Hiking The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu | Complete Guide for Newbies®

by | May 6, 2024 | Inca Trail, Peru Travel Blogs | 0 comments

4 day inca trail hike to machu picchu

Why You Should Learn How to Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

If you decide to embark on the 4-day inca trail hike to machu picchu, it’s crucial to research and choose your tour provider carefully and thoroughly. In this travel blog post, you’ll discover detailed insights curated by experienced Inca Trail tour guides. These guides lead hundreds of customers each week throughout the year. Pay attention to our advice as we share our expertise with you.

The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most renowned trekking routes in South America, consistently recognized as one of the top 10 hikes in the world.

This 4-day adventure offers a perfect blend of history and natural beauty. You’ll explore ancient Inca sites and reach the Sun Gate (Intipunku) before sunrise to witness the breathtaking view of Machu Picchu.

Tour Leaders Peru offers premium Inca Trail tours that include personal porters, buffet meals, and the Panoramic Vistadome train.

Join our small group tours departing daily for your convenience. Experience the Ultimate Adventure with our Comprehensive 4-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Travel Guide.

Inca Trail Hike 4 days 3 nights – Classic Tour

Go out of your comfort zone and explore the iconic Inca Trail hike Guided Tour. Enjoy the natural wonders, visit the ancient Inca sites, interact with our local porters, and experience the best of Peruvian food while you meet new friends and arrive in Machu Picchu through the mountains.

Hiking the Inca Trail with Tour Leaders Peru is discovering a new hiking and camping experience where simplicity becomes the experience of a lifetime.

Come and join our fun small group tours to Machu Picchu with like-minded trekkers from all over the world, different ages, and genders. It’s perfect for solo travelers, couples, or groups of friends looking for inspiring and life-changing trekking experiences.

Tour Highlights:

  • To hike this classic trail you need an official Inca Trail Tour Operator make sure to ask or find one.
  • Campsites are exclusively designated by Sernap or National Park Rangers.
  • The majority of Tour Operators provide a Personal porter service for up to 7 kg (15 lbs) of your equipment.
  • To evade the crowds, Tour Leaders Peru schedules arrivals at Inca Trail sites during exclusive hours.
  • Upon your return from Machu Picchu, we provide travel aboard panoramic trains, either the Vistadome or the 360 train, for an enhanced viewing experience.

Tip: Book your tour early because this once-in-a-lifetime experience has limited spots. Once it’s sold out, we are unable to accommodate additional travelers.

Price for the Classic Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu

Price per person: Please Per attention to Our prices in case you are more than 8 you have a discount per person contact us to make sure and no hidden prices

  • Starting at US$ 799 – For adults – This is a group service option. For exclusive family or friend gatherings, pricing may vary.
  • Children and students have a special discount ask for our Inca Trail Tour 2025

To secure your booking for the Classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu Guided Tours. An initial payment of 50% of the tour cost is required. This payment is utilized to reserve all necessary entrance tickets, including the Inca Trail, train, and bus tickets for Machu Picchu.

Should you wish to visit Huayna Picchu, we can also arrange that reservation. And the remaining balance can be paid online or at our office in Cusco.

Student Discount Information

Student Discount: Some tour operators offer discounts of US$ 40 to 50 per person – We provide a $60 discount per student.

All travelers under 17 will receive a $60 discount off the regular price. Additionally, if you are 25 years old or under at the time of your travel, you can also benefit from this discount by presenting your Student ID.

To claim this offer, please email us to receive our special discount if you are traveling in a group.

Inca Trail Packing List: What to pack for Machu Picchu
Student card for Peru

Valid Student ID for Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

To be eligible for the student discount, travelers must provide a Valid Student ID that meets the following criteria:

  • The traveler must be 25 years old or less on the date of entering Machu Picchu. Note that travelers older than 25 cannot avail of the student discount rate.
  • The Student ID must include the university’s name, along with the name and photo of the student.
  • The ID must have a visible expiration date and remain valid at the time of the tour.

Please ensure your Student ID meets these requirements to take advantage of the special student rate. Find more here – ISIC card

Invalid Student IDs

To ensure fairness and transparency in our discount policies, certain types of Student IDs cannot be accepted for the student discount. Your Student ID will not be eligible for a discount under the following circumstances:

  • Age Limit: Any traveler who is older than 25 years old on the date of entering Machu Picchu. This is in line with our commitment to offer discounts primarily to younger students.
  • Expired ID: Student IDs that have passed their expiration date by the time of the tour will not be accepted. The ID must remain valid not just at booking but through the actual tour date.
  • Missing Expiration Date: Student IDs without a visible expiration date cannot be accepted. The expiration date must be printed on the ID itself and be easily verifiable.
  • ISIC Cards: Unfortunately, International Student Identity Cards (ISIC) are not valid for obtaining a student discount on our tours. Please ensure you provide a university-issued Student ID that meets the above criteria.

