Inca Trail Day 4 - Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Inca Trail Day 4 - Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Sun, 07/07/2024 - 10:00
Macchu Picchu

Macchu Picchu

Activity: Inca Trail 5D/4N Alpaca Expeditions

Hike: 10 km 

Day 96

Our 5 am routine continues but today we have a deadline. The Machu Picchu site closes at 5 pm and if we want to have time to wander the site, we need to maintain a steady pace. That doesn’t mean a fast pace. It helps that today is supposedly the easiest.

Easy would be for a younger team – the way today is mostly down and our group is slower down than up. The stairs are extremely narrow and some portions are steep. Especially when you walk through Inca ruins. There are more as we get closer to Machu Picchu to our delight.

But first we enjoy a superb sunrise – this camp site is the most beautiful for the entire trail and you get to camp there only if you do the 5 days route. It’s on one of the highest points and it’s fairly bare so you get great view all around.

Sunrise at Phuyupatamarca
Sunrise at Phuyupatamarca


And, as the presence of the Inca astronomical temple / place hints, the night sky there is exceptional. We woke up around 10 pm with Alexis and looked up to see the milk way. 
We start the day with the ruins right below us, Phuyupatamarca. It’s now sitting above the clouds. There Alfie explains more about the stars, the milky way and the Inca calendar. We also do our little coca leaves thank you ceremony to Pachamama. We are one of the last groups to leave and we have the site all for ourselves.

steps down

Then it’s a steep walk down impossible steep staircases through tropical forest and shaded path. We stop to visit Intipata which is large complex of terrasses that are about 1h30 walk from Machu Picchu and was one of the main farming locally to feed the city. Machu Picchu was estimated to house about 1,000 people and when you visit you realize that there aren’t a lot of farming terrasses there. There are however a lot of large farming terrasses along the Inca trail and within a 2hrs walk from the city. Intipata is one of them. It’s exceptionally steep there and the view is breathtaking. We regroup there before continuing further down to our lunch spot.


This lunch spot is a meeting point for 2 Inca trails. Ours but also the one that came from the valley and that the 2 days tour to Machu Picchu also take. It’s a busy and crowded stop. We won’t have the trail all for ourselves like the previous days.  It’s also blistering hot today – the sun is shining hard.

After lunch, we do a small detour to se Wiñay Wayna – it’s possibly one of the most beautiful ruins on the trail. It’s on a conical shape with a waterfall on the background and nice terrasses. The houses are almost all complete, only the roof is missing. We have the site for ourselves again. I am unsure how Alfie manages this – he just seems to pick the right window for us.

Winay Wayna
Wiñay Wayna

But time to put the last 2hours of effort. We have come a long way down. We are at the back of the Machu Picchu, we will have to get back up at some point. It’s an easy 1h30 fairly flat to the bottom of our steepest staircase of the trail. Apparently, it’s called the “gringo-killer”. On all 4, we climb up. Luckily, it’s short. These were the last really up-hill to the Sun gate.

Gringo killer
Gringo killer staircase

Indeed, the Sun Gate with our very first view of the Machu Picchu is 20min walk later.

It’s such a beautiful site to arrive there ! To be rewarded after a long trek with this view is so rewarding. And since we were always on the last groups – we don’t have a crowd there. We can take pictures and a well-deserved breather. 

From the sun gate, you still have a gentle slope going down to the Machu Picchu itself. It takes about 1h to get there, but you walk through terrasses, small farming structure and an imposing rock altar where mommies where found. Alfie gives us extra tidbits of archeological knowledge as we continue down.

last hour down to Machu Picchu
last hour down to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

We reach the Machu Picchu proper and the upper terrasses a little after 4pm. And most groups are already gone. Which means we can take our time admiring this amazing view. We take a lot of pictures, group pictures. The sun hits the site just right. The light is perfect. We all spend at least 15min in reverent silence enjoying the site. 

Machu Picchu

We are again the last ones out of the site and catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes where we will spend the night. By 6pm, we are in our hotel room – tired but happy. 

The diner is at 7.30 pm and we have lost half of the group to sleep. They decided after a hot shower to skip diner and just rest. Tomorrow after all is another long day of visits and an early start.