All about the Trek from the Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

Inca Trail: all the information to hike to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America(Peru) and is among the top 5 best hikes in the world. In just 43 km, he manages to combine magnificent mountain landscapes, lush forests in the heart of the clouds, the subtropical jungle and, of course, an astonishing mix of Inca pavers, ruins and tunnels. The path has no better destination: Machu Picchu, the mysterious “lost city of the Incas” in Peru. It may be for you a goal, the adventure of a lifetime, and it is for this reason that you have gathered as much information as possible to organize your trek on the Inca trail.

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Be careful; don’t get me wrong, this trek is not for everyone. The Inca Trail requires the passage of summits (including one at 4200 meters) and the descent of slippery and uneven Inca pavers. Train at least a few weeks before your departure.

What to Expect

The Inca Trail has somewhat become a hiker highway and it is for this reason that the government has limited its ascent to 500 people per day (workers included). You must go through an approved agency with a group to set foot on the Inca paving stones, but if this is really your wish then do so, it is a unique experience.

When to Do the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance. Except this month (rainy) it is possible to leave for the rest of the year. From December to March, it is the rainy season.

June, July and August are the coldest, driest and therefore the most popular months. If you are a regular hiker, physically ready and with the necessary equipment, you can go trekking at any time of the year (except February).

The Inca Trail is very busy. To avoid the crowds, it is best to leave either from March to May or from September to November.

How to Book the Short Inca Trail Trek?

First of all, note that only 500 people can take the Short Inca Trail 2 days each day. Half of them are locals and work on the trail (guides, porters, cooks, etc.). Thus, it is often necessary to book several months in advance.

If you want to hike between May and August, book 6 months in advance.

For the rest of the year, you can get your entry fee a few weeks in advance, but there are no rules on that. You can only do the trek through an approved agency . There are around 200 travel agencies authorized to organize treks on the Inca Trail.

Make sure to compare the services, the prices and above all, check that the agency is well approved by the Peruvian government. You will find the complete and up-to-date list on the official website.

How to Get There?

If you want to do this trek, it is surely that you have planned a trip to Peru. The first thing to do there is to go to Cuzco. It is from this city that the agencies are located that send groups of hikers every day.

Inca Trail, Inca hike

What to Take In Your Bag for the Inca Trail?

The idea is to take the maximum of useful clothes without your bag weighing too heavy. Easier said than done when you know that the intense heat of the equatorial sun rubs the cold nights in the mountains under the tent on the Inca Trail. The best way to get away with these two extremes is to dress by putting on several layers rather than a big sweater. If you have forgotten something, do not despair because you will easily find what you will need in Cuzco or in another big Peruvian city.

Suggested list to make your bag for the Inca Trail :

01 . Backpack (65 liters should be quite sufficient).

02 . Comfortable walking shoes with good ankle support.

03 . Sleeping bag (can be rented at Cuzco)

04 . Clothing

  • 2 hiking pants (light)
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 Short-sleeved hiking shirt
  • 1 Long-sleeved hiking shirt
  • 2 Shorts
  • Underwear and socks (thermal underwear highly recommended, being light, warm and good for cold nights)

05 . Fleece jacket

06 . Water bottle

07 . Hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun

08 . Toiletries: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper etc …

09 . Sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses

10 . Flashlight

11 . First aid basic kit

12 . Protection against insects

13 . Belt for storing your money + passport

14 . Camera

15.Walking sticks if necessary

Inca Trail, Machu Picchu Trail

The Trek Itself

As we will see below, there are several trek choices, with different durations. But the 4-day trek is the most frequently used.

At kilometer 82 , the village of Ollantaytambo is on the Cuzco railway line. This is where you show your passport and permit for the path. This first day consists of a simple hike of 11 km quite manageable. You will notably pass the Inca ruins at Llactapata for a taste of the rest of your trek.

The second day is the most difficult part of the hike: the main climb takes you to 4200m and the Warmiwanusca pass. At the top of the pass, you have a view of the whole valley and it becomes difficult to imagine the endurance of the ancient Inca chasquis (“messengers”) who traveled the path to broadcast emergency messages between the tambos(“Rest points”). One day, perhaps, they delivered the news of the arrival of the Spaniards. From there, take your photos, congratulate your group, and “run away” from the strong winds towards the cornucopia of greenery in the cloud forest below. Camp Pacamayu, 600 meters below, will be where you will spend the second (cool) night, but the third day indicates that the worst is over.

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The third day begins with an hour and a half of ascent to another pass in Sayaqmarka. If this discourages you, you will find some comfort in the fact that, now that you have climbed this pass, you are well advanced in the completion of the Inca Trail. Depending on the time of year when you hike here, the colors of the orchids will give you a good mood. You will then pass Winay Wayna where the Incas built cultivation terraces.

Trek on the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru

The fourth and last day is no ordinary day of hiking. It is a real study of human behavior: during a short trek of 2 hours to reach Inti Punku (Sun Gate), the guides will try to be the first at the site control point. Some hikers get up well before 5.30 am to secure their place on the front line. Everyone tries to take the photo of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate without tourists being present in the background.

But there you are!

You have reached Machu Picchu and all feeling of tiredness and bitterness towards these tourists in front of you gives way to a certain euphoria. Now enjoy the famous ruins. You will then take a shuttle to Aguas Calientes, then to Ollantaytambo by train and back to Cuzco.


The prices for the Inca Trail can vary considerably and the many options can be confusing. In general, the price for the 4-day trek ranges from $ 590 to $ 660 and includes a tent, food, a cook, a day’s entrance fee to the ruins of Machu Picchu and the return by train.

Alternative Routes to Machu Picchu

The Classic Inca Trail in 4 days: it is the shortest version of the fabulous Inca Trail, for those who have less time available and do not want to miss this unique trek. This hike begins at kilometer 104.

The Salcantay Trek: Less known and much more available, this trek is longer, higher, less frequented, with more “immense” landscapes, and fewer archaeological ruins. It is generally done over 5 days.



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