Inca Trail

Classic Trek To Machu Picchu


The Classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most sought after trek in Peru. So much so, that permits generally sell out up to eight months in advance. Rooted in Inca heritage, this centuries-old path gives hikers the chance to walk in the footsteps of pre-Columbian royalty. Up mountain passes and down into humid cloud forest valleys, the final destination is majestic Machu Picchu.

Although the Classic 4-day trek to Machu Picchu is most associated with the Inca Trail, there was in fact a network of Inca Trails spanning 25,000 miles (45,000 km) and six countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru). The Inca road system, originally called Qhapaq Ñan in Quechua, an indigenous Peruvian language, was used for general transportation, trade, religious, and military purposes.

The Classic 4-day Inca Trail trek begins in the Sacred Valley and navigates varied terrain. Explorers will glimpse archaeological sites and a remarkable diversity of Andean landscapes, all building up to the final grand entrance to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. For adventurous travelers seeking a challenge, the Classic 4-day Inca Trail is an excellent choice that is sure to be a highlight of any trip.


The Inca Trail passes through four of the eight life zones described by Peruvian geographer Javier Pulgar Vida:

  1. The trail begins at Km 82 in the Quechua zone. Located between 7,500–11,500 ft (2,300–3,500 m), this area experiences dry weather. Due to widespread cultivation, there is a lack of endemic vegetation.
  2. Next, the trail enters the Suni or Jalca zones, which are located between 11,500–13,000 ft (3,500–4,000 m). Suni or Jalca zones are characterized by glacial valleys and a cold, dry climate.
  3. The Puna zone is located between 13,000–15,750 ft (4,000–4,800 m). Here adventurers will trek through grasslands that are grazed upon by llamas and alpacas. The high elevation sometimes equates to freezing temperatures.
  4. Located between 7,500–3,300 ft (1,000–2,300 m) is the Yunga Fluvial zone. This area is associated with a warm, moist, neo-tropical climate. This is where the Peruvian highlands transition to the Amazon rainforest.
Inca Trail Elevation

Classic 4-day Inca Trail Trek

Highest Elevation:
Dead Woman’s Pass: 13,828 ft (4,215 m)
Lowest Elevation:
Machu Picchu: 7,972 ft (2,430 m)
Inca Trail Distance:
30 miles (49 km)

2-day Inca Trail Trek

Highest Elevation:
Wiñay Wayna: 8,694 ft (2,650 m)
Lowest Elevation:
Chachabamba: 6,725 ft (2,050 m)
Inca Trail Distance:
6.8 miles (11 km)

Climate and Weather


The Inca Trail traverses a variety of climates: temperate highlands outside of the Sacred Valley; cold, arid puna at the highest elevations; and warm, humid, cloud forest valleys close to Machu Picchu.

Dry Season

From May to September
The days are sunny and the nights are very cold. Vegetation is much less abundant but the trail is drier and easier to hike.

  • Average daytime temperature: 68 to 73°F (20 to 23°C)
  • Average nighttime temperature: 30 to 45°F (-1 to 7°C)
Rainy Season

From November to March Rainy season days almost always bring drizzle or rain. Be prepared to get soaked and tread cautiously when the trail gets slippery. Nearby mountains are usually flanked by mist and the region’s diverse flora is in full bloom. Take note that the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.

  • Average daytime temperature: 68 to 70°F (20 to 21°C)
  • Average nighttime temperature: 45°F (7°C)
Shoulder Seasons

April & October Inca Trail weather during the shoulder months is variable and it is common to experience all four seasons in one day. Rain gear for the trek and thermal layers to wear at night are recommended.

