5 Facts About the Famous Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu

The famous Inca Trail Trek is a bucket list adventure for most, especially if scaling mountains for days on end and reveling in ancient historical sites is your idea of an adventure tour. The trail itself served an important role for the Incas, connecting Cusco to Machu Picchu along a mountain pass-riddled route designed to honor each sacred peak (Apu) met along the way. As a route of religious pilgrimage, it was likely a trail only the Sapa Inca traversed in his day. Today, trekkers from all over the world travel to Peru to follow this ancient path through mountain landscapes, cloud forest, and sub-tropical jungle terrain. Here’s everything you need to know if you have your sights set on the Inca Trail Trek.

1. Booking at least 6 months in advance is necessary.

Inca Trail permits for the following year go on sale in October and usually sell out quickly. The Park Authority has 500 permits per day to dole out, meaning that if you book early (at least six months in advance), you will likely have no trouble snagging a permit for your desired trekking dates. Your chances go up if you choose to hike during the shoulder seasons (any month outside of June, July, and August). If for whatever reason you can’t book in advance and permits are sold out, there is the possibility of doing the Inca Trail Express, a two-day route that follows the final stretch of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, giving you the very same grand entrance to the citadel as those who trekked the classic route.

2. The classic Inca Trail Trek route is 26 miles (43km).

If 26 miles sounds like a small distance for a trek that takes five days to complete, then you’re not considering the thin mountain air and series of steep ascents that compose the route. You’ll appreciate the manageable mileage each day, if not for the chance to rest and restore your sore muscles than for the extra time it allows you in the breathtaking Andean outdoors.

3. The second or third day of the trek is usually the toughest.

Day two or three, depending on your Inca Trail Trek route, involves the ascent and descent of Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest elevation you’ll reach on the trek. Sitting at 4,200 meters above sea level, it’s no small feat arriving to its summit. Once there, you then have the even steeper descent to tackle. A tip: Take it slow and steady on the way up, appreciate the views at the top while catching your breath, and descend with the aid of some trekking poles.

4. Each day consists of about 6 to 8 hours of trekking.

Starting in the morning, expect to be on the trail for roughly six to eight hours each day. There are typically scheduled breaks en route for snacks, meals, breathers, vistas, and oftentimes, Incan ruins too. The longest day on Explorandes’ 5-day trek is Day 3 when we hike from Llulluchapampa to Phuyupatamarca, a journey that kicks off with the ascent of Dead Woman’s Pass and finishes at a campsite known as “the village over the clouds” in Quechua.

5. You’ll visit a line up of lesser-known Incan ruins en route.

Machu Picchu isn’t the only Incan ruin you’ll have the chance to explore when trekking the Inca Trail. There’s Q’oriwayrachina, Llaqtapata, and Runkuraqay to name just a few. What you’ll come to discover is that each ruin outdoes the one before it, building to the grand finale, your entrance to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). Your trekking guide will give you a brief synopsis of each site as you visit them.

Ready to Tackle the Inca Trail Trek?

Explorandes was the first adventure tour operator in Peru to offer the Inca Trail Trek, so you can trust that you’re in experienced hands. For more information about the Classic Inca Trail Trek and the Inca Trail Express, get in touch with us today!


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