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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

One of the best ways to reach Machu Picchu is via the Inca Trail, thus experiencing something truly unique. We tell you everything you need to know about this wonderful route.
Trek camino inca Fuente: CuscoPeru.Com
Arrival at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail.

In the Inca Empire of Tahuantinsuyo, a network of roads extending over 30,000 km was built, connecting the entire territory. Within this immense chain of paths is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a route that links Cusco with the citadel of Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is considered the best hiking route in Peru, surrounded by beautiful Andean and tropical landscapes with lush vegetation, archaeological sites that can only be accessed through this route, and the chance to encounter local wildlife along the way.

Location

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is located in the Andes mountain range with elevations ranging from 2,040 m to 4,200 m and a length of over 40 km from the starting point to the arrival at the citadel of Machu Picchu.

History and Significance of the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu represents only a small portion of the extensive network of paths that is the Qhapaq Ñan. It was unearthed with the discovery of the World Wonder in 1911.

The Inca Roads (Qhapac Ñan)

The Inca Trail or Qhapaq Ñan (as it was known in the time of the Incas) was built in the empire of Inca Pachacutec, the main expander of the Incan empire. This system of roads connected the entire territory of the Tahuantinsuyo (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina) with its more than 60,000 km in length, all of which converged in the city of Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire.

With the arrival of Spanish colonization, these roads were used in some sections to facilitate the movement of conquering troops.

In 2014, the Qhapaq Ñan was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thus recognizing its historical and cultural importance.

Important Data

Here we present some facts to keep in mind if you want to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Availability

The Inca Trail has only 200 spaces available per day for tourists, so spots tend to sell out very quickly. It is recommended to purchase the tour several months in advance to choose the date that suits you best.

Climate

The climate along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is generally mild throughout the year, with temperatures dropping at night. The best time to travel is during the dry season (April-October), as rainfall is less frequent and the path is safer.

Seasons Climate Min. Temp (°C) Max. Temp (°C) Humidity
Rainy season (November - March) Rainy 7 21 80%
Dry season (April - October) Dry 5 20 56%

Altitudes of the Inca Trail

The segment of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu reaches altitudes ranging from 2,040 m to 4,200 m above sea level.

Here we present a table considering the altitude of the most notable places along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:

Location Altitude
Qorihuayrachina 2658 m.a.s.l.
Patallaqta 2595 m.a.s.l.
Llaqtapata 2738 m.a.s.l.
Wayllabamba 2922 m.a.s.l.
Runkuraqay 3848 m.a.s.l.
Phuyupatamarca 3506 m.a.s.l.
Wiñayhuayna 2419 m.a.s.l.
Intipata 2863 m.a.s.l.
Intipunku 2691 m.a.s.l.

Important Routes

The route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can only be done through an authorized agency and accompanied by specialized guides.

Inca Trail Tours with Cusco Peru

CuscoPeru offers deals for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, so you can choose the one that best suits your preferences:

Tours Duration Dificultad
Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2 days and 1 night Easy-Moderate
Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 days and 3 nights Moderate

Short Inca Trail Short Inca Trail

Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2-Day Tour

This package includes trekking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a guided tour of Machu Picchu, and bus and train transfers. Recommended for people from 12 years of age with good physical condition and especially for adventurers.

This short tour is for those who do not wish to undertake the traditional 4-day hike, but still want to reach Machu Picchu on foot.

DAY 1: Cusco - KM 104 - Machu Picchu

This tour day starts early, picking you up from your hotel and heading to the train station to KM 104, where the walking journey to Machu Picchu begins. The first arrival point is Chachabamba and we will pass by the great waterfall of Phuyuwachi, continuing until reaching Intipunku (Sun Gate), where a spectacular view of Machu Picchu can be enjoyed and the classic photo taken.

We descend to the citadel to explore the tourist attraction and finally take the bus to Aguas Calientes to check into the hotel and spend the night.

DAY 2: Visit to the “LOST CITY OF THE INCAS”

The second tour day begins early, we have breakfast at the hotel and take the bus to the Archaeological Sanctuary of Machu Picchu to start the guided tour of the World Wonder. At the end, we board the train back to Ollantaytambo and you will be picked up from the station to be taken back to your hotel in Cusco.

Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4-Day Tour

This hiking route is 43 Km long, has a greater difficulty than the Short 2-day Tour, therefore, a pre-tour meeting with the guide one day before starting the journey is mandatory.

Day 1: Cusco – Wayllabamba

The hike begins early with a pickup from the hotel to Piskacucho or Km 82. The route includes visits to small archaeological sites until reaching Patallacta, an important city for the Incas. Lunch will be at Miskay, continuing the hike until reaching the campsite in Wayllabamba.

