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Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu

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Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the world's premier treks that combines spectacular high Andean scenery & Inca ruins culminating at the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu. Planning your hike ahead of time is something you should consider, as permits to hike the full Inca Trail are extremely limited and require reserving months in advance starting in October of each year. Most Inca Trail tours have four days of hiking and are offered as either standard-class or luxury-class treks. For experienced hikers, the breathtaking Salkantay trek takes you even higher into the Andes. All treks require several days of acclimatization to high altitude and a good level of fitness. Hiking the Inca Trail can be very challenging, but Adventure Life's Peru experts are here to assure trip planning is seamless and that you're prepared for the hike. Contact us for expert advice or to book your Inca Trail hike.

Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2024-2025

2 Short Single-Day Inca Trail Hiking Options for 2024-2025

Guide to Trekking the Inca Trail

What to consider when planning your Inca Trail adventure?
  • When embarking on the iconic Inca Trail in Peru, securing an Inca Trail permit is a crucial step to ensure your journey to the ancient wonders of the Inca Empire.
  • Regardless of the length of the trail you choose to hike, a guided Inca Trail tour is highly recommended to enhance your experience and provide valuable insights along the way.
  • As you prepare for your adventure, a comprehensive Inca Trail packing list will prove invaluable, including essentials for the trek and equipment suitable for the diverse terrain.
  • Familiarizing yourself with an Inca Trail map will allow you to trace the footsteps of ancient civilizations and appreciate the route's significance.
  • It's essential to remember that the trek is made possible by dedicated porters, who expertly handle logistics and carry supplies, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Inca Trail.
Inca Trail Permits and Availability

The maximum number of Inca Trail permits given by the Peruvian government is 500 per day. However, it's important to note that this number includes permits for staff, such as porters, guides, and cooks, who support the trekkers. The exact breakdown of permits for staff and visitors can vary based on government regulations. As a result, approximately 200 spots are available for visitors.

Due to the limited availability of permits, it is crucial to plan ahead of time. The permits for the Inca Trail usually sell out quickly, especially during high demand periods. Tickets for the upcoming year go on sale in October. However, it is advisable to book your spot for the Inca Trail as much as 9 months in advance, as a general recommendation. The exact timing may depend on various factors, such as the time of year you plan to visit and the availability of permits.

Remember, travel regulations and policies can change over time. Make sure to contact us before making any plans for the Inca Trail and to reserve your spot!
Is it safe to hike the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail was temporarily closed but reopened on March 1st, 2023. However, it is important to check travel restrictions and requirements before planning your trip. See Peru's official travel site for updates. You may also visit the USUKIndiaCanada, and Australia governments' websites for current travel advisories to Peru from residents of those countries. 

Contact one of our Peru trip planners for up-to-date advice on traveling to Peru and hiking the Inca Trail.
When to Go - Best Times of Year to Trek The Inca Trail 

The high travel season is May through August, and you must reserve your trek several months in advance (preferably before October of the previous year) in order to secure one of the limited spaces during these dry months of sun and warmth where it only rains a few days per month on average. Nights temperatures are cool, averaging around 32 degrees F (0 degrees C).

Rain starts increasing in September, peaking in January. The average number of rainy days for this season are:
September: 8 days of rain
October: 9 days of rain
November: 13 days of rain
December: 16 days of rain
January: 18 days of rain
February: 13 days (Inca Trail is Closed all month) 
March: 11 days of rain, (reserve ahead, best to book before October)
April: 9 days of rain, (reserve ahead, best to book before October)
During the entire month of February the Inca Trail is closed for repairs. The rains can be cold, and you need adequate rain gear (ponchos are great!) but average high temperatures are a pleasant 68 degrees F (20 C). The evenings tend to be warmer with the low temp averaging around 40 degrees F (5 degrees C) during the rainy season.  
Preparing to Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Preparation is the key to enjoying the Inca Trail to its fullest. The 4-day trek is about 25 miles (40 km) long, and most importantly, at high altitude, so basic hiking fitness is required. Here's a day-by-day account to help you understand what to expect, what kinds of conditions, altitude and distances are involved.

Altitude. The classic Inca trail ranges in altitude from about 9,000 ft. to almost 14,000 ft. (3,000-4,800m) and the highest campsite is at 12,600 ft (3,850 m). Everyone is affected by altitude differently, so the best way to know how your body handles altitude is to hike at similar altitudes before your trip. Then, upon arriving to Cusco, spend several days acclimatizing. To acclimatize gradually, spend a few days in the Sacred Valley and then Cusco. Stay well hydrated and consider taking hikes up to ruins like Sacsayhuaman, Pisac, and Ollantaytambo before starting the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.

What to bring. Be prepared for cold and heat, sun and rain. Dress in layers, and most importantly, wear comfortable, well broken-in walking shoes or hiking boots. You'll need a small-sized backpack to carry snacks, a water bottle, raincoat/shell, and of course, your camera while you are hiking during the day. Arrieros, the Andean sherpas that accompany us, will carry all of our camping gear, and cooks will serve you hot meals in the evenings and picnic lunches with spectacular views on the trail. See our Inca Trail FAQ for details of what you should bring on the trek and what you should leave in Cusco.

