2-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
$480 | Rating 4.91 / 5 [124 ratings]
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Plunging valleys dripping with waterfalls, snow-capped peaks looming overhead, Inca ruins cresting high mountain ridges surrounded by hummingbird-filled cloud forest – and the mist rising off Machu Picchu itself, warmed by the rising sun; the Inca Trail truly is one of the world’s greatest treks.
But it’s no walk in the park. The four-day route follows an ancient Inca road for 43km; rising and falling over passes and valleys and reaching a maximum elevation at the ominously-named Dead Woman’s Pass at 4200 metres. It’s breathy, muscle-aching work, but the views of lost Inca ruins and spectacular scenery make it an unforgettable experience.
The standard trek takes four days; however, some operators offer the option of five days on the trail. This allows for a more leisurely pace and time to linger and explore some of the Inca ruins along the way.
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A permit is needed to trek the Inca Trail and numbers are limited to 500 people a day (including porters), so it’s important to book months in advance if possible. The trail can only be tackled using a licensed tour operator, who will make all arrangements for you, including transport from Cusco to the start of the trail.
Food and drink are provided, but check with your operator what items you should pack. Porters can be hired to carry your backpack, though you can opt to carry your own if you prefer.
Don’t underestimate the challenges of walking 43km at altitude. It’s a challenging hike, but doable with reasonable fitness. Parts of the trail are very steep, but no climbing is involved. It’s a good idea to try shorter hikes around the Sacred Valley first.
The Inca Trail is accessible to permit-holders from March to January. It closes in February for conservation projects.
The driest months are June-August, but the trail is often booked far in advance then. The May, September and October, shoulder seasons are better and it’s warmer than June to August.
During the rainy season (November to March), trekking becomes sticky and wet, with views obscured by clouds. The Inca Trail is closed for maintenance for the entire month of February.
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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first
Aguas Calientes, Cusco Region, Peru[17 miles]
Surrounded by rainforest, close to restaurants and the bus stop to the ruins, this is the best Machu Picchu village hotel for a pre-visit, overnight stop.
Aguas Calientes, Cusco Region, Peru[18.4 miles]
An otherwise average hotel in an unrivalled position next to Machu Picchu, offering guests the exclusive chance to see the citadel at dawn before the crowds.
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[54.4 miles]
Good-value, centrally located hotel with modern rooms fitted into the cloisters of the Spanish-colonial market.
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[54.6 miles]
A tranquil, family-run guesthouse sits in up-and-coming, arty San Blas neighbourhood, with views of central Cusco at every street corner.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
A land of spectacular deserts, high mountains and rainforests that teem with wildlife, Peru is also home to an array of dramatically situated pre-Colombian ruins, including Machu Picchu.
Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first
Aguas Calientes, Cusco Region, Peru[16.9 miles]
The Incas’ magnificent 15th-century mountaintop citadel sprawls across ten hectares of Peruvian cloud forest. Its elaborate architecture comprises ceremonial centres, residential areas and agricultural terraces. Wayna Picchu, the cone-shaped mountain, rises imperiously behind.
Best for ages: 8+ | £28
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[47.8 miles]
One of the world’s most spectacular train rides, the journey between Cusco and Machu Picchu via the Sacred Valley combines dramatic landscapes and absolute luxury.
Best for ages: 18+ | £550 | 3 hours
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[55.2 miles]
The Inca empire’s most elaborate sun temple, covered in gold and silver, is now a colonial church housing stunning Inca stonework.
Best for ages: 18+ | £2
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[56.2 miles]
The heart of the old Inca empire has a wealth of Inca ruins, Spanish treasures and historic architecture to explore.
Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1 day
Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru[137.2 miles]
A mountain of striking, colourfully-striated rock bands, caused by layers of varying mineral deposits. It’s a 2-hour drive from Cusco, followed by 5km (3 mile) walk.
Best for ages: 18+ | Free