By following these guidelines. Our goal is to offer discounts to a particular group of students while making sure the process remains fair for all travelers.

Itinerary

km 82 Inca Trail
Inca Trail Km 82

Day 1: Cusco — Km 82 — Hatunchaca — Ayapata

Start your Inca Trail trekking adventure with a pick from your hotel in Cusco around 4:30 a.m. If you stay in the Sacred Valley, like Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, we’ll pick you up a bit later, after 6:00 a.m.

We’ll then travel for about 2.5 hours to Km 82 (Piscacucho village). The starting point of this epic 4-day Inca Trail Trip to Machu Picchu. But first, we’ll stop at Ollantaytambo to enjoy a delicious breakfast and have the opportunity to buy any last-minute things for the Machu Picchu trek.

We’ll arrive at the Km 82 trailhead by 8:00 a.m. Aproximatly. Where you’ll meet our incredible team of chefs and porters. After a quick checkpoint stop to show your passports, we’re ready to kick off our Tour to the Legendary Lost City of the Incas.

The first leg of the Inca Trail Trek is an easy 2-hour hike to Patallacta, an ancient site along the Inca Trail route. You will enjoy beautiful views of this site surrounded by mountains and rivers from a unique, hidden location. Then, it will be a 2-hour hike to Hatunchaca village, where our team of cooks will treat you to a delicious lunch made of fresh local ingredients.

After a delightful meal, we will continue for another 2 hours to Ayapata, the first campsite of the trek, by around 5:00 p.m. You will find your tent, a snack, and a hot drink waiting for you. Before tea time and dinner, there’s plenty of time to relax, prepare your bed, and take in the breathtaking mountain scenery.

  • Hiking Distance: 14 km / 8.7 mi
  • Duration: 6 Hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 3,300 m / 10,826 ft
  • Highest Altitude: 3,300 m / 10,826 ft
  • Meals: Breakfast, snacks, lunch, tea time, dinner
  • Difficulty: Moderate Training Day

Day 2: Ayapata — Dead Woman’s Pass — Chaquicocha

Inca Trail Hike
Dead woman Pass Elevation

Today’s the most challenging of the 4-day hike to Machu Picchu! We’ll start early, bringing you a warm cup of coffee or coca tea right in your tent then pack up

After breakfast, we’re off for a 4-hour climb to Dead Woman’s Pass (4,215m / 13,829ft), the highest point of the Trek. At the highest point, we’ll stop to appreciate the serenity of this magical place, enjoying its calm with a coca tea.

At the same time, your guide completes a traditional offering ceremony to mountain spirits, the Apus. Reveling in the stunning views, we’ll then descend for 2 hours to Pacaymayo Alto Valley for a much-deserved lunch.

After lunch, the second mountain is an easier 2-hour hike to Runkuraqay Pass (4,000m / 13,123ft), exploring 2 Inca sites en route: Runkuraqay and Sayacmarca. The second campsite will be Chaquicocha (dry lake, 3600m / 11811 ft.), where you can admire a beautiful sunset over the Vilcabamba mountain range before dinner.

As night falls, this spot offers a clear, unobstructed sky view, perfect for stargazing and marveling at the Inca constellations.

  • Hiking Distance: 16 km / 10 mi
  • Duration: 10 Hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 3,600 m / 11,811 ft
  • Highest Altitude: 4,215 m / 13,829 ft
  • Meals: Breakfast, snacks, lunch, tea time, dinner
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Day 3: Chaquicocha — Intipata — Wiñaywayna

Winayhuayna Inca Trail Hike
Winay Huayna Inca trail Trek Adventure

With the hard part of the 4-day Inca Trail tour well and truly over, you can relax and enjoy the most leisurely and exciting day of the Inca Trail Hike. Today’s route is extremely varied; it is only a 5 to 6-hour hike to the final campsite.

Along the way, you will pass through several different ecosystems, experience the atmospheric cloud forest, and observe the magnificent panoramic view of Salkantay Mountain (the second-highest peak in Cusco). We will visit 3 Inca sites, Phuyupatamarca (City in the Clouds), with spectacular views of the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu Mountain, and Intipata (Terraces of the Sun).

