1 year ago

INCA TRAIL TOUR | The # 1 Trek to Machu Picchu

inca trail hike - spider travel

Machu Picchu is one of those bucket-list activities people dream about. While most people visit on a day trip, you can also visit via the Inca Trail, a challenging multi-day hike through the jungles of Peru. We have the best travel guide & tips and suggestions to help you plan your trip to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail is a network of ancient trails in the Andes Mountains of Peru that was once used by the Inca Empire to connect the empire’s capital in Cusco to the sacred city of Machu Picchu. The trail winds through the Andes and passes through several different types of terrain, including high mountain passes, dense forests, and cloud forests. It is approximately 26 miles (43 kilometers) long and typically takes 4 to 5 days to complete.

The Inca Trail has a long and rich history that dates back to the Inca Empire, which flourished in the Andes from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The Inca were skilled engineers and built a vast network of roads and trails throughout their empire, including the Inca Trail. The trail was used for ceremonial purposes and to transport goods and people between different parts of the empire.

The Inca Trail Tour is also rich in cultural significance, as it passes through several different indigenous communities and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Many of the indigenous communities along the trail still follow traditional ways of life and maintain their own cultures and traditions.

Today, the Inca Trail is a popular tourist destination and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is also an important source of income for the local communities and has helped to preserve the region’s cultural and natural heritage.


Peru has two seasons – dry and wet – and it is possible to do the Inca Trail in either. Each however, come with their own pros and cons.

Dry Season (May – October)

  • Pros | The chance of rain, as the name would suggest, is significantly reduced and you can expect hot, dry mornings and afternoons.
  • Cons | Dry season also coincides with high tourism season in Peru (June – August), so the Inca Trail will be at full capacity each day. This means fuller camp sites and more traffic along the Trail (although the tours do try and stagger this out).

Wet Season (November – April)

  • Pros | A less popular time to hike, so the number of people you’re sharing the Trail with is notably reduced, as are the crowds at Machu Picchu. Tours are slightly cheaper and easier to book with only a few weeks notice (a guy on our tour booked his place only a week before the trip began). Temperatures at night are also less chilly.
  • Cons | Hiking and camping in the rain for four days is never fun, so you are increasing the chances of that. If there is notable rainfall, then hiking conditions become slippier and more difficult.

Note that the Inca Trail is closed in February for everyone in order to allow it to replenish.

Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu ITINERARY

Inca Trail Tour Map

Today, you will be picked up from your hotel in our comfortable private van at 4:30am. From there, we drive to Piskacucho, which is also known as KM 82. This is where the Classic Inca Trail begins!  Along the way, we stop for breakfast in Ollantaytambo at about 6:30-7am to load up on energy to start our trek.  (Breakfast is not included within the package).Upon arrival at KM 82, we will have some time to organize ourselves. You can use the restrooms, apply sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. Your porters will carry your belongings from this point on. All you need to carry is what you will need during the hike! Be ready to show your passports, student card (if a student) and permits at the Inca Trail checkpoint.At the start of the Inca Trail (elevation 2,720m/8,923ft), we cross a bridge above the  Vilcanota River and follow this route towards the right. The first day is relatively easy, a warm-up along the “Inca flat” terrain. The trail goes gently upwards, gradually gaining elevation without any steep sections. You will have great views of the Inca Fortress (Huillca Raccay), the vast and incredible Inca site of Llactapata, (also called Patallacta), the Urubamba mountain range that divides the jungle, the Andes Mountains, and the beautiful snow-capped peak of W’akay Willca (5,860m/19,225ft), also known as Veronica Mountain. It is truly a scenic trail!Along the way, your porters will set up a dining tent and your chef will make a gourmet lunch for you to enjoy near the trail. Our first campsite is Ayapata, an hour and a half away from the small village of Wayllabamba (3,000m/9,842ft) located within the temperate green valley of the same name. Temperatures at night are around 5ºC/41°F b, depending on the time of year.During the day, you will enjoy not only the spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains including Veronica, (5,860m/19,337ft), but also the lush green valley around us and a myriad of flora and fauna. Watch for the many endemic hummingbirds on this section of the trail!

