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Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Location: Rediscover Machu Picchu >Travelling & Activities > Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu





Plan Your Hike to Machu Picchu With Expert Advice!


There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu. Besides the train and bus combination there is the possibility to walk. The Inca Trail is available for hikers who book months ahead and travel with a guided tour group. Otherwise the access to the trail is prohibited.


You will have to plan your trip carefully by taking account of the route itself, the time limits and visitor number limits, the atmospherical conditions.

Mental and physical preparation is necessary. If you speak a little Spanish, that will also help you in communicating.


It is a hard hike. Experts say it has "moderate difficulty", but for the average person it is hard.

The trip will often reach heights close to 4.000 m (12.120 ft) and sometimes above that. Long sections of the trail are actually above Machu Picchu!


The whole trip on the Inca Trail takes 4 days and the views are spectacular! You will get the chance to see multiple archaeological sites that are only accessible through the trail!




What You Need to Know About the Inca Trail


It is a vast network of trails stretching in the Andes and extending throughout Peru, even into Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia.


The Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu is just a small section of the whole Inca Trail system. The complete network has somewhere around 23.000 km (14.300 mi) in length.


It is strongly believed that this Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadores. If it would have been, it would have led to the end of Machu Picchu.




Why Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is Special


You will be able to see more ruins than others who don't take on the trail

The sights are spectacular, you will be able to take a lot of good photos

You can put your body to the test, enjoy an Andean hiking adventure at high altitude!

Socializing, meeting new friends, exchanging experience with the other hikers is another important factor

You will learn how to keep nature clean and why conserving archaeological ruins is so important

You will get to Machu Picchu before the large crowds of tourists who go by train and bus!


There you see all the primary advantages.

It can be a great trip. Old people and young teenagers also try it.

Though, you have to keep in mind that for such altitudes you must get prepared and do a medical checkup.


The area where the Inca Trail runs has a rich fauna and flora especially. Over 250 subspecies of orchids live here.

The landscape is less covered by trees and rather covered by grass.

You will love the views and will love to take photographs.




How the Hike to Machu Picchu Goes


There are 2 variants for hikers: either hike the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (which takes 1 - 2 days) or take on the long Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (this one being the classic way to hike to the "Old Peak" and takes about 4 days).


As mentioned higher on this page, the duration is of the long Inca Trail hike is 4 days. It is believed that everyone who joins will be able to make it during this period.


The short Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is less popular, but is good for those who want to make it faster and with less effort.




Attractions, Activities During the Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu


You will climb mountains, pass through small caves, cross bridges but most of the time you will walk on the Inca Trail.


Among the main ruins located along the Inca Trail you will get to see:



Llactapata (Patallacta)




Huinay Huayna (Wiñay Wayna)


Intipuncu (Intipunku or "Sun Gate")




Huinay Huayna, Llactapata and Runcuracay are the most beautiful ruins, which are treated in separate articles.


Please not that you will not see the same ruins on the short and on the long Inca Trail trips.




How and Where to Make an Inca Trail Hike Booking?


There are many agents offering Inca Trail hikes.

Check our Tours/Trip Packages section to find agents offering such trips.


What we can advise you is to reserve a place 3 months ahead (at least).

Now that the internet is fueling tourism in the area, more and more are trying this experience and 1 - 2 months before the trip it is already rather impossible to find free places.


Keep in mind that the Inca Trail hikes are only organized by agents who have permits for this kind of activity. You cannot just team up with some friends and go hiking.

It is prohibited to hike independently or with own group.


The costs could be around 300 - 500 $ for a hiking trip.

The prices vary from agent to agent. Some even offer horseback riding trips in the area.

In 2005 -2006 the average price was around 250 $. Since then, in 2010 the prices have often been in the 300 - 400 $ range. Count 500 $ for the trip and book in advance for your convenience.


The package usually includes entrance ticket to the Inca Trail, entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and transportation is also ensured back from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) to Cuzco (Cusco).




The Best Time to go Hiking on the Inca Trail


In order to enjoy your hike on the Inca Trail, you will have to travel in the June - August period


This time is also when the "mainstream" of tourists arrives. Most people visit the area in this period.

It is the dry period and the time when most people go on holiday.


The complete dry season is between April and October. But June - August is the driest and sunniest.


In February the trail is closed for cleaning and maintenance work.




