Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: The Best Hike of South America

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Discover the wonders of Peru's heartland by hiking the Inca Trail, a life-changing experience.

Explore THE INCA TRAIL

The Most Famous Hike in South America

The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the entire world, and is the best route in South America. It leads to one of the New Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu and follows along the trail that the Incas created all those hundreds of years ago.

Along the route you’ll get to see some fascinating archaeological sites that can only be accessed by foot. You’ll hike the trail accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who’ll inform you of all the important facts from history, as well as with tourists from across the globe. It’s a great chance to make new friends, too.

The trail is tough in parts, but it’s well worth the challenge. Let’s take a look in more detail.

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Great Experiences & Magical Places

The Journey is the Destination

What better way to explore a magic destination than by following in the footsteps of the people who know it best? To find out the best places to view during your Salkantay Trek, take a look at some of our traveler's favorite places.

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Inca Trail Travel Guide

Before You Go, What You Should Know

Inca Trail Highlights

Here are the top highlights that you’ll enjoy on the excursion:

  • Walk this ancient path surrounded by incredible landscapes and great views of rolling hills in the Andean mountains.
  • Enter Machu Picchu through the ‘Puerta del Sol’, or Sun Gate.
  • Be transformed back in time as you retrace ancient steps and let your mind take you back hundreds of years.
  • Hike along one of the most famous and impressive treks in the world.
  • Discover secrets of the ancient civilization and visit preserved historical sites.
  • Explore the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu

What to Expect on the Trail

To help you prepare as best as possible for this trip, it’s a good idea to know what to expect in advance. We’ve created a list to help you.

Effects of the Altitude

When booking this trek, you need to be aware that it is at a high altitude. You will reach up to 4,200 masl. This can mean you may feel tired more easily or want to eat or drink more. Altitude can cause headaches, nausea, and tiredness, so to make sure you avoid feeling like this on the trail, we recommend 2-3 days in the city of Cusco.

There Are No Showers

That’s right. Along the way there are no showers at all, so you will need to go however many days you opt to trek for without a shower. Bringing a change of clothes for each day and some body wipes is a good way to keep on top of hygiene.

It’s a Challenge

It isn’t the most difficult trek in the world, but it’s not easy either. Along with the altitude, a lot of the way you’ll be walking along the treasured Inca path, but that means a lot of cobbled walkways that can take their toll on your knees, ankles, and feet. Use the right footwear to aid you as much as possible.

You’ll See Plenty of Other Hikers

Due to the trail being one of the most popular in the world, you’ll meet a lot of people along the way from across the globe. It can be exciting to make new friends and experience this journey with many others. If you’re expecting to enjoy a peaceful walk by yourself in the mountains, this isn’t the trek to do it on.

To Learn a Lot of History

Along the trail you’ll visit some incredible archaeological sites where your knowledgeable guide will teach you all about the area. They’ll also give you plenty of information as you walk, so be prepared to learn a lot about our ancestors.

See Some Wonderful Scenery

Walking through the incredible Andean mountain range along an ancient path means you’re going to see some fantastic landscapes and get some wonderful views. The flora and fauna in the area is spectacular, so make sure you bring a good camera.

Different Climates

As you’ll be heading high into the mountain, you’ll be feeling the cold. However, you also head down into the jungle where it gets very warm. Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are also humid. You can expect bugs at this altitude so take plenty of insect repellent. Make sure you pack for the changes in weather.

Where is the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail is in Peru in South America. It’s located in the Andean mountain range in the department of Cusco. It ends at Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Difficulty Level

As far as treks go around the world, the Inca Trail is considered relatively difficult by most people. The overall distance of the trail is 26 miles, which is broken up over a few days. You also get porters to carry our backpacks, which makes things a little easier.

What makes the trek harder is the altitude, the elevation changes, and the difficult terrain of the paths. A lot of steps can also cause a strain on your knees and ankles. As an overall trek we have rated it as moderate, with challenging and easy parts as well.

Inca Trail Facts

Now to share our top facts about the Inca Trail.

  • Only 500 permits are available each day. 300 are taken by guides, cooks, and porters, meaning only 200 for visitors from all over the world.
  • The Classic Inca Trail is just a small part of a 45,000km network of Inca trails that link the whole of the Empire with the capital of Cusco.
  • The highest part of the route is Dead Woman’s Pass (Warmihuañusca) that sits at 4,215 masl.
  • Only trekkers on the Inca Trail will get to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and get a fantastic view over the Inca citadel.
  • The 4 day Classic Inca Trail is 26 miles (43km) long in total. It starts from Km82, named that way because it’s 82 kilometers along the railway tracks from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.
  • You need to be on the lookout to buy your tickets well in advance. They go on sale a year in advance and you won’t find out the day they’ll be available until around 3-7 beforehand.

Inca Trail Tips

Below are some useful tips to help you with preparation for your trip.

  • Spend a few days in Cusco and gradually walk a longer distance every day to prepare you for the trail.
  • Do a daily exercise routine including muscle exercises and stretches.
  • Allow 2-3 days to acclimate in the city of Cusco before your trek to get your body used to the high altitude.
  • Speak to a doctor in your country before you travel to Cusco to discuss any possible altitude medications. One is Diamox that may be considered. Always be aware of potential side effects if you’re going to take medicine.
  • Once you arrive in Cusco, drink as little to no alcohol as possible. This will dehydrate you and make trekking in the high altitude a lot more difficult and make you more susceptible to sickness.
  • Think about using walking poles to help you along the trail. There are downhill descents on steps and these can greatly help the impact on your joints.
  • Make sure you pace yourself on the trek. It’s not a race and some people will go faster and slower than you. Listen to your body and go with the flow. You’ll be thankful you did.
  • Be sure to drink enough water to keep you hydrated and your energy levels up.

Recommendations

Finally, to make your trip go as smoothly as possible, here are a few final recommendations.

Plan Your Trip in Advance

Remember that the Inca Trail will sell out months in advance, so to avoid disappointment, you need to book as far in advance as you can.

Make Use of a Packing List

You’ll find recommendations of what to pack online, and it’s a good idea to use them to your advantage. You don’t have a lot of space and need to make sure you take all the right things.

Come at the Right Time of Year

The Inca Trail is its busiest from May to October. This is the dry season and days are warm and sunny, whereas nights are cold. From November to April it’s the wet season, which can make things a little tougher, but there may be less hikers. Remember that the Inca Trail is closed in February.

Take Note of Age Limits

There are no official age restrictions on the trail, but most companies will only allow trekkers aged 12 and up.

Opt for Travel Insurance

Most travellers invest in travel insurance before they come to Peru, and it’s wise to do so. Look for one that includes adventure activities to make sure everything is covered. Most agencies won’t let you go with them if you aren’t insured.

Take Snacks

There are no shops along the route, so stock up on a few lightweight items to help you keep up your energy levels along the way. We recommend nuts and dried fruits.

Tipping

This is not obligatory, but most will expect a little something. The amount is at your discretion.

Travel Information

  • Highlights
  • What to Expect?
  • Where is the Inca Trail?
  • Difficulty Level
  • Inca Trail Facts
  • Inca Trail Tips
  • Recommendations

What makes these trips different?

We believe that a vacation should be more than a hotel room, a flight and a rental car. It should be more than the sum of its parts. We also believe a challenge can help you grow and a trip can stir the soul. We create journeys worth taking - for the traveler, for the host and for the world.

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