Looking to do an Inca Trail booking for the next season? Permits for the Inca Trail sell out like hotcakes and if you want to reach Machu Picchu, you better start planning your travels to Peru. Continue reading and find out about the best season for Inca Trail trekking, the cost and prices, distance, height, altitude sickness, travel insurance, packing lists and of course Inca Trail permits. Vamos!
Last updated: July 2020
Inca Trail and COVID-19
Although the Peruvian authorities intervened very quickly in March and declared one of the hardest lockdowns in the world, the country is not in good shape in terms of the number of infections and victims identified. At the time of writing (June 2020) Peru has 300,000 COVID-19 infections and almost 10,000 deaths. The lockdown will last at least until July and it seems that most of the restrictions will still be in place after that. Permits for the Inca Trail are sold out in record time every year, but this year there is mostly silence on the trails and in Machu Picchu. 90% of the income in Cusco and surroundings is generated by tourism.
The consequences for the local population and the companies that offer the Inca Trail are big. Juca Coronel of Trexperience is also struggling: "We are 100% Peruvian. Originally, we never thought that the Coronavirus would have such an impact on the whole world. Everywhere it is difficult and in Peru millions of jobs have been lost, especially in Cusco. TreXperience has decided not to lay off any of our permanent employees, and we offer monthly bonuses to all our porters, chefs and guides".
Because the Inca Trail is extremely popular, there are still many open bookings for this year. Juca asks these customers to rebook and not to cancel: "We can easily rebook to next year. Every rebooking gives our staff a better perspective on the future. We can probably write off 2020, but Machu Picchu will not disappear."
Contact our trekking experts and stay up to date with the current state of affairs in Peru. See also the travel advice of your foreign affairs office, like for example this one by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK.
Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail Facts
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 defense 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 offers 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.
Availability Machu Picchu and Inca Trail
The permits for Inca Trail tours become available in October. However, trekking companies are already taking bookings before October. If you want to do the Inca Trail, you can book a date of your preference and you can inform your trekking company about your second choice. Trekking companies will always try to obtain permits for your preferred date, but as there are only so many permits available, it is good to have a second choice in mind. 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. You can imagine the Inca Trail permits official site runs out of permits quickly.
There is a shortage especially in the months May to September. As summer is approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, thousands are getting ready to finally to their Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Are you one of them, or are you more into the Short 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.
Where Is The Inca Trail?
By now you already now that the Inca Trail is in Peru. The exact location is close to the city of Cusco. The Inca Trail route starts at Chilca and ends in Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.
Inca Trail Distance and Trail - How Long is the Inca Trail?
The Classic Inca Trail Peru 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 meters, 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 the Inca Trail is in good condition. Every year in February the trail is closed for maintenance.
Inca Trail Hike Difficulty
Is the Inca Trail difficult? That is not an easy question. Everyone is different and the Inca Trail difficulty depends on a lot of factors. There are more difficult treks in the world like Mount Kilimanjaro, but when you are new to multi-day hiking adventures, the Inca Trail can be tough. Everyone will agree that the Dead Woman's Pass is the most difficult part of the Inca Trail.
If you want to make your Inca Trail less difficult, you should prepare well for your Peru Inca Trail tour in advance by doing some proper training. Going out for a long day of hiking in a hilly area can help you give an idea of what it is like to spend a few days hiking. The Inca Trail difficulty also depends on the weather. In the rainy season, it can be more difficult than on other days. But in general, everyone with moderate fitness should be able to do the Inca Trail without too much difficulty.
Classic Inca Trail 4 Days Itinerary
The following itinerary is as classic as you can do the Inca Trail. In 4 days and 3 nights, you can make it all the way to Machu Picchu, following the most beautiful trail out there, crossing The Dead Woman's Pass and coming through Inti Punku, widely known as Sun Gate. The following itinerary is based on the 4-day Inca Trail as offered by Trexperience and is considered one of the best Inca Trail tours.
DAY 1: CUSCO – KM 82 – LLACTAPATA – AYAPATA
Your trekking team will pick you up from your hotel between 4:30-6:30am (depending on your location) and drive you to KM. 82 – arriving at approximately 8.00am. After a delicious breakfast we will head straight to the checkpoint to begin your trekking to Machu Picchu. It’s a relatively easy two-hour walk to Patallacta; the first Inca site along the trail. From a unique, secluded location we will enjoy the breathtaking views of this ancient city. It’s then another two-hour walk to Hatunchaca – located in the heart of the Inca trail – where lunch will be waiting.
