Machu Travel Peru logo
All the best tours & things to do in

Inca Trail

Destination Inca Trail

Even though it's just one among a multitude of paths across the Andes, the fabulous treasure of Machu Picchu at the end of its 43km path makes the INCA TRAIL the world’s most famous trek. Most people visit the site on a day-tour by train from Cusco, Ollantaytambo or Urubamba, but if you're reasonably fit and can dedicate at least four days to the experience, arriving along the Inca Trail offers the most atmospheric and rewarding option.

Choose your Inca Trail Tour

Geography


The Inca Trail cross four ecozones with distinct microclimates. The trail begins at the Quechua zone (2300-3500 m; 7,546-11,483 ft) whose microclimate is dry and temperate, which is ideal for the agriculture.
The next ecozone is Suni or Jalca, located at 3500-4000 m; 11,483 -13,123 ft above sea level. Some agriculture is still possible at this altitude. Above the Suni/Jalca zone is the Puna (4000 – 4800 m; 13,000 – 15, 750 ft). The Puna comprises mostly grassland since the weather is cold and frosty. The Ichu (grass) is consumer by grazing Andean camelids.
The descent from the Puno into the Suni zone traverses Fluvial Yungas (transitional zones between Andean highlands and eastern slope forests at 1000 – 2300 m (7,500 -3,300 ft), which are characterized by a neotropic climate: rainy, humid and warm. The word “yunga” means warm valley in Quechua.

inca trail geography

Weather

The weather in the Andes and the Sacred Valley is characterized by warm sunny days and very cold nights. Cloudy conditions can cause daytime temperatures to drop and it’s best to dress in layers that you can easily add or remove as necessary.

The wet season runs from November to March. Drizzle is likely, the nights are warmer, and the trail can get muddy. However, the rainy season is the perfect time to appreciate breathtaking views of mist-covered mountains and enjoy the region’s diverse flora in full bloom.

The dry season between June and August sees much less cloud cover and the panoramic views of surrounding snow- and glacier-capped mountains are simply spectacular. Vegetation is much less abundant but the trail is drier and easier to hike. During this season, nights are significantly colder and dressing in multiple layers is essential.

Attractions


The trail is accompanied by stunning views, unique flora and fauna and several ancient Incan architectural sites. This wonderful trek ends by walking through the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu.

Dead Woman’s Pass

Warmi (woman) Wañusca (become dead) is the highest point at 4,215 metres (13,828 feet). You can admire an amazing panorama from this point.

Dead Woman’s Pass inca trail

Inca Trail Wildlife

Acting as a bio-corridor between the Cusco Andes, the sacred Valley and the lowland Amazon forest, the Santuario Historico de Machpicchu possesses over 370 of bird, 47 mammal species and over 700 butterfly species. Some of the Quechua – speaking Andes). Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and condor (Vultur gryphus). In addition, there are around 300 different species of hidden up in the trees of the cloud forest.

Incredible Flora and Fauna inca trail

Inca Remains

There are many impressive archaeological sites including Incan places, stone steps and tunnels, along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Among the highlights you will be able to see:


Llaqtapata, located in the middle of the Kusichaca River and the Vilcanota River. This is a resting place surrounded by terraces which were used to produce crops during the Incan times.

Runkurakay, an ancient Incan lodge with unique circular structures and precise stone masonry. It has remained in excellent condition over the centuries.

Sayacmarca, another tambo (lodge) or checkpoint, in the same way as Machu Picchu.

Phuyupatamarka, the place of the clouds. Like many Incan sites, this is no exception, it has achieved a remarkable balance with nature and the environment.

Wiñayhuayna, quechua for "eternally young". It is also name of an orchid that blooms all year on the mountain where the Incan site is located, it is especially beautiful.

Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. After the challenge is completed, you will walk through Inti Punku into the lost city of the Incas at sunrise.

