Discovering the lost villages of the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is often cited as one of the most iconic hiking routes in the world, leading intrepid trekkers deep into the Peruvian Andes to reach the fabled city of Machu Picchu. While that’s fantastic, one thing that often gets forgotten is the astounding array of ruins you’ll see en route to Machu Picchu if you follow the classic trail.

So, we’re going to take a look at some of the amazing sites you can visit before you get to Machu Picchu. Granted, none of them are as impressive as your ultimate goal, but they do all give you an insight into the Inca civilisation and go some way to indicating just how important this route through the mountains once was.

If you’d like more information about the itinerary on the classic Inca Trail, visit this website.

Patallacta

Patallacta (also known as Llaqtapata) is the first ruined village you’ll come to when you set out on the Inca Trail. What’s left is an impressive set of agricultural terraces and a collection of houses. You’ll have good views of the terraces from a high vantage point as you continue your walk along the trail, while some tour operators camp near the ruins giving you the opportunity to explore them more fully.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Runcuracay

The Runcuracay ruins are limited to a single outpost that is thought to be an Inca tambo – a building that was constructed for administrative or military purposes, while some were also used as lodges. A reasonable amount of the walls still stand in this tambo, which is found near the mountain pass of the same name.

Sayacmarca

Sayacmarca translates as ‘inaccessible town’ and when you see the ruins here you’ll certainly understand this name. The fortified settlement is situated on a promontory that’s surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs. There’s only one set of stairs in and out of the town, so entry could be tightly controlled.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

It’s well worth taking a bit of time to explore here and wander among the remains of the houses and temples that still stand. There’s one structure that is thought to have been a temple of the sun that was also utilised as a solar observatory.

Phuyupatamarca

After the third mountain pass you’ll reach Phuyupatamarca – or ‘town in the clouds’. This former Inca settlement is one of the most impressive, with a stone staircase leading you between what are thought to be ceremonial baths before you reach what remains of the town itself.

These ruins are quite extensive, so as with Sayacmarca, don’t rush to look around them. From their location high above the valley, you’ll also have excellent views of two other Inca sites – Intipata and Winay Wayna.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Intipata

Intipata is the less interesting of the two final Inca ruins you’ll see before you get to Machu Picchu, being comprised primarily of agricultural terraces. Rather than heading down here to explore, it’s best to simply enjoy the views from Phuyupatamarca.

Winay Wayna

Winay Wayna, on the other hand, is certainly worthy of further exploration before you continue on the final leg of your journey. There are the remains of numerous buildings here, as well as extensive agricultural terraces.

There’s a rather steep staircase that runs from the top to the bottom of the ruins, leading you past what are thought to be ceremonial baths. It’s situated on a steep slope that overlooks the Urubamba River, giving you wonderful views of the valley too.