At Intipata, you will have time to rest and take in the magical surroundings. We will reach the campsite at approximately 1:00 p.m. to have lunch, and then you can enjoy some free time to relax, unwind at the camp, chase llamas, or take a refreshing shower. Later in the afternoon. We will visit the Inca site of Wiñaywayna, where your Tour Leader will explain this fantastic location’s history. We will then return to the campsite for tea, dinner, and a special farewell surprise!

  • Hiking Distance: 10 km / 6.2 mi
  • Duration: 5 Hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 2,600 m / 8,530 ft
  • Highest Altitude: 3,600 m / 11,811 ft
  • Meals: Breakfast, snack, lunch, tea time, dinner
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Day 4: Discover the first view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate — Aguas Calientes – Cusco

Sun Gate Peru
Amazing View from the sun Gate

On our final day of the Classic Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu, you must get up very early to prepare for the highlight of your expert Tour Leader in Peru! Visiting Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.

We will go straight to the checkpoint and wait until it opens at 5:30 a.m. As the sky brightens, we will walk to the Sun Gate (Intipunku) for one hour, enjoying the stunning views. You can watch the spectacular sunrise over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate on a clear day, which is truly an unforgettable sight. Next, we will start a final 1-hour descent towards Machu Picchu, arriving at the last control point around 8:00 a.m.

Your guide will take you on a 3-hour comprehensive tour of the most important sights of the Inca City. If you’re up for an extra challenge, you can hike Huayna Picchu Mountain (tickets must be booked as far in advance as possible). After the tour, you will take the shuttle from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes for lunch and then travel in the panoramic train (Vistadome or 360° train).

Inca Trail Travel Information

The Classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is one of the most awe-inspiring treks that adventurers from around the globe aspire to experience.

Originating from the ingeniously constructed 15th-century network known as Qhapac Ñan or Inca Trails.

This path was a vital artery that connected the vast Inca Empire stretching across regions now known as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. With Cusco at the heart of this empire, it was from this central nexus that the web of Inca Trails unfurled. Linking distant corners of South America through an impressive expanse that exceeded 40,000 kilometers.

Location:

The world-renowned Classic Inca Trail begins at a point known as Kilometer 82 – Piscacucho Village, nestled within the Ollantaytambo district of Urubamba Province, in the picturesque Sacred Valley of Cusco, Peru.

This starting point serves as the gateway to an unforgettable journey through history, culture, and breathtaking natural landscapes.

Inca Trail Map

Inca Trail Map
Map Of The Inca Trail 4 Days

History:

Constructed in the 15th century, the Iconic Classic Machu Picchu Inca Trail embodies a tangible connection to the past, believed to have been built by the same hands that erected the magnificent city of Machu Picchu.

Originally serving as a trade route linking Cusco with the Amazon region, the trail, along with Machu Picchu.

Vanished into obscurity following the Spanish conquest, only to be rediscovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham III. Today, both the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu stand as testaments to the ingenuity of the Inca civilization, drawing visitors from all corners of the world.

Weather:

The Inca Trail is famed for its unpredictable and varied weather, marked by two distinct seasons. The wet season extends from November to March, while the dry season stretches from April to October.

Temperatures during the Machu Picchu Trek can swing dramatically, reaching highs of up to 80°F (27°C) during the day and plummeting below freezing at night.

This variance necessitates thorough preparation for all weather conditions, ensuring hikers are equipped to face the elements.

Difficulty:

The trek to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail is a challenge of endurance and willpower, attributed to its length and the high altitudes it traverses.

Despite these challenges, the trail rewards the persistent hiker with stunning views and the incomparable satisfaction of having achieved something truly monumental.

This section serves as an essential guide for adventurers seeking to undertake the classic trek along the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. Offering a glimpse into the rich history and dynamic conditions of this ancient path.

Related: Unveiling the Challenging Day on the Inca Trail

Inca Trail Permits:

To undertake the adventure of hiking the Classic Machu Picchu Trek, it is crucial to secure your permits well in advance.

Every day, the trail permits are limited to 500, covering not just the hikers but also the essential porters, chefs, tour guides, and travelers.

This limitation is in place to preserve the trail and ensure a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Inca Trail Length: (Distance)

The trek spans approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers), starting from the Sacred Valley (Km 82), winding through the breathtaking Andes Mountains, and culminating in the mystical lost city of Machu Picchu.

The diverse landscapes and the historical significance of the route make every step of this trek memorable.