Getting Prepared for the Inca Trail Hike


We recommend a full medical checkup before the hike. You need to know that you are fit.

Don't forget to get a travel insurance as well.


Prepare mentally and physically as well and gather as much information about the area and the conditions as possible! Packing and preparing advice are presented in details on this page...




Getting Prepared Mentally


Don't leave stressed with things on your mind.

The Inca Trail hike requires concentration, attention, equilibrium.


Learn about the area (geography, the cultures, the heritage) and watch maps a lot to familiarize yourself with it. You will then feel more comfort when there.


Getting Prepared Physically


We recommend you to do gym for at least 2 weeks, but if you want to take on the 4 week hike, then a 2 month-long regular exercise period would be desirable.


You will cope with the altitudes and rugged terrain better if you leave physically trained. But don't overdo it. What yo need is movement, running too, but don't exaggerate into tiring yourself.


You should stay at least 7 days in Cuzco for acclimatization. Preferable would be 14 days.

This way you will get used to the heights and the climate.

For further information check our article dedicated to coping with high altitudes and preventing altitude sickness.


Don't drink alcohol and avoid any drinks and foods with substantial toxic and/or artificial content (such as coke and a variety of sweets). These hit hard on the organism and will make you feel more tired.


Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and drink natural juices. Take in food with calories, but avoid fats.


The long Inca Trail trip is more difficult. The short one is easier, shorter. Though, you will still have to climb high and most of the hike is on identical terrain.


If you take the long Inca Trail hike, then when you reach the Warmiwañusca (the "Dead Woman's Pass"), you'll be at 4.200 m (13.780 ft). A very difficult hike to do. This usually happens on day 2, after you pass the first high altitude jungle.


Packing: What to Take and What Not to Take


The trip must be taken seriously, therefore a number of important objects must be taken. But there is a large number of items that you shouldn't take - they will either bother you or the others or are otherwise unsuitable.



Must take items: 

Documents for identification: national i.d., passport etc.

Maps and schemes of the area: you will find such in Cuzco's shops or by searching on the internet

Hat/cap: there are strong winds, frequent rain and the sun rays burn - a hat protects from all three!

Raincoat: frequent rains, drizzles and sometimes even storms occur and the air is generally wet in the morning

Long trousers: because short ones don't protect you from insects and stinging plants, terrain

Long-sleeved shirts: essential similarly to pants, but also because of the cold at night

Multiple pairs of socks: at least 8 if you will hike for 4 days - you will need to change them frequently

Comfortable hiking boots: make sure that you have been walking in them before and got used to them (note that shoes aren't adequate, take boots - these protect your ankles and are more resistant on rocks)

Warm clothes for the night

Something to cover your neck with: thin scarf for very cold summer nights


Pocket knife: perhaps your most important tool

Bottled water

Insect repellant spray or crème

Sun block crème to protect from the strong rays at high altitudes

Personal hygiene items: towel, toilet paper, paper tissues

Medicine box: anything you will need from aspirin to pain relief and

Camera: possibly a light camera and plenty of cards to store photos on

Large backpack for most of your items



Additions items - good to take if you have: 

Team: the warm tea will replace the soup - warm liquid is essential for your stomach and intestines

Energy bars, chocolate: though, you might look weird and others will feel hurt if you don't offer them too

Nuts and seeds: especially sunflower seeds are energy full, but peanuts are also adequate

Dry fruits: very good for compensating lost vitamins and minerals

Water purification tables: good to have some, especially if you have a sensitive stomach

Small backpack to put inside large one: used for shorter trips



What not to take - it is a big mistake to take any of these:

Any music-playing device: you will need to concentrate on your steps and you will have to enjoy the scenery - leave such hi-tech things at home!

Cigarettes, alcohol

Books: there is really no need to take, except you have a small light guidebook that is indispensable

Large cutting items like machetes etc.: you will not need them, you are not going to the Amazon!

Too many clothes, "fancy clothes"

Hand luggage: it takes your time and effort away - you need both hands free!



Pack smart: don't take more than 15 kgs. Even this amount is very heavy. Hiking companies usually have employees specialized in carrying luggage. They will take your heavy backpack and you can hike easier with a lighter pack.


Don't take with you items that are not necessary for the hike. You won't have any possibility to leave them behind in safety.



Related Material


The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking to Choquequirao



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