We will walk the Inca Trail for another two hours to the first campsite located in Ayapata, arriving at approximately 5:00pm. Your tent, a snack and a hot drink will be waiting for you. You will then have some time to rest and enjoy the view of the mountains before dinner. Campsite Altitude: 3300m – 10826ft Highest altitude: 3300m – 10826ft Distance: 13.5km / 8 miles Duration: 8 hours Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Accommodation: Camping Difficulty: Moderate
DAY 2: AYAPATA – WARMIWAÑUSKA– RUNCURACCAY – CHAQUICOCHA
We will wake you up bright and early with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa tea. Today will be the most challenging part of the Machu Picchu trek and after breakfast it’s a 4-hour trek uphill to Dead Woman’s Pass. At 4215m / 13829ft., this is the highest point along the Inca Trail. At the summit, we will take time to appreciate the serenity of this location while your guide completes a traditional offering ceremony to the Apus (local Gods). After a 2-hour downhill trek to Pacaymayu Valley we will enjoy a well-earned lunch.
The second pass is an easier 2-hours climb and we will take time to explore two Inca sites along the way; RuncuRaccay and Sayacmarca. It’s then a 20-minute walk to the second campsite at Chaquicocha (dry lake, 3600m / 11811 ft.), where you will be able to admire a beautiful sunset over the Vilcabamba mountain range before dinner. With an unobstructed view of the constellations, this is the perfect place to stargaze! Campsite Altitude: 3600m – 11811ft Highest altitude: 421700m -13835ft Distance: 16km / 9 miles Duration: 10 hours Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Accommodation: Camping Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
DAY 3: CHAQUICCOCHA – PHUYUPATAMARCA – WIÑAYWAYNA
With the hard part of the Inca Trail well and truly over, you can relax and enjoy the easiest and arguably most interesting day of the trek. Today’s route is extremely varied and it is only a 5-hour walk to the final campsite. Along the way you will pass through a number of different ecosystems, experience the atmospheric cloud forest and observe the magnificent panoramic view of Salkantay Mountain (the second highest in Cusco). We will visit two Inca sites; Phuyupatamarka (City in the Clouds) with spectacular views of the Urubamba River and the Machu Picchu Mountain, and Intipata (Terraces of the Sun). At Intipata, there will be time to rest and take in your magical surroundings. We will reach the campsite at approximately 1:00pm to have lunch and you can then enjoy some free time to relax and unwind. Later in the afternoon we will visit another impressive Inca site – Wiñay Wayna – where your guide will explain the history of this remarkable location. We will then return to the campsite for tea and dinner and a special surprise! Campsite Altitude: 2600m – 8530ft Highest altitude: 3600m – 11811ft Distance: 10km / 6 miles Duration: 6 hours Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Accommodation: Camping Difficulty: Easy
DAY 4: WIÑAYWAYNA – MACHU PICCHU
On our final day of the Inca Trail we have to get up very early to prepare for the highlight of your Trexperience; visiting Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas. We will go straight to the checkpoint and wait until it opens at 5:30 am. As the sky brightens, we will walk for an hour to the Sun Gate, taking in the stunning views along the way. On a clear day you can watch the spectacular sun rise over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, which is truly an unforgettable sight. We will then start our one-hour decent towards Machu Picchu, arriving at the final control point at around 7:30am.
Your guide will take you on a two-hour comprehensive tour of the city before leaving you in Machu Picchu to explore on your own or climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (tickets must be booked as far in advance as possible). Your guide will explain how to take the bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes for lunch and then take the train and bus back to Cusco. The Trexperience Team will meet you off the train and return you safely to your hotel. Highest altitude: 2700m -8858ft Distance: 6km / 3 miles Duration: 2 hours Meals: Breakfast Difficulty: Easy
Inca Trail Altitude, Height and Map
The Inca Trail begins with a gradual ascent to the famous Dead Woman's Pass. This is where the Inca Trail has the highest altitude. From here it goes downhill until you ascend again to the Runkurukay Pass. Then it is a gentle hike down to Machu Picchu. Below you will find a handy Inca Trail elevation profile with a map. This Inca Trail map was provided by Alpaca Expeditions, whose 4-day Inca Trail offer can be found here.
Inca Trail Camping
On the Inca Trail, you will be camping. Don't worry, it's not the kind of camping where you have to bring everything yourself. Porters will be carrying most of the gear and you can rest assured that they will also help you set up and pack up the campsite. All you really need to bring is a sleeping bag and an inflatable mattress. Even that can be rented from your trekking company, regardless of which one you are trekking with. The campgrounds are basic but your trekking company id doing anything to make camping along the Inca Trail more comfortable. There is a dining tent in which the most delicious local meals get served. For that purpose, there is even a kitchen tent. IEvery campsite is equipped with toilets, mostly latrine style. There are also showers to be found on certain campgrounds.
Inca Trail Cost and Price
For the classic route, the Inca Trail price varies 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.
