Traveling to Peru and hiking the classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu was a big highlight of my travels because it was adventurous, diverse, interesting and all this surrounded by a cool group with mixed nationalities. The prices for this trip can range widely and be quite expensive. Here is a detailed article about how to organise an affordable trip and have the time of your life.
How to organise the Machu Picchu trip in Cusco ?
Even two days before I left for the trip, I still hadn’t booked a tour and had only just arrived in Cusco. However, my style of just turning up worked out pretty well this time because by wandering around Cusco and getting information in different travel agencies, I found a really cheap deal hiking the classic Inca trailat Viajes Cusco Peru (380 USD), located right next to the main square. I was probably lucky that it was off season at the end of January (peak season is usually May to September). Don’t forget to buy your ticket / permission to climb up Huayna Picchu mountain from Machu Picchu – It really is a special place. The alternative to the classic Inca trail (for a slightly cheaper rate) is the Jungle trailthat offers a more diverse trail with some hiking, cycling and include additional activities to book such as zip lining, water rafting and so on. I did the classic and I was very happy with my decision but that all depends on what adventure you are seeking.
Meeting the group of the organised travel tour
Pick-up was 6:45am. Before we left, we had to wait until the agency brought my sleeping bag and I purchased aponcho for just 45 Soles (13 USD), which was a really good quality and so useful for the next days. People on the minivan were surprised that I didn’t have either and that I hopped inwearing flip-flops. The journey then started and we headed as a group / “family” on our adventure. We were a group of 9 and an international mix: Ygor, Camila, Edgar and Louisa from Brazil, Casey and Carolina from Canada, Ole and Jacob from Denmark and me from Germany.
Our first stop was a small town where we could have breakfast and do some shopping. We introduced ourselves and I actually named myself “Gringo”. I couldn’t eat a lot because I had stomach problems again – the standard traveler’s problem. So I had to purchase some pills, which were really expensive, probably more than 1 USD for each one. From there we drove to Agua Calientes, where the porters prepared mattresses for us and put them into plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of rain. We arrived at the check point, where they checked our passports and gave us a stamp – pretty cool I thought.
Let the journey begin
Another photo was taken in front of the Inca Trail sign and then the adventure really started.
From left to the right:Edgar, Louisa, Ygor, Camilla, Ole, Jacob, TW, Casey and Carolina.
DAY 1 – 10km hiking
On the first day, we got to an altitude of 3,000m and it was actually a simple trek to get started. It rained a couple of times and I realised that it is very important to have a good poncho and backpack, especially with a rain cover; it helps a lot. I was very happy with my Deuter. To avoid altitude sickness, Walter (our guide) gave us some coca leavesto chew on – it’s amazing that everyone (especially locals, porters, and guides) just chews coca leaf all day long. It tastes even better in a mint tea with sugar and really helps against altitude sickness – loved it.
We had an early lunch; afterwards I napped in the sunshine and then Casey and I played football with some local kids, which was definitely a fun time. It was a perfect start to hiking and I was happy because I was tired at the end of the day. In addition, it was also a really nice trail to hike with a beautiful changing landscape (flora and fauna), beautiful giant cacti, traditional villages and, of course, Inca ruins. When we arrived at Wayllabamba, the porters had already prepared the tents and a hot cup of tea with popcorn – perfect timing.
A fun fact was that the tent brand was TW, which stands for “por siempre joven,” forever young and “wiñay wayna viajando por siempre joven” forever traveling. Amazing, because my initials are TW and my blog is called I TRAVEL FOREVER.
While we waited before dinner, I saw this little baby playing with a dog – ha ha – amazing because the kid was squeezing the tail making it run away; she repeated it many times. So funny. The dog went mad but never bit the kid. Ha ha. The dinner was delicious and nothing I would have expected. Afterwards, we all had to sing our national anthem and some other songs – very good group spirit and so much fun.We went to bed pretty early; and I didn’t think I could sleep at this time, but I did fall asleep very fast and deep.
