We thought the views on Day 1 and Day 2 of the Inca Trail were spectacular but these were about to be blown out of the water by the scenery on Day 3. This is known as the “beautiful” day of the walk. It is also the longest day of hiking at 16km from Pacaymayu to Winay Wayna. It includes 2 passes, 4 Inca sites and a whole load of amazing vistas.
The first part of the hike is uphill past the first Inca ruins of Runkurakay from where you can look back to see Dead Woman’s Pass across the valley behind you. It then continues the ascent to the second highest point on the trail at 3,950m (12,916ft) above sea level. As you reach the top there is an extra mound to the left that you can scale to get 360degree views of the surrounding mountains (in good weather you can see Salkantay but this was just in a cloud the day we were there).
A short way down after this pass you come across the ruins of Sayaqmarka. There is a fairly steep staircase leading up to this but it is again stunning to have a wander round and from here you can see down towards the Sacred Valley.
After here our guide finally got it right when he called the next part of the route “undulating”. He had used this word to us so many times already just for the path to feel almost vertical but on this occasion it did fit the description. The hike is along Inca paving stones that at times are rather narrow and cling to the edge of the mountains. Some of the way there is vegetation growing up around you but when there is a break in the plants you can see for miles over some of the most stunning views I have ever witnessed. It took us a fair amount of time to traverse the path as we had to stop so regularly to take photos. Just as we were coming towards the top of the third pass (3,670m or 12,000ft above sea level), which also happened to be the point of our lunch spot, the mist rolled in which was highly atmospheric and added a whole new dimension to the experience and then we passed through it so we were greeted by more amazing sights at the summit itself.
Directly below our lunch spot was our 3rd Inca site where we stopped to listen to our guide give us more information on the spirituality of the Incas as this was one of their religious buildings and then carried on down towards camp 3. Towards the lower part of the hike the path split into 2. The porters took the direct route down into camp so they could start setting up but we were free to take the optional trail that brought us Intipata, a 4th Inca site. This one was made up of breathtakingly steep terraces overlooking the Urubamba River below. It was seriously impressive and made us look like ants on the hill. Some of the steps here were thigh-killingly huge (and yes I had to invent a new adjective to describe them), I basically had to jump down them.
From there it was just a quick jaunt down to the campsite itself which was located within the trees so the views weren’t as good as the other nights but after the day we had just had none of us were too concerned by this.
The achievement of conquering Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2 was great but this was undoubtedly my favourite day out on the trek. The scenery we saw was mind-boggling and although we tried to capture as many pictures as possible I honestly don’t think any of them do justice to the beauty of the track.
Have you ever had your breath taken away by the exquisiteness of somewhere? Does Day 3 of the Inca Trail appeal to you?