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The Inca Trail

Step back in time into the world of the Inca Empire. The famous Inca Trail takes you along the Inca highway, past Inca ruins, through cloudforests and moorlands, to it's crowning glory, Machu Picchu. Climbing the endless Inca steps high up in the Andes and then catching your first glimpse of the Inca citadel from the Sun Gate is a memory you'll carry with you always.

Walking the Trail

We offer three different routes to Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail Routes

The Classic and Alternative routes are accessible for active people, while the High Inca Trail requires previous trekking experience. All treks go over 4,000m with some steep ascents and descents and there are some long sections of slippery Inca stone steps to negotiate. While all our trips are designed to allow time for acclimatisation we also advise some training prior to the trek and it helps to have walked over 2,500m beforehand.

Best time to go

Peru is a year round destination but for trekkers the mountain dry season is April to October. In April, May and October the nights are milder and there are often wild orchids in bloom on the Trail. The clearest, sunniest and therefore busiest months are June and July, although nights are colder as there are fewer clouds keeping the heat in.

Life on trek

You'll stay in modern two-person dome tents on foam sleeping matresses with sleeping bags. There are few facilities on the Inca Trail but you'll be provided with a bowl of warm water after you trek each day to wash in. A toilet tent will be set up each evening. Porters will carry your larger luggage and set up camp each day and a cook will make sure your energy levels are kept high with hearty meals. You'll start walking in the morning and arrive in camp mid afternoon with plenty of stops en route.

1. The Classic Inca Trail

Day 1 Llactapata (2,850m)

Starting the trek at km 82 gives you the chance to warm up as you walk along the Urbama River which lies beneath the snow-capped Mt. Veronic. You camp at the Llactapata Ruins. Approx. walking 4/5 hrs. Distance 6km.

Day 2 Pacaymayo (3,700m)

Ascending a broad valley alongside the Cusichaca River you'll trek to Wayllabamba (3,000m) before a steady climb to Pacaymayo. Approx. walking 6/7 hours. Distance 12km.

Day 3 Phuyupatamarca (3,800m)

The most challenging day of the trek with 1,000m of ascent and descent as you cross both Warmiwanusca (Dead Woman's Pass 4,200m) and the pass beyond Runkurakay (3,950m) before continuing to Phuyupatamarca. Approx. walking 6/7 hrs. Distance 14km.

Day 4 Winay Wayna (2,700m) & Machu Picchu (2,400m)

Descending through the cloudforest, down some 2,000 Inca steps you reach the beautiful ruins of Winay Wayna. From here it's a relatively easy path to Inti Punku (The Sun Gate, 2,700m) and your first views of Machu Picchu. You'll explore this ancient site and then transfer down to the town of Aguas Calientes to spend the night. Returning the following morning before the crowds arrive. You'll then have a day uncovering Machu Picchu's many secrets with your Group Leader. Approx. walking 4/5 hrs. Distance 13km.

Classic Inca Trail Altitude Chart

2. The High Inca Trail

This is longer, tougher trek which extends the Classic four day trail by three days. You walk through more remote parts of the Andes, passing ancient Inca stonework and ruins to altitudes over 5,000m. You join the Classic Trail on the fifth day and continue along the famous route to Machu Picchu. This trip is designed for more experienced trekkers and well worth it if you want to escape the busy classic trail for a few days.

The High Inca Trail Altitude Chart

3. The Alternative Trail

The Inca Trail is popular and permits sell out fast which is why we advise you to book six months in advance. Permits sell out 4-6 months in advance, when this happens we offer the Alternative Trail which is not subject to permit restrictions. This four day trek takes you through remote villages, past stunning mountains and untouched Inca ruins. It reaches altitudes of 4,400m and is a route less travelled. On completition of the trek we'll transfer you to Aguas Calientes and you'll then take the bus up to Machu Picchu. The Alternative trek can be added to any Inca Trail trip based on minimum numbers.

Alternative Trail Altitude chart

Watch our video about trekking The Inca Trail

Images from the Inca Trail

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Along the Inca Trail
Along the Inca Trail
Machu Picchu
Time for a breather
A long hard slog on the Inca Trail
Walking by a stream on the Inca Trail
Inca Trail Trekking holiday
En route up the Inca Trail
Walking along the old Inca trail
Make new friends on our Inca Trail Tours
Ancient Inca Ruins
Machu Picchu

The Discovery of Machu Picchu

So what was Machu Picchu, it was not mentioned in any of the conquistadors’ accounts? Hiram Bingham, was a professor at Yale who yearned for fame. He set up the South America Collection at the University and was consistently seeking sponsorship to explore the continent. He was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Explore: ‘Something hidden! Go and find it! Go and look beyond the ranges – something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you! Go!’ It should also be noted at the same time Bingham was discovering Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Conan Doyle was releasing his book The Lost World. All this adds to the romance of the discovery of Machu Picchu and his story lends itself to the image of explorers looking for ancient treasures in unchartered lands. Bingham actually went in search of the lost city of Vitcos, the last capital of the Incas where Manco Inca ruled, but, as with all explorers, he lived on rumours and hearsay and, having set off out of Cusco, he stayed with locals who talked about ruins up on the hill. He went there the next day and paid little attention to what he found leaving a few members of the team to excavate the site while he went on in search of Vitcos. His search was not in vein and he successfully discovered both Vitcos and Espiritu Pampa (Vilcapampa), the last Inca stronghold for Tupac Amaru high up the Vilcapampa Valley. When he returned a year later he realised the extent of the site he had stumbled on after the initial excavations and the legend of Machu Picchu began to take shape. Bingham publicised the findings in National Geographic and it captured the imagination of the world at the time; the discovery of an ancient world on such a scale, in such an inspiring location was unrivalled. Over the next few years he not only excavated the site but also the sites which lead up to Machu Picchu; uncovering the Inca Trail and the mystery began to be unravelled. It’s well worth trying to see the original pullout poster of the excavation work at Machu Picchu in National Geographic to help understand the magnitude of this find. It essentially created the Hollywood image of explorers discovering lost tombs and treasures.

What was Machu Picchu?

No one can blame Bingham for dismissing the site initially as just a few rural buildings - it was not chronicled anywhere. However there is no doubt, due its scale and amazing stonemasonry, this was an important site which played a central role in the Inca Empire and a must when trekking the Inca trail. It’s very probable that the site was deserted before the conquistadors’ arrival, hence them not mentioning it in any chronicles and its untouched survival. The most plausible explanation of its role is it was built as a retreat for the most powerful of all Inca Emperors, Pachacuti. His descendents did the same at other sites and this would explain it being uninhabited after his death and therefore lying unnoticed during the conquistador invasion. Other theories are it was a place of religious importance and the remains up the Inca Trail were associated with the spiritual journey to the citadel. Other theories include an ancient observatory or frontier trading post, which reduced in importance as the Empire expanded. On our Inca Trail holidays you’ll be able to make your own interpretation of the ruins. Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail have this amazing romantic tie and it’s easy to see why.