Intipunku to Machu Picchu - Sun Gate

A well-marked track from Wiñay Wayna takes a right fork for about two more hours through sumptuous vegetated slopes to the stone archway entrance called Intipunku (Gateway of the Sun), from where you get your first sight of Machu Picchu - a stupendous moment, however exhausted you might be. Aim to get to Machu Picchu well before 9.30am, when the first hordes arrive off the train from Cusco, if possible.

sun gate inca trail

Wiñay Wayna

It's a very rough, two- or three-hour descent along a non-Inca track to the next ruin, a citadel almost as impressive as Machu Picchu, Wiñay Wayna - "Forever Young" - another place with fresh water, as well as the official Trekkers Hostal.
Consisting of only two major groups of architectural structures - a lower and an upper sector - Wiñay Wayna's most visible features are stone baths with apparently as many as nineteen springs feeding them, all set amid several layers of fine Inca terracing.
Nearby there's also a small waterfall created by streams coming down from the heights of Puyupatamarca. Much like today, it is believed that Wiñay Wayna was used by Incas as a washing, cleansing and resting point before arriving at the grand Machu Picchu citadel.
This is usually the spot for the last night of camping, and, especially in high season, the crowds mean that it's a good idea to pitch your tent soon after lunch, but don't be surprised if someone pitches theirs right across your doorway. To reach Machu Picchu for sunrise the next day you'll have to get up very early with a torch to avoid the rush.

Travel Tips


Aclimatization

It's important to make time to aclimatize to the altitude before tackling the Inca Trail or any other high Andean trek, especially if you've flown straight up from sea level.

Tours

Most people select a tour to suit them from among the multitude of agencies registered for the Inca Trail; the company will take care of everything including your registration, but demand is so great that it is essential to book at least nine months in advance and make your booking deposit.

When to go

Choose your season for hiking the Inca Trail carefully. May is the best month to venture on a hike here, with clear views, fine weather and verdant surroundings. Between tone and September it's usually a pretty cosmopolitan stretch of mountainside, with travelers from all over the globe converging on Machu Picchu the hard way, but from mid-June to early August the trails simply very busy (and the campsites noisy), especially on the last stretch. From October until April, in the season, it{ s less crowded but also, naturally, quite a bit wetter. Locals will tell you that the best time to hike the is during a full moon, and it certainly a more romantic, even mystical feeling your journey.

Inca Trail Regulations

  • Only 500 people are admitted on the Inca Trail This total includes hikers on the 2-day, 4-day, 5-day and 6-day routes as well as the trekking guides, porters and cooks. Permits for the Inca Trail sell out quickly, sometimes 5 months in advance for dates during the dry season (May-September).
  • Booking Inca Trail tickets far in advance is essential.
  • Permits to hike the Inca Trail are available for March through January. The Peruvian government closes the trail in February for annual maintenance, conservation and clean-up.
  • Access to the Inca Trail is strictly controlled and your trek must be organised through a tour operator. It is not possible to hike the trail independently. Only specific licensed companies are permitted to lead groups on the Inca Trail.
  • Pack animals, including mules, horses and llamas are banned from the trail. Porters are instead responsible for carrying tents, cooking supplies, food and additional camping equipment along the trail. Many trekkers also choose to hire a porter to carry their personal backpacks.
  • When hiring private porters, remember that they can either carry 8kg or 15kg. One thing to keep in mind is that a weight of 2.5kg has to be reserved from this total weight for a pad and sleeping bag.

Classic Inka Trail


Day 1 - Cusco / Llaqtapata

You will be transferred to the Sacred Valley and to the area known as Piscaycucho. We will hike for about 5 hours through a lesser visited section of the trail. We will stop at Q’oriwayrachina for lunch before crossing the Urubamba River at Q’ente. We will have an option to visit the archaeological sites of Wayna Q’ente and Llaqtapata where we will camp in the vicinity of their Incan terraces.

(Time: 5-6 hours, Distance: 11km).

