Trek the ancient Inca Trail surrounded by breathtaking vistas and visit numerous archaeological sites before passing through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is a bucket list trip for many active travelers and a must-do for all who visit Peru’s Sacred Valley. Our trip strikes the perfect balance between high-altitude trekking and creature comforts, as porters carry the camping gear and prepare your meals so you can explore this Andean wonderland without heavy backpacks. True, you’ll “rough it” in roomy tents for three nights, but the rewards come quickly with numerous archaeological sites en route and overnight lodging in Aguas Calientes before we explore the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Add in transfers to and from Cusco, and it’s a worry-free week in one of the greatest destinations on earth.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Inca Trail trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day(s) Before Your Trip
If possible, we highly recommend spending two nights in Cusco before your trek begins in order to acclimate. The night before your trip begins, our guide will come to your hotel to discuss the logistics for our upcoming trek.
Cusco to Ollantaytambo and Trek to Huayllabamba
Leaving Cusco early, we’ll travel approximately 2 hours by vehicle through the Sacred Valley to reach the road’s end past the ancient city of Ollantaytambo. At our destination, simply known as Kilometer 82 (~8,500 ft), we meet the rest of our team, who will assist us with our journey along the Inca Trail.
We start our trek escorted by our guide and porters, going through semi-arid terrain alongside the Urubamba River with magnificent views of snow-capped mountains and the river below.
After a couple of hours on the trail, we arrive at our first of many Inca sites – Llactapata and Patallacta. Here we turn up a side canyon, leaving the Urubamba River valley, and set off up the Cusichaca River toward our first campsite at Huayllabamba (~9,850 ft above sea level).
Today will have been a relatively easy day, as much of the trail follows the Urubamba River without gaining significant elevation. It’s a great warm-up, helping us acclimate to both the altitude and our surroundings. The scenery of the river, flora, ruins, and mountains high above won’t disappoint, as the anticipation of the trail ahead keeps us excited at every turn. (L, D)
Hiking Distance / Time: ~7 miles / 6 hours
Huayllabamba to Pacaymayo
We awake to the sound of the nearby stream, ready to face our trek’s greatest challenge – the ascent to Warmihuanusca Pass. We’ll have time to relax with a cup of coffee or hot tea as our support team prepares breakfast. Once we’ve eaten and our day packs are loaded, we set off along the trail, which immediately begins to ascend up the canyon toward the high peaks of the pass.
After a steady climb this morning, our breaking point for lunch is a terraced slope high in the canyon, with magnificent views of our path below. On a clear day, Veronica Mountain is a prominent presence across the valley. After lunch, we move steadily up the trail, taking our time to allow our lungs to capture as much oxygen as possible in the thin air. As we gain elevation, the saddle of Warmihuanusca Pass comes into view. Eventually, we reach our goal and stand together at the highest point of the trek (~13,828 ft).
Descending the other side, we travel along the ancient path, marveling at the work involved in laying the stone pathway we follow. The trail meanders down the canyon, finally arriving at tonight’s camp in a place called Pacaymayo (~11,810 ft). (B, L, D)
Hiking Distance / Time: ~5.5 miles / 8 hours
Pacaymayo to Phuyupatamarca
We’ll continue on our journey along the pathway to Machu Picchu. From our camp, the Inca Trail climbs to the circular ruins of Runkurakay, a small outpost used as a resting place and for monitoring travel along the trail by the Inca people. The trail continues to climb steadily to our second of three passes, reaching ~12,790 ft in elevation. From here, we have great views of the valley ahead.
As we descend into the next valley, the stonework of the trail and its ability to endure for centuries continues to fascinate us. We follow each stone laid before us and approach the ruins of Sayacmarca atop a tall flight of stairs. Here, we will stop and explore for a short time. The name Sayacmarca means ‘Inaccessible Town’ and describes the position of the ruins perfectly, protected on three sides by sheer cliffs. From here, the stone trail enters a more jungle-like climate as the forest becomes more humid and the flora more dense. Soon we come upon The Tunnel, where the Incas built the trail through a natural cavity created by a landslide.
Upon reaching our third and final pass (~11, 900 ft), the trail brings us to our final camp perched above the Phuyupatamarca Ruins. From here, if the sky is clear, we will have magnificent views of the spiritual Salkantay Mountain and other far-off glaciers. And, for the first time, we can see the ridge line that is home to Machu Picchu. (B, L, D)
Hiking Distance / Time: ~6 miles / 7 hours
Phuyupatamarca to Machu Picchu
We awake on our perch above the jungle below, surrounded by the impressive and jagged Andean mountains. From here, the trail descends steeply and takes us through the nearby ruins, then traverses the mountainside high above the Urubamba River valley. We arrive at Intipata Ruins, a wonderful example of the terraced agricultural landscapes created by the Inca for the acclimatization of their crops.
After lunch, we may get to visit the impressive ruins of Wiñay Wayna, which consists of upper and lower house complexes connected by a staircase and fountain structures. From here, the trail clings to the steep hillside before turning up a steep, almost vertical incline of stone steps. The ascent seems almost surreal, as four days of hiking can be felt in our muscles, and the near-vertical pitch has us reaching with our hands toward the stairs in front of us. Upon reaching the top, we’re greeted by a sign that reads Inti Punku or the Sun Gate.
