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The Inka Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. In just 26 miles (43km) it manages to combine the Inka trail ruins, beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, and subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones ruins and tunnels. The final destination of the trail just cannot be beaten: Machu Picchu, the mysterious "Lost City of the Incas".

When hiking the classic InKa Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, there are many ruins along the trail that should not be missed. Although Machu Picchu is the highlight and end point of the trek there are many interesting beautiful sites along the way.

Most Inka Trail treks begin at either Km. 88 on the railroad to Machu Picchu, or the village of Chilca, which lies in the Urubamba Valley downstream from Ollantaytambo, to which it is connected by a dirt road. Below we are going to mentione the most important ruins the travelers visit during the InKa trail:

Llactapata Ruins: Located on the Cusichaca River near the entrance of the Vilcabamba jungle, Llactapata is an ancient Incan village that has many hillside farming terraces. Scientists believe that this site may have also served as an administrative and ceremonial support center to nearby Machu Picchu. It was recently discovered that the site had an important astronomical function during ceremonies, due to its design.

Sayacmarca Ruins: Situated 3600m on a small summit, Sayacmarca was actually built by the Colla who were fierce enemies of the Incas. Later on it was taken over by the Incas but since there was no room for agriculture the small ruin next to it was used as a farm to feed the 200 or so inhabitants. There are two parts to the ruin: the Temple of the Sun, which served as the solar observation post and the residential half. The Incas also built a canal system that brought water to houses and ceremonial baths.

Phuyupatamarca Ruins: Just beyond the Salkantay and Veronica Mountains and the Sayacmarca ruins is Phuyupatamarca, which means "town in the clouds" in Quechan. This impressive ruin has a challenging set of stairs to walk down, but it is worth the effort. The aqueduct system still provides water to the ceremonial baths and the circular walls were constructed with amazing intricacy.

Winay Wayna Ruins: A few hours walking distance from Phuyupatamarca is Winay Wayna (Eternal Youth), which is considered by many to be one of the most amazing examples of the mastery of Inca stonework. The site overlooks the Urubamba River and consists of upper and lower house clusters that are connected by a long, steep staircase. To the north are agricultural terraces and ceremonial baths or fountains.

Intipunku: The Sun Gate The gateway to Machu Picchu, also known as the Sun Gate, is situated southeast above the ruins. If timed right you can actually see the sun rise through the gate at the crack of dawn. The trail from this site served as the main Inca highway from Huinay Huayna to other sites in the south. The climb is fairly easy and takes about an hour there and back, and with amazing views of nearby Huayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu This great citadel, the largest and most elaborate of all the ruins, is the end point of the Inca Trail. Its name means Ancient Peak, and nestled in the mountains, this amazing site deserves a whole day of exploration.