Trek the Inca Trail and be awed by a civilisation that ruled as the backbone of the Andes for nearly a century.
Picture this: ruins perched seamlessly in cloud forest, challenging mountain passes with snow-capped Andean views, and friendly Peruvian porters, guides and chefs making it as fun and as comfortable as possible at every step of the way. The iconic Inca Trail is a chance to follow in the footsteps of a great lost civilisation, a trek leading from the old capital of Cusco through the Sacred Valley to the ruins of Ollantaytambo, and up to the Sun Gate overlooking mighty Machu Picchu. And once you’ve experienced it, you’ll see why this is considered the mother of all South American treks.
At a glance
Number of ruins
Peak time to trek
Our Inca Trail tours
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Highlights of the Inca Trail
The anticipation is over and day one of hiking begins. Llactapata (meaning ‘high town’) sets the scene, with its beautiful lined terraces and housing structures dating back to the 16th century.
Dead Woman's Pass
This is the most challenging (and highest) leg of the Inca Trail trail. Once you’ve made it over Dead Woman’s Pass you can give yourself one big pat on the back! You’ll encounter the 4215 m (13,828 ft) peak on the second day of the hike with some downright stunning views of the valley below.
Winayhuayna packs a punch overlooking the Urubamba River – with upper and lower terraces lined with well-preserved stone houses on a hillside. Arriving at the ruins on the fourth day, this is the final marker of the journey before you reach Machu Picchu.
Inti Punku (Sun Gate)
Inti Punku, better known as the Sun Gate, brings you to the spectacular entrance of Machu Picchu. Evidence suggests this structure was used as a security checkpoint, and the views overlooking the ancient city ruins are impressive to say the least.
Why choose Intrepid
All our guides are certified local tour guides and trained in-house on Intrepid Safety Policies. Each trekking guide also receives exclusive Intrepid training, provided by mountain rescue experts in the field.
All our guides and trek leaders have been trained by medical specialists in handling altitude illness and are proficient in first aid. Our team carries oxygen cylinders on all treks for emergency use.
Our team members live and work in the Andean region, which means revenue from all our treks benefit the local economy.
We take care of the details, so you can focus more on enjoying the journey. Our tours include all meals, with essential camping equipment and the option to hire additional hiking equipment if needed.
Rainforest Alliance tick of approval
We are proud to have the tick of approval from the Rainforest Alliance indicating that we meet and operate at the highest standards in environmental, social and economic sustainability
We strive to use travel as a force for good. That’s why we choose to give back to the communities we visit, carbon offset all our trips and take our social and environmental responsibilities seriously. We’ve been officially certified as the world’s largest travel B Corp, which means when you choose Intrepid Travel, you can rest assured you’re travelling to improve the planet.
Meet our team
"The best part of my job is seeing the emotions of surprise and admiration reflected in the face of travellers when they discover my country. I love Peru for its geography, history and culture, but especially its people.”
"My favorite thing about being a leader is that I can show and share my passion for Peru with travellers. The fact that we have so many things to see, try and enjoy makes me feel incredible!"
"I like working for Intrepid because their social and environmental philosophy isn’t just a slogan to sell more trips, they really do care about it. I have changed my life in so many aspects due to all the learning coming from Intrepid, from recycling to accepting myself, and being proud for who I am."
Peru is a year-round destination, although most people plan to trek during the dry season, running from April to October. The mid-year months, June and July, are the most popular and therefore the most crowded times of year to visit. Low cloud cover in these winter months also means cold nights on the trail, so bring some thermal wear for a good night’s sleep.
The high season for trekking in Peru runs over the drier months from April to October. The most popular time to hike the Inca Trail is in June and July – which is therefore the most crowded time. Since the number of permits for the Inca Trail is capped – this means a maximum of about 200 tourists a day can start the trail. If you intend to hike the Inca Trail between April and October, we recommend booking and confirming your trip 6–7 months in advance.
