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The Inca Trail
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Inca Trail, route to the Inca City of Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is considered the best trek in South America. It is a 43 kilometer route through ancient Inca trails to Machu Picchu. The duration of the tour is 4 days and 3 nights. Tourists have the opportunity to appreciate the scenic beauty with Inca archaeological sites including the Wonder of the World.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The incredible Inca Trail, the most spectacular hiking route in South America

The roads of the Inca (Qhapac Ñan)

The Incas encompassed much of the South American continent. To maintain communication in such a vast territory it was necessary to build a network of roads. Thus, the Inca ordered to build a network of roads called Qhapac Ñan (Camino del Inca).

The Qhapac Ñan were able to cover up to 30 thousand kilometers from the current countries of Peru, Ecuador and part of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. The hiking route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is only a small part of the extensive road network of the Qhapac Ñan.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail was revealed to the world in 1915 when it was being excavated in the Inca City. Three decades later, the route was traced by the Viking expedition in 1942. Today, thousands of visitors decide to travel the 43 kilometers to the ‘Puerta del Sol’ in Machu Picchu.

However, Machu Picchu is not the only archaeological site you will see on the Inca Trail. In the tour you will also appreciate the ruins of Llactapata, the archaeological site of Runkurakay, Saycamarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñaywayna.

There are trains and buses that can take you directly to Machu Picchu. However, the experience of arriving as the Incas did during centuries is unmatched.

Versions of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Not all people have the necessary days to travel the Inca Trail (4 days and 3 nights). That is why there are 2 versions depending on the time that is counted:

  • Classic Inca Trail: 4 days and 3 nights (43 kilometers of hiking).
  • Short Inca Trail: 2 days and 1 night (12 kilometers of walk).

How is the tour of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The Inca Trail shows rugged geographies with ascents and descents on the side of precipices. The mountains reach great heights with uneven stretches. In the jungle areas you will see the variety of tones of green tropical forests.

  • Day 1: Cusco – Wayllabamba (13 kilometers)

    The Inca Trail begins at kilometer 82 of the railway that leads to Machu Picchu (2 hours and 30 minutes by bus from the city of Cusco). Then the ascent to the valley of Cusichaca will begin. The visitor will visit the ruins of Llactapata (2,840 masl) until reaching the town of Huayllabamba (3,057 masl).

  • Day 2: Wayllabamba – Pacaymayo (11 kilometers)

    The second day is the most difficult due to the physical demand. The tourist will ascend to the Warmiwañuska (‘Passage of the dead woman’). This is the highest point of the route (4,215 meters above sea level). From this point it is possible to see the archaeological site of Runkurakay (3,760 masl).

  • Day 3: Pacaymayo – Wiñay Huayna (16 kilometers)

    On the third day, the descent will be vertiginous to the valley of the Pacaymayo river. The section goes down a stepped slope of almost 1, 600 meters to the site of Sayaqmarca (3.625 masl). Here the view is extraordinary.

  • Day 4: Wiñay Huayna – Machu Picchu (3 kilometers)

    The last day hides some of the best Inca exhibitions: Phuyupatamarka, Wiñaywayna. When leaving these ruins, a gradual descent will be undertaken that will become more complicated in the end. Finally, you will arrive at the Intipunku or Puerta del Sol. From there you will walk for another 30 minutes to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu.

After visiting Machu Picchu, the visitor returns to Cusco through a train and bus service. The duration of the trip is approximately 3 hours. These services are included in the tours to the Inca Trail.

During the 4 days of the Inca Trail you will experience tiredness and very low temperatures (between the Andes Mountain Range and the Amazonian forests).

And how is the tour of the Short Inca Trail (2 days)?

The short Inca trail is easy. It only travels approximately 11 kilometers. The first part is uphill so it is the most difficult. Once at the archaeological site of Wiñay Huayna, the path becomes easier. The entrance to Machu Picchu, like the Classic Inca Trail, is through the Puerta del Sol.

