The Ultimate Guide to Hike the Inca Trail


The Inca Trail is a hiking trail that connects Machu Picchu with the outside world. The Inca Trail starts in the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba river and leads you through the peaks of the Andes to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The route is 45 km long and takes three to five days. The path winds over high mountain ranges and dense, dark, subtropical forests.

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What is the Inca trail?

The Incas built a very extensive network of nearly 40,000 thousand kilometers of footpaths to the corners of the vast empire that stretched from Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile and Mendoza in Argentina.

Cusco was the heart of this great empire. Almost all major routes around Cusco were built or improved by the Incas. A part of this network (43 km) leads to important archaeological sites of the Incas, including Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and ... Machu Picchu. This path has become popular in the last 30 years under the name 'Inca Trail to Machu Picchu'.

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When to hike the Inca trail?

The best time to plan your hiking adventure depends on your own needs. If you are looking for lush, green landscapes, leave in May. The wet season will then be over, allowing you to enjoy the spectacular views even more. The dry season of Peru starts in May and lasts until September. Please note that the route is visited frequently in this season. If you like peace and quiet it is also an option to go during the rainy season (October to April).

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How to get there?

The hikers usually take the train from Cusco, or get on the train halfway, at Ollantaytambo. You can also take the bus if you wish. After crossing the Río Urubamba (Vilcanota), the first (easy) climb of the trail begins: Llaqtapata (also called Patallacta).

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Can I go on my own?

No, access to this section of the Inca Trail is strictly controlled and only authorized trekking companies are allowed to sell this tour. All guides on the Inca Trail must have a license and permits for this are issued sparingly. Number of permits per day are limited to 500 of which 200 are reserved for tourists and 300 for guides and porters. During high season, they easily sell out three to four months in advance, so book your spot as soon as you know when you will visit Peru.

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2 days, 3, 4 or 7?

The three-day walk is the most popular. The route of the 'short' version is 43 kilometers long. You then walk over two mountain passes, one of which is 4,100 meters high. The air is thin, but your eyes can reach extremely far. It leads to important archaeological sites of the Incas. Including Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and of course Machu Picchu. You can walk the entire route, but also part of it. And you can take horses with you, at an additional cost. Negotiate considerably, otherwise you pay too much.

Those who want to take a real look at the life of the Incas should take the longer route. You can start from Cusco, but also further afield. The special thing about this trip is that you also see the Inca tunnels and the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the site of one of the last battles between the Incas and the Spanish.

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Tips for hiking the Inca trail

Stay a few days in Cusco, so you can get acclimatized to the altitude.

Note the semi-decayed outside guards and the various villages that you walk through. It is possible to rent a guide and / or a carrier. Or horses. Book well in advance as the number of places is limited.

Try to avoid the high season

Get out early in the morning

Take your time: Prefer to walk a day longer so that you enjoy it more

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