Day 2 - Llaqtapata / Llulluchapampa

We will continue up the Cusichaca Valley and, after passing many buildings, we will reach the Andean community of Huayllabamba. From here, the trail ascends steeply to a large pampa (flat land) below the first pass, where we will stop. Here, we will have a breathtaking view of Mt. Huayanay. As the trail goes along this narrow valley, we will begin to see cloud forest flora that harbours the queñua tree (polilepis). Our camp will be set up at Llulluchapampa.

(Time: 6 hours. Distance: 9Kms).

Day 3 - Llulluchapampa / Phuyupatamarca

The day starts with a steady ascent up to the Warmiwañusqa Pass at 4,200m (13,692ft) where we will have a magnificent views of where we’ve come from and of the trail ahead of us. We then descend through a restored Inca Trail down to the Pacaymayo River before ascending again to the ruins of Runkuraqay and the second pass at 4,050m (13,200ft). From here, we walk down to the site at Sayacmarca, 3,850m (12,551ft), on the original Inca Trail, passing a dry lake where you will appreciate the beginnings of a cloud forest. A beautiful location overlooking the Aobamba Valley, we will have time for a leisurely walk through its imposing structures. We then continue along the ridge, viewing Mt. Salkantay and Mt. Pumasillo, a silhouette on the northern horizon. Walking through a rolling flag stoned trail, we arrive to the village of Phuyupatamarca where we will camp.

(Trekking: 7-8 hours, Distance: 14kms).

Day 4 - Phuyupatamarca / Machu Picchu

An early departure today will have us passing the ruins of Phuyupatamarca. The flag stoned trail then winds sharply down into the cloud forest and to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, located below the ridge on the same body of water as the previous site. These are very well restored Incan ruins. After a two hour walk through the cloud forest, we will arrive to Machu Picchu through the same entrance the Incas used. We will admire the magnificent citadel below us from Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. After visiting Machu Picchu, we will take a bus to the village below Machu Picchu where we will stay in a local hotel.

What to Pack


All the camping equipment, daily meals and water will be provided by your trekking team. You can either bring your own sleeping bag, or rent one for an additional fee.

Our essential packing list for the Inca Trail:

  • Bring your original passport. It’s >required to enter Machu Picchu when you enter through the Sun Gate.

  • Bring a comfortable daypack with snug straps to wear while you hike. Unless you hire a private porter, you’re expected to carry both pads and sleeping bags along the trek. 

  • Carry a reusable water bottle in your daypack.

  • You’ll pass through many different climates along the trail and dressing in layers is important. Pack lightweight pants, short- and long-sleeve shirts, a warm fleece jackets, underwear, and socks.

  • Temperatures really drop at altitude when the sun goes down. To stay warm, thermal undergarments, a warm hat, and gloves are recommended.

  • Comfortable hiking boots or walking shoes are a must. Also pack shower sandals.

  • Be prepared with a rain jacket and pants or poncho. Rainy conditions aren’t to be expected during the dry season, but it’s better to be prepared.

  • Pack a hat, strong sunblock, and glasses for protection against the sun.

  • Headlamp (with extra batteries) or small flashlight to use at night while camping.

  • Light-weight travel towel to shower with and small travel pillow for your sleeping comfort.

  • Tissues pack, toilet paper and wet wipes

  • You may want to bring extra (or diet specific) high energy snacks, such as some cookies, protein bars, chocolates, or nuts.

  • Some trekkers may prefer to bring walking sticks.

  • Don’t forget toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) and any personal medications.

  • Insect repellant (with Deet) for protection against mosquitos and other blood-sucking critters. Malaria and yellow fever are not a risk in this area.

  • Bring local Peruvian currency (Soles) in your wallet so that you can tip your trekking team.

  • Of course, don’t forget your camera, with extra battery packs and memory cards.

weather arequipa

How To Book


  • It is very important to buy tickets for the Inca Trail early but early planning does not guarantee a spot. Daily Inca Trail vacancies are limited and can be booked up to 6 months in advance.
  • High season (April-October) – Book at least 2 to 6 months in advance.
  • Low season (November-March) – Book at least 1 to 3 months in advance.
  • To book the Inca Trail you must have a valid passport.