  • Day 1: Cusco – Km. 104 – Aguas Calientes (11 kilometers)

    The Short Inca Trail begins at kilometer 104 of the Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu railway (2 hours 45 minutes from the city of Cusco by car). From there you ascend through tropical landscapes (11 kilometers) until you reach the archaeological site of Wiñay Huayna from where you continue until you reach Machu Picchu.

  • Day 2: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu

    Tourists will not visit Machu Picchu until day 2 when they depart by bus from their hotel in Aguas Calientes to the entrance gate to Machu Picchu. Finally, you will get to know the Inca City together with your tour guide. The return is by train and bus to the city of Cusco.

Difference Inca Trail 4 days and 2 days

DifferencesInca Trail 4 daysInca Trail 2 days
Distance39 kilometers11 kilometers
DifficultyModerate – HighModerate
Max HeightAbra Warmiwañusca (4,215 masl).Intipunku (2,745 masl).
Minimum heightAguas Calientes (2,040 masl).Aguas Calientes (2,040 masl).
Campsite3 nights of camping1 night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes
FeedingCooks (3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners)1 box lunch as well as 1 dinner and 1 breakfast (in a restaurant)
Guide4 days professional guideProfessional guide 2 days
PortersIt does include 3 days of portersDoes not include the porter service
Archaeological SitesLlactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna and Machu PicchuChachabamba, Wiñayhuayna and Machu Picchu
Price (approximate)600 USD500 USD

About tickets to enter the Inca Trail

Due to the high demand for tickets, you must get entry tickets to the Inca Trail a long time in advance (6 months). The purchase is made only through the Internet through the website of an authorized tourism agency.

In total 500 people enter the trails of the Inca Trail every day. Of them, only 200 are tourists. The rest is support personnel such as cooks, porters, guides. The ticket to enter the Inca Trail includes the support staff.

Did not find availability to do the Inca Trail? The only way to enter the Wonder of the World is by train through the Sacred Valley of the Incas or through the alternative route from Santa María to Machu Picchu. Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu must also be reserved in advance.

Do you want to enter Huayna Picchu after the Inca Trail? Request entry into the agency paying an extra price. You can also request a more luxurious train service.

When is the best time to travel the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

From May to September (dry season) is the ideal time to travel the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. These months are usually good for the crossing due to the low frequency of rains.

In the months of November to March the summer (rainy season) occurs. This time is usually very rainy, which makes walking and access difficult. Even, it will not be able to cross the Inca Trail in February due to the precipitations and works of maintenance.

What to take to the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail includes basic items such as: personal tent, tent for the kitchen, insulating mattress, food (breakfast, lunch and dinner), among others.

To enjoy the best way this adventure is recommended, in addition, carry the following:

  • Sleeping bag.
  • Walking stick.
  • Backpack for trekking.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Poncho for the rain.
  • Bottle of water.
  • Water purifier.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Snacks.
  • Cleaning items.

How much does the Inca Trail cost?

The prices of the Inca Trail vary according to each tourist agency. The services that are included are: entrance to the Inca Trail, access to Machu Picchu, official tourist guide, transportation, food and porters (one per person).

The average cost of the Inca Trail is the following:

Classic Inca Trail (4 days)Short Inca Trail (2 days)
Adult prices600 U$D500 U$D
University student prices580 U$D480 U$D
Prices under 18 years580 U$D480 U$D

*Prices are averages and are in US dollars.

Recommendations on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

  • The Inca Trail runs through high Andean landscapes where the ‘altitude sickness’ or ‘soroche’. is manifested . It is recommended to spend 1 or 2 days in the city of Cusco to acclimatize.
  • During the 4 days of the Inca Trail there is no electricity or telephone network. If the visitor needs to be ‘connected’, he must take precautions.
  • The hygienic services are camps conditioned for that purpose.
  • The classic Inca Trail consists of groups composed of a maximum of 16 people. If the visitor wishes to take a tour with a private group, they must request it online in advance. This service has an additional cost.
  • The Inca Trail is considered to be of medium moderate difficulty. It is advised to be in an acceptable physical condition. A previous week of exercises will be enough.
  • If you do not get availability for the Inca Trail, you can choose to get to Machu Picchu through the Salkantay route.