Your guide will wake you with a hot cup of coffee or tea between 5am to 5:30am, after which you will enjoy a delicious breakfast with a wide variety of options. Next, we start a steep ascent towards the highest pass along the trail, Abra de Warrmihuañusca or Dead Woman’s Pass at (4,200m/13,779ft).  On this day, you will feel a real sense of achievement upon reaching the top of this pass! After a well-deserved rest, we begin to descend towards our lunch spot, which is located in Pacaymayu (3,550m/11,646ft).On our way towards the pass, we will be able to see a different array of hummingbirds and a combination of other species of birds. You pass through many microclimates along the Inca Trail, so both flora and fauna today will be different from yesterday. There will be plenty of time to appreciate the incredible variety of native plants including the Polylepis or Q’ueuña trees, which grow in the astonishing cloud forest located at (3,650m/11,972ft)!After lunch, we begin our second two hour steep hike towards Runkuraqay pass (almost 4,000m/13,123ft). We arrive at our campsite by 5 pm, where your chef will greet you with hot drinks and appetizers before dinner. Temperatures at this campsite can be as low as 4ºC/39°F during the night.

This is the most archeologically impressive day of our trek! We wake up again with a hot drink to enjoy in our sleeping bags before getting up for breakfast. We start the day with a gentle climb towards the Inca archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca (meaning Town in the Clouds).  Here, we reach the third highest point along the Inca Trail (3,680m/12,073ft). The views of the mountains, canyons and surrounding areas are spectacular!The Inca site of Phuyupatamarca, is located a few minutes walk from the third pass.  After visiting this site, we continue walking through the cloud forest to reach the remarkable agricultural Inca site of Intipata. After taking some time to explore this site, we continue until we arrive at our third campsite, Wiñay Wayna (2,680m/8,792ft). We arrive at our campsite by lunchtime!  Enjoy an elaborate lunch, after which you will have plenty of time to rest or explore Wiñay Wayna. Temperatures during the night are about 12º C/53º F.A short walk from our campsite is the famous Inca site of Wiñay Wayna (meaning Forever Young), which is considered the most impressive site along the IncaTrail. Your guide will explain the historical significance and the fascinating tale of how it was recently rediscovered by archeologists.

On your final day, we wake up at 4:30am to have breakfast and start our hike towards Machu Picchu. This is the final part of our journey, arriving by 6:00am at Inti Punku, otherwise known as the Sun Gate. At that point, the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu will be right in front of us with its intense beauty – an incredible sight for all to see! Watch the sun rise, spreading light down over Machu Picchu like flowing gold. After admiring this wonderful view, we continue downhill towards the IncaCitadel of Machu Picchu (2,400m/7,872 ft). After walking about 40 minutes, we enter the citadel from the top, through the House of the Guardians. From there, we proceed to the control checkpoint, where we register our group and leave any large backpacks. Your guide will direct you throughout the astounding ruins and its main streets, answering all of your questions about this New 7 Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the guided tour is over, you will  have a bit of free time to take more photos of this extraordinary place.You will descend towards Aguas Calientes by bus (included) and board the train which departs at 2:55pm or 3:20pm to the Ollantaytambo Train Station. Here you will meet our private van and be transferred to your hotel in Cusco, with an arrival between 7pm to 8:00pm depending on traffic.You will also have time to indulge in a few of the following activities on your own if you choose (not included in the price)

  • Meals included: Breakfast
  • Distance: 6kms/3.7mls
  • Difficulty: Easy/moderate


  • You can upgrade to the Vistadome Train for the same times, 2:55pm or 3:20pm, 4:22pm, or 4:43pm. The cost is $67 USD.
  • Early trains can be organized by requested and it has to be done by booking time.
  • The Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain Hike depends on availability and let us know about it at booking.

Inca Trail Permits Are Limited

Each day only 500 permits for the Inca Trail are issued by the Peruvian government. This total includes all the trekkers on the 2-day and 4-day routes as well as the guides, porters and cooks that accompany organized trekking groups. Available permits for the Inca Trail sell out quickly due to high demand, sometimes 5 months in advance for dates during the dry season from May to September, so booking far in advance is a must.

