The Inca Trail is one of the best-known hikes in all of South America. Four days of hiking up and down trails at altitudes that exceed 4000 meters above sea level. And along the way, you will have the most spectacular views of the mountains and the valley. Along the way you will visit ancient ruins, you will see beautiful flowers and plants and in the end, you will have a sense of achievement that you have never experienced before. The hike is by no means easy and will test your endurance to the limit. But the pace is how you like it, without rushing, so you can take your time to enjoy the experience and enjoy the views. You will get plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Therefore, together with Machu Travel Peru, we want to present you with a small guide for hiking the Inca Trail.
Everything you need to know about hiking the Inca Trail
- The route of the Inca Trail
- Getting the Inca Trail tickets
- First day of the route
- Second day of the route
- Third day of the route
- Fourth day of the route
- The best time to visit the Inca Trail
- Alternatives bits of advice for the route
THE ROUTE OF THE INCA TRAIL
The entire trail is around 40 kilometers long and is visited by thousands of travelers each year. The road has three high Andean passes and some of the best views of the Andes that you will see anywhere. In general, enjoying the Inca Trail to the Lost City of the Incas is one of the richest experiences in Peru. This route is usually one of the most popular with hikers and mountaineers. For adventurers, getting on a train to Machu Picchu is usually not enough. Machu Picchu is located in a valley full of beautiful landscapes. So a train trip doesn’t usually do it much justice. While the trek that goes through the cloud forests of Peru sounds much more attractive.
How long does it take to hike the Inca Trail? The hike consists of four days and three nights, each with its own landscapes and special characteristics. Although there are also some variants of fewer days for those who are short of time. The walk takes travelers from the point known as Kilometer 82 to the citadel of Machu Picchu. Travelers enter the citadel through the original entrance of the citadel known as Puerta del Sol (also called Inti Punku).
The road route was built by the Inca Empire. The Incas were responsible for creating thousands of kilometers of trails to link the different settlements. The trails connected a large part of the Tahuantinsuyo territories. The main settlements and administrative centers were directly connected by these sections. Many of which today have disappeared. But the Inca Trail is one of the surviving sections of the route.
GETTING THE INCA TRAIL TICKETS
You can find the permits available to hike the Inca Trail from the first of January of each year. Although this date usually depends on other factors. Please note that you cannot reserve tickets on your own, you must do so with an authorized agency. They will reserve the Inca Trail permits for you. It is highly recommended to plan your trip in advance as these permits sell out fast. The classic Inca Trail is the most popular option of all, especially during July and August. Please note that there are only 500 permits available per day. Of which about 300 are only for porters and guides. Therefore, there are around 200 permits available only for tourists.
Certified agencies are usually the first places to look for your Inca Trail permits. These can help you with the small details necessary when starting your walk. From organizing your transportation to and from the road to how to reserve your permits for the Inca Trail. They will be in charge of hiring the best guides and porters available. Those who will not only tell you the history of the Inca Trail but will also explain to you about the different ruins that you will find. And is hiking the Inca Trail worth it? Of course, this adventure is unmatched. It is one of the best ways to get to know the citadel.
FIRST DAY OF THE ROUTE
The first day usually starts off smoothly and very early in the morning. The trek starts at KM 82 on the railway line to Machu Picchu, where you will cross the Urubamba river at 2600 meters above sea level. After the bridge, you will start a steady climb uphill until you reach the archaeological site of Llactapata. Continuing southward for around 7 km, you will reach the first campsite of Wayllabamba where you will spend the night.
There you can find a spectacular view of Mount Veronica. Depending on the itinerary and the speed of the group, you will walk for about 6 to 7 hours. Along the way, you will also have different pauses where your guide will explain. Your guide of choice will stop as you go to tell you the story of the trail. As well as the different ruins that can be found on the Inca Trail map.
Tips for the first day: Enjoy the first day as the trekking is quite easy and the distance is not too long. At the first stop, there is a shop where you can stock up on supplies.
SECOND DAY OF THE ROUTE
The second day is somewhat harder than the first day. The second day begins to climb after crossing the Llullucha river. After the river, there is a very long and steep climb of about 3 km through a warm forest. After which you will emerge to a clearing on the mountainside at Llulluchupampa at 3750 meters above sea level. From there everything is uphill until reaching the treacherous Warmiwañusca Pass. Also known as the Dead Woman Pass by the locals for its altitude of 4200 meters above sea level and the effort it takes to reach the top. From here you can see the Pacamayo River below. The trail continues down to the river, where there are many campsites, here you will find the Runkurakay ruins, where you will spend the night.
Tips for the second day: Probably the hardest day due to the walk up to the Dead Woman pass. And also after the step, you will have to walk downhill, which can be difficult on the knees. So take it easy going up and down, drink lots of water and eat some snacks to give you energy. Every day you should wear a hat and sunscreen.
THIRD DAY OF THE ROUTE
From Runkurakay, the path climbs to a beautiful peak. Then you will pass two beautiful lakes until another pass at 3950 meters above sea level. The views from this pass of the Cordillera Vilcabamba are spectacular. Later on the trail, you will begin to notice a change in the environment to a more jungle climate. This is because it is now entering the Amazon basin. As you descend, you will pass the Sayaqmarka ruins and continue towards the Aobamba River. From here it is a gentle walk that crosses an impressive Inca road through a beautiful cloud forest. You can also enjoy an Inca tunnel dug into the rock until the third and last step that awaits you with beautiful views of the valley below.