Related post: How long does it take to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Comparing the Inca Trail with Other Tours

The Inca Trail is a highly sought-after trekking route across the world. However, in case it is already booked out, you may want to explore other trekking options to reach Machu Picchu.

Here, you will find a fair comparison of the various popular tours available.

Inca Trail vs. Salkantay Trek

Inca Chiriasca Pass
Inca Trail Salkantay trek 7 days

When choosing a trek to Machu Picchu, there are two main options: the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek. Both tours offer stunning scenery and an unforgettable experience but have some key differences.

The Inca Trail hike is the classic choice for a Machu Picchu trek. It’s the most popular option – it’s an incredible journey that takes you through some of the most stunning scenery and journeys through history. The Classic Machu Picchu Trek follows the ancient path of the Incas and ends with a spectacular entrance into Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.

The Salkantay Trek is an excellent alternative to the Inca Trail. It’s less crowded, more affordable, and still takes you through beautiful scenery. The highlight of the Salkantay Trek is Mount Salkantay, which, at 6,271 meters (20,549 feet), is one of the tallest mountains in Peru.

The views from the summit are breathtaking! Another plus of the Salkantay Trek is that it ends with a visit to Aguas Calientes, where you can relax in the hotel before going to Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail vs. Lares Trek

Short-Inca-Trail-2-Days
Short Inca Trail Lares Trek Connection

Another great alternative Trek to Machu Picchu is the Lares Valley Route, famous for being a more cultural trek and less intense than the Salkantay and Inca Trail.

The Inca Trail takes you on a 4-day hike directly to the great citadel of Machu Picchu. You will be hiking through the mountains, spending the night in isolated campsites, and arriving at Machu Picchu through the Sun gate; this is the only trek that allows you to arrive hiking to Machu Picchu.

The Lares Trek is a shorter, 4-day option that starts in the village of Lares and ends at Machu Picchu. While it doesn’t have as many Inca ruins along the route, it’s a great choice if you want to avoid crowds and learn from the locals.

To arrive at Machu Picchu, you need to travel by train and stay 1 night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

Classic Inca Trail vs. Short Inca Trail hike

The original Classic Inca Trail 4 days is a long and challenging hike, but there is also a shorter version known as the Short Inca Trail. So, which one should you choose?

The Classic Machu Picchu Inca Trail is a 26-mile (42-kilometer) long hike and takes four days to complete. It starts at Km 82, in the Sacred Valley, and ends at Machu Picchu.

The Short Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is only 10 miles (16 kilometers) long and can be completed in just 1 day. It starts at Km 104 and ends at Machu Picchu. While this route doesn’t offer the same variety of scenery as the longer Inca Trail, it still passes through some stunning landscapes, including cloud forests.

Inca Trail vs. Quarry Trek

quarry trail Peru To Machu Picchu
Inca quarry trail Peru

For those travelers searching for unique adventures, there is another amazing trek called the Cachicata Trek or Inca Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu. The Cachicata Trek to Machu Picchu is a new but amazing route to Machu Picchu that few people know about or hike.

The Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, an epic trek many travelers want to complete but few will dare. This trek is a complete experience combining adventure, camping, hiking, challenge, history, culture, and the amazing reward of arriving at Machu Picchu hiking.

The Quarry Trek: This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a shorter, easier trek. It’s only 20 miles long and takes you to some of the best viewpoints of the Sacred Valley. The Quarry Trek is also a great option if you want to avoid the crowds of the Inca Trail.

Inca Trail vs. Choquequirao Trek

The Inca Trail and Choquequirao Hike are 2 of the most epic hikes to an ancient citadel in Peru. Both treks offer stunning views of the Andes mountains and the ancient Inca ruins, but there are some critical differences between these two.

The Inca Trail is much more popular than the Choquequirao trek.

The Choquequirao trek: is more challenging but less crowded and offers a more authentic Hiking Tour. The Inca Trail trek takes 4 days to complete, while the Choquequirao trek can be 4,5, up to 8-10 days.

Inca Trail Marathon

One of the most popular events in the world is the Inca Trail Marathon. This race takes place in Peru and follows the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

The marathon is considered one of the most difficult in the world due to the high altitude and rugged terrain. However, many runners find the challenge to be worth it for the once-in-a-lifetime background.

The Inca Trail Marathon is held every year in May or June. The race starts at KM 82 of the Inca Trail, about 2,000 meters above sea level. Runners then go through the jungle, mountains, and ancient ruins before finishing at Machu Picchu. The total race distance is approximately 42 kilometers.

