The world famous Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu is THE classic South American experience.
All but one of our adventure holidays to Peru include a visit to Machu Picchu via a variety of routes including the classic Inca Trail, a four day trek through stunning Andean scenery culminating in a dawn arrival at the Sun Gate for that picture postcard shot of Machu Picchu. With Imaginative Traveller you can enjoy an alternative trek to Machu Picchu on the Andes and Amazon Wild Andes trip or spend longer and combine your walking tour with the rest of Peru or neighbouring Bolivia.
What is it
Machu Picchu, often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas, is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world. It was built in 1450 above the valley of Urubamba near Cusco, at a height of 2430m and deserted less than a century later following the Spanish invasion. The city was 'lost' for hundreds of years to the jungle before being re-discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 (though local farmers knew it was there the whole time!).
The architecture of Machu Picchu is quite extraordinary, with the mortar-free design particularly earthquake resistant and the stones so precisely cut that to this day not even a knife fits between them. There seems to be a strong astrological influence particularly with the Temple of the Sun, which contains two windows that are aligned to the points where the sun rises in the mornings of the summer and winter solstices, the longest and shortest days, respectively.
When to go
Any time of year is a good time to go to Peru. The wet and dry seasons are fairly distinct with the rainy season starting end October/November – March/April. Nights are warmer (6-7°C) during this period though. The most popular time to travel to Peru tends to be the dry season end May – August though night temperatures can drop to -1°C. We obviously have no control over climate and it is possible that it will rain (or even snow) at any time or that hazy skies or mist will affect views and photos. Please note that the main Inca Trail route is closed for cleaning for the month of February – during this period and when permits are sold out (see below) we offer our alternative treks.
Inca Trail Permits
The Classic Inca Trail is restricted by the number of trekkers permitted on the trail each day so it is an absolute must that you book early as it may be impossible for us to secure the necessary permits. Full passport details are required to secure a permit so there is no exchanging or ‘ebaying’ of secondhand permits – once they’re gone, they’re gone! Please check the detailed trip notes to see whether your tour includes the Classic Inca Trail or one of our many alternatives – see below for more details.
A Typical Day Trekking Inca Trails in Peru
Most days begin around 6am with a hearty breakfast prepared by your trekking team. You generally trek between 5-8 hours for the first three days, with many rest opportunities available. Rest is an important factor in countering altitude sickness – walk slowly rather than hurrying and enjoy the scenery, drink plenty and avoid alcohol. You can expect to trek over well defined paths and Inca stone pathways with steep ascents and descents passing hilltop forts, snow-capped peaks and cloud forests. On the Classic Inca Trail three passes are climbed before a 3am wake-up call on the final morning to reach the Sun Gate at sunrise for classic Machu Picchu views. Please note the Classic Inca Trail is the only trail which arrives by foot at Machu Picchu itself -all the other trails finish nearby and involve taking the train to Aguas Calientes (the town beneath Machu Picchu) and then the bus up to the main site.
An experienced, English-speaking trek leader will accompany every trekking group – chosen not only for their knowledge of the Inca Trail and Peru, but perhaps more importantly, for their “people skills”. The guide is accompanied by a team of porters and cooks who have enjoyed many years working with our groups and are responsible for the carrying of the equipment and food and setting up camp. On the alternative treks we also use llamas, mules and horses to transport equipment.
Inca Trail Trek Alternatives
We use a variety of Inca Trail alternatives depending on the tour chosen – please check the trip notes carefully to ensure you book the right trail for you. We use the ‘Lares’, ‘Wild Andes’ and ‘Quarry’ trails – if you specifically wish to trek the Classic Inca Trail then you may need to specify this at time of booking and it will usually be down to availability. The other trails are exceptional alternatives with the added bonus that you will see very few trekkers. Venturing further off the beaten path, the treks wind their way through remote rural villages and provides stunning views across the Andes Mountains. Along the way you can mingle with local families, llama herders and weavers, renowned for their brightly coloured hats and ponchos. The treks are of a similar level of difficulty as the Classic Inca Trail route, reaching slightly higher altitudes (4800m for the Community, 4600m for the Lares and 4500m for the Quarry). All culminate in a visit to Machu Picchu although only the Classic Inca Trail actually finishes at the site. Please see the detailed trip notes for further information.
Classic Inca Trail Facts
- The trail starts at KM82 and is 44km in length
- The highest point is 4215m – ‘Warminwanusca’ or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’
- It is closed during February for a general clean up and rejuvenation
- It was recently voted one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’
- Beer and a hot shower are available on the last night of the trail
Highlights of the Inca Trail and Peru
- Inca Trail
- Machu Picchu
- Lake Titicaca
- Amazon Jungle
- Nazca Lines
- Colca Canyon