The 5 day Inca Trail camping trek to Machu Picchu combines stunning mountain scenery, climbs over high passes and passes through diverse ecosystems and archaeological ruins, that line the royal Inca road. The trek culminates at the Sun Gate, overlooking the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu.
A minimum of two nights is recommended in Cusco prior to the trek to help with acclimatisation, and a trip briefing will be held the evening before departure. This is a group camping trek, all equipment (tents, sleeping mats etc.) are provided and sleeping bags can be hired. All cooking equipment, camping equipment and luggage is carried by porters. The personal luggage per hiker is limited to 10kg, plus a day pack which will need to be carried.
Leaving Cusco driven into the Sacred Valley and to the trailhead at Piscacucho (Km 82) to meet the porters and cooks (about 3 hours).
Begin the trek by crossing the Urubamba river on a suspension bridge and heading west along an undulating trail above the river, beneath the impressive snow-capped Nevado Veronica. After exploring the ruins of Llactapata ascend up the narrow side valley of the Cusichaca river to the village of Huayllabamba, the last inhabited place on the trail.
Distance: 11km | Hiking time: 5-6 hours | Ascent: 450m | Descent: 0m | Accommodation: Camp
Today is the most challenging day of the trek, but exhilarating. Starting early hike up an Inca path, past hummingbirds and stunted cloud forest, to emerge above the tree line at the Warmiwañusqa pass, Dead Woman's pass. This is the highest point of the Inca Trail at 4,200m with magnificent views to the Huaynay mountain range and distant Inca ruins. From here descend down to the Pacaymayo valley.
Distance: 8km | Hiking time: 7 hours | Ascent: 1,200m | Descent: 800m | Accommodation: Camp
Climbing again, pass the Inca control post of Runkuracay and the circular archaeological site, to arrive at the second pass on the trail at 3,900m. On a clear day there are spectacular views towards Pumahuanca Mountain in the Vilcabamba range. As one descends from the pass walk along a well-preserved Inca trail passing the ruins at Sayacmarca and through the cloud forest to arrive at Phuyupatamarca, the place above the clouds at 3,600m, with views to Salkantay.
Distance: 11km | Hiking time: 6 hours | Ascent: 300m | Descent: 300m | Accommodation: Camp
Today finally reach the iconic site of Machu Picchu. Descend through the cloud forest on beautiful Inca stairways to the huge Inca terraces of Wiñay Wayna. The final part of the trail, on the east side of Machu Picchu Mountain, is a beautiful traverse along fine Inca stonework to arrive at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. Stepping through the old stone gateway enjoy an amazing, panoramic view of Machu Picchu. Walk down through the Inca Citadel and take the bus (about 20 minutes) down to the town of Aguas Calientes.
Distance: 12km | Hiking time: 5 hours | Ascent: 150m | Descent: 800m | Accommodation: Hotel
Take the shuttle bus back up to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the site plus some free time to roam amongst old Inca walls and sit and appreciate the huge scale of the Inca Citadel. In the afternoon take the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or Poroy station, and continue by vehicle back to Cusco.
Distance hiked: 2-4km (3 hours) | Ascent: 200m | Descent: 200m | Accommodation: Hotel in Cusco
This is a classic trek with a couple of challenging days, numbers are restricted and permits are required. 500 Inca Trail permits are available per day, which includes porters and staff, leaving about 200 permits for tourists. As they usually sell out 6 months in advance, early booking is recommended. Although this is usually a group trek a private trek can also be organised, subject to permit availability.
Follow this link to explore alternative trekking options in Peru: Walking in Peru