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What is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu really like?
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What is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu really like?

The Inca Trail is considered one of the best hiking routes in the entire world. The reason is its historic stone paths that lead to none other than one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. There, tourists’ first sight will be the Intipunku, the ‘Gate of the Sun’ through which the Incas entered the Inca citadel. This first landscape view of Machu Picchu is unforgettable. Get to know what the Inca Trail is really like. You dare?

Inca Trail to MachuPicchu

View from IntiPunku to Machu Picchu

The best hiking route in the world

  • The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is considered the best hiking route in the world. This is because it combines history, adventure and, if that were not enough, Machu Picchu.
  • The Inca Trail runs 39 kilometers along the historic qhapac ñan or royal roads of the Incas. The section includes a visit to archaeological sites such as: Llactapata, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna, Intipata and, of course, Machu Picchu.
  • The route is not easy but it is not impossible either. Tourists will have to ascend along trails in the Andes Mountains, at a maximum altitude of 4,215 meters above sea level. Then they will descend through the high jungle of Cusco, a geography of forests, abundant flora and fauna until arriving at Machu Picchu at 2,430 meters above sea level.
  • The hiking route ends in Machu Picchu, an Inca citadel in excellent condition. On the last day, tourists will be able to tour the buildings and get memorable photos in one of the best tourist attractions on the planet.
  • The Inca Trail is a route protected by the Peruvian State. Therefore, only people who have the required permit will be able to do the walk. This permit is processed by a tourism agency. Therefore, the visitor will only be able to do the walk along with an all-inclusive tour organized by an official agency.
  • The tour includes everything: pick up from the hotel, camp, permits, professional guide, necessary transportation, food with cooks, team of porters who carry the appropriate utensils, entrance to Machu Picchu and return to Cusco.

This is the Inca Trail 4 days to Machu Picchu

Day 1, the Andes Mountains

  • The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu does not begin in Cusco but in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Therefore, the adventure begins with the pick-up of the tourist from their hotel in the city of Cusco. After a trip of approximately 2 hours, you arrive at the starting point of the walk at kilometer 82 of the railway to Machu Picchu.
  • Know that traveling the Andes along the Inca Trail is not about having a great physique, it is rather about having great inner strength. You will begin the walk in the middle of rolling hills, the closest to the Andes mountain range. As you ascend the sun rises and the air becomes thinner (really low oxygen levels).
  • That day you will learn how things work on the Inca trail, you will see how the porters overcome the Inca steps very quickly; They are nothing like the hundreds of stairs at the place where he trained. They carry the largest packages (no more than 18 kilos) in front and will wait for you with lunch ready.
  • After crossing the Urubamba River in Q’ente you will have the option to see the archaeological sites of Wayna Q’ente and Llaqtapata. At noon you enjoy a lunch prepared by the team of cooks.
  • Then the walk continues, mostly along flat sections, until arriving at the Ayapata camp. There it’s time to have dinner and spend the night in a comfortable and safe camp. That day the walk will be approximately 13 kilometers.

Ascent of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Ascent of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Day 2, the passage of the dead woman

  • The second day is considered the most difficult of the Inca Trail. This is because you ascend several stone stairs until you reach the highest point.
  • Bring hiking shoes that fit your feet. The climb is quite steep; So much so that it is possible that, at the end of the day, you will end up thinking about why you chose to suffer for 4 days if there are trains that can take you to Machu Picchu in just 4 hours.
  • However, this day will show you beautiful mountain landscapes. The views of the Salkantay mountain to the west and the Pumasillo hill to the north. Finally you will arrive at the highest point, the Warmiwañusca pass (pass of the ‘Dead Woman’, in the Quechua language). This point reaches 4,215 meters high.
  • Then we descend down several stone stairs. During the descent it is necessary to use trekking poles. This way the impact of the knees will be less. After almost two hours of descent you will arrive at the lunch point.
  • After lunch, the route continues through the Pacaymayu valley. At the Chaquicocha camp we stop for dinner and spend the night in a comfortable camp under the stars. That day the walk is approximately 11 kilometers.

Camping in Machu Picchu

Camping area on the Inca trail

Day 3, the high jungle of Cusco

  • The third day the geography is different from the previous days. The high mountains of the Andes Mountains will now be green because the tourist will find themselves in the high jungle of Cusco, a place full of vegetation, flora and fauna.
  • The first section, after breakfast, is difficult as it is mostly uphill. However, the prize will be a visit to the archaeological site of Runkuracay, a place surrounded by clouds.
  • Then the Inca Trail continues along descending paths until arriving at the archaeological site of Sayaqmarca (The dominant town). The Inca constructions there are a preview of what will be seen in Machu Picchu.
  • After visiting this archaeological site, the route continues ascending along cloudy and humid roads where, consequently, there is abundant vegetation. After several hours of walking, we arrive at the archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca, located near a cliff.
  • Despite the visitor’s fatigue, a last effort will be made downhill along narrow Inca roads surrounded by incredible landscapes. Finally, we will arrive at the Wiñayhuayna camp, where the tourist can have lunch and rest. It is the only camp with a cold shower.
  • In this camp, tourists will be able to visit the archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna. Dinner and the last night of camping will also be there. That day the walk is approximately 16 kilometers. The visitor will be just 5 kilometers from Machu Picchu.