The wet season runs from November to March – this is when the temperature rises, and the region receives heavy rainfall. The Inca Trail closes every year in February (the wettest month of the year) for maintenance.
To help preserve the Inca Trail, the Peruvian authorities restrict available permits to only 500 per day (made up of about 200 tourists and 300 porters). Permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so booking well in advance is imperative. For this reason, if you want to hike the Inca Trail, it’s best to supply (at the time of booking) the full details of the passport you will be travelling with. We endeavour to purchase your permit within two working days of receiving all necessary information and relevant payment. Please keep in mind that the Inca Trail is closed during February for maintenance.
Very important: since permits are non-changeable and non-refundable, please consult with Intrepid before changing any passport details after booking, as this may result in your permit being invalid.
If we can’t secure Inca Trail permits, you can:
- Change to another one of our trips or choose a different departure date without incurring any penalties.
- Hike the equally incredible Inca Quarry Trail, which includes a day trip to Machu Picchu.
- Stay two nights in Cusco, then travel to Aguas Calientes by train and spend the day exploring Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco.
The fourth day (the grand finale) starts before dawn, with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and begin your hike by 5.30 am. Walk to Inti Punku, aka the Sun Gate (approximately 2.5 hours). Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over Machu Picchu, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, in the morning light (before the crowds arrive). Tours usually last for 1.5–2 hours.
Current regulations of Machu Picchu allow visitors to explore the ruins in one of two timeslots: morning or afternoon. You can choose one of three designated circuits, to be followed in one direction only. On completion of your chosen circuit, you'll need to leave the site; exploring the ruins afterwards on your own is currently not allowed.
Those visiting by train can take a bus on their own to explore the upper section (Sun Gate and Inka Bridge), before commencing their guided tour which runs from 10 am until 12:30 pm.
Those hiking the Inca Trail will arrive at Machu Picchu at around 8:30 am and can explore the upper section for approximately one hour. Your guided Machu Picchu tour will then run from 9:30 until 12:30.
While there is no official minimum age for hiking the trail, we do recommend children be at least 10 years. Parents considering taking their child on a trek should be mindful of the physical challenges – the Inca Trail is labelled as a moderate trek, but for most people hiking at over 3000 metres (10,000 ft), continuously up and down valleys can be strenuous activity. While the trail can be completed by a person with moderate fitness, it is worth considering whether your child would be able to meet the physical requirements of the trek.
During the trek itself, you will move up and down through altitudes each day with the peak reached at the infamous Dead Woman’s Pass – sitting at 4215 m (13,828 ft) above sea level. This is nearly 1800 m (5905 ft) higher than the site of Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 43 km (26 mi) long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Each day you will awaken at about 7 am (except on the final day which starts at 4.30 am) and hike for about 7 hours a day along the trail.
The equally beautiful Quarry Trail is a 3 day/2 night 26 km (16 mi) loop trek ending in Kachiqata, before taking you by train to Aguas Calientes – the gateway town of Machu Picchu.
The Quarry Trail is shorter than the 43 km Inca Trail – with a slightly higher altitude reached (4,450 metres above sea level). On the Quarry Trail you camp two nights and the third is spent at a hotel in Aguas Calientes (The Inca Trail camps three nights). The Quarry Trail is quickly gaining a reputation for its amazing archaeological sites and off-the-beaten-path cultural interactions. Permits are not required for the Quarry Trail.
Depending on what time of year you visit Peru, the temperature can vary. Peru has two seasons (the wet and dry). The dry season (winter) runs from May to September, with moderately warm days and cold nights. It’s important to pack thermals and warm clothing for the evening.
Most people can start to feel the effects of altitude at over 2000 m (6561 ft) regardless of age, gender or fitness level. While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
It’s important to take it easy, drink plenty of water and speak to your leader at once if you feel unwell.
We recommend seeing your doctor if you have any health concerns before undertaking the trip. Particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking any medication.
Accommodation on the Inca Trail is camping (3 nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
While you're away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. The evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (6 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Keep in mind that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group.