Inca Trail Elevation Gain

The Inca Trail elevation gain is around 3,000 feet (914 meters) from start to finish. The highest point on the trail is 13,828 feet (4,215 meters) at Dead Woman’s Pass.

Most of the elevation gain is in the first few days, with around 1,000 feet (305 meters) of ascent on Day 1 and 800 feet (244 meters) on Day 2. After that, the trial levels out somewhat, although there are still some ups and downs.

Inca Trail Reservations

If you plan to participate in the Classic Machu Picchu Trek, you’ll need to make sure you have a reservation. This trek is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world, and it can be difficult to get a spot.

There is only one way to make a reservation for the trail. You need to book through an authorized tour company like Tour Leaders Peru. When making your reservation, you must provide your passport information and choose a start date for your hike.

It’s important to note that the Inca Trail is closed in February. You should also try booking at least six months in advance, as spots fill up quickly. Once your reservation is secured, all that is left is packing for your adventure!

Inca Trail Highest Point

Dead Woman’s Pass is a high mountain on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is 4,215 meters (13,829 ft) above sea level and is the highest point on the Inca Trail.

The pass gets its name from its resemblance to a woman lying on her back. The pass is a challenging section of the Inca Trail, with steep ascents and descents.

Inca Trail 2 days

The short Inca Trail With Hotel is an excellent option for those who want to hike the trail but are short on time. The trail is only 2 days long and is a great way to see some of the most incredible views of the Andes Mountains.

The trail starts at Km 104, about 1 hour from Cusco by train from Ollantaytambo. From there, you will hike for about 4-5 hours to reach the site of Wiñay Wayna.

You will enjoy a box lunch and continue the final stretch of the trail to Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate (Intipunku), from where you will have the first and most amazing view of Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail 5 days

The Machu Picchu Inca Trail hike 5-day slow version is an excellent option for those who want to enjoy the scenery and take their time on the trail. The slower pace means you’ll have more time to take photos, enjoy the views, and explore the ruins.

This version of the trail is also a good option for those not as physically fit, as it is not as strenuous as the shorter versions. Book your tour early if you’re planning on hiking the Inca Trail. Tours often fill up months in advance, especially during peak season (May-September).

The Sun Gate or Intipunku

Sungate, or Intipunku, is the official name for the entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail. The views from the Sun Gate are breathtaking, and it’s incredible to stand at the top of Machu Picchu and take it all in.

Inca Bridge in Machu Picchu

The Inca Bridge stretches across a deep gorge, which has a height of approximately 60 meters (200 feet). The Incas constructed the structure during the 15th century.

It’s not entirely clear what the Inca Bridge was used for, but it’s believed that it could have served as a means for the Incas to traverse the gorge without having to go down into the valley beneath it.

It’s possible that the bridge was built as a defensive structure to stop enemies from entering the citadel. The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu is a remarkable engineering achievement that will impress anyone who sees it.

Training For Inca Trail

Preparing for the Machu Picchu Inca Trail can indeed be demanding, but with the right preparation, it can also be an incredibly rewarding intimacy. For those looking to undertake this historic hike, here are a few recommendations to ensure you enjoy every step of the way:

  • Start Training Early: After booking your tour, it’s crucial to begin training. Incorporate regular hikes into your routine to accustom your body to the type of physical activity you’ll encounter on the trail.
  • Gradually Increase Physical Activities: Boost your stamina by gradually increasing your physical activities. Engage in walking or running for 30 minutes to an hour, three to five days a week. This will not only improve your health but also prepare you for the hike ahead.
  • Focus on Leg Strength: The Inca Trail involves traversing hilly and uneven terrain. Exercises such as squats and lunges can strengthen your legs at home, while mountain hiking can provide a more realistic training scenario.
  • Acclimatize to High Altitude in Cusco: Before setting out on the Inca Trail, allow yourself time to adjust to the high altitude of Cusco and the trail itself. Which reaches heights of up to 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). Acclimatizing to the elevation gradually is key to preventing altitude sickness.
  • Prepare for the Steps: With thousands of steps along the route, depending on which path you choose, it’s important to be mentally and physically prepared for this aspect of the trail. The effort, however, is well worth it for the unparalleled views and experience.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your Inca Trail Adventure will be as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible, letting you fully immerse yourself in the beauty and history of the path to Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail Stairs

The Inca Trail is known for its significant number of stairs, with different routes featuring varying amounts based on the path chosen. While we cannot provide an exact number of steps due to yearly maintenance and updates, feedback from past hikers gives us an idea of what to expect.

