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STATS ~ 28 MI (45 KM)
High Altitude Trek

There is only one classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and it is the most sought after trek in Peru. 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.

The trail begins in the Sacred Valley and continues over varied terrain for the next 3 days. You will see archaeological sites and a remarkable diversity of Andean landscapes, all building up to the final grand entrance through the Sun Gate.

  • Highest Mountain Pass 13,828 ft (4,215 m)
  • Temperature Daytime: 68 to 73°F (20 to 23°C) Nighttime: 30 to 45°F (-1 to 7°C)
  • Climate The Inca Trail traverses different climates: Temperate highlands outside of the Sacred Valley; Cold, arid puna at the highest altitudes; and warm, humid, cloud forest valleys close to Machu Picchu.
  • Dry Season From June to August
    Days are sunny and nights are very cold. Vegetation is much less abundant but the trail is drier and easier to hike.
  • Wet Season From November to March
    Wet season days almost always bring drizzle or rain. Be prepared to get soaked and be cautious when the trail gets slippery. Nearby mountains are usually flanked by mist and the region’s diverse flora is in full bloom. The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.

    Weather during the shoulder months is variable and it's common to experience all four seasons in one day. Rain gear for the trek and thermal layers for the nights are recommended.
Take it slow and steady on Day 2 as you summit the highest point of the Inca Trail, known as Warmiwanusca in Quechua and reach 13,828 ft (4,215 m) in elevation.
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.
The last major campsite before Machu Picchu, these ruins include a long flight of fountains that flow from the upper terraces to the lower ones.
Only Inca Trail trekkers get the privilege of arriving at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate entrance.
The Inca Trail allows you to witness the diverse microclimates of the Andes, from grassy plains and dramatic peaks to lush cloud forest.
Inca Trail Itinerary Map

Hike Time: ~ 4 to 6 hrs Hike Distance: 7.5 mi (12 km) Minimum Altitude: 8,230 ft (2,600 m) Maximum Altitude: 9,840 ft (3,000 m) Gradient: Moderate Overnight: Camping

Hike Time: ~ 7 to 8 hrs Hike Distance: 10 mi (16 km) Minimum Altitude: 9,840 ft (3,000 m) Maximum Altitude: 13,828 ft (4,215 m) Gradient: Challenging Overnight: Camping

Hike Time: ~ 8 to 10 hrs Hike Distance: 10 mi (16 km) Minimum Altitude: 8,700 ft (2,650 m) Maximum Altitude: 12,500 feet (3,900 m) Gradient: Moderate Overnight: Camping

Hike Time: ~ 3 to 4 hrs Hike Distance: 3.7 mi (6 km) Gradient: Moderate Overnight: Hotel

Tour of Machu Picchu.

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Inca Trail Travel Tips

  • June to August: 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: minimum 6 months in advance.
  • November to March: wet 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 end of December. When to book: 1-3 months in advance.
  • April, May, September, October: shoulder season months. About 25% chance of rain with a mix of weather conditions. When to book: 3- 6 months in advance.
  • February: Inca Trail is shut down for maintenance.

Altitude 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 altitude, your general fitness and previous trekking experience will also factor into 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.

Essential information:

  • Only 500 Inca Trail permits 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 hikers on the 2-day, 4-day, 5-day, and 6-day routes as well as 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 far in advance is a 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 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 2.5 kg of the total weight.

Inca Trail permits are 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:

  • 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: 5-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 goes through highland communities in the Lares Valley renowned for their handwoven textiles. The landscapes of stone villages, grazing llamas, and glacial lagoons are simply gorgeous. Distance: 21 mi (34 km).
  • Longer 5-day and 6-day Inca Trail itineraries are also available for travelers with a bit more time. Ask your travel advisor for more details.

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 packing list for the Inca Trail:

  • Bring your original passport. It’s required to visit 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.
  • 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 altitude when the sun goes down.
  • 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 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 small (inflatable) 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.
  • Trekking poles to help ease impact on knees on downhills. Poles must have plastic tips. Bring your own or rent in Cusco.
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.) and any personal medications.
  • Insect repellent (with Deet) for protection against mosquitos 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.
  • Huayna Picchu & Machu Picchu Mountain: These treks inside Machu Picchu are much in demand for the bird’s eye views they provide over the Inca citadel. Both treks are limited to a restricted number of ticket entries per day; Huayna Picchu is 400 hikers per day, divided in 2 groups; and Machu Picchu is 800 hikers per day, divided in 2 groups. If you are interested in hiking either one of these routes in addition to the Inca Trail, ask your travel advisor about ticketing information.
  • 2 Days at Machu Picchu: With so much to see and do, a trip to Peru can often feel rushed and hectic. Give yourself time to relish your accomplishment and explore Machu Picchu in depth by adding an extra night in Machu Picchu. Stay at the Sanctuary Lodge outside the ruins entrance or book the beautiful Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel which has its own walking trails and additional activities.
  • Paracas/Nazca: Add some beach time to your Inca Trail adventure with a side trip from Lima down the coast to Paracas. The coastal desert climate is perfect for recharging your batteries after a challenging trek.
  • Arequipa/Colca or Lake Titicaca: Continue your exploration of the history and culture of the Andes with a visit to beautiful Arequipa and the Colca Canyon or Lake Titicaca.
  • Amazon: A short 45 min flight gets you from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the southern Amazon rainforest. Travel down the Madre de Dios River to experience incredible biodiversity and the majesty of nature.
  • Please consult your travel advisor with specific questions regarding trekking equipment and rental options during your Inca Trail trekking experience.

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.

Ask your travel advisor about including travel insurance in your customized travel package.


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