Hiking the Inca Trail

March 27, 2013 by

Inca Trail 1

The Inca Trail in Peru is a network of 40,000 kilometers of trails that intersect the vast Inca Empire that once stretched from Quito in Ecuador down to Santiago in Chile and east to Mendoza, Argentina.

In the last 30 years, the section of the trail known as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has become popular with hikers. It’s a beautiful mountain trail that connects historical archaeological sites including Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail 2

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is regulated and only permitted for authorized trekking companies. When choosing your guide, check that the hike they offer includes all of the archaeological sites listed above. Once you have lined up a reputable guide, you’ll have to decide what hike is right for you.

Classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu takes 4 days of hiking to reach the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for sunrise on the fourth day. For this hike, you need to be reasonably fit and acclimated to higher altitudes. It includes some challenging sections but is rated moderate.

The trail can be hiked almost any time of year, but the weather is most favorable April through September. The trail is closed in February for conservation work, and if you plan to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu any time from January through March, pack your rain gear—it’s the rainy season.

5-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu trek

While the majority of people choose the 4-day trek, a 5-day Inca Trail hike is also available. The extra day has its pros and cons. It allows you to avoid some of the busier campsites, and will probably work out to be a little less expensive.

Groups choosing this trek usually arrive at Machu Picchu on the afternoon of the fourth day when it is too bright for good photos, and then are whisked off to their hotel. They return by bus to Machu Picchu the following day.


Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

2-day Short Inca Trail (no camping)

If you don’t have four days, a shorter 2-day Inca Trail trek makes a nice option. This hike is easier and starts at a point further along the trail. A one-day hike is also available.

7-day Salkantay & Inca Trail Trek

If you are ready for a more strenuous trek through the Salkantay snow-capped mountains, a 7-day hike offers just what you’re looking for. This hike is not usually offered as a group service, so it becomes the most expensive of the treks offered.

No matter how long you take to hike the Inca Trail, it will be an experience you’ll never forget.

Photo credits: Ianz, Ianz, Theodore Scott

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