All meals are provided on our camping trips, and we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. Please let us know before your trip starts if you have any dietary requirements.
Boiled water will be supplied daily. You should be carrying at least 2 litres of water daily while trekking. Depending on whether you have a hydration bladder in your bag or not we recommend bringing two (1 litre) bottles that can be refilled on the trail with boiled water.
Yes, you can bring your own walking stick or hiking poles. Alternatively, you can hire poles locally for around 10 USD for the four days.
We recommend you carry the below suggested amounts with you during the trek, and that you carry small bills as this makes splitting the tip an easier process. On the last day of the trek the tips will be broken down into envelopes – one per porter, assistant guides and guide.
While on the Inca Trail we suggest a total tipping amount of PEN 120 to PEN 180 per person (approximately USD 37 to USD 55).
This is generally the tipping breakdown:
Porters, cook and assistants PEN 80 to PEN 120
Assistant guide: PEN 12 to PEN 20
Guide: PEN 27 to PEN 40
Toilet blocks are situated along the Inca Trail but with little maintenance currently taking place, this is not a pleasant experience for any hiker.
At the end of each day, we provide a camping toilet tent. It’s a 1 sqm tent with a small portable chemical toilet in it. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s decent! And most importantly, it’s all carried down the mountain by the porters. You will need to pack a torch for venturing out if nature calls at night, and bring some toilet paper. You’ll also want to take a bottle of hand sanitiser.
You will find a complete list of what to pack for this trip under ‘What to take’ in your trip notes.
After spending the day exploring Machu Picchu, you will take a train and bus through the Sacred Valley and back to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
Yes, but of course it will depend on your level of disability, fitness and what support will be available to you. Travellers who are visually impaired have completed the Inca Trail – with the right support crew of course. Contact us to discuss your circumstances and we can assess it from there.
Yes. Let us know at the time of booking what option you would prefer:
- Hike the equally incredible Inca Quarry Trail, which includes a visit to Machu Picchu;
- Stay two nights in Cusco, then travel to Aguas Calientes by train and spend the day exploring Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco.
These changes are free of charge if made at the time of booking. Changes after Inca Trail permits have been purchased, or within 60 days of departure, will incur additional fees.
Life on the trail
The Inca Trail doesn’t have any permanent facilities, but never fear – we travel well prepared. You’ll sleep in modern two-person dome tents on foam sleeping mats, set up by our friendly porters who will also carry your heavier packs. Hot meals will be cooked by our chefs each night to load you up with carbohydrates for the next day’s walking. You’ll also get a bowl of warm water each day to wash with. Check out the gallery below for a preview of what life on the trail looks like.
Not the hiking type?
On every Intrepid trip that includes the Inca Trail, you can always opt out of the hike.
Simply pick whichever Peru trip you’re keen on and specify while booking that you’d prefer the train option. There is no extra cost for this, though please note that fees may apply if you decide to change to the train option after your Inca Trail permit has already been purchased. In the time that your group mates are hiking, you will have more time in Cusco to relax and get to know this unique city better, and to explore the Inca relics strewn throughout the Sacred Valley.
Watch Team See Possibilities conquer the Inca Trail
When blind athlete Dan Berlin and his three guides decided to run the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in a single day, many people told them it would be impossible. But with the assistance of Intrepid Travel, Dan Berlin made it to the Sun Gate just before the cut-off time to carry on to Machu Picchu, and finished their astonishing achievement in 13 hours. Dan Berlin became the first ever blind athlete to complete the entire 26 miles of the Inca Trail in a single day.
Intrepid Travel is absolutely committed to ensuring the environmental sustainability of the amazing destinations we visit and we take our social responsibilities very seriously. In Peru, we have committed to paying our porters and guides a fair wage and supplying them with the necessary equipment and resources to undertake their work safely. We also support several community initiatives aimed at promoting the long-term sustainability of the region's environment and preserving the traditional cultures of its communities.
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