Nice first day with – it seemed – some really nice peops. By the way, there is this Brazilian guy who looked similar to Ellen from Hangover – ha ha, so funny, only from behind though – hilarious.
DAY 2 – 9 km hiking
The next morning, Casey (Canadian guy) and I were awakened at 5am. I know it sounds horrible but it isn’t when they bring you a cup of hot tea into your tent. We started hiking and I bumped into my Brazilian friends who I met in Cusco; so we caught up, but not much, as it was getting very steep up the hill with my 15km heavy backpack. The first group stop was some Inca ruins, where Walter told us some things about the Incas and their history – nice.
We had our first break at the last point where we could buy food and drinks. At this point, the crazy Canadian bought two bottles of rum for 90 Soles (28 USD). Not sure what he planned with it and he probably didn’t have enough space to carry around – ha ha. We stopped for some time when I meet this Canadian guy, “Guy” – nice guy, ha ha. We kept bumping into each other on the trail and became “bumping into each other friends”. It was funny because you could feel the excitement of the other people in the group when we bumped into him again; once they spotted him somewhere they would say to me: “Tobi, there is Guy. Tobi, Guy is here”.
The 9km hike was intense because it was up a hill for quite a long time, reaching Warniwanuscaat 4,200m, and then walking downhill until we finally reached the campsite.
When we asked Walter how far it was, he said “only 10 minutes”, which still took over an hour; so I carried on with the joke over the next couple of days – ha ha. When people asked me: everythingwas always just 10 minutes. While hiking up the hill, I saw a little kid, 8 years old, who was already hiking around with his dad, probably to guide tours later in life. On the second day, I was hiking pretty slowly but I enjoyed sitting down a few times to see the views over the mountains. This I would also recommend: to stop and take in the views – amazing ! Also, I had a really nice conversation with Ygor and Camila from Brazil on my way. It’s amazing but Ygor is just 16 years old and has already been hiking around at a high altitude like this – pretty cool. I’m pretty sure that all his friends are jealous of him.
After dinner, we had probably the “highest party in the world that has ever happened”; the rum played its role and the disco lights in the tent too. The party continued in our tent (ha ha) and it rained all night; I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I really enjoyed the rain.
DAY 3 – 16 km hiking
The hardest of all days I would say started with the first part trekking up the hill for about 1.5 hours, pretty much Iike walking upstairs and then down. Super early lunch at 10:30am. I was surprised and wondering how I could survive without food for the rest of the day. We were all soaked in water because it kept raining which made it freezing cold.
From there we continued walking, and I passed a llama, which I didn’t mind getting too close to for a selfie – had to do it, check it out !
Later on, we walked on top of a mountain with awesome views, a spot where most of the tours had their lunch break and I indeed bumped into Guy once again – happy times.
We walked passed more Inca ruins and to access some of them you had to walk up some very small, slippery stairs with no hand rail – pretty dangerous because it was so wet. The view from the top was nice but the fog and rain ruined it. To enjoy the moment was not really worth the effort. Poncho on again but it was so hot and humid, so more sweating.
This part of the trip was pretty dangerous because the rocks were wet and slippery and I couldn’t believe how fast the porters were running down – madness. Walter told me that some of them die because they are so crazy. Camila fell about 4-5 times – haha. I almost did too because I was going too fast. It was three of us, including Ygor, arriving last at the campsite, but we just walked very slow – haha – oh well, we had fun.
After all that today already, we ended up in a jungle, where Camila, Ygor and I played a game. At first, we didn’t see it as a game but then it turned into one once I started counting points. The game was a word guessing song. For instance, Ygor said “fire” and then we had to sing a song like “this girl is on fire”… I knew more songs than her and I was better, so I won 8-7 – ha ha – with some pretty embarrassing songs.
We then got to Intipata, a magical place, I chilled there for some time. All the others had already gone to the campsite because we all got very wet today. It rained almost all day and people just wanted to get to the camp – I think most of them didn’t take their time to enjoy the moment. Camila and I did though.