Those who have completed the Inca Trail report encountering approximately 5,000 to 7,000 steps along their trek.

To put this into perspective, on average, a person takes 200 to 300 steps to walk one mile, which equates to between 120 to 190 steps per kilometer.

Preparing for the multitude of stairs is crucial; although it might seem daunting at first, the experience gained from conquering these steps is incredibly rewarding.

Inca Trail Facts

Spanning over 4,000 miles through the majestic Andes Mountains, the Inca Trails comprise an ancient network of paths that were established over 500 years ago by the Inca civilization. The Classic Inca Trail.

Which is the most famous section, connects Cusco to Machu Picchu and is regarded as one of the world’s premier hiking adventures. It stretches 26 miles and typically takes four days to complete, reaching elevations up to 13,000 feet above sea level.

Hiking the Inca Trail is an unparalleled experience, offering breathtaking views of mountains, valleys, rivers, and ancient ruins along its path.

However, hikers face challenges such as narrow trails, steep ascents and descents, and unpredictable weather conditions. While the traditional hike takes four days, there are options available for shorter or longer experiences, accommodating a wide range of trekking preferences.

4-day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu Packing List

Exclusive Inca Trail Packing List

If you’re planning a trip to Machu Picchu, you’ll need a comprehensive packing list to ensure your journey is smooth and comfortable. This guide has been tried and tested to provide you with the ultimate checklist.

Documents

  • Airline tickets (confirmation and itinerary)
  • International health card (immunizations listed)
  • Valid passport (needed in many places, including Machu Picchu, where you get a souvenir stamp)

Travel Equipment

Hiking Clothing

Trekking Equipment

Trekking Clothing

Personal Items

Toiletries

  • Compact roll of toilet paper
  • Personal wipes/hygiene items
  • Washcloth
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush (travel size)
  • Toothpaste (travel size)
  • Dental floss
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
  • Lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)
  • Shampoo and conditioner For Travel
  • Camping, Hiking, Travel Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Skin lotion
  • Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Prescription medications for traveler’s diarrhea, altitude sickness, malaria

Food

Guide companies generally provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinking water during your trek. You’ll want to add to this by bringing snacks, drink mixes, and energy foods. Check with your guide company to see what food is provided

Inca Trail Hike Frequently Asked Questions

How to book the Inca Trail Tour?

Booking the famous Machu Picchu Trek is easy with Tour Leaders Peru; click on any BOOK NOW button, select your departure date, fill up the form with all details requested, including passport information, and finally submit the initial payment required to book the Inca Trail Trek.

Due to the permits’ strict booking policy for the Inca Trail administered by the Peruvian Government, all Inca Trail bookings must be confirmed manually. Only after manual confirmation from our side will your tour be 100% guaranteed.

Can I store my luggage with Tour Leader?

During the Machu Picchu Inca Trail, you will only take your daypack and a small duffle bag with 7 kg (15 lb). Your luggage must stay in Cusco. You can store it at the hotel or with the Tour Leaders Peru Office.

How can I reduce the risk of altitude sickness?

There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of altitude sickness:

  • Arrive at Cusco two days in advance so your body has time to acclimatize
  • Avoid rapid ascent so your body has time to adapt to its new altitude.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids like water and avoid alcohol consumption.
  • At high altitudes, eat smaller and lighter meals
  • Sleeping enough each night will allow your body to recover from exertion during the day.
  • If you start to feel symptoms of altitude sickness, descend to a lower altitude immediately and rest until you feel better.

What can I do in Cusco before the Inca Trail?

We recommend low-altitude tours or staying in the city of Cusco.

On the first day, you can rest in Cusco and, if possible, explore on a guided Cusco City Tour. On the second day, you can take a full-day Sacred Valley Tour and, if possible, stay in Ollantaytambo. If you stay in Ollantaytambo, you will save a 2-hour trip by bus on the day of the Machu Picchu Inca Trail.

After the Inca Trail, we recommend resting for one day to recover if possible, and then you can explore more places in Cusco.

Rainbow Mountain is the best day tour in Cusco after the Machu Picchu Inca Trail. This fantastic hike takes you to the colored mountain at 5200 meters and the Red Valley.

Humantay Lake hikes is another classic day tour located at 4200 meters. You can travel to Puno by bus and explore the floating islands.

How long in advance do I have to book the Inca Trail?

Inca Trail only 500 permits are sold daily, and this number includes porters, tour guides, chefs, and travelers. Make sure you book far in advance to get your preferred date.

