Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 3: The Long and Winding Road

Inca Trail


“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear.”
–The Beatles

Day 3: Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna, approx. distance: 11 miles (18 km), approx. time: 8 hours.

{See also: Hiking the Inca Trail: Preparation | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4}

Inca Trail elevation

Inca Trail

This longest day of my Inca Trail hike was also the most relaxing, as we walked at our own paces over landscapes that changed with every twist and turn.

We started the hike by walking up steep steps for about half an hour. We had carried up stones from the stream that ran along our campsite, and we deposited them in a clearing in a symbolic offering to Pachamama, the goddess Mother Earth, while we each made a wish for ourselves.

Inca Trail Day 3

Inca Trail

My G Adventures guide Percy picked an exquisite spot for a break, where he performed an Andean song from his home village on the flute with clouds in the background level with his head and snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Inca Trail

(Video link)

We stopped for lunch at one of the most beautiful spots we had seen so far on the trail. My teenage sons had reached it before me, and they excitedly led my husband and me down into a hidden rock clearing to see the views. We had hiked above the clouds, and we saw jagged mountain tops all around, their white caps set off against a bright blue sky.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail

Inca Trail

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for having hiked this far into the middle of the wilderness, but I was humbled yet again by the crew who surprised us with a cake for our final lunch. Yes, I had managed to walk slowly along a path, while they had rushed ahead and baked a cake in a tent kitchen they had carried with them!

Inca Trail

During this day’s hike, I kept a more relaxed pace than the day before and enjoyed the gentle ups and downs of the trail. We gradually dropped down into a cloud forest, and the change in vegetation was dramatic, with green trees and mosses all around instead of the brown mountain sides we had been hiking beside the day before.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail

Inca Trail Day 3

We hiked through tunnels, along cliff edges, and across ancient Incan terraces. Most of the stones of the trail had been set down by the Incas before the Spanish came in a network of roads connecting their empire.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail

As the hours went by in this longest day of the hike, fatigue set in. By the time I reached camp at the end of Day 3, my thighs, knees, and ankles were screaming for a break. I crashed on my sleeping pad in my tent and daydreamed until tea time.

In our after-dinner meeting, we met with the porters and support staff to tell them how much we appreciated their hard work and to tip them directly.

My group agreed to get up at 3 a.m. to try to be the first group in the queue at the checkpoint on the final day, so I got to sleep after the dinner meeting as quickly as I could.

Exhausted down to my bones, my journey almost over, I was eager to see Machu Picchu in the morning.

{See also: Preparation | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4}

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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29 Responses to Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 3: The Long and Winding Road

  1. Pingback: Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 1: Peruvian Flatlands | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  2. beverlydiehl says:

    That looks incredible! What an adventure for the whole family, from the sights to the sounds. *tries unsuccessfully to content self with South American flute music CD*

  3. gem says:

    Gorgeous! Jealous! Glad your famlly got to enjoy it with you. Can’t wait till mine are older and at a more hike-able age.

    • Marcy says:

      I loved the “little boy” ages, but it is so exciting to see them becoming adults and doing things with them on that level.

  4. Annette says:

    This seems like such an amazing adventure, but just looking at the elevation diagram got me winded 😉

  5. iasoupmama says:

    Wow, what an experience!

  6. GORGEOUS! I love how serious the boys look in their pic! 😀

  7. dorothyadele says:

    That must have been an awesome trip. Your photos are crystal clear, are you a professional photographer?

  8. nataliedeyoung says:

    Gorgeous – both the photos, and the prose. 🙂

  9. Sam Merel says:

    Wow, these pictures are amazing. Looks like a great trip and a life-changing experience.

  10. Rae Hilhorst says:

    You are very inspirational, what a fantastic journey even more special to be able to celebrate with your family. xxx

  11. Ken says:

    You’re hiking through the jungle, and over mountains, I half expected you’d be eating things like nuts and berries and grubs and things. But cake! How awesome is that!

    Looks like quite the adventure!

  12. Abby says:

    Breathtaking views, and everyone looks so happy! Unforgettable, I’m sure. And I can barely bake a presentable cake in my own kitchen, let alone in a tent in the middle of nowhere!!

  13. Linda Roy says:

    How cool! I love that two of this week’s posts quote two of my favorite Beatles songs, btw. What an amazing adventure you guys had. Beautiful scenery. Truly something to remember forever.

  14. kp Attman says:

    Sounds peaceful, up there with just the clouds and mountains. Some years ago I traveled all through the Andes Mountains in Venezuela, and have fond memories of the area. Thanks for sharing this!

  15. Larks says:

    So much gorgeousness! I want to go to there…

  16. Pingback: Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 4: Race to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

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