Part of the 23,000 kilometers (approximately 14,000 miles) of roads built by the Incas in South America, this is Peru’s most famous trekking route and possibly one of the most spectacular in the Americas. Every year; some 25,000 hikers from around the world walk along the extraordinary 43 kilometers of this stone-paved road built by the Incas leading to the unassailable citadel of Machu Picchu located in the depth of the Cuzco jungle. The journey starts in the village of Qorihuayrachina, at kilometer 88 of the Cuzco – Quillabamba railway and takes three or four days of strenuous walking. The route includes an impressive variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems that range from the high Andean plain to the cloud forest. Travelers will cross two high altitude passes (the highest being Warmiwañuska at 4,200 m.a.s.l.) to culminate the hike with a magical entrance to Machu Picchu through the Inti Punko or Gateway of the Sun.
Due to environmental concerns, current regulations in Peru limit the amount of people on the Classic Inca Trail to 500 per day. This means that there are only about 160 places for trekkers as the rest are taken up by the porters and guides. All trekkers need to have a permit and these must be booked in advance. Places get booked up quickly, well in advance. To obtain a permit for the Inca Trail, name (as shown in your passport), date of birth, passport details and a deposit are required which means we can only apply for them once we receive your booking – there is no way to reserve places in advance without these details. In high season (June to September), the number of travellers wishing to trek the Inca Trail far outweighs the numbers allowed so it is imperative to book as far ahead as possible.
This 4-day trek is rated moderate to strenuous and most people with a good fitness level can master it without problems. The average daily hiking time is between 5-8 hours and participants can go at their own pace. There is a very knowledgeable guide accompanying the group and porters who will carry the tents, food and all camping equipment. During this period your main luggage will be stored in your Cuzco hotel and you will only have to carry your day bag with sun cream, camera, water, rain jacket, hat, and any other gear you need during the day. At the end of each day – if you do the camping version of the trek – tents will be set up by porters as well as meals cooked in order to allow you time to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery. The hike ends on the 4th day in the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, and provides you with the unique opportunity to enjoy this mysterious place almost as unspoiled as it was in ancient times and before the train with the main tourist stream arrives.
*The Classic Trail permit is non-refundable and non-transferrable. The passport you book the trek with, must be the passport you carry to South America with you.
*Only the Inca Trail has limited spaces; the ruins of Machu Picchu can always be visited, reached by an alternative trek or by train.
*The Inca Trail is closed during February (the wettest and least popular season) to give the environment a break from the constant flow of trekkers and to enable a clean-up of the trail.
*Trekking the Inca Trail independently is no longer allowed, you must either hire a qualified guide or book through a licensed tour operator.
If there are no places on the Classic Inca Trail – or if you would like to do something different – there are (fabulous) alternative Inca trail treks that see less tourists and have outstanding scenery equal to, if not exceeding that of the classic Inca Trail. We can organise alternative trails for you which all include visiting the ruins of Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay Trek is becoming a popular alternative to the Classic Inca Trail. The trek sees fewer tourists and takes you to some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the region. It can be a little more strenuous than the Classic Inca Trail due to the altitude of the highest pass (4800m). As with the Classic Inca Trail, anyone with a good level of fitness can do the walk but you will find it more rewarding if you prepare yourself with some walking before you leave home. The trek is around the awesome, snow-covered Mt. Salkantay, crossing a pass on its western shoulder and descending to the Santa Theresa Valley.
The Lares Trek is an excellent alternative to the very busy Classic Inca Trail. Taking you off the beaten track with visits to authentic Andean communities whilst being surrounded by stunning mountains, lakes and valleys. You will trek through a part of Peru that has changed little over the last 500 years and you will pass by the spectacular scenery of the Lares Valley. This remote and rarely visited region offers the trekker an insight into the real lives of the Andean people; farmers dressed in their traditional brightly colored ponchos; thatched stone houses surrounded by herds of llamas and alpacas and the small Andean communities that are visited along the way are famous for producing high-quality handmade textiles using natural dyes.
Even though the Inca Trail operator used take good care of their porters and pay them a fair wage, the porters, guides and cooks on your trip will very much rely on, and work hard for, your tips as a supplementary income. It is for this reason that we recommend that each of our clients tip a minimum of US $30. They are 100% worth it!
Porters have been gravely exploited in the past, being expected to carry huge loads and not provided with proper carrying equipment, clothing, shelter or food. There is now a minimum wage paid and a maximum load of 25kg (20kg plus 5kg for personal gear). This includes a 5kg personal allowance for items such as blankets and clothes. Each porter is weighed at the start of the trail and then again at Wayllabamba at the start of the second day. This regulation was introduced in 2002 and has been strictly enforced. Companies that are caught overloading their porters receive fines and the risk of losing their licenses.
Porter Culture: The Quechua race has a history of being down-trodden, first by the Incas, then by the Spanish and then by the landowners. Only in fairly recent reforms have the Quechua people started to own their own land. It is important on the Inca Trail to try to involve the porters in your group. Take some coca leaves to share with them and try to learn a couple of basic words in Quechua. Many of the porters have amazing stories to tell about traditions and life in their villages. At the end of the trek don’t forget to show them that you appreciated their work and valued their contribution towards the trek by thanking them verbally and giving them a tip.
Huanapicchu is the summit next to Machu Picchu. Ascending to the peak has grown in popularity in recent years and travellers like to climb it in order to get a good view of Machu Picchu from a different perspective. Due to its increasing popularity, a permit system was introduced to limit numbers, along with impose a small charge for the climb. Permits can sell out in advance, therefore if you know you would like to climb the peak we advise you to request your permit at the time of booking to avoid disappointment. Whilst most people really enjoy the climb, it is worth noting that there are plenty of great views of Machu Picchu from other spots as well.
Please note: Huanapicchu is a steep and strenuous climb, and involves mostly climbing up a series of very steep and irregular steps. It is not really for those who are unfit, or scared of heights. As a guide, it takes approximately one hour to walk up and about 45 minutes to walk back down. While it can be very rewarding to some people, others prefer to have the extra time to walk around the ruins of Machu Picchu and soak up the atmosphere. The climb is done on the same day that you are visiting the ruins at Machu Picchu, so reduces your time wandering around the ruins. There are 400 permits available per day, which are sold on a first come, first served basis. The cost of the Huanapicchu entrance is payable at the time of booking. Once requested your tickets cannot be refunded or exchanged, as they are arranged with your specific name and passport details. It will be your responsibility to be at the entrance point at the right time, and should you be late then you will unfortunately forfeit your opportunity to go up.
For those who don’t fancy trekking at all, there is the option of taking the train to the town of Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu, staying overnight in a simple hotel, and heading up to nearby Machu Picchu the next day. This option gives you an extra two nights in Cusco, where we will provide accommodation. If you wish to take the train option you must state this at the time of booking.