Some providers actually build on foreign travelers’ assumptions that the Inca Trail is just a means to an end and try to get folks through as quickly as possible. They sell “sunrise at the sun gate” as a goal, with the knowledge that in actuality this allows them to get their guides and porters home the same day and their travelers back to Cusco that night – therefore eliminating the need to pay those guides and porters an additional day or include another night’s lodging for their travelers. What they won’t tell you is that Machu Picchu sits in a cloudforest, so sunrise is unlikely. And in order to get to the sun gate by sunrise, one must hike further than necessary on that second day and finish the last, most lush section of the Inca Trail in the dark!
At Adventure Life, we subscribe to the belief that the trail is an end in itself! With all those additional ruins along the way, and so many amazing views and great flora to enjoy along the way, we seek to take our time and enjoy ourselves. We’ll tackle that huge pass on day two, but once down the other side we can relax at a great campsite before tackling the next ridge when we are fresh the next morning. That puts us on track to camp at Phuyupatamarca (“cloud level town”) the third night and cross our fingers for an amazing sunset view of Salcantay. Then on the fourth day, we enjoy the descent into the cloudforest and Machu Picchu – a section of trail that is rich in orchids from April onward – during daylight. We finally arrive to Machu Picchu itself in the early afternoon of day four, and explore briefly. By including a return to Machu Picchu the following morning, folks can feel more free to return to the creature comforts of civilization on this fourth day – showers and mattresses, most importantly – knowing that they have a full morning inside the citadel tomorrow.
We also strive to find a balance of price and comfort. We employ enough porters to allow our travelers to only hike with a small daypack – filled with a snack, a water bottle, a camera and maybe an extra layer – each day. The porter team will carry all gear like tents, sleeping bags, food, kitchenware, overnight clothes, portable toilet facilities, etc. In fact, they’ll hike ahead of you and have these items completely set up before you arrive to camp, with a meal already in the works. Then once you leave the campsite in the morning, they’ll take it all down and beat you to the lunch stop!