This page is the ultimate guide to trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We have added all the critically important pages and information you need to know before arriving in Peru.
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Inca Trail Trek – The Need to Know
Prepare yourself to be immersed in the mesmerizing world of the Incas as you hike through amazing mountain terrain. This region of Peru is truly sensational, and this trip will show you just how exciting it is.
Rich culture, world class mountain viewing, great food, the wonderful city of Cusco, amazing side trips, along with extremely special people – this trek truly has it all.
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Over the past fifteen years of running Inca Trail tours, we have compiled a list of everything you need to know about the trek. This information is to help you discover everything you need to know about hiking the Inca Trail, including how to prepare and what to expect from the trip.
We run over 15 trips a year on the Inca Trail, following a number of routes and options. GET IN TOUCH today for more information, and sign up to one of our unique itineraries!
What Is the Inca Trail?
First things first, what exactly is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Otherwise known as Camino Inca, Inca Trail is a hiking trail in Peru that terminates at the city of Machu Picchu, the famous capital of the Inca Empire.
What is so special about it? Well, first, the history. Inca Trail used to be a key trade route of the Inca Empire, with the original trail spreading across 25,000 miles (now it’s 25 miles). Some also believe that the Inca Trail used to serve as an annual pilgrim route, connecting the capital with Lake Titicaca, the place of Inti’s, the Incan God of Sun, birth.
Secondly, the experience. The Inca Trail meanders through the Andes, leading hikers through lush forests alive with birds, centuries-old Inca ruins, and rivers crossed via wooden bridges while surrounded by the Andes mountain peaks. The Inca Trail experience truly is one of a kind.
And last but not least, the primary reason for people hiking the Inca Trail lies at its very end – the magnificent city of Machu Picchu. Or, to be more precise, passing the Sun Gate to see one of the new seven wonders of the world at sunrise, Machu Picchu, bathed in sunlight. It’s not a view you forget.
After that marvelous crescendo, Inca Trail hikers can enter Machu Picchu to explore its wonders. And while the Inca Trail is not the only route to reach Machu Picchu (and not the easiest), it’s the most exciting and rewarding path, not just in Peru but the entire of South America.
How Many Days Does the Classic Inca Trail Trek Take?
After each time we get to trek the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, we start planning the next trip! No matter how many times we have been on this wonderful trek, we are still stunned and in awe of the Incan People.
In total, we run 15 treks to Machu Picchu each year. Our most favorite and popular Inca Trail tours to Machu Picchu include a 5-day Classic Inca Trail route, a 4-day trip, and a 6-day trek. We also run a number of side trips to Rainbow mountain, Ausangate, the Amazon region of Peru, and the Lares region of Peru.
Our Most Popular Tour – 5-Day Classic Inca Trail Hike
The 5-day Classic Inca trek gives the visitor plenty of time to explore the ancient ruins and spectacular mountain scenery without having to rush. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so having the time to fully appreciate the beauty and spiritual connection of this remote region makes for an unforgettable trip.
This is one of the most popular adventure treks to Machu Picchu, as it takes you through some stunning mountain scenery and up and over three passes; the Dead Woman’s pass, the Abra Runkurakay pass, and the Abra Phuyupatamarca pass.
Along the way, you will pass many ancient Inca sites such as Sayaqmarka, Intipata, and Winay Wayna, as well as no end of stunning natural beauty spots. And not only will you experience the remarkable beauty of Phyupatamarca, but you’ll also be resting your head in the best campsite on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
This classic trek generously includes two visits to the breathtaking Machu Picchu, one straight after reaching the renowned sun gate, Inti Punku, and the second, a day after, this time taken by bus after spending a night at the hotel. Fully rested, you can spend a day exploring the ruins with our guided tour and enjoy its majestic beauty at your leisure. ‘With new restrictions we can only spend 2 hours exploring Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco city after lunch’
Other Notable Inca Trail Tours
- 4-day Traditional Inca Trail Hike Our Classic Inca Trail trek is a 4-day trip that covers 33.7 miles, starting at Cusco. It crosses over 3 passes, including the famous Dead Woman’s pass, the highest point when hiking the Inca Trail (4,215 meters).
- The trip finishes by reaching the Sun Gate and exploring Machu Picchu. Additionally, those who want can climb Huayna Picchu and enjoy the stunning views. After exploring Machu Picchu, we take a bus to Aguas Calientes, from which we return to Cusco.
- Salkantay 6-day Inca Trail Trek Our 6-day Inca Trail Salkantay trek is the perfect option for hikers searching for a more adventurous and challenging journey through the Peruvian Andes.