  • Average daytime temperature: 71°F (ºC)
  • Average nighttime temperature: 39 to 43°F (4 to 6°C)
Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail
  • May to September: dry season with good trail conditions. High probability of sunny weather. Days are warm, nights are freezing. Inca Trail permits sell out fast for these months. When to book: a minimum of 6 months in advance.
  • April and October: shoulder season months. About a 25% chance of rain with a mix of weather conditions. When to book: 3–6 months in advance.
  • November to March: rainy season. Trails can get muddy and slippery. High probability of rain on any given day. Nights are warmer compared to the dry season. Inca Trail permits are usually available, except for holiday weeks, such as the end of December. When to book: 3 months in advance.
  • February: Inca Trail is closed for maintenance.

What to See

Dead Woman’s Pass

Take it slow and steady on Day 2 of the hike, as you summit the highest point of the Inca Trail, known as Warmiwanusca in Quechua. At this point, the trail reaches 13,828 ft (4,215 m) in elevation.This pass is so named, as from below it is said to resemble a woman’s supine body.


These unique circular structures display precise stone masonry and are thought to have served as a resting, refueling, and relay station for messengers on the Inca Trail.


Climb a narrow stone stairway to view the highland terraces of Patallacta, which were likely used to grow crops.


A narrow path of 98 stairs leads to this impressive ruin surrounded by cliffs on three sides and overlooking the Aobamba Valley.

Wiñay Wayna

The last major campsite before Machu Picchu, these ruins include a long flight of fountains that flow from the upper to the lower terraces.

Machu Picchu Sun Gate

Only Inca Trail trekkers are awarded the privilege of arriving at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate entrance. Once used as a checkpoint for those entering and exiting the holy city, this viewpoint affords hikers unrivaled views of the citadel far below.

Andean Diversity

The Inca Trail’s most appealing sight is perhaps its natural beauty. The trek allows hikers to witness the diverse microclimates of the Andes, from grassy plains and dramatic peaks to lush cloud forest.

4-day vs 2-day Inca Trail Trek

In addition to the Classic 4-day Inca Trail trek, there is a shorter full-day trek. Despite only including one day of hiking, this shorter hike is referred to as the “2-day Inca Trail” because the hike to Machu Picchu is on Day 1 and the Machu Picchu tour is on Day 2. Both the 4-day and 2-day Inca Trail treks have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

The 4-day Inca Trail is ideal for travelers looking for a physically challenging adventure. Four days of trekking through a variety of landscapes is a great way of getting to know this part of Peru. While the trekking team makes the experience very comfortable, three nights camping in a tent is perhaps not for everyone.

Alternatively, the 2-day Inca Trail is recommended for travelers who cannot or do not wish to devote four days of trekking to their trip, but would still like to experience the Inca Trail. This trek additionally permits hikers to enter Machu Picchu through its Sun Gate. The 2-day Inca Trail is particularly popular with families that enjoy hiking and are looking for a taste of adventure. There is no camping involved, as travelers spend the night in a hotel after hiking to Machu Picchu.