runkurakay inca trail

Runkurakay on the Inca Trail

Day 4, Intipunku and Machu Picchu

  • The last day the walk will be short since most of the day will be dedicated to exploring Machu Picchu.
  • After breakfast, we walk along flat stretches until, after a 2-hour hike, we arrive at Machu Picchu through the Intipunku. At Intipunku (Sun Gate) you will arrive early enough to see the fog dissipate over the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
  • The first view of Machu Picchu from Intipunku is an unforgettable spectacle for visitors.
  • After four days of hiking, you will find yourself standing there with sore feet in front of Machu Picchu. Many people finish this walk with tears in their eyes, and although it sounds so cliché, it is. And the Inca trail is the most difficult way to get to Machu Picchu, but there is no more magical way to do it.
  • Then you descend along the roads that lead to Machu Picchu. The tour of the Inca citadel takes approximately 2 hours 30 minutes. The circuit includes a visit to temples and buildings such as: the Temple of the Sun, the Main Temple, the Intihuatana, the Temple of the 3 Windows, the Sacred Rock, the Hall of Mirrors and more. Of course it includes the classic photo of Machu Picchu.
  • In the afternoon, after a delicious lunch, it is time to return to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu by train and bus. The visitor will arrive in the city of Cusco at night.

intipunku inca trail

Intipunku on the Inca Trail

Frequently asked questions about the Inca Trail

  1. Why travel the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

    Well, unlike many excursions in the world where, it is either the walk or the destination; know that the Inca Trail is considered among the 5 best hikes in the world and takes you to one of the best destinations in the world, Machu Picchu.

  2. What is the most difficult day of the Inca Trail?

    The second day of the Inca Trail is considered the most difficult of the route. That day, after an arduous walk, the highest point is reached, the Warmiwañusca pass at 4,215 meters above sea level. Then there is a descent to the Chaquicocha camp. The walk that day will be 11 kilometers.

  3. What is the easiest day on the Inca Trail?

    The fourth and last day is considered the easiest to travel on the 4-day Inca Trail. That day the walk is only 5 kilometers from the Wiñayhuayna camp to the Intipunku in Machu Picchu. The rest of the day the circuit around Machu Picchu is done.

  4. How many kilometers are covered on the Inca Trail?

    In total, the Inca Trail runs 39 kilometers from the starting point at km 82 of the railway to Intipunku in the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

  5. What archaeological sites are visited on the Inca Trail?

    During the Inca Trail you can see Inca archaeological sites such as: Llactapata, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna, Intipata and, of course, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

  6. What is the 2-day Inca Trail like?

    The 2-day Inca Trail is a very short version of the 4-day Classic Inca Trail. This route begins at km 104 of the railway to Machu Picchu. The 8-kilometer ascent ends in Wiñayhuayna where the last part of the Classic Inca Trail continues until reaching Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail 2 days covers 13 kilometers in total.

  7. Does the Inca Trail include a visit to Huayna Picchu?

    No, the 4-day Inca Trail tour includes only the visit to Machu Picchu. However, for an additional cost the visitor can add a visit to the Huayna Picchu mountain to their tour. This hike to the most famous mountain of the Inca citadel is highly requested by adventure lovers.

  8. Can I see the sunrise in Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail?

    Yes, good weather and arriving at Machu Picchu around 6 am allow you to appreciate the sunrise at the Inca citadel. This is a beautiful sight during the Inca Trail.

  9. What is the maximum altitude on the Inca Trail?

    On the second day of the Inca Trail we arrive at the Warmiwañusca Pass, the highest point on the walk as it is located at 4,215 meters above sea level.

  10. Does the Inca Trail include return by train or on foot?

    The Inca Trail 4 days offers a hike to Machu Picchu along royal Inca roads, the famous qhapac ñan. The return is by tourist train to the city of Cusco (day 4 of the tour).

Advice from people who have been there

Inca trail to Machu Picchu

Shiomy CBy: Shiomy C

“Fascinating experience“

“The experience is hard but unforgettable; the landscapes are fascinating. Thank you for complying perfectly and being so professional. Perfect staff (cooks, porters and guides). I especially want to mention Adner, the guide, always attentive, explanatory and knowledgeable about each of the areas we passed through (flora, fauna and history). A luxury at a good price. Totally recommended.“


By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, September 25, 2023