Just below the pass are the ruins of Phuyupatamarka at 3570 meters above sea level. These ruins have six complete ceremonial baths with running water. Continuing through another cloud forest complete with Inca steps, the next part of the trail will take you approximately 3 hours to complete. Where you will finally arrive at the last night’s camp at Winay Wayna. The Winay Wayna ruins are about a 500-meter walk from the camp, but it’s worth the walk as the view from the ruins is hands down the best on the trail. So be sure to take lots of photos.
Tips for the third day: Still, a tough day with many miles to go. Take it at your own pace, drink plenty of fluids and eat energy snacks. Porters usually have clean boiled water, so don’t forget to fill your water bottles at breakfast and after lunch.
FOURTH DAY OF THE TRAIL
Generally, the last day starts before sunrise, so it may be a bit dark. You will start with a walk of approximately 2 hours through a cloud forest and hanging trails before reaching the Sun Gate in Machu Picchu. From here one can enjoy their first view of Machu Picchu. The view will depend mainly on the cloud cover, but if it is clear you will have an incredible view.
The final walk to Machu Picchu will take about an hour and once you arrive, a two-hour guided tour of the Inca citadel is normal. The tour guide will explain all the different areas of Machu Picchu and you can take advantage of some free time to explore on your own. The train back to Cusco will leave in the late afternoon. So after your stay in Machu Picchu, you may have time to go down to Aguas Calientes for a refreshing dip in the hot springs.
Tips for the fourth day: Since you will be walking in the dark, it is a good idea to carry a torch to see where you are going. Especially since there won’t always be moonlight to light your way. Also, be very careful if it has been raining as the path can be slippery. Once you arrive at Machu Picchu, there are storage facilities to store your belongings, ask your guide to help you with this.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE INCA TRAIL
If you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail is an incredible option. You can go hiking the Inca Trail throughout the year. Except for the month of February which is closed for maintenance and heavy rains. Stable temperatures can be expected, although depending on the month you travel the weather can change. In the same way, each season has its drawbacks and advantages that you should reflect on before you can go hiking to the Inca Trail.
THE WET SEASON
Being able to go hiking the Inca Trail in the rainy season is usually an adventure for hikers. The rainy season runs from November to March. Although there are rains, they do not occur throughout the day. Most of them usually occur during the afternoon. If you already have some experience in mountaineering and hiking, it will not be difficult for you. During this season you must be prepared to face muddy and humid terrain as well as low temperatures. Not to mention that some sections can get a bit slippery during the rains. The advantages of this season are that there are no large crowds and there is much more availability of tickets.
THE DRY SEASON
The dry season runs from May to September. During these months you can see a large influx of tourists because it is considered the best time to go hiking the Inca Trail. When it comes to the weather, the dry season is often a favorite with hikers. You’ll find clear skies, pleasant temperatures, and breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The main disadvantages are usually that the season is the busiest of the year, therefore tickets sell out quickly. What is the best month to hike the Inca Trail? The months of June and July may be the best months to enjoy the route. During July and August is when it is impossible to get tickets unless you book in advance.
ALTERNATIVE BITS OF ADVICE FOR THE ROUTE
There are a few tips to be able to go hiking the Inca Trail. These will make your trek on the Inca Trail much more enjoyable and easy. But, How difficult is it to hike the Inca Trail? The route itself is not difficult, but the height at which you will find yourself can be. The most difficult part of the route is not the steep segments, but the height at which you will find yourself. So it is a good idea to acclimatize to the altitude before embarking on the route. Being able to chew coca leaves or drink Mate de Coca can help a lot during the journey. You can also consult your doctor for some medicine against altitude sickness.
Although the Inca Trail usually includes meals, it is a good idea to bring some snacks to recharge your batteries. You can also bring some band-aids with you, as your feet are going to take a real beating on the road. Or some blister cream can also be very useful. In case you miss the opportunity to enjoy the classic route, there are a lot of Inca Trail alternatives. So don’t worry about missing out on this adventure.
Tips on what to pack:
- Hiking gear for cold weather
- 2 changes of clothes
- Clothes for warm weather (when walking it will get warm)
- Wool hat for the nighttime
- Sun hat for the daytime
- Good quality rain gear
- Insect repellent
- Personal Hygiene products and toilet paper
- Walking stick
- Head Lamp or torch
- Comfortable Hiking boots (tried and tested before you leave home)
- A small amount of money, money for your lunch at Machu Picchu
“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO BRING IS YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE AND OF COURSE YOUR CAMERA.”
As you will see, being able to go hiking the Inca Trail is one of the most popular adventures where you can get to know the magical Inca citadel. Being able to start your Machu Picchu tour at the Inti Punku is usually a wonderful experience. And the views that await you along the route are unmatched. This is not to mention the different Inca ruins that you will be able to appreciate along the way. So if you do have time and can enjoy this hiking route, we recommend that you do so. We hope with the Machu Travel Peru team to have guided you a bit. If you want to know more about the different hiking routes, do not hesitate to ask our team. Our qualified advisors will be happy to help you make the trip of your dreams come true.