For months like April, May, June, and July, we recommend booking the previous year before October: Every year, in the first months of October, the Inca Booking system will be open for the next year, and some dates will sell out immediately.

We recommend booking at least 6 months in advance for the high season and 3 months in advance for the slow season.

What happens if the Inca Trail is sold out?

Our team will contact you to offer alternative tours to Machu Picchu or dates if the travel date is sold out.

It’s important to note that submitting the payment does not guarantee an Inca Trail permit. You must always wait for manual confirmation from our team indicating that we have successfully secured the Inca Trail permits.

This process could take around 24 hours; if it is a weekend, the confirmation will be sent on Mondays.

How many people are allowed in each group?

The maximum group size is 16 travelers. However, this number is hardly met since it will depend on how many spots we sell before the permits are sold out.

These are the general rules of the Inca Trail and apply to all tour operators. The average group size is 8 to 12 travelers per group.

Is it better to have a group of 8 or 12 to 16?

Some operators only offer groups of 8 people, saying guests will get personalized service. However, this is the best option for the following reasons:

  • Groups of 8 people or fewer will only be allowed 1 tour guide.
  • Groups of 9 or more will be allowed 2 tour guides.

What equipment can I rent from Tour Leaders Peru?

Sleeping bags, Trekking poles, and inflatable mattresses are not included during the Inca Trail. You can bring your own, or you can rent from us.

  • Sleeping Bag: $25
  • Reputable brand Trekking poles: $20
  • Inflatable REI mattress: $20

The prices are in USD. We provide a foam sleeping pad for the Inca Trail tour; the air mattress is optional if you want more comfort.

How long is the 4-day Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail has a total distance of 26 miles or 42 kilometers. On average, it takes four days for a person to complete the entire trail.

However, if you are not used to hiking, it is recommended to allow for an extra day or two for pacing and acclimation.

If you have limited time or prefer a less strenuous experience, the Short Inca Trail is an excellent alternative, providing a quicker route to Machu Picchu.

How high is the Classic Inca Trail?

Cusco City, a popular starting point for many adventurers, is located at an elevation of 3,399 meters (11,151 feet). The Inca Trail officially begins at KM 82 in Piscacucho, which is situated at 2,642 meters (8,867 feet).

The trail has an average altitude of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), with the highest point being Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215 meters (13,835 feet). The second-highest pass, Runkuraqay, reaches 4,000 meters (13,123 feet).

The trek concludes at Machu Picchu, which is located at an altitude of 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level. Finally, the town of Aguas Calientes, where trekkers catch the train back to Cusco, is situated at 2,040 meters (6,692 feet).

Where does the 4-day Inca Trail start?

The Inca Trail is a popular hiking trail that starts at Km 82, Piscacucho (2,642 m or 8,867 ft) in the Ollantaytambo district of Urubamba Province.

To enter the protected area of the trail, you need to cross the Urubamba River through the main entry checkpoint, which is located on the right bank of the river.

The Short Inca Trail, which is a faster way to reach Machu Picchu, starts at Km 104, also known as Chachabamba. This trail is designed for those who want to complete the hike in just one day.

When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

Determining the best time to hike the Inca Trail can be quite challenging due to the area’s unpredictable weather conditions. The Adventure, however, remains extraordinary regardless of the weather you encounter – be it sun, rain, wind, or cold.

To ensure a successful trek, it is important to be well-prepared for varying weather conditions. Generally, the best time to hike the trail is from April to October, especially from May to August, which is the driest season. However, it is important to note that these months coincide with the peak visitor season at Machu Picchu.

The rainy season is from November to March, and it is still possible to enjoy periods without rain. It is worth noting that the trail is closed for maintenance in February, and it may also close unexpectedly due to severe weather or other unforeseen events.

When was the Inca Trail built?

Built in the 15th century, most likely between 1450 and 1500, the Inca Trail was an essential network created by the Inca Empire, connecting the capital, Cusco, to the sacred city of Machu Picchu. This assertion is backed by archaeological discoveries along the path and historical documents.

Why is the Classic Inca Trail important?

Since its rediscovery in 1915, the Inca Trail has revealed an array of Incan treasures to archaeologists, including temples, religious sites, and administrative centers at locations like Patallacta, Runkuraqay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Intipata, Wiñaywayna, and Intipunku.

Its historical significance, alongside the trail’s exceptional preservation, secluded setting, varied landscapes, breathtaking views, and distinctive flora and fauna, establish it as one of the most sought-after hiking destinations in South America.

