inca trail map

The Inca Trail is the dream of many; the ride is one of the most famous in South America. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is a small part of an extensive network of trails and roads built by the Incas some 500 years ago. It is said to cover around 23,000 to 45,000 kilometers in total. The trail connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire with the highways of Colombia and Ecuador in the north and Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil in the south. One of the most notable characteristics is that the routes varied in width. An interesting fact is that the Inca built the trails thinking of the llama; roads, especially in mountainous regions, have many steps, on which the llama is very skilled. And for that reason together with the experts of Machu Travel Peru, we prepared an article.

Here we will give you an idea of the road and the Inca Trail Map in general. The series of Inca roads known as Qhapaq Ñan was a complex system of routes. Many of these routes are no longer present due to the passage of time and the human factor. But fortunately, some sections of this route are still intact. And such is the case of the route that leads to the Inca citadel. This route is one of the best ways to visit Machu Picchu. And for that reason, it deserved an article where I could get to know the Inca Trail map in depth.

A day by day tour through the Inca trail map


inca trail map and a little history of the networks of trails

The trails were made to be used for a variety of reasons, including trade, efficient transportation, and warfare. The Inca routes were greatly expanded by the Inca Huayna Capac, who added around 16,000 kilometers to the network. One historian describes that Capac wanted the expansion of the routes to make it easier for his armies to crush any rebellions that might have arisen. But with the arrival of the conquerors, the routes were hidden among the thick vegetation.

Fast forward a few hundred years to 1911 and the American explorer Hiram Bingham, while searching for another legendary city, came across Machu Picchu with the help of a local farmer. Between the years 1913 and 1915, Bingham and his team discovered much of the overgrown trail, and some of the trails are still being restored today. Today, if you want to know how to prepare for the Inca Trail, then you should know that it is one of the most challenging adventure tours. Being able to reach the Inca citadel as the ancient inhabitants did, is a reward without parallel. Thousands of tourists walk the trail each year, so you will need to book your ticket in advance. 


what to expect in the inca trail map

The Classic Inca Trail is a four-day, three-night trek popular with tourists. So you must make your Inca Trail booking months in advance. In high season, the trek can sell out a year in advance, so keep that in mind when thinking about your reservation. The best time to do the trail is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. But this time it also coincides with the high tourist season and the Inca Trail may not be available.

Keep in mind that the Inca Trail availability is much lower during the peak tourist season. In the same way, don’t worry, there are other equally interesting alternatives. The Inca Trail map can be summarized in a 4-day journey. In general, what you can expect from day to day on the Inca Trail is a surprising set of emotions and landscapes. For this reason, we will offer you a detailed Inca trail map and an idea of the road and the sites that you will see each day.


day one in the inca trail map

You will be picked up early and you will travel through the Sacred Valley to the trail start point at KM82. To get to the starting point of the Inca trail map you will have to pass through the towns of Chinchero, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo. Once you have reached the beginning of the trail, prepare yourself, as you will cross the Vilcanota River and begin your ascent. Before long, the Urubamba Mountain Range will come into view and you will see Mount Veronica.

Passing a small town, you will see an Inca site called Patallaqta, which was also discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The ruins are believed to have been used to supply food to Machu Picchu. Continue for another 8 km to the town of Wayllampampa, which will be the first camp to spend the night. Here you will see other hikers joining from other treks like the Salkantay trek, one of the greatest Inca trail alternatives. This is also the last place where pack animals are allowed. 


day two of the inca trail map

During the second day, you will walk around 12 km so it is important to have a good breakfast. The distance may seem not so far, but the second day is the hardest of the trekking days. After an hour of walking you will cross a bridge in the Huayruro river, there is a camp and different bathrooms if you need them. From the bridge, the trail starts to get steep. You will pass through a cloud forest and a small town around the third hour of hiking. It is on this second day where you can understand the reason for the Inca Trail cost.

From this point, you will need to climb the Warmwanusca pass, also known as the Dead Woman’s Pass. This point is 4200 meters above sea level and is one of the highest points on the hike. This is one of the highest passes on the trail. After recovering from the ascent, a 2km descent is made to the camp on the second night, which is located in Pacamayo. Enjoy a dinner prepared by the camp chef next to a warm campfire. If you wonder what is the best time to walk the Inca trail, the months of the dry season may be the most attractive. During these months you will be able to appreciate the different landscapes without any problem.


day three of the inca trail map

After walking for an hour, you will arrive at the Ruins of Runkuracay. This was an ancient watchtower over the Pacamayo valley. Travel one more hour and reach the Runkurakay pass, which is about 4000 meters high. From here you can begin to appreciate the beautifully paved paths and stairs that are visible on the Inca trail map. Then you will reach the second pass in Sayacmarca, another ruin with more stone stairs, the purpose of Sayacmarca is still unknown.

Going up to the third pass, you will go through an original Inca tunnel. And once you reach the top of the pass, the views on a clear day are spectacular. One of the most impressive ruins on the Inca Trail, in addition to Machu Picchu, is Phuyupatamarca. Its name means The City on the Clouds, and it was used for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. From here, get ready for a tough descent of about 1000 steps; take your time, as this can be hard on your knees. Then another 3 hours of hiking awaits you before reaching Wiñay Wayna, the last night’s camp. Near the site are the Inca baths that were used to clean before reaching Machu Picchu.


day four in the inca trail map

The fourth day is the last day of the tour. Also, it is the day that the Inca trail map ends to start the guided tour of the citadel. Your day will start early for the 2-hour walk to Puerta del Sol. Note that it is still dark at this point, so you will need a flashlight. The trail passes through a cloud forest before reaching the stone steps, which are about 50 in total. But when you reach the top, you will get your first view of Machu Picchu. Take your time and enjoy the view and take lots of photos from here. Take advantage of the time while one of the best Machu Picchu tours comes to an end.

Then your guided tour of Machu Picchu awaits you, where your guide will give you a tour of Machu Picchu. It is there where you will learn about the ruins and its different sectors. Take your free time to explore the citadel on your own. After taking advantage of your guided tour, a bus will take you to the city of Aguas Calientes. It is in this small town where you can eat and buy some souvenirs before taking your train back to Cusco. We hope you have enjoyed our Inca Trail trek and remember to book early to avoid disappointment.


Together with Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have summarized the most important things to know about the Inca Trail map. Keep in mind that this route is desired by much more than adventurers and tourists. So a reservation is highly recommended. In the same way, it is not the only Inca route to appreciate diverse and impressive landscapes. You can consult with our qualified advisors to give you an idea of all the treks that you can enjoy.  They will be delighted to help you make the trip of your dreams come true. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on one of the best things to do in Peru.

Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!