Day 2: Wayllabamba – Pacaymayo

We start after breakfast towards Pacaymayo, this being the most difficult trail with a 3-hour walk up to Warmiwañuska (Dead Woman), where we enjoy panoramic views of the landscape. After a rest, we descend to Pacaymayo , where lunch will be served and the camp is set up for the night.

Day 3: Pacaymayo – Wiñay Huayna

After breakfast, we continue the hike to the “Runcurakay Pass”, visit the archaeological site, and walk to Sayacmarca, where we'll have lunch and rest while enjoying the wonderful view. The hike continues towards the "City in the Clouds," Puyupatamarca, and then on to Wiñayhuayna, where we'll spend the night.

Day 4: Wiñay Huayna – Machu Picchu

On this last day of the tour, we leave very early to reach Intipunku (the Sun Gate) in time to watch the sunrise. From here, you can get a spectacular view of Machu Picchu with the first rays of the sun and take the iconic photo.

We descend to Machu Picchu for the guided tour and exploration of the Inca citadel. The guide will inform you of the return train time to Ollantaytambo, where upon arrival, you will be picked up and transferred back to your hotel.

Differences between the 2 and 4 Day Versions

Deciding which tour to take can be quite challenging. Below is a comparative table to help make this decision easier:

Tour Short Inca Trail Tour To Machu Picchu 2 Days Classic Inca Trail Tour To Machu Picchu 4 Days
Distance 10.37 Km 43 Km
Difficulty Moderate Moderate - High
Maximum altitude 2690 m 4200 m
Minimum altitude 2141 m 2160 m
Hiking time 6.20 h 25.1 h
Price per person 495 USD 755 USD

Planning and Preparation

When is the Best Time to Walk the Inca Trail?

The best time to undertake the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which runs from April to October, when there is no rain, making the route less challenging. Additionally, the weather is pleasant, enhancing the enjoyment of the view upon arriving at Machu Picchu.

What to Bring on the Inca Trail?

For the hike, it is recommended to carry light luggage, no more than a small backpack with some snacks, water, a camera, and lightweight items.

Recommendations for a Safe and Enjoyable Experience

  • Book the tour at least 6 months in advance, as spots are limited and tend to fill up quickly.
  • Carry your passport or identity document with you.
  • The Inca Trail includes stretches with steps, so it's important to wear appropriate and non-slip shoes.
  • Avoid carrying unnecessary luggage, as the extra weight can make the journey more strenuous.
  • Make sure to listen to the guide's instructions at all times to ensure a safer walk.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

How far in advance should I book the Inca Trail?

It is recommended to book the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (2 or 4 days) at least 3 months in advance to secure the date you wish to travel. Since the trail allows only 500 people per day (including guides, porters, and cooks), spots run out quickly.

During the high season (May, June, July, August, and September), it is advisable to book at least 6 months in advance.

When is the best time to do the Inca Trail?

The best time to undertake the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is during the dry season, from April to October, when there is no rainfall, making the route less challenging.

What kind of physical preparation should I have for the Inca Trail?

The route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a moderately demanding journey, involving long stretches and high altitudes. Therefore, it is suggested to be in good physical condition to avoid difficulties along the way.

Additionally, it is recommended to arrive in Cusco 2 or 3 days in advance to acclimatize and avoid altitude sickness.

Can I do the Inca Trail without a Guide?

No, access to the Inca Trail is exclusively in the company of a guide throughout the journey.

Are there options for food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Of course, when making your reservation at CuscoPeru.com, you should indicate if you have any type of dietary restriction so it can be accommodated during the trip.

What kind of meals are offered during the hike?

Our professional chef will provide an amazing variety of dishes:

  • Breakfast: This varies depending on the difficulty of the day ahead. It usually consists of a wide selection of items - oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, bread, and jam. You may have hot chocolate, coffee, tea, or simply a traditional coca tea.
  • Lunch and Dinner: You will always have a bowl of soup followed by a main course (chicken, beef, fish, etc., with rice or pasta). After this, dessert and a herbal drink native to the area.
  • Afternoon Snack (Happy Hour!): At the end of each day's hike, we will have hot drinks, popcorn, cookies, chocolate, etc.

Are there places to charge electronic devices?

No, as the trail is surrounded by nature, there are no places to charge electronic devices. It is recommended to bring a portable charger to keep your camera battery charged and be able to take many photos of the trail.

Are there bathrooms available during the hike?

Yes, there are bathrooms available during the hike. In the campsites and lunch spots along the way, you will find various facilities.

What should I do if I have health problems during the hike?

We have a very low rate of people turning back once on the trail. Our priority is to help you complete this journey, which is why we recommend a few days of acclimatization in Cusco before starting. All our guides are trained and carry a first aid kit and an oxygen bottle for emergencies.