How many days before the trek do I have to arrive in Cusco?

It is strongly advised to arrive in Cusco at least two days before embarking on your Inca Trail trek.

Doing so gives your body ample time to adjust to the high altitude, allows you to discover the lively city of Cusco, complete any last-minute shopping for gear or necessities, and adequately prepare for the adventure that awaits.

Which Inca Trail Trek is the best?

Selecting the ideal Inca Trail trek hinges on your availability, physical condition, and preferences. The Classic Inca Trail, a 4-day, 3-night journey, captivates 90% of adventurers with its immersive camping experience.

For those seeking a more leisurely pace with added comfort, the 5-day Inca Trail offers three nights under the stars and a final night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

Meanwhile, the Short Inca Trail presents a perfect alternative for those pressed for time or looking for a less strenuous adventure, entailing a single day of hiking followed by a visit to Machu Picchu.

These routes lay the groundwork for additional variations, including the more demanding 6-day, 5-night Salkantay Expedition.

Where do I have to book Inca Trail Permits?

Only authorized local, registered tour operators like Tour Leaders Peru can book the Inca Trail permits in Cusco City. You cannot secure the permits directly and must travel with a tour guide, chef, and porters.

How to get Inca Trail Permits?

Inca Trail permits are issued in the early days of October for the upcoming year. It is during this period that we secure permits for the next season. Months such as May, June, and July are particularly popular and tend to sell out quickly, making it crucial to obtain direct confirmation from the tour operator that your permits have been successfully obtained.

What is the difficulty level of the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail presents a formidable yet achievable challenge. Participants should be prepared to navigate uneven terrain for approximately 8 to 10 hours each day, acclimate to sleeping at elevations exceeding 3,000 meters, and possess the stamina to ascend and descend the numerous stairs along the trail.

Those of average physical fitness can enjoy an incredible experience on the Inca Trail, provided they engage in regular practice before undertaking this adventure. With adequate preparation, you’re sure to have a memorable journey.

How much does Inca Trail Cost?

When searching online, you’ll find a plethora of tour operators offering competitive prices, deciding on which company to travel with is quite challenging. On average, a 4-day Classic Inca Trail tour ranges from 750 to 799 USD, while the 5-day Inca Trail trek costs between 999 to 1500 USD. For those looking for a shorter experience, the average price for the Short Inca Trail tour is between 600 to 550 USD.

While you may come across better prices or options, it’s crucial to check what’s included in the package. Some operators might not offer personal porters for the Inca Trail or bus transport from Machu Picchu. Tour Leaders Peru, however, stands out by providing a personal porter and comprehensive transportation, including panoramic trains, from start to finish.

Is the Inca Trail Hike Dangerous?

Any adventure trip you go on, there are always risks involved. Dangerous situations during the Inca Trail could be due to negligence or the force of nature. Following your tour guide’s instructions is the best way to stay safe on the Inca Trail.

Can I Hike The Inca Trek Without a Guide?

You cannot enter the Inca Trail without hiring a registered tour company. You must hike the Inca Trail with a tour guide, chef, and porters. Tourists can only camp in designated campsites, and you’re not allowed to wander off the trail on your own.

Moreover, tour companies are also required to have insurance for their staff and guests.

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Thanks for Reading and Comments Below!

As seasoned tour guides who traverse the 4 days Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu year-round, we’ve accumulated a treasure trove of insights, anecdotes, and invaluable experiences.

Our journey along this ancient path has been both challenging and rewarding, filled with moments of awe and wonder, as well as unexpected hurdles and lessons learned.

Reflecting on our adventures, we recognize the importance of sharing our knowledge with fellow hikers who are preparing to embark on this unforgettable journey.

There are myriad things we wish we had known before setting foot on the trail – from practical tips for acclimatization to the altitude, to the significance of pacing oneself and embracing the journey’s spiritual aspects.

Through our encounters with past hikers, we’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the diverse motivations and aspirations that draw people to the Inca Trail. Some seek the thrill of conquering a physical challenge, while others yearn for a profound connection with history and nature.

Whatever your reasons may be, we’re here to accompany you every step of the way, sharing our passion for this sacred route and ensuring that your experience is as enriching and fulfilling as possible.

As you contemplate your own Inca Trail adventure, we invite you to join us on this transformative journey. Let us be your guides, your storytellers, and your companions as you traverse ancient pathways, soak in breathtaking vistas, and ultimately, discover the timeless allure of Machu Picchu.

Together, let’s create memories that will last a lifetime.

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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!

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