Hiking the Inca Trail with Turia Pitt
Taking in the awe-inspiring views and mystical ruins of the Inca Trail is a life-changing experience. The journey to Machu Picchu is long, but the exhaustion is worth it when you're looking out at the beautiful valleys and gazing upon the mysterious ruins of the ancient city.Turia Pitt recently hiked the trail with a team to raise funds for Interplast – a charity that provides free reconstructive surgery to people in developing countries. Follow their journey below and read more in our Inca Trail destination guide.
About Turia & Interplast
Turia's Inca Trail Challenge raised vital funds to help Interplast perform life-changing surgery throughout the Asia Pacific. As a humanitarian, Turia is dedicated to Interplast's vision to bring timely, high quality surgery, medical and health services to developing countries.
Visit the Interplast website to learn more or donate.
Your next adventure: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Where in the world? Peru
Activity: Hiking, Tramping
Difficulty: Although the trail is long, there are plenty of places to rest and you can take your time completing it.
Wrap up: The Inca Trail is one of the most famous hikes in the world and it's not hard to see why. You'll travel through beautiful cloud forests, see spectacular views and get a first-hand look at the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu. There's nothing quite like it.
Turia Pitt's suggested Inca Trail itinerary
Day 1: Depart Australia and arrive in Peru. If you're looking for a delicious meal, you might like to try the traditional Peruvian seafood dish called ceviche.
Day 2: Fly over the Andes to Cusco and explore the town while you acclimatise to the altitude of the Andes.
Day 3: Explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Day 4: Explore and prepare for the first day of trekking.
Day 5: Begin the 4 day trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This leg of the trek will take you from Cusco to Llactapata (7km).
Day 6: Trek from Llactapata to Llulluchapampa (12km).
Day 7: Trek from Llulluchapampa to Phuyupatamarca ruins (16km).
Day 8: Set off early for your final day of trekking to see the sun rise over the peaks of Salcantay and Veronica. Rest in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes (9km).
Day 9: Explore Machu Picchu and Cusco!
Day 10: Visit Cusco's outlying Inca ruins, visit the colonial churches, bargain hunt in the local markets.
Day 11: Depart Peru.
*For tips and more information about getting to the Inca Trail, read our destination guide.
A stand out experience from the trek was climbing Huayna Picchu. This towering mountain rises over Macchu Picchu, giving you a bird's-eye view of the ancient ruins. The walk is challenging but permits for this mountain are limited, so it doesn't get too busy.
As you face the steep and exposed climb up to the summit, be prepared to experience some strong wind. At the top, there are small floating steps with a sheer drop on either side that lead to a narrow tunnel. You'll need to take off your backpack to shuffle through this claustrophobic-inducing cave, but it's worth it when you reach the top and see the incredible view.
Places to stay
Don't make the mistake of flying to Cusco and trying to hike the next day. Spend a few days in the city to adjust to the altitude and reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
On the first leg of the Inca Trail you will travel from Cusco to Llactapata (12km). This campsite is set on top of a ridge between the spectacular Aobmaba and Salcantay valleys. There are also some Inca ruins to explore while you are there.
After trekking through stunning forests on the second leg of the Trail, you will arrive at Llulluchapampa campsite. Relax and take in the serenity and views as you rest up for the longest leg of the adventure – Llulluchapampa to Phuyupatamarca ruins (16km).
Known as "The City Above the Clouds", Phuyupatamarca often lives up to its name with clouds floating close by and sometimes blanketing the ruins. This is a fitting place to rest after a day hiking and seeing some of the most amazing views on the trail.
On your final day of trekking you'll walk from Phuyupatamarca ruins to the town of Aguas Calientes (9km). Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) is in a deep gorge below Machu Picchu. You'll get a glimpse of Machu Picchu on the way and after getting a good night's sleep in town you can set out to explore it the next day.
- Macchu Picchu is the best known Inca site, but there are plenty of uncrowded and spectacular sites to see along the way.
- Keep an eye out for huge condors flying high overhead. The condor is a sacred animal for the Quechuans as they believed he was the master of the wind, clouds and the sky. There's even a temple called el Condor in Macchu Picchu itself.
- If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of the elusive hummingbirds on the trek between Llactapata and Llulluchapampa.
Tips and Hints from Turia Pitt
- Take a thick fleece and rain jacket to protect you on the exposed areas of the track and keep you warm at night.
- Work on your fitness before you go and make sure your gear (especially your shoes) is comfortable.
- Complete a couple of sessions of altitude training before you go.
What we packed
My Merrell Moab GTX Hiking Shoe were super comfortable and I didn't get blisters. I would recommend wearing them in first to make sure they are comfortable for the long hike ahead. The Merrells were a great shoe for our trip because they have enough grip for the Inca Trek but they are light enough to be able to walk around town. I wore them pretty much all trip.
Thermals are great to keep you warm at night, but get annoying in the day when you warm up and start to remove layers. Instead of wearing thermals during the day I kept myself warm with lots of layers..
My favourite thing was probably my neck gaiter which I could pull up over my face to keep me warm.
I loved the Sea to Summit dry sack – on days when rain was forecast I could keep all my electronics dry and protected.