If you’re looking for the best way to hike the Inca Trail, this classic route offers a unique approach which avoids the main crowds, and follows the ideal schedule for timing your visit to Machu Picchu.

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Sep 12, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Sep 23, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Oct 7, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
View all departure dates

Highlights

  • Embark from Ollantaytambo, one of South America’s oldest villages
  • Crossover Dead Woman’s Pass (4212m) for breathtaking views of Pumahuanca
  • Camp at Phuyupatamarca, “‘the place above the clouds”
  • Descend the Wiñay Wayna terraces and through the Intipunku gateway

Overview

Originally a pilgrimage route meant only for Inca nobles, thousands of trekkers each year now follow this ancient footpath to Machu Picchu. It’s no surprise why this path was chosen: the mountaintop views are stunning, and you'll pass through numerous ruins along the way. 

Throughout the trek, you'll pass through cloud forests and below snowy peaks and discover the world of the Incas. Following a centuries-old sacred trail, you will visit a variety of historic sites, culminating at Machu Picchu, the most famous and grand of them all.

Note: If you're short on time, be sure to check out the Short Inca Trail trek which follows the last day of the Inca Trail.

Brief itinerary

Day Destination Altitude
Day 1 Llactapata 2788m
Day 2 Llulluchapampa 3680m
Day 3 Phuyupatamarca (Via Dead Woman’s Pass, 4212m) 3650m
Day 4 Machu Picchu 2430m
Day 5 Cusco (2nd Machu Picchu Visit) 3399m

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Your Journey Begins

Ollantaytambo
The village of Ollantaytambo, from where you'll drive to access the trailhead of the Inca Trail

Start your trek from the charming town of Ollantaytambo, famous for its Incan fortress and temple ruins. Explore the cobblestone streets and observe life in the Andes. After lunch, drive to the trailhead at Piscacucho and meet the crew that will be accompanying you on the trail.

The hike starts out by following a trail along the winding Urubamba river. With porters carrying your belongings, you will be able to enjoy the natural beauty with less stress. After a long day of trekking, you will reach Llactapata (2788m), the ruins of a grand administrative and astronomical complex. Set up camp with help from your crew, enjoy a freshly-cooked meal, and relax and enjoy the accomplishment of your first day.

Day 2: Into the Cloud Forest

The Inca Trail is paved with stones laid down by the Inca long ago
The Inca Trail is paved with stones laid down by the Inca long ago

After breakfast, prepare to climb up the edge of Cusichaca Valley to Huayllabamba, a small village that will be the last human settlement on the Inca Trail. Afterward, you will descend into true wilderness.

Hike a steeper Inca trail that brings you into the beautiful cloud forests, where flora and fauna flourish. You may even spot hummingbirds fluttering among the tropical trees. The trail leads to Llulluchapampa (3680m), a patch of grassland frequented by Andean deer with an amazing view. Here, you will end the day and prepare your camp.

Day 3: Mountains and Valleys

Ancient Inca ruin Phuyupatamarca
Ancient ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the "place above the clouds"

Today is the most rigorous day of the trek, but the challenge is worth it. Climb the trail’s highest and most demanding pass, the Warmiwañusca, or “Dead Woman’s Pass” (4212m). After that, everything gets smoother as you walk downhill the Pacasmayo valley. You will hike through a second pass past Runkuracay towards Sayacmarca, where you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Pumahuanca Mountain.

After the mysterious junction point, your trek continues just a bit longer. Phuyupatamarca (3650m), “‘the place above the clouds” will be your final destination for today. The site features one of the most intact Inca ruins and overlooks snow-capped, sacred Mt. Salkantay (6,200m). Surrounded by clouds, miles above the rest of the world, you will spend your night.

Day 4: Arrive at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Arrive at Machu Picchu at sunset, after most of the crowds have left

If the clouds clear up, you will wake up to the rising sun illuminating the Salkantay and Veronica mountains. Then, bid farewell to your porters and carry on towards Machu Picchu.

Continue down a set of Inca stone steps past more swaths of misty cloud forests. Soon, you will pass the Wiñay Wayna, a range of terraces with patches of orchids and swallows flying overhead. Finally, trek beyond the Gateway of the Sun, Inti Punku, and the sight of Machu Picchu will await you. Soak in the view and the evening glow before riding the bus 20 minutes down to Machu Picchu Pueblo, where you can shower and retreat to a comfortable hotel room.

Day 5: Explore Machu Picchu and return to Cusco

The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu
The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu

Wake up early, well rested, and ride the bus up for your second, complete chance to see Machu Picchu. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, the hilltop citadel deserved every bit of its fame. Explore every last stone of the complex without the hustle and bustle of other tourist crowds.

The stunning walls, temples, and palaces of Machu Picchu take time to fully appreciate. Afterward, you can also trek an extra hour to visit the Sun Gate or opt for a shorter walk to a cliffside bridge. Then, your adventure comes to an end. Ride the scenic Vistadome train in comfort back to Cusco, as you cherish the memories you’ve made over the past few days.

5 Days vs 4 Days

We recommend five days because it offers a better, more well-rounded experience of the Inca Trail compared to the four-day alternative. By hiking it in five days, you'll get a more complete perspective of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. You'll feel more rested (given the easier pace), adopt a better acclimatization schedule, and avoid the large crowds at the campsites and ruins of those doing the four-day trek. 

With experienced and reliable guides and crew accompanying you as you go from Ollantaytambo to Llactapata, through Sayacmarca to Machu Picchu, you'll have the time to learn about the history of the Inca and their architecture without being distracted.

When to hike the Inca Trail

Late Spring and Early Autumn offer the best balance of dry weather and fewer crowds. The rainy season lasts from November to April, in which trail conditions are less ideal. Common vacation times (December and most of the summer) see the most crowds, although much of it will be avoided with this itinerary. The trail is closed for maintenance in February, the peak of the rainy season. Be sure to obtain your mandatory permit for the Inca Trail in time and book months in advance. For more information, read more about the best time to visit Peru.

Map

Map of Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - 5 Days
Map of Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - 5 Days

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Sep 12, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Sep 23, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Oct 7, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Oct 24, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Nov 7, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Nov 25, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Dec 5, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Dec 19, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Dec 23, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Dec 26, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire
Dec 30, 2018 5 days Available $1,070 USD Inquire

Recent Trip Reviews

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Inca trail to machu picchu - 5-day itinerary, Peru - Jun 4 - Jun 17, 2017

Traveler: Gretchen M. - Local specialist: Katy Shorthouse

The Peru trip was amazing! It beat expectations and was a marvel on so many levels. Our guide, Aldo, was a huge bonus as he was an amazing person to spend two weeks with escorting us through his magical country.