Salkantay, Choquequirao and other incredible treks to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is not the only trekking route that takes several days to reach Machu Picchu. There are also other very famous ones such as: the Salkantay Trek, the route to Choquequirao or the Lares Trek.

The Salkantay Trek

  • A hiking route of 5 days and 4 nights (it can vary to 4 days and 3 nights) that runs through the landscapes of the snowy Salkantay.
  • The trek is more difficult than the Inca Trail. This is mainly due to the high-altitude landscapes it traverses. The ‘Abra Salkantay’ (4,6450 m.a.s.l.) is the highest point of the trek.
  • Access to Machu Picchu is through the town of Aguas Calientes. This walk can be done on your own, although it is best to hire a tour.

The Lares Trek

  • A hiking route of 4 days, 3 nights that crosses Andean towns with a lot of tradition as well as the town of Lares, famous for its thermo-medicinal baths.
  • This trek is easier than the Inca Trail. The last part of the trip includes a train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and from there to Machu Picchu by bus.
  • The Lares Trek can be done on your own. However, it is best to do it with a tourism agency.

The Choquequirao – Machu Picchu route

  • An extreme excursion of 8 days and 7 nights that goes to Machu Picchu along a route that includes a visit to the archaeological site of Choquequirao (known as the sacred Sister of Machu Picchu).
  • This adventure has a high difficulty. Few tourists dare to travel this route. Access to Machu Picchu is through Aguas Calientes, the town located at the foot of the Inca City.
  • This route can only be done with a tourism agency due to the danger of getting lost in the mountains.

Questions and answers about the Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu

  • 1) How many kilometers is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

    The route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu lasts 4 days and 3 nights of camping. It covers 39 kilometers in total.

  • 2) Can I see Inca archaeological sites on the route?

    Yes, during the walk you can see different Inca archaeological sites. Highlights: The Llactapata archaeological site, the Runkurakay archaeological site, the Sayacmarca archaeological site, the Phuyupatamarca archaeological site and the Wiñayhuayna archaeological site.

  • 3) Where does the Inca Trail start?

    The route begins at kilometer 82 of the train track that connects the town of Ollantaytambo with the town of Aguas Calientes.

  • 4) Can I do the Inca Trail alone?

    No, the Inca Trail route can only be done with the permits granted by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. The tourist must contract a tour with a tourism agency, which is in charge of processing the permits and everything necessary for the adventure.

  • 5) Is the Inca Trail safe?

    Yes, the route has signs and surveillance points. It is recommended to follow the instructions of the tour guide for a safe adventure

  • 6) Can everyone complete the Inca Trail?

    The route is suitable for all people. However, it is recommended that children over the age of 8 who like hiking. Seniors must be in good physical condition.

  • 7) Does the route close at any time of the year?

    Yes, the Inca Trail route closes the entire month of February due to heavy rains and maintenance work on the site.

  • 8) Does the route to Machu Picchu include camping nights?

    The entrance to the Inca Trail is included in the tours. Tours cost approximately $600 per person. It also offers everything you need for the adventure, including the entrance to Machu Picchu.

  • 9) How much does it cost to enter the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

    The entrance to the Inca Trail is included in the tours. Tours cost approximately $600 per person. It also offers everything you need for the adventure, including the entrance to Machu Picchu.

  • 10) What does the tour to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu include?

    All tours to the 4-day Inca Trail include: permits for the route, full transportation, professional guide, team of cooks, team of porters, camping utensils, entrance to Machu Picchu and return to Cusco.


By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, December 30, 2023