Tour Packages

Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

4 days

Inca Trail, Machu Picchu

Inca Trail Express to Machu Picchu

7 days

Cusco, Inca Trail, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu

Cusco & Classic Inca Trail

8 days

Inca Trail, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lima

2-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

2 days

Inca Trail, Machu Picchu

2-day Inca Trail and Rainbow Mountain

6 days

Cusco, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Lima, Sacred Valley

Daily Breakdown

DAY 1: Cusco to Trailhead to Wayllabamba
Hike Time:
Hike Distance:
Minimum Elevation:
Maximum Elevation:
  • Rise early for the first day of your trek. Your trekking guides will meet you at your Cusco hotel and transfer with you to the Sacred Valley. Here, you will be introduced to the rest of the trekking team, who will accompany you on your adventure.
  • Along the way, you will stop at Llactapata, an Inca archaeological site located at the convergence of the Cusichaca and Vilcanota Rivers. This first day of the trail meanders up and down gradually, with an elevation increase of only 1,610 ft (400 m).
  • Later in the afternoon you will enjoy lunch and continue on toward the first campsite, Wayllabamba (9,840 ft / 3,000 m). Prior to your arrival, the trekking team will assemble your tent, so you can focus on relaxing and enjoying the mountain scenery.
DAY 2: Wayllabamba to Pacaymayo
Hike Time:
Hike Distance:
Minimum Elevation:
Maximum Elevation:
  • Day 2 is the most challenging day of the trek, as you will gain 3,988 ft (1,215 m) in elevation. After breakfast, you will begin the ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass (13,828 ft (4,215 m), the highest point of the entire trek.
  • As your elevation increases, take note of how the ecosystems change. You will begin your ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass surrounded by lush, green scenery. At the top, the pass is rocky, with little vegetation. If the sky is clear, the views of Llulluchapampa Valley are phenomenal.
  • After celebrating your arrival to the top and snapping some photos, descend toward the Pacaymayo campsite (11,788 ft/3,590 m). Share stories over dinner, and if the weather permits, partake in Andean stargazing before retiring to your tent.
DAY 3: Pacaymayo to Wiñay Wayna
Hike Time:
Hike Distance:
Minimum Elevation:
Maximum Elevation:
  • Today you will trek to the Wiñay Wayna campsite (8,700 ft/2,650 m). The first 30 minutes of the trek is uphill, while the remainder of the trail is largely a descent.
  • Along the way, you will visit Runkurakay, a circular complex that scholars believe Inca messengers used as a refueling and resting station. Later on, you will stop at Sayaqmarca. 98 steps lead to this site, which is positioned on a cliff that affords splendid views of the Aobamba Valley.
  • In the late afternoon, you will arrive at Wiñay Wayna. Your campsite is located just a few minutes from this archaeological site, famed for its steep and towering agricultural terraces that overlook the Urubamba River. It is customary on the last night of the trek to tip the trekking team (guides, porters, chef) as a thank you for their terrific service and support.
DAY 4: Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu
Hike Time:
Hike Distance:
Minimum Elevation:
Maximum Elevation:
  • The trekking team will wake you before sunrise to ensure that you arrive at Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate by mid-morning. If the skies are clear, you will enjoy an outstanding view of the Machu Picchu ruins from above.
  • After all trekkers from your group have arrived at the Sun Gate, you will continue to the Machu Picchu citadel for your 2.5-hour tour. Your guide will show you the most important areas of the site and share with you their historical and cultural significance.
  • After the tour, trekkers who pre-purchased Huayna Picchu tickets will continue hiking, while the rest of the group will take the 25-minute shuttle bus to Aguas Calientes. From Aguas Calientes, either take the train back to Cusco or spend one night at an Aguas Calientes hotel and explore more of Machu Picchu the next day.
DAY 1: Cusco to Trailhead to Machu Picchu
Hike Time:
Hike Distance:
Minimum Elevation:
Maximum Elevation:
  • This morning, you will take a train from Ollantaytambo to Km 104, where you will disembark and begin the 2-day Inca Trail. The first half of the hike to Machu Picchu includes steep inclines and many stone steps.
  • In the afternoon, you will arrive at the Wiñay Wayna ruins, which are situated at the hike’s highest elevation (8,694 ft/2,650 m). Take a break to catch your breath and enjoy the spectacular views of the Urubamba River below the site’s green terraces.
  • In the late afternoon, you will arrive at the Sun Gate. Take some time to relish in your accomplishment before accompanying your guide to the Machu Picchu bus stop for your transfer down the mountain to Aguas Calientes. Check in to your hotel and later enjoy dinner with your hiking group.
DAY 2: Machu Picchu Tour

Overnight: Hotel

  • After breakfast, meet your Inca Trail guide for your return bus ride up the mountain to Machu Picchu. Your guide will take you on a 2.5-hour tour of the citadel, where you will learn about its fascinating history.
  • Travelers who have pre-purchased Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permits will continue on to their respective hikes after the tour. The remainder of the group will return to Aguas Calientes and board the train for their returns to the Sacred Valley or Cusco.


Essential Information
  • Only 500 Inca Trail permits are available per day
  • Booking Inca Trail tickets in advance is a must
  • Inca Trail is closed for the month of February
  • Pack animals are not allowed. Porters carry all the equipment.