Best Time for Inca Trail in Peru - Inca Trail Weather
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 for the Inca Trail 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 favorable 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.
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No More Inca Trail Permits - Now What?
Could you not get a permit for the Inca Trail?
However, for everyone who just wants to get to Machu Picchu and wants a great trekking experience, there are different options worth considering. The most famous alternative Inca Trail is the Salkantay Trek, but the others are just as great if not better. The Lares Trek, the Choquequirao Trek, the Inca Jungle Trek and the Inca Quarry Trek are all good alternatives for when you couldn't get permits for the Classic Inca Tra. Believe us, it is a bit of a blessing in disguise.
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.
2-day 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.
Inca Trail Packing List
This Inca Trail packing list is for those who have booked with a trekking company and are wondering what they do and don’t need. Don’t need, that’s right: Your trekking company will sort you out most things that you need for the Inca Trail. Think of meals, tents and optionally sleeping bags, sleeping mats and more.
When packing your bags for Peru and the Salkantay Trek, there are some things you can not leave behind. The following items are a no-brainer :)
- Valid Passport (a copy will not be accepted)
- Valid Student Card (if you booked as a student)
- Immigration Card (That piece of paper you receive on the incoming plane)
- Hiking boots (light, comfortable and broken in)
- A good quality daypack (light, small and comfortable)
- Water storage for at least 2 liters; either a camel bag, flasks or bottles
In Your Daypack
The benefit of booking with a trekking company is that you won’t be able to bring all your belongings along on the trails. You only need to carry your daypack and can leave some stuff with the amazing porters that will make your trek more comfortable. Don’t compromise on the quality of your daypack. It is important to note that due to local regulations, your backpack should not exceed 25L. All larger backpacks can not be taken into Machu Picchu and will need to be stored outside the gates.
- Hat and sunglasses
- Rain gear
- Warm layers (fleece / long sleeved tops)
- Sun cream, bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Personal medication
- Camera, extra batteries
- Head torch
- Extra snacks, power bars, chocolate
- Extra money for souvenirs, drinks & tips (small change is useful for paying to use the villagers’ toilets on the first day.
Your trekking company will supply you with a duffel bag which you can fill with all the other stuff you won’t be needing during the day. The maximum allowed weight is usually 7KG and that includes your sleeping bag and your air mattress. We advise you to bring the lightest stuff and to definitely not bring too much. Bring at least the following items:
- Sleeping bag (usually for rent at trekking company)
- Air mattress (usually for rent at trekking company)
- Light shoes for around camps
- Warm jacket, hat, and gloves
- 2-3 t-shirts (wicking)
- 1-2 hiking pants/trousers
- 4 sets of undergarments
- 4 sets of hiking socks
- 1 fleece
- 1 Warm, down jacket for the coldest nights
- Quick-dry towel
- Wet wipes
- Toothbrush and paste
- Face moisturizer
- Power pack/battery charger
- Plastic bags to keep wet or muddy clothes separate
If you are comfortable wearing some of the items again the next day, you can definitely save on some weight for the porters.Your excess luggage can normally be stored at your trekking company. This service is free of charge or a small fee is calculated.
Inca Trail Altitude Sickness
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.
Inca Trail Charity
Doing the Inca Trail is a very popular choice when you are looking to do something for charity. Ticking Machu Picchu off the list is not for everyone and if you do it, it is likely to gain you some respect for your next birthday party. There is something special about it and that is why climbing Kilimanjaro for charity is a fantastic idea. You can do a fundraiser or you can simply gain awareness for a topic of your choice. Although we do not help with crowdfunding or fundraising, you can get in touch with our trekking experts for tips or find a matching trekking company.
Inca Trail Travel Insurance
On the Inca Trail, you will be crossing the Dead Woman's Pass which has an altitude of 4,215 meters. The Inca Trail offers you a trekking experience with an altitude of over 4,000 meters. This is why Inca Trail travel insurance is a must. You do not need a specific Inca Trail travel insurance, but you must just make sure that your travel insurance covers hiking at high altitude. Before you travel to Peru you must make sure that you check with your travel insurance that you are covered for your Inca Trail.
Inca Trail Reviews
If you are looking for Inca Trail reviews, there are loads of possibilities online. Here you can find all our offers for the Inca Trail and every trekking company is reviewed through users of TripAdvisor. We take pride in selecting only companies with a review ratio. We also believe in negative reviews because, after all, no one is perfect. Definitely not a trekking company, which ventures out into the mountains every day, a place where anything can happen. We also believe in spoken word and that is why, if you want your most worthy Inca Trail reviews, you should speak to our trekking experts. They have done things before you and know how to send you in the right direction.
Inca Trail Booking - Where can I best book?
There are several websites where you can book Inca Trail packages or holidays to Peru. 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.
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