Two hours later than everyone else, we finally arrived at the campsite around 5:30pm. Camila asked me a couple of times if I knew how far the campsite was because I was walking in flip flops. Of course I knew: it was just 10 minutes ha ha. Going down, and while searching for the campsite, I sang the Pink Panther song, ha ha. It made our arrival very special; check my video summary at the top of the post.
The campsite for tonight was in an awesome spot on the edge of a mountain. The others were already munching and enjoying their tea when we arrived. However, they just left us two popcorns and had pretty much eaten all of the cake; so nothing for us. This actually really pissed me off because I was always sharing food over the last couple of days and they didn’t leave anything for us – no respect and this is a behavior I couldn’t tolerate, so I left and went into the tent. The next part was written right way after this happened.
Some thoughts: “If I’m deadly honest, I didn’t mind not being there because the two Danish guys bitched about everyone in Danish, the old Canadian women didn’t understand much but was just present, Ellen and Louisa made pointless talk, Canadian guy, Casey, was just stupid and alcoholic,the tour guide, Walter, was not much. I think he didn’t want to say something wrong. Then there was Ygor, young and probably not responsible in this case, and Camilla, the happy girl ! For dinner, I joined them again and we collected tips for the porters and chef. They had done a great job, cooked delicious food and never complained about anything. These people amazed me in a way because their mindset was incredible. They appreciated the tips and shook all our hands – amazing folks. It’s a cultural thing: they would never say it’s not enough. Also, they always did what we wanted – bless them.
A long day had come to and end and we were all pretty tired, enjoyed some rum and went to bed early because tomorrow we had to get up very early. I was excited to finally reach the final destination. Really excited to arrive in the place that everyone hypes…
DAY 4 – 4 km hiking
On our fourth and last day of our tour, we had to get up at 3:30am. Yes, it was that early in the middle of the night. I was normally always the last person ready but today I was the first. We hiked for about 20 minutes until we reached the check point, where we had to wait until they opened. We just made it to be under the roof in the queue – lucky. I was gutted because I didn’t bring my head torch and it was dark, but oh well.
We played another guessing game while waiting, but this time with famous people. With the first letter of the surname, you had to name another famous person and play some music – Timber and La Bamba, the songs of the Machu Picchu Inca trail. Then at 6am, the last few kilometers of the hike (the winner’s leg) started. Everybody was very excited and tried to be fast getting there before sunrise. In order to make it, you had to run all the way and the trail was busy with people; it was a very narrow path, but we caught the sunrise on the way – beautiful.
The hike was pretty intense because it was steep, sometimes climbing up very narrow rock stairs, but there was no giving up or having a break until we got to our destination. Only crazy Casey made it, as he ran all the way. The last part before Gate de Solwas really hard, but then there was the reward – finally – this beautiful view with the sunshine really warm on my face. Machu Picchu still far away, urrgh. I didn’t think the view was that great, so I started running down.
I was surprised how many people were already walking in my direction and I realised that these were the people who just bought a daytrip and had already gotten to enter – annoying because we had paid a lot of money and others just went for the day and got in before us. Most of them probably took the cable car: sometimes life is just not fair, whatsoever.
Anyways, once I got to Machu Picchu at last and we took photos and enjoyed the views – a very incredible, magical place, so calm I thought.
All the others slowly arrived and we took a group photo. Then Camila and I danced to the trendy song, Lepo Lepo, but we got interrupted and were told off by security. I then met a Brazilian guy with a flag that proudly showed 5 stars. Well, I constantly repeated 7-1. I don’t know if you remember, but at the recent world cup Germany beat Brazil 7-1 – lol. He didn’t seem to be bothered, was a bit arrogant, and proudly repeated 5 stars; it was a lot of fun, ha ha. We had to drop off our luggage at the entrance because it was not allowed in. Walter took us around and told a history about the area. At some point, I actually fell asleep while lying on the floor.
