Inca Trail – Machu Picchu – Price and Alternative Inca Trail Routes
Reaching the city of Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail
The Inca trail is one of the oldest pilgrimages in the world and one of the 10 most beautiful walks in the world. To date, scientists do not agree on the role of Machu Picchu, some say it was a fortress in defence of the Inca Empire where other scientists assume that it was a retreat for the kings. What we do know for sure is that the Inca Trail leads to the city of Machu Picchu which was built around 1440.
Today, the Inca Trail is one of the most popular treks in the world, at least the most popular trekking in Peru. Every year Machu Picchu attracts about 400,000 visitors, each day a maximum of 2500 Machu Picchu can enter, of which a total of 500 are allowed to walk on the classic Inca trail. These 500 are divided into 200 tourists who hike the Inca Trail and are supported by 300 porters.
Classic Inca Trail Trek
The Classic Inca Trail is the path that connects Machu Picchu with the rest of the Inca Empire. The route has a length of 45 kilometers and takes three to five days. The path winds through the dense forest over high mountain ranges so you end up with the ruins of Machu Picchu. Where Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 2340 meter, the highest point during the classic Inca Trail is at 4200 meters, this is also called the ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. While walking the Inca trail you will pass the ruins of the villages Phuyupatamarca, Huinay Huayna. The path of Inca Trail is in good condition. Every year in February the trail is closed for maintenance.
Availability Machu Picchu and Inca Trail
There are 500 permits available per day for the four-day Inca Trail. Because this is divided among tourists and staff (guides, porters and cooks) there are eventually 200 permits available for tourists, the other 300 are made available for staff. There is a shortage especially in the months May to September. In this blog post you can read more about the permits for the Inca Trail.
For the short Inca Trail (two days) there are 250 permits available per day. In general, these are available a lot longer, but they also sell out quickly. Here, too, we advise you to book as soon as possible. If both are no longer available? Don’t be sad because there are alternatives such as the Salkantay and for example Inca Jungle trek. As you can read in this blog post, the alternatives are often even better than the Classic Inca Trail.
Costs Inca Trail – Machu Picchu
From 310 EUR you have the possibility to hike to Machu Picchu. For this amount you do not hike the classic Inca Trail trekking but the Salkantay route in four days.
For the classic route the prices vary from a small 400 EUR to just over 700 EUR. The difference is mainly caused by the number of days you do the trekking, whether you go for four or five days. In addition, the price of the Inca Trail obviously differs from one provider to another.
The alternatives to the Inca Trail are often slightly more economical than the classic Inca Trail. This has everything to do with the popularity of the classic Inca Trail and the small number of permits that are available. The Inca Quarry Trek and the Inca Jungle Trek, for example, are much more affordable.
Best Season for Hiking Inca Trail in Peru
The Inca Trail can be done all year round, except in February because the route is then in maintenance. From May to October is the best time to travel, in this period there is the least precipitation and the sun is most often present.
The temperature is about the same throughout the year. During the most favourable months, the temperature at night is sometimes below zero Celsius. The number of hours of sunshine is the highest with an average of nine hours of sunshine per day.
Inca Trail alternatives – Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is an alternative trek to the classic route. The Salkantay trek is considered by most to be the best alternative route. This route to Machu Picchu is offered in a four and five day version and starts and ends in Cusco. The four-day Salkantay Trek is slightly heavier than the Inca Trail because of the altitude to be conquered. On day one we already hike to an altitude of 4200 meters, this night is also the coldest night of the entire trekking.
On day two you hike after an early breakfast in about three hours to the Salkantay Pass which is located at an altitude of 4650 meters. After lunch you descend to an altitude of 2900 meters where you will also spend the night. On day three we trek from Chaullay via La Playa to Aguas Calientes in about six hours. The last day you hike early in the morning to Machu Picchu where there is a two-hour tour after which you can walk around freely until it’s time to take the train. At the end of the train ride in Ollantaytambo you will be taken back to Cusco.
Lares Trek to Machu Picchu
The Lares Trek is the least demanding trek compared to the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail. In addition, the Lares Trek is also the quietest. The Lares Trek is best known for its contact with Peruvian locals. During the trekking you will pass the Sacred Valley where you will encounter the first locals with alpacas and llamas. On the first day you will reach a high altitude and cross the Amparaes pass at an altitude of 4470 meters. Then you trek onwards to Lares where you can enjoy the warm thermal baths and then descend to Cuncani to spend the night.
On the second day you hike along rocky paths through high lagoons and see in the distance glaciers that provide the locals with fresh drinking water. After reaching the top you descend to camp in a quiet area surrounded by trees. After breakfast the last day starts. You descend to finally end up in Ollantaytambo where you take the train to Aguas Calientes. On the last day you will be driven by bus to Machu Picchu, and at an altitude of 2400 meters where there is a guided tour of about two hours after which you can walk around freely in the city itself.
Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The short Inca Trail has only a total of 12km of hiking. First of all, in the morning you will be taken from the hotel to the train station where you will start with a train ride of about three hours. From there the hike starts from the ruins of Chachabamba and takes you past a refreshing waterfall on your way to the ruins of Winay Wayna. If we continue after lunch we already have our first view on Machu Picchu.
The second day we start with the trip to Machu Picchu where there is a guided tour of about two hours after which you can walk around in the city itself. Alternatively you can choose to climb the Huayna Picchu extra, this has to be booked in advance.
Altitude Sickness Inca Trail – Peru
Altitude sickness can occur while hiking the Inca Trail. From your home country you land in Peru at an altitude of 2,500 metres. Your body hasn’t had time to acclimatize and you are planning to go to an even higher altitude. Altitude sickness is determined by a lack of oxygen in the body. A series of symptoms that you may experience due to altitude sickness in Peru are: headaches, lack of appetite, dizziness, insomnia, vomiting and you are more likely to get tired. Altitude sickness is mainly caused by a rapid increase in altitude. For example, if you climb more than 750 metres during the day and you stay at that altitude, your body may have difficulty adapting. As a rule, the faster you ascend, the greater the risk of altitude sickness.
It takes 6 to 12 hours before you get can get complaints about altitude sickness. This means that, for example, you can climb more than 1000 metres in one day, but if you also descend at the same time on the same day, the chance that you will get altitude sickness is small. The many ascending and descending causes the body to acclimatize. The next day it is relatively easier to stay at a higher altitude. Crossing the Dead Woman’s Pass during the Inca Trail and the Salkantay will provide a better acclimatization during your trekking.
Where Can I book the Inca Trail?
There are several websites where you can book the Inca Trail. Important to consider is that the cheap providers are probably not very good for their staff. The income is relatively low in Peru and some organizations like to make use of it.
At Bookatrekking.com we try to make a selection of providers who have everything in order, take good care of the staff and nature. However, they are obliged to indicate their lowest price on the internet. Here you will find our offers for the Classic Inca Trail.
Now that you know all about the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, you might wonder how to get to Cusco. Check out this blog post and take a look at our Peru guide for more useful information. Have you thought about upgrading your Inca Trail by visiting Rainbow Mountain? Always do.