The Incas didn’t shy away from challenges .
Everyone will make it.


Inca Trail View 19
Continuing: Parts of the trail on Day 3 feels like hiking through a natural botanic garden
Inca Trail View 20
Reaching misty heights in the cloud forest
Inca Trail View 21
Phuyupatamarka: Often cloud-covered, but lucky for us, not today
Inca Trail View 22
Exploring the stairs and slopes of Phuyupatamarka
Inca Trail View 23
The view from Phuyupatamarka. Elevation: 3680m.
Inca Trail View 24
The original Inca Trail – stones laid by the Incas
Inca Trail View 25
With fresh organic “décor”
Inca Trail View 26
Arrival at Wiñay Wayna terraces with a llama welcoming party
Inca Trail View 27
Wiñay Wayna – meaning: “Forever Young” – Elevation: 2650m
Inca Trail View 28
Taking a breather and enjoying the views, with the Urubamba River below
Inca Trail View 30
Inca Rail, snaking along the Urubamba River.
Wiñay Wayna stone buildings - In Inca times this site was the last rest and cleansing point before arrival at Machu Piccu. Elevation: 2650m
Wiñay Wayna stone buildings – In Inca times this site was the last rest and cleansing point before arrival at Machu Piccu. Elevation: 2650m
Inca Trail View 31
View of the Urubamba from Wiñay Wayna
Inca Trail View 32
First clear sight of Machu Picchu while hiking, after the clouds have lifted
Inca Trail View 33
Machu Picchu below
Inca Trail View 34
Arrival: Machu Picchu – Elevation: 2430m. Meaning: “Old peak”. Built by the Incas around 1450 for the Inca emperor. The site was abandoned about a century later and was rediscovered again in 1911. Machu Picchu is believed to have been an important cultural and educational centre which was built at the height of the Inca Empire. Despite its fame, this is one of the most impressive and well preserved ancient archaeological sites from the ancient world. This brings to an end the Classic Inca Trail. Thanking you for coming along!

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The Classic Inca Trail – January 2016
Photography by Jean-Jacques
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Gypsy Café


Explorer, Philosopher, Photographer


    • Jean-Jacques

      Hi Michelle, thanks for reminding me of that film, – yes, I saw it when it was released and was very inspired to do the Camino de Santiago. Still am. Maybe next time when I pass through Europe. That trail is less steep, but much, much longer: 4 weeks as opposed to 4 days!

  1. Marilyn

    A wonderful post – both the photos and your comments. I especially liked the things you learned. I’m sending this to my sister, who now lives in Ecuador and has mentioned hoping to visit Macchu Picchu one of these days.
    Thanks for sharing your inspiring trip!

    • Jean-Jacques

      Marilyn, glad you liked it! I hope your sister enjoys her trip to Peru – it really is an exceptional country to visit and Muchu Picchu doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a tip though – it can get really crowded at Machu Picchu around national and public holidays, and on weekends, so if at all possible – to improve the experience, it’s worth trying to organise a visit accordingly, avoiding the busy days. Ollantaytambo is also highly recommended!

  2. Josh Gross | The Jaguar

    These views are spectacular! I can only imagine how it must’ve felt to be there. I’ve found few places to be more liberating than narrow, misty mountain trails.

  3. Debra

    That trail looks like a Vision Quest. The closeup shots on the terracing gave me a totally different scale than what I was imagining. All the photos are beautiful. Mountain shapes in Arizona desert (volcanic) are similar with steep inclines and strange peaks. I spent a lot of childhood vacations in the Colorado rockies – Pike’s Peak is 14,000, mostly granite, and you can drive to the top. Thanks for sharing the story of your experience. AWESOME.

    • Jean-Jacques

      I did a quick conversion on-line, Debra 14000ft equals 4300m, higher than the highest point on the Inca Trail! It sounds like a real blessing to have spent so much time in the Rockies. When I was younger I dreamt of visiting and climbing all the highest mountains in the world, including the Rockies! In fact I’ve always had this dream of living in a log-cabin high up one day, close to a lake, with a magnificent view – and write a lot, of course! That has bee a child-hood Dream Quest and maybe I can reach it on retirement – I still have quite a few years to go, but something to aim for!

      As for the Vision Quest – in fact I experienced that in the Colca Canyon, a week before I started the Inca Trail. It was very different. I was completely on my own (not recommended by guide books or locals), except for a few hikers passing me, coming from the opposite direction. I got somewhat lost a couple of times (the maps not being very good), did not have quite enough water at stages, (got close to being dehydrated from the heat) and it was really challenging mentally.
      It was as steep, if not more than the Inca Trail (twice the depth of the Grand Canyon) and very dry. There was a sense of isolation out there, which I did not feel on the Inca Trail.

      I reviewed my entire life in the Colca Canyon… (as well as my future..) 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the Inca Trail pictures and got a good feeling for it!

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