- This trek includes passing through the Incachiriasca Pass, which is the highest point of the trek at 4,850 meters. From there, the road connects with the Classic Inca Trail, leading all the way to the Sun Gate and the lost city of Machu Picchu.
How Challenging Is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
Although hiking the Inca Trail isn’t the most challenging hike in the world, it’s not a walk in the park either. The trail to Machu Picchu is long, leading through steep mountain passes and steep stone steps. Also, due to high altitudes and steep ascents, it’s vital to prepare oneself before climbing the Inca Trail. We’ll talk more about the Inca Trail preparations in a moment.
Inca Trail Permits
Due to the ongoing erosion, the Peruvian Government decided to put a limit on the number of hikers who may access the Inca Trail. Since 2002, the daily limit has been 500 people, meaning you first need to obtain the official Inca Trail permit to hike the trail to Machu Picchu.
Securing the Inca Trail permit is only possible through a certified tour company, such as Ian Taylor Trekking. That means you won’t be able to trek the Inca Trail independently, as there are no free spots for you to book. That said, if you wish to hike the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, you can only do that through an approved tour operator.
What Is the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
When you’re thinking about booking your Inca Trail hike, you can either choose between hiking it during the dry season and wet season. The two differ immensely, so it’s important to consider their pros and cons.
Dry Season (April – October)
The dry season lasts from May to October. The most significant advantage is, of course, a significantly reduced chance of rain. Trekking the Inca Trail in the rain makes it an even more challenging hike, so picking one of our dry season tours is probably the best choice for less experienced hikers, with the days being hot and dry.
On the other hand, the dry season coincides with the peak tourism seasons in Peru. That means a lot more hikers on the trail and fuller campsites. Additionally, with more people interested in hiking the Inca Trail during summer, you will need to book your trip further in advance.
Wet Season (November – March)
The wet season in Peru spans from November to April. During this period, the trial is much less crowded, especially when it comes to exploring Machu Picchu itself. The temperatures are also slightly more chilly, and it’s much easier to book the Inca Trail tours.
However, the wet season means that you are more likely to hike in the rain, making the Inca Trail more slippery and challenging. Hiking in the rain for the whole day can also be a pain, especially if you aren’t equipped with a top-quality rain jacket.
Important note: The Inca Trail is closed in February for cleaning and allowing the trail to replenish.
Preparing for Your Inca Trail Hike
If you think that you can hike the Inca Trail in your worn hiking boots without any preparation whatsoever, think again. First, keep in mind that the Classic Inca Trail trek is over 33 miles long. Hiking that in four days through the steep ascents and mountain passes isn’t a walk in the park.
Secondly, bear in mind you’ll spend the entire trip in very high altitudes. The highest point on the trail, the Dead Woman’s Pass, lies at 4,215 meters above sea level. Such altitudes mean lower oxygen levels. Being able to withstand requires training and acclimatization.
And lastly, there’s the case of preparing high-quality equipment. So yes, there’s a lot to consider when preparing for your Inca Trail hike.
Pick the Right Itinerary to Match Your Ability
Firstly, you need to do is pick the right itinerary. There is no one size fits all solution. The trail can be challenging, and therefore, you should consider adding more days in Cusco and on the trail. Do not underestimate the lack of oxygen.
Therefore, you need to make sure you pick the proper acclimatization schedule and days on the Inca Trail to safely make your way through and experience as many of the Inca sites as possible. Choosing the right itinerary is vital for a safe, enjoyable, and successful experience in a low-oxygen environment higher up the trail to Machu Picchu.
If you fail to acclimatize well, then you run the risk of getting altitude sickness higher up. And trust us when we say it’s not the most pleasant thing to experience hiking the Inca Trail.
How to be Successful When Trekking at Altitude
Breathing techniques, low heart rates, excellent hydration, and pacing are all extremely important in order to be safe and successful. Also, you need excellent physical conditioning to be able to walk up and down thousands of steps with a weighted back pack at high altitude.
We can help you with this. DROP US AN E-MAIL today and get access to our Inca Trail trekking professionals. Our office staff have personally trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu more than 10 times. Pick up the phone and speak to us. We have the trekking team, experience, and knowledge to help you come fully prepared for your Inca Trail Trek.
What to Pack for the Inca Trail Tour?
And finally, you need to know what to pack for your hike. We cover that in more detail in our video, but in essence, our advice would be to prepare the following equipment:
- a solid, waterproof trekking backpack with a waist strap,
- a sleeping bag and sleeping pad,
- a change of clothes (hiking pants, t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, undergarments, etc.),
- a sturdy and solid pair of hiking boots,
- hiking socks,
- rain jacket, poncho, or another piece of waterproof clothing,
- cap or hat for sun protection,
- bug spray
- trekking poles,
- toiletries (toothbrush, deodorant, washcloth, etc.),
- toilet paper,
- essential medications,
- some light snacks,
- power bank.