The Danish guys made more jokes about the guy who looks like – as mentioned in the beginning – Ellen from Hangover, which was quite funny. Then I told the others that I hoped to see Guy again because we wanted to take a photo together; and suddenly after a few minutes, somebody said “Toby, there is Guy.” Such a pleasure and the moment was better than desired. Hehe.
Then it was time for me to go to the entrance to go up to Huayna Picchu. I was there right before the gate opened at 10am. Since I was short of time because we wanted to take an earlier train back to Cusco, I went to the entrance to see if I could go in earlier. I met a German, Nico. He asked me for the time but he had seen my passport and that’s why he wanted to talk to me – what he told me later. We decided to go up together. Normally, it takes about an hour; that’s what Walter said but we walked pretty fast non-stop and made it to the top in 20 minutes. It was crazy how fast we went, but then there was the reward. At first it was cloudy and we weren’t able to see Machu Picchu from there, but then it cleared up and the view was amazing.
Honestly, you have to go to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. You have to do it; the view is unique and I promise you that you won’t wanna miss out. For just $10 more, you get a lot. I was the only one in my group to do it; and when I showed them the view, they regretted not have gone and didn’t even know that they had to get a ticket in advance. Make sure when you buy the tour that it’s included and purchase it in advance because you can only go up between 7-8am & 10-11am, which is limited to 200 people.
We relaxed, enjoyed the view, shared a cookie, life was good. We then went back down because I arranged to meet my friends, Camila and Ygor, at 11:15am. All the others had left, but it was very nice of them to wait for me. We walked down together with Nico to pick up our luggage to head to Aguas Calientes. There was a bus going down for $10 but we decided to walk for another last hike together. I enjoyed being with new very good friends. At some point, I tried to hitchhike but unfortunately it didn’t work. It seemed pretty close but was actually quite a hike to get down, but it was a lot of fun – just 10 more minutes, ha ha.
The Celebration Party
We finally made it to the restaurant, where all the others were. I FaceTimed my parents, showed them how happy everybody was and told them about the hike: they seemed very pleased to see how happy I was and got emotional. Lunchtime!
The restaurant was cool because they let us play music. I thought that I hadn’t said goodbye to Guy; but when I walked to the front of the road, he walked passed me – actually looking for me. He joined us for a drink, we swapped contacts and then had to go – what a lovely guy Guy is, and I hope to see him again.
It started raining very strong and we decided not to go to the hot springs anymore. I found out that they aren’t really that great. Before we left the restaurant to catch the train, I booked us a room at the hostel and did some shopping.
The train journey from Aguas Calientes to Ollanta (Cost: 63 USD but included) with PeruRail was funny because Casey and I sat together with some Columbians. He exaggerated and almost got punched because he tried to hit on a Columbian’s wife. I apologized for him because he was drunk – shock.
At Ollanta, some of us got picked up by a minivan, apart from Casey and me. Caroline had a +1 person, so I sneaked on as her +1. Casey also sneaked in; Camila and Ygor were fine. In the end, they realised that there was one person too many and they caught Casey. This wasn’t a big deal because they just charged him 10 Soles. We had to wait even longer until the van was completely full. It was already dark and still raining. We arrived at the hostel about 10pm, finally showered again (it was good to be clean again and smell nice) and then it was off to live it up at Loki.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
Hiking the classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu was definitely another highlight of my travels around the world. I was incredibly lucky to meeting some cool, fun people. It was an exhausting hike; but at the end, we all were rewarded to see Machu Picchu surrounded by this amazing, beautiful landscape. It’s a magical place, and I will always remember the time I had there with very special people. Last but not least, I met Guy. I hope I never forget the image in my head and I’m happy to have made a lot of new friends.
I was again so lucky to have been in such a mixed group; it made my time and the trek unforgettable. The agency that I randomly found did such a great job in my opinion and for the price of 380 USD (last minute booking – two or three days before), it was so much cheaper than some others the group had booked from their home country. I attach the link in case you feel like going.
The trip ended with a nice afterparty at the Loki hostel.