Among the many tours and activities possible during a trip to Peru, hiking to Machu Picchu is at the top of many travelers’ wish list. Indeed, no other experience offers such a close encounter with the architectural masterpiece of the fascinating Inca Empire.
Hikes to Machu Picchu
The following hikes to Machu Picchu arrive at the citadel directly via the Inca Trail and the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). A limited number of Inca Trail permits are available, which is why it is important to make a reservation well in advance of your planned dates for Peru travel.
Classic Inca Trail
The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begins at Kilometer 82, near the original Inca town of Ollantaytambo. Over the next 4 days, trekkers walk through incredibly scenic vistas, climbing up and down mountain trail lined with important archaeological sites.
This is a fairly challenging way to walk the Inca Trail, mostly because of the altitude, with a high pass on the 2nd day which rises to 13,780 feet (4,200 m). Arrival to Machu Picchu is on the morning of the 4th day.
Travelers who wish to have more time to linger and explore the ruins along the path, can opt for a 5-day Inca Trail with private service and an extra night in Aguas Calientes.
Two Day Inca Trail
The two day Inca Trail hike is a popular option for travelers who, though short on time, don’t want to miss out on the chance to walk the path of the Inca on a trip to Peru.
At Kilometer 104, a distance marker on the train route between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes, trekkers disembark from the train and catch a branch of the Inca Trail. After a short but steady ascent, the group arrives at the main trail and the archaeological site of Wiñay Wayna and then continues to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu.
Travelers descend to Aguas Calientes to spend the night, and then return to Machu Picchu the following morning for a full tour of the amazing citadel.
Alternative Inca Trail Hikes
There are alternative options for combining trekking with a visit to Machu Picchu. These hikes do not enter the official Inca trail, but for the same reason, no permits are required and there is greater flexibility in scheduling.
The Salkantay trek
was once an off the beaten track option for travelers seeking to get away from the crowds.
From relative obscurity, the Salkantay trek has become the first option for trekkers who are either unable to secure an Inca Trail permit or seeking a bit more of a physical challenge.
The first 2 days of this hike are at high altitude, with a 15,430-ft (4,650m) pass on the 2nd day. From craggy mountain highlands, the trail descends steeply to subtropical Andean jungle, eventually reaching Santa Teresa, from where trekkers can take a short train ride to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.
The Lares Trek
appeals to travelers who prefer a culture-rich trek with the opportunity to interact with local communities.
In the small towns scattered through the Lares Valley, local weavers are renowned for the high quality of their textiles, including brightly woven blankets and ponchos. There are many routes through this high altitude landscape, but most treks begin at the Lares Hot Springs and end in the Sacred Valley, either at Ollantaytambo or Yanahuara, from where travelers can catch a train to Machu Picchu.
A variety of additional Peru treks are available to suit every taste. Treks such as Choquequirao and Vilcabamba venture deep into Inca country; others visit important Inca sites near Cusco such as Huchuy Qosqo and Chacan.
View Inca Trail Travel FAQ »
Featured Inca Trail Tours:
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Inca Trail 4D
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Classic route to Machu Picchu
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Short route to Machu Picchu
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From Salkantay to Machu Picchu
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Journey through the Lares Valley to Machu Picchu
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Trek the most sacred Andean mountain
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