To protect this historic trail, only 500 people are permitted to hike on it each day. This total includes 4-day, and 5-day routes, as well as trekking guides, porters, and chefs. Permits for the Inca Trail sell out quickly, sometimes 5 months in advance for dates during the dry season (May–September). Booking far in advance is an absolute must.

Permits to hike the Inca Trail are available March through January. The trail is closed in February for annual maintenance, conservation, and clean-up.

Access to the Inca Trail is strictly controlled. Your trek must be organized through a licensed tour operator. It is not possible to hike the trail independently.

Pack animals, including mules, horses, and llamas, are banned from the trail. Porters are instead responsible for carrying the tents, cooking supplies, food and additional camping equipment necessary along the trail. Many trekkers also choose to hire a porter to carry personal belongings.

Private porters can be hired to carry either 18 lbs (8 kg) or 33 lbs (15 kg) of your personal belongings. When packing your bag, keep in mind that a sleeping bag and sleeping pad account for 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) of the total weight.

Travel Info

Travel Tips
4-day Inca Trail
  • Many trekkers find that hiking poles are helpful for navigating steep steps and reducing the impact on lower joints. Per Inca Trail and Machu Picchu regulations, hiking poles must have rubber tips. They can be purchased in Cusco or rented from your trekking company with advance notice.
  • Likewise, if you would prefer not to carry your sleeping bag from home to Peru, you can rent one from your trekking company with advance notice.
  • Hiring a personal porter to carry your belongings and sleeping bag will make your trekking experience more enjoyable. Ask your Travel Advisor about adding a porter that can carry up to 18 lb (8 kg) or 33 lb (15 kg).
  • If hiring a porter, still carry a daypack with you. You won’t have access to what your porter carries until you reach the campsite each night, so you will need a small pack to carry water, snacks, rain jacket, extra layers of clothing, etc.
  • Don\'t overpack. The less you have to carry, the more enjoyable the experience. See below for our packing recommendations.
  • Bring cash with you for tipping. It is customary to tip the trekking team on the last night of the trek (Day 3). There are no ATMs along the way. See below for tipping recommendations.
  • There are no opportunities to charge electronics along the trail. Bring extra batteries for personal electronics like cameras and cell phones. A portable power bank is also useful. Remember that batteries deplete faster at higher elevations.
  • For the most part, there is no cell phone signal along the Inca Trail. Make sure to let loved ones know that you will be without service for four days.
  • The Inca Trail has very steep inclines. Physically prepare by training at home in the months leading up to your trip.
2-day Inca Trail
  • Bring a daypack to carry your overnight and personal belongings, water, and provided boxed lunch.
  • Although the hike is only one day long, this doesn’t mean it is easy. Be prepared for steep inclines and stone steps.
  • Hiking poles will aid you in steep areas. These can be purchased in Cusco or rented from your trekking company with advance notice.
  • Be prepared for all types of weather conditions. Even during the dry season there is the chance of rain, so make sure to bring a rain jacket or poncho.
Elevation & Acclimatization

High elevation is the greatest challenge on the Inca Trail Trek. The trail reaches 13,828 ft (4,215 m) on Day 2 and 12,500 feet (3,900 m) on Day 3. Before starting the trek, spending some time in Cusco (11,150 ft/3,400 m) will help your body adjust. We recommend 2 nights or more if possible.

Besides dealing with high elevation, your general fitness and previous trekking experience will also contribute to your level of enjoyment. Be sure to exercise in the weeks leading up to your trip. You should be able to walk for at least 2–3 hours at a time on varied terrain. You will also benefit from training your legs to walk/hike on stairways or steep slopes.

During the trek, days are planned so that you have plenty of time to get from one point to the next. On challenging sections, you can set your own pace and take as many or as few breaks as you need.


Below are some suggestions on how much to tip the trekking team. They work hard, and based on your experience, you can even tip more.