***The Trail Closes Every February for maintenace, conservation and clean-up

Required Items for the Inca Trail tour

Aside from packing list items you will need, here are important items that you must have:

  • Documentation. Permission to enter the Inca Trail must be documented and you have to have it paid in full before entry. Only documents given by the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary Management Unit (UGM) are accepted.
  • Passport. You need your passport to enter the trek and the ruins. Passport must match the name on your Inca Trail tickets and documentation. Tickets are 100% non-transferable.
  • Reusable water bottle. Plastic is not permitted on the trail, so be sure to have a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.


  • It’s highly recommended to buy your tickets for the Inca Trail Tour in advance, Because permits can sell out several months in advance. Ask for it to Spider Travel Peru.
  • We recommend spending a few days in Cusco before your inca trail trek begins to give your body plenty of time to get used to the high altitude. The highest mountain pass along the Inca Trail is at 13,830
  • Go the extra mile for an amazing view of Machu Picchu, you can hike the extra hour to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. If you want to climb one of them, you need to book in advance, 4 months at least. It costs $75.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard to be the first one. Push yourself, but know your limits. It is normal for a group to get spread out and get at the campsite up to several hours apart. Walk at your own pace and save your energy for the next day instead of draining yourself on the first 13 km.
  • We advise the following things to carry in your day pack: water, scarf, bandanna, raincoat, sunglasses, toilet paper, gloves, hat, first aid kit (some medicine and band-aid), bug spray, phone, camera, and Snacks.
  • Clarify the size of your group. The size of your group can make a big difference. It is feasible to request a private Inca Trail trek. However, you are going to pay an extra cost.
  • You can get your passport stamped with a unique Inca Trail and Machu Picchu stamp to commemorate the journey.
  • Do carry some cash: you will use it to buy drinks until day 2, and to tip your porters, cook and Guide the last day.
  • Do wear appropriate gear, good hiking shoes, technical pants, and a good rain coat are a must.

Packing List for the Inca Trail Tours

  • Documentation.
    Bring your original passport. You will need it both to start the Inca Trail Tour and to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.
  • Day Pack (30L)
    Bring a comfortable daypack with snug straps to wear while you hike. SAM Travel Peru and most of the companies offer extra porter to carry you things too
  • Reusable water bottle.
    Carry a reusable water bottle in your daypack. Another option is a hydration pack, like a CamelBak, which is a super convenient way to stay hydrated.
  • Clothing.
    Layers, layers, layers. You’ll pass through many different climates along the trail and dressing in layers is important. Pack lightweight pants, short- and long-sleeve shirts, a warm fleece jacket, underwear, and socks. Temperatures really drop at altitude when the sun goes down. To stay warm, thermal undergarments, a warm hat, and gloves are recommended.
  • Footwear.
    Comfortable hiking boots or walking shoes are a must. Also pack shower sandals.
  • Rain gear.
    Be prepared with a rain jacket and pants or poncho. Rainy conditions aren’t to be expected during the dry season, but it’s better to be prepared.
  • Sun protection.
    Pack a hat, strong sunblock, and glasses for protection against the sun.
  • Flashlight.
    Headlamp (with extra batteries) or small flashlight to use at night while camping.
  • Comfort.
    Light-weight travel towel to shower with and a small travel pillow for your sleeping comfort. Some trekkers may prefer to bring walking sticks, they are especially helpful in downhill sections.
  • Toiletries.
    Toothbrush, toothpaste, travel shampoo, tissues, toilet paper, wet wipes, insect repellent with deet, and any personal medications.
  • Snacks.
    You may want to bring extra (or diet specific) high energy snacks, such as some cookies, protein bars, chocolates, or nuts.
  • Money.
    Bring local Peruvian currency (Soles) in your wallet so that you can tip your trekking team.
  • Camera.
    Of course, don’t forget your camera, with extra battery packs and memory cards – No Electricity along the trek.

Tipping on the Inca Trail Tour

On the last night of your trek, there is a tipping custom: all the hikers put their tips together and give them to the guide. The guide will then distribute that money between all the Inca Trail personnel. We advise anything from $40 to $60 USD per hiker.

****The most recommended Inca Trail tour operators are: SAM Travel Peru, Orange Nation and Spider Travel Peru.