From here, your view of Machu Picchu sanctuary is excellent, as the Sun Gate provides an overlook of the entire landscape. After taking it all in, we slowly descend through the intricate stonework of the many civilizations before us – the Inca Empire and generations before. We’ll make our way to the exit for a shuttle ride to Aguas Calientes and our night’s accommodation. (B, L, D)
Hiking Distance / Time: ~6 miles / 7 hours
Machu Picchu and Cusco
We’ll get an early start this morning to make the most of our time at Machu Picchu. Here, high above the Urubamba River, our guide will lead us on a tour of the extraordinary Lost City of the Incas.
For an additional cost, you may choose to climb Huayna Picchu—a steep, vertical hike that takes about 2 hours and affords great views of the sanctuary. Be sure to request this well in advance, as tickets are limited.
After our guided exploration of the sanctuary, we’ll return to Aguas Calientes for lunch. You’re free to dine at the restaurant of your choice before we meet for the train back to Ollantaytambo, where our private vehicle awaits to return us to Cusco and your hotel. (B)
Accommodations this evening and return airport transfer are not included. OARS can arrange extra nights of lodging in Cusco, airport transfers, and additional tours of the region for before and/or after your Machu Picchu hiking adventure. Contact your Adventure Consultant for more details.
Meeting Time & Place
6 PM the evening before the trek
Approximately 7:30 PM the evening of Day 5
Dates & Prices
|Wednesdays, March – December||$1,750|
|Wednesdays, March – December||$1,875|
Although space is occasionally available on short notice, demand for trekking permits on the Inca Trail is high, and we strongly suggest contacting us at least six to nine months (or more) in advance for the best shot at securing the date of your choice.
To request your preferred dates for trekking the Inca Trail, call us at 800-346-6277 with the following information for each member of your group:
$800 ($250 + $550)
To process permit requests, we require a $250 per person refundable deposit. The deposit is only refunded if we’re unable to secure your preferred dates. If the request is successful, the deposit will be applied to your trip booking and an additional $550 per person deposit will be required to confirm your trip.
• Optional hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain: $78
• Mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
2023 & 2024 – $200
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Flights to and from Cusco, Peru
- Pre- & post-trek accommodation in Cusco*
- Airport transfers*
- Single supplement fee
- Ticket to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain*
- Trekking poles (available for rent)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
- Medical immunizations (if necessary)
*OARS can arrange per request
Our Inca Trail hike brings us to one fascinating location after another, with ancient ruins spanning centuries of stonework, waterways, agriculture, and pathways that have stood the test of time. We’ll ascend and descend thousands of vertical feet, reach the heights of three passes, sleep out under the stars, and be humbled by the vast and jagged Andes Mountains around us. By the time we return to Cusco, we will have traveled by foot over thousands of Incan steps, carved out of stone and individually placed. This trip is perfect for explorers who enjoy challenging hikes and are eager for sites and stories of the history and mystery surrounding ancient Peruvian civilizations.
Important Peru Hiking Information
Trekking in the High Andes takes a toll on the average person, which is why previous high-elevation hiking is recommended for this adventure. Although the level of exertion is only moderately strenuous overall, good physical fitness is required. It is a good idea to come prepared with proper elevation sickness medicine, which can be prescribed by your local doctor before your trip. This trip is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights or children under the age of 12 years.
For the first three nights of the Inca Trail hike, we’ll be joined by a small group of porters and cook staff who will carry the majority of our gear, set up our wilderness camps and provide delicious and satisfying authentic meals for the group.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
The final night of our adventure is spent at El Mapi, a charming 4-star boutique hotel by Inkaterra conveniently located in Aguas Calientes, the village of Machu Picchu.
Peru is known worldwide for its unique and varied cuisine. You will be able to experience a great variety of regional foods during your adventure. Peru’s variety in cuisines is based on the ancient cultural traditions of the Incas and their predecessors, the diversity of its ecosystems, and the more recent influence of European and Asian culinary traditions. In the markets, you will discover a great festival of colors, aromas, and flavors.
The mountainous region is noted for a great variety of corn dishes. There are also countless offerings of potatoes due to Peru‘s vast variety of the tuber. Researchers believe that Peru is host to over 4,000 varieties of potatoes. Other flavorful offerings of this region include alpaca and guinea pig seasoned with Andean products such as chili peppers, goosefoot, black mint, or pampa savory. Regardless of where you are—urban or rural—you will be delighted by the incredible variety of traditional foods served.
The highlands of the Andes—the locale of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and the Urubamba River—usually have very little rain from May to September and a rainy season that lasts from November to March, with heaviest rains in January and February. Temperatures remain fairly constant year-round with daytime averages in the upper 60s, and nighttime lows to the mid-30s. Please note that there are sudden temperature drops after sunset. Cusco is 11,200 feet above sea level and the Sacred Valley area is from 7,000-9,000 feet above sea level.
Average High/Low Temperature & Rainfall for Cusco
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Average High/Low Temperature & Rainfall for Aguas Calientes
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Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
A $500/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days prior to the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more before the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|45 or more days before your trip||Deposit|
|44 to 0 days prior to your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter Mountain Lodges of Peru reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
Our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hiking trips are run by an affiliate company and arranged through O.A.R.S. International, Inc.
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