Cusco, The Inca Trail, and Machu Picchu: A Photo Journal



At an elevation of 11,150 feet, Cusco acted as the control center of the ancient Incan civilization. The city boasts two main plazas; the Plaza de Armas (pictures below) and the Plaza San Francisco. As I was told the Plaza de Armas is considered the ‘sad plaza’ as it was used primarily for religious ceremonies, while the Plaza San Francisco is considered the ‘happy plaza’ as it was where the Inca warriors marched though following victories.

The locals are incredibly friendly and many sell souvenirs, paintings, alpaca garments, and food near the main squares. Most were up for negotiating prices or taking photos for a few Peruvian Soles.


The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is a four day trek through the Andes Mountains that begins near the Sacred Valley and ends at the most famous and well recognized Incan city, Machu Picchu. The journey was traditionally a religious pilgrimage that only select Incans were allowed to take.

The second day of the trek was by far the most difficult as we had to climb the Dead Woman’s Pass (elevation 13,830 feet) shortly followed by another peak at 13,200 feet. The elevation is no joke – the lack of oxygen certainly makes the climb(s) significantly more difficult.

We had an amazing crew consisting of our tour guide Juan Carlos, five porters (many from the San Salvador community of the Sacred Valley) and a cook – all organized by Kaypi Peru tours.  All of the Incan Trail tour groups travel with  porters as they are to essential to making the trek possible. It’s pretty humbling to see these guys running up the side of the mountain with bulky packs  weighing up to 55 pounds.

Several years a race was held on the Incan trail from Machu Picchu back to the Sacred Valley.  I was told professional runners and hikers from all over the world showed up with the all sorts of fancy and expensive equipment. A porter from a local community crushed the competition with a time of four and a half hours. As I previously mentioned, it’s typically a four day trek…


Machu Picchu

The Incan city of Machu Picchu was never finished before the Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish invaded Peru. The city was incredibly sacred to the Incans and only the upper-class elite knew about its existence.  The city had sectors for agriculture, administration, housing, astronomy, and most importantly, religion.  With 3,800 deities (primarily derived from nature), religion was incredibly important to the Incans and the city of Machu Picchu has temples specifically devoted to two of their most important gods, the sun and the condor.

When we arrived the city was completely covered by rain clouds. After a thirty-minute wait Machu Picchu became visible, the rain cleared up, and the sun emerged.  Throughout our trip the weather seemed completely unpredictable and constantly changing every thirty minutes. As our guides said, forecasts or weather apps don’t work in the Andes.

Sean Packard