Hiking the Sacred Valley and Huayna Picchu, Peru

Peru Travel Blog

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The Urubamba Valley

I try to take an international hiking vacation every year - but due to a job layoff, did not take one in 2002 or 2003.  It was particularly disappointing, not only because it was a break in tradition, but also since we had planned a special 'centennial trip' for 2002 - I was turning 40, my mother and hiking buddy, 60 - which, of course, equals 100.  We had chosen the Inca Trail in Peru for this celebration, but were forced to cancel at the last minute. 
Usually I spend a year in advance planning trips (I have a list of dream destinations and without careful planning I'll never fit them in before I die!), but because of the job uncertainty, I didn't plan anything.  So, when I was fortunate to find a great position in 2004, we were left with no place to go to celebrate.  Luckily, my two travbuddies Carol & Bill had planned a trip to Peru, so we joined them at the last minute.

The Urubamba River
  It wasn't what we had originally intended, but we still got to at least see the Inca Trail and hike on a small portion of it - which was certainly better than not to have seen or hiked at all.
Carol & Bill had signed up for a tour, which I had never done before.  We joined a small group of hardy travelers in Lima and did the sights, then flew to Cusco and did more sights.  While the tour was exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas by river raft down the Urubamba River, Carol, Bill, Jac and I broke off to explore by foot.  We were able to hike for the day along the Urubamba River from Ollantaytambo, where we were staying, towards Machu Picchu along the original Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu
  Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca town, with extant Inca buildings as well as numerous archaeological sites.  Along the gentle, weaving path that is the start of the 3-4 day traditional Inca Trail Hike, we passed through villages, met with children and saw awesome, valley scenery.  It was a great taste of the Trail and allowed us to interact with the locals - which we had not been able to do unsupervised on the tour bus.   
At the end of the day, we joined back up with our group and continued to Machu Picchu by wheels instead of our feet.  When we arrived at MP, we toured a bit with our guide group and saw the typical sites, then broke again from the group to hike Huayna Picchu - the highest peak in MP.
Up Huayna Picchu
  It is a well traversed hike but we did not find it crowded though we did see the occasional fellow hiker.  Although it's short, it's still steep enough to deter most of the visitors to MP.
We found it to be relatively short - taking about two hours up if you're in good condition.  There are many places to stop and enjoy the view along the way, which we did, so it took us longer to reach the top.  It's quite steep and narrow, and at some particularly steep spots there were ropes to assist with the climb.  There are also trail offshoots to other spots like the Temple of the Moon that can extend the hike if you wish and have the time.  Carol & Bill, the two most fit of our group, took an offshoot that was supposed to take over an hour, yet they still caught up with us to complete the hike down together. 
Prior to ascending, make sure you ask the mountain god for permission to trespass!  The views from the top, at 8,860 feet / 2,701 meters, are spectacular and well worth the effort. 

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The Urubamba Valley
The Urubamba Valley
The Urubamba River
The Urubamba River
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Up Huayna Picchu
Up Huayna Picchu
Asking the mountain for strength
Asking the mountain for strength
Valley girl
Valley girl
Valley folk
Valley folk
View of Machu Picchu from the top …
View of Machu Picchu from the top…