  • Guide: 160-200 Soles (per trekker)
  • Each Porter: 60-80 Soles (per trekker)
  • Chef: 80-120 Soles (per trekker)
Alternative Treks to Machu Picchu

Are Inca Trail permits sold out for your dates? Or maybe you would rather take a longer or shorter trek or a path less beaten?

If this is the case, you have plenty of options for hiking in the Andes:

  • Inca Trail 2-day: ideal for travelers who have limited time or want something less strenuous. This hike starts along the train tracks from Cusco at Km 104 on a trail that leads to two archaeological sites, Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. The trail continues via the Sun Gate for a first encounter with the “Lost City of the Incas.” Spend the night in Aguas Calientes and then wake up on Day 2 for a Machu Picchu tour. Distance: 6.8 mi (11 km).
  • Salkantay Trek: 4-day trek via the “backdoor” to Machu Picchu. This trail traverses a wild variety of climates from the flanks of the glacier-capped Salkantay Mountain to the humid cloud forest where fruit and coffee farms thrive. For an ultra-luxe option, ask about the Salkantay Lodge-to-Lodge trek, where trekkers sleep in comfortable lodges with fantastic extras like hot tubs and gourmet meals. Distance: 32 mi (51 km).
  • Lares Trek: Also known as the “weaver’s route,” this 3-day trek traverses highland communities, renowned for their handwoven textiles, in the Lares Valley. The landscapes of stone villages, grazing llamas, and glacial lagoons are simply magnificent. Distance: 21 mi (34 km).
  • Longer 5-day Inca Trail itineraries are also available for travelers with a bit more time for hiking to Machu Picchu. Ask your Travel Advisor for more details.
4-day Inca Trail Packing List

Camping equipment, daily meals, and boiled drinking water are provided by your trekking team. You can either bring your own sleeping bag or rent one for an additional fee. Please consult your Travel Advisor with specific questions regarding trekking equipment and rental options during your Inca Trail trekking experience.

Essential Inca Trail packing list:

  • Bring your original passport, used to book your trek. It’s required to begin the Inca Trail and to visit Machu Picchu.
  • 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.
  • The trail passes through diverse microclimates each day. Pack lightweight pants, short- and long-sleeve shirts, warm fleece jackets, underwear, and socks. Dress in layers and adjust as necessary during the day.
  • Pack thermal undergarments, a warm hat, and gloves for evenings. Temperatures really drop at higher elevation when the sun sets.
  • Comfortable hiking boots or walking shoes are a must. Also pack shower sandals to rest your feet at night.
  • Be prepared with a rain jacket or poncho and pants made of quick-drying synthetic material. There is a chance of rain even in the dry season, so 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.
  • Lightweight travel towel to shower with and a small (inflatable) travel pillow for your sleeping comfort.
  • Pack of tissues, 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.
  • Hiking poles to help ease impact on knees on downhills. Poles must have rubber tips.
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) and any personal medications.
  • Insect repellent (with Deet) for protection against mosquitoes and other blood-sucking critters once you get to Machu Picchu. Malaria and yellow fever are not a risk in this area.
  • Bring local 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.
2-day Inca Trail Packing List
  • Make sure to pack your original passport. You won’t be able to enter the Inca Trail nor Machu Picchu without it.
  • A daypack to carry water, a boxed lunch provided by your hiking guide, camera, personal items for your overnight in Aguas Calientes, etc.
  • Hiking poles to aid you in ascending and descending the mountain trail. You can purchase these in Cusco or rent them from your trekking company with advance notice. Hiking poles must have rubber tips on the ends.
  • No matter the season, make sure to bring a rain jacket or poncho as there is always the chance of showers in the Andes.
  • Hiking boots with a solid tread and ankle support to help prevent injuries.
  • Wear quick-drying ayers. At the beginning of the hike the morning mountain air is likely to be cool, however you will warm up as you continue your journey to Machu Picchu.
Travel Insurance

Travel is full of variables and there is always a risk, however small, that something might go wrong before or during your trip. Something as minor as a flight delay can have a significant financial impact, as can illness, bad weather or baggage delay. It is important to carefully review potential travel insurance policies to make sure that the Inca Trail portion will be covered. Some travel insurance policies do not cover adventure or high-elevation activities.


