Mystical hidden ruins




September 2011 • Canon 40D camera

UNESCO World Heritage site
Part of the Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System

Hike stats

16km (9mi)



Highest point

7–9 hours


An early start as usual. My legs were feeling a little tired from yesterday. I was not alone, as the rest of the group commented over breakfast discussing the trek yesterday. After the grueling steep climb up Dead Woman’s Pass, we now had a day of downward trekking at our own leisurely pace.

This part of the trail is considered to be the most scenic, passing through cloud forests and hidden Inca ruins. It was a welcomed surprise for me to see Inca ruins on the trail as I did not expect to see any before arriving at Macchu Picchu. But there were a healthy number dotted around the trail. Some you saw from a distance, others you had a chance to actually go and visit. And today we had a chance visit some.


After walking though the clouds (yes we were that high up!) between a valley we arrived at the first ruins of the day Runkuraqay. This is a a circular shaped ruin.

No one really knows what the building was used for—a lookout post, a temple of the Sun or just a resting place. After a brief stop here we continued hiking up.

Laguna Cochapata

We then proceeded gently up through Runkuraqay pass, briefly stopping at Laguna Cochapata. The scenery was dramatic with the mountains and the swirling clouds. From here we descended down as this would be the last time we would be this high on the Inca trail.

I could feel a bit of pain on my knees as I went down. I had pushed myself a lot yesterday speeding up dead woman's pass and felt the effects of that today. Nonetheless it did not stop the enjoyment of the trail.

Did you know...

Cloud forests are found on the mountain slopes of the Andes and considered the worlds most biodiverse ecosystem. They contain an enormous amount of life–from plants to animal species–thanks to plenty of rainfall and sunshine. Cloud forests also play a vital role in capturing moisture (thanks to the low clouds) to increase the amount of water in the water cycle of the ecosystem.


After trekking through another cloud forest we arrived at another set of ruins, Sayacmarca. From the distance the ruins dramatic setting looked mystical with the low hanging clouds and mist. It had started to drizzle with rain as we made our way through a narrow, steep path that lead to the ruins on the edge of a mountain top.

A large complex of impressive stone workmanship, we walked around the corridor of walls. They were the best preserved ruins so far on the trail. One wonders how magnificent the building would have been when it was first built.

From here we hiked through another cloud forest. The foliage here was dense and you felt like it was covering you up as you went along. Some parts had a magical, mystical feel like you were in a fairy tale or movie the way the trees tangled up and the strange planets we walked passed. The weather was still cloudy and misty which made the trekking more dramatic in the sense. We passed another small ruin along the way, Qunchamarka.

On this part of the trail there was also an Inca tunnel that was cut through the mountain. A stone staircase led you down, through and out onto the other side. The stone pathways became slippery as the light rain kept coming. By the time we got to the campsite it was raining heavy. You will feel grateful to have the porters with you to go ahead and set up your tents. Things would have been a lot more difficult if every evening we would have to set up our own tents especially if it was raining.

Final thoughts

Today was the day that lived up to what I had expected the Inca trail to be. Not that the other two days was a disappointment, but before I came to Peru I imagined that the Inca trail would be trekking through forests and passing through ancient Inca ruins. From the low clouds hovering on the mountain to the misty ruins around the cloud forests today felt epic. The walking poles came in very good use today as my knees were still a bit sore from the dead woman's hike yesterday so always carry a pair of walking poles.

The heavy rain was quite a surprise towards the end of the trek. At the campsite everything was wet—including our bags that the porter carried. Important note: when you pack your bag for the Inca trail, place your clothes in a small waterproof bag and put that in your main bag. That way when it rains heavily your clothes will not be wet or damp (as some of guys in our group found out the hard way)

Explore more of Peru


Inca Trail begins

The start of the classic Inca Trail with a gentle hike on a sunny day


Rising to the clouds

Hiking up to the highest and most challenging part of the Inca Trail


Inca Trail finale

The grand finale: the classic Inca trail comes to a close

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