Adventure Life arranges and pays for your combined Inca Trail permit, Machu Picchu entrance fee, all transportation, a guide, porters, and basic camping equipment. Feel free to contact an Inca Trail expert with any questions or concerns you have about best preparing for the Inca Trail. We'd love to help!
Inca Trail Day-by-day + Campsites

The traditional Inca Trail hike begins as you disembark the Cusco to Machu Picchu train outside of Ollantaytambo at "kilometer 82".

Put on your hiking boots and start the mostly uphill hike to your first campsite at Huayllabamba.

You'll spend three nights camping and arrive to glorious Machu Picchu on the fourth day. 

Here's a summary of each days' hikes and camps.
Why Trek the Inca Trail With Adventure Life

We have been taking elated travelers on the Inca Trail for over 20 years, and have been refining and perfecting the itinerary to provide the ultimate Inca Trail experience.

Not all Inca Trail companies are created equal. Here's why you should go with Adventure Life:

1) Group Size - we organize treks for as few as 2 people. Average group size is 4-6 and our group size never exceeds 12. Many other trekking companies have groups with over 20 people. 

2) Best Guides - not only do you have fewer travelers per guide, but we've got the best guides hands down. Day in and day out, these guides are the unsung heroes whose efforts create amazing experiences for travelers. Read all about them here.

3) Improved Route - we use less crowded campsites than most operators that more evenly spread the distance each day, and on the last day, we avoid starting to hike in the dark. You get a better experience on the Inca Trail and at Machu Picchu. 
What to see in the Machu Picchu Area

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Machu Picchu National Park and explore the neighboring peaks of Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain, offering breathtaking vistas. Discover Peru's cultural wonders, from the enchanting town of Aguas Calientes and the captivating city of Cusco city, the Inca Empire's former capital, to the magnificent site of the Sacred Valley. A three-hour drive from Cusco's historical center will lead you to the mesmerizing Rainbow Mountain, with its multicolored palette and an elevation of 5,200 meters ​​(17,060 ft) above sea level.
  • Cusco: Once the illustrious capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco mesmerizes with its rich historical significance, boasting magnificent colonial architecture that showcases the fusion of Inca and Spanish influences.
  • Aguas Calientes: Located at the foot of the majestic Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes enchants visitors as a charming town, providing a gateway to the iconic Inca citadel.
  • Rainbow Mountain: Situated in close proximity to Cusco, Rainbow Mountain unveils a mesmerizing natural spectacle of vibrant colors and geometries. 
  • The Sacred Valley: Cradled between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is a realm spiritual significance, adorned with ancient ruins, terraced landscapes, and vibrant traditional communities.
Inca Trail Alternatives Treks

The number of people allowed to hike the Inca Trail is limited to 500 people per day, and requires reserving months ahead of time in order to secure a spot. If you are unable to get a permit, or want to avoid the crowds on the main Inca Trail, there are excellent Inca Trail alternatives that highlight ruins, culture and spectacular high peaks of the Andes. Explore some of the following Peru treks: Salkantay TrekCordillera BlancaCachiccata TrekChoquequirao TrekAusangate TrekHuchuyqosqo Trek. Likewise, consider this one-day Inca Trail trek alternative.
Map of the Inca Trail - Click to expand map.

Map of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Brief History of Machu Picchu

Nestled amidst the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, at an awe-inspiring elevation of 2,430 meters (7,970 ft), Machu Picchu reveals itself as a 15th-century Inca citadel perched gracefully upon a majestic mountain ridge. Often hailed as the "Lost City of the Incas," this iconic site, though never truly lost, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Inca Empire. Located in the Urubamba Province, just 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco, Machu Picchu captivates the senses with its breathtaking setting above the Sacred Valley, embraced by the gentle caress of the Urubamba River and cradled by steep, verdant mountains.

Delving into the history of Machu Picchu, one is surrounded by its enigmatic nature. The Inca civilization, revered for their remarkable achievements in architecture and engineering, left behind no written records. Only in the 19th century did European explorers unveil this extraordinary site to the world. Consequently, our understanding of this sacred place relies on the work of modern archaeologists who have pieced together the names, functions, and inhabitants of the buildings, including the secrets entombed within its ancient tombs.

Step into the awe-inspiring structures that adorn Machu Picchu, where the classical Inca style comes alive through meticulously crafted polished dry-stone walls. Among its treasures lie remarkable features that beckon exploration: the Intihuatana, a ceremonial stone believed to possess astronomical significance; the Temple of the Sun, emanating a spiritual aura that resonates through time; and the Room of the Three Windows, a space that invites contemplation of the mysteries that lie within this ancient realm.

Several of the outlying buildings have been restored, revitalizing these structures and offering visitors a glimpse into the splendor of Machu Picchu's past. This restoration work breathes life into the ancient architecture, allowing the echoes of its original magnificence to resound through the ages.

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