Yes, the Inca Trail is safe. Only government-authorized trekking companies can offer Inca Trail tours and your trekking team is trained in the case of emergency. As with any trek, you should take proper precautions and make sure that you bring the correct gear and clothing. During the rainy season, there is the possibility of landslides. This is in part why the Inca Trail is closed in February (the height of the rainy season).

The 4-day Inca Trail begins at Km 82 which has an elevation of 8,230 ft (2,600 m). The highest point is Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,828 ft (4,215 m) and the lowest point is Machu Picchu at 7,972 ft (2,430 m).

The 2-day Inca Trail begins at the Chachabamba archaeological complex which is located at 6,725 ft (2,050 m), the lowest point of the hike. The hike reaches its highest point at the Wiñay Wayna ruins, which are located at 8,694 ft (2,650 m). The 2-day Inca Trail ends at Machu Picchu, which is located at 7,972 ft (2,430 m).

The 4-day Inca Trail is 30 miles (49 km) in length. The trail begins at Km 82 of the Inca Trail and ends at Machu Picchu's Sun Gate.

The best time of year to hike the Inca Trail is during the dry season (May–September). These are also the coldest months of the year so make sure to pack accordingly.

The Inca Trail is open 11 months of the year (March through January). It is closed in February for maintenance.

It is very important to secure your Inca Trail permits in advance. For high season travel (April–October) and December holidays, permits can sell out up to six months before travel. Permits for low season travel (November–March) should be secured at least three months in advance.

No, there is no waiting list for permits. Permits are only available for purchase through the Peruvian government. Once a permit is purchased for one person, the permit cannot be transferred to another individual.

Hiking the Inca Trail is challenging due to the high elevation (maximum 13,828 ft/4,215 m) and steep stone steps in some parts. It is recommended to arrive in Cusco at least 2 days before the start of your trek so that you can acclimatize. We recommend training for the physical challenge, as well as consulting with your physician prior to travel.

Hiking the Inca Trail is challenging due to the high elevation (maximum 13,828 ft/4,215 m) and steep stone steps in some parts. It is recommended to arrive in Cusco at least 2 days before the start of your trek so that you can acclimatize. We recommend training for the physical challenge, as well as consulting with your physician prior to travel.

Some campsites have on-site restrooms and showers, however, these are not well maintained. Instead, your trekking team will bring a portable toilet that will be set up during lunch and at each campsite. As there are no restrooms mid-trek, you opt to wait until lunch or to reach the campsite or to go in nature. Each morning and night you will also be provided a bowl of warm water with which to freshen up.

Yes, the trekking team will provide drinking water every morning and at each meal. Each evening, water is collected from nearby streams, boiled, and left to cool overnight. A reusable water bottle or hydration pack works well for this.

Group porters carry tents, cooking equipment, portable restrooms, and other communal items. However, each trekker is responsible for transporting their personal items (clothing, toiletries, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, etc.). To make your experience hiking in Peru more enjoyable, we recommend hiring a personal porter to help carry these items. Porters can be hired to carry up to 18 lb (8 kg) or 33 lb (15 kg). You'll still need to at least carry a daypack with your water bottle, rain jacket, etc. as you won't have access to what the porter carries until you reach the campsite each day. Let your Travel Advisor know if you'd be interested, as Inca Trail permits also need to be purchased in advance for porters.

Your guide will be fluent in English and Spanish. Consult your Travel Advisor if you require a guide who speaks a different language.

There are no ATMs along the Inca Trail. You should bring enough money with you from Cusco for tipping and lunch in Aguas Calientes. There are also some ATMs in Aguas Calientes if you need to withdraw additional money.

No, you can only hike the Inca Trail with a tour guide licensed for the Inca Trail. There are several checkpoints along the route that monitor this.


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