As said, you will find a full list in our video guide. We will also send you a dedicated Inca Trail 35-page dossier, a full list of necessary items to pack, and other information regarding the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.
At Ian Taylor Trekking, we provide the best possible service to our customers and are proud of the experience that our porters bring. That is why we hire full-time staff in Cusco and pay our porters 25% more than other companies. It’s a win-win for our staff and customers. Our porters are motivated to provide the best possible service with a smile, and you get the most out of your trekking!
And not only do we provide financial assistance for staff to further their education, but we also contribute to the growth and development of Mahuaypampa’s local community.
We have added some useful links below that will aid in your planning and preparation for your trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We have successfully led hundreds of people through these majestic mountains on their way to visit Machu Picchu.
The following links will aid in your preparation for the trip as well! And if you want to learn more about hiking the Inca Trail, don’t hesitate to CALL US and find out everything you need for your specific trek.
1). Extremely IMPORTANT INFORMATION about Inca Trail permits.
2). Pick the best itinerary for your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu
3). Get training and learn the best way to prepare for your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu
4). Get FREE constant advice from our professional team
5). Understand the daily distance on the way up and down the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
6). Have the right clothing and gear for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
7). Pacing each day on the trail is critical to success on the Inca Trail
8). Why being hydrated is critical at high altitude and in low oxygen environments
9). Elevation gains on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. This will help you formulate a training plan
10). What sort of food will I get on your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
11). Read our Top 10 Tips for a successful Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
12). Read our Top 10 Tips for when you are on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
13). Read about the best time to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
14). What vaccinations should you consider for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
15). What type of trekking boots should you have for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
16). What Insurance do I need for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
17). What additional expenses will you incur on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
18). Here are 20 reasons to Pick us for your Machu Picchu Trek
19). Here is some additional training advice for going downhill
Why Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with Ian Taylor Trekking?
Since you can only trek the Inca Trail with one of the approved tour operators, you need to choose the right tour company. We can help with that. By choosing Ian Taylor Trekking for your Inca Trail hike, you can take advantage of an experienced team of trekking professionals to guide you through the wonders of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Support a company that has invested in its local staff. We have raised funds to build a school in Uganda, two schools in Nepal, support an orphanage in Tanzania, and also help support local children in Cusco. We have our own full-time staff on the ground in Cusco, and we run a quality service on all our trekking trips to Machu Picchu. CONTACT US, and we can explain how we operate our adventures in Peru.
The trek to Machu Picchu will be the highlight of any trekker‘s career! Thus, you need to make sure you put in the right training and preparation to make this journey a success. Let our team help you to reach your goals today!
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – FAQs
Where to get water when hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
You don’t need to worry about your drinking water when hiking the Inca Trail with Ian Taylor Trekking. Our tour guides will provide you with cold water every morning, lunch, and evening, ensuring you are properly hydrated during your hike. The only thing we recommend you have are water purification tablets to use on the provided water.
What is the Food like on the Inca Trail Tour?
Besides drinking water, our staff will also provide you with top-quality food, ranging from snacks and fruits to meat and grains. We also serve three-course meals three times a day, ensuring you get all the energy and nutrients necessary to complete a full day’s hike. You can also buy snacks on the trail to Machu Picchu from local sellers.
Do I Need to Purchase Special Inca Trail Insurance?
Although you’ll be guided by the best professionals possible, there’s always the risk of something going wrong when hiking the Inca Trail. For example, if you fall sick or injure yourself and are unable to hike, you will need to be evacuated. Without proper travel insurance in place, evacuation will be more than expensive.
Therefore, we always encourage our customers to purchase a dedicated travel insurance policy, whether it’s the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu or any other of our hiking trips.
How Much Money to Bring on my Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu?
That depends entirely on you. Practically all the most significant costs will be covered up-front, so you won’t need to worry about food or water. Still, it might be a good idea to bring some soles to buy snacks or access toilets (typically 1 sol). You will also be expected to tip the porters and guides. Finally, there are the costs of any souvenirs you wish to purchase and meals once you reach the Sacred Valley.
How Much Does Hiking the Inca Trail Cost?
That depends on which offer you choose. As covered, we offer three main Inca Trail tours, either 4, 5, or 6-day. The cost will cover the accommodation, food, water, and other basic expenses. The only things you will need to cover yourself are souvenirs when visiting Machu Picchu, meals at Aguas Calientes and Cusco, and tips at the end of the trip (we recommend tipping the team around $200).