The Inca Trail is one of the most exciting treks in the world, and to help travelers navigate their way through this unforgettable adventure, we created a detailed map of the trail.
Trail Map, Following Inca Steps
The world-famous 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, 28 miles (45 kilometers) from start to finish, is a sacred part of what was an extensive network of Inca footpaths called Qhapaq Ñan, meaning “Royal Road.” It was once the only route leading to the remote citadel, and today offers a unique way of arriving at the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.
Start to Finish Attractions
Walking Distance: 7.4 mi (12 km)
Trekkers collect their equipment in the town of Ollantaytambo and continue by bus to km 82, where the Inca Trail starts. Here groups pass through the control point and cross a bridge to the other side of the Urubamba River. The Inca Trail parts from the train tracks that mirror the river’s path through the Sacred Valley.
The terrain gradually climbs uphill towards Llactapata, a massive archeological site containing terraces and hundreds of housing structures. After lunch, walk for roughly two more hours to the first designated campsite of the Inca Trail at Wayllabamba.
Walking Distance: 6.8 mi (11 km)
The second day of the trek is the most difficult. After breaking camp, the walk going up to Abra de Warmiwanusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass, is arduous and steep. Trekkers should go at their own pace and drink plenty of water. Note in the sectional view of the trail map that Abra de Warmiwanusca is the highest point in the trek with an elevation of 13,795 ft (4,205 m).
The trail landscapes change from the moderate temperatures of the Sacred Valley to the arid and cold high plains. The camp is set up at Pacamayo. Far away from bright city lights, hundreds of twinkling stars are visible overhead. Read more about Inca stars and constellations.
Distance: 10 mi (16 km)
Archaeological gems are the highlights of the third day of the Inca Trail.
The ruins of Runkurakay are semi-circular in design and reside in a location with a beautiful view of the Valley of Paqaymayo, or “Hidden River” Valley below. The next pass is a steep climb away but offers gorgeous vistas of the Vilcabamba and Pumasillo mountain ranges.
Resting at an elevation of about 11,800 ft (3,600 m), Sayacmarca is a set of ruins located on a cliff with a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain.
Continuing the ascent, trekkers pass the third and final mountain pass of the trek at Phuyupatamarca, undoubtedly one of the unique small villages along the Inca Trail. It’s located on the side of a ravine looking down on the Urubamba River surrounded by terraces. The ruins are covered in a blanket of mist more often than not.
Trekkers camp at Winaywayna.
Distance: 3.7 mi (6 km) to Machu Picchu
Wake up before the sun on the fourth and last day of the Inca Trail. After an early breakfast at 4:30 am, the group is on the trail by 5 am to reach Inti Punku, the Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu for sunrise.
Then it’s time to discover Machu Picchu.
Before Walking the Inca Trail
There’s more to walking the Inca Trail than just showing up at the trailhead with your pack strapped to your back.
- Best time to go: The best time to trek in and around the Sacred Valley is during the dry season, generally running between May and September. The rainy season is between October and April.
- When not to go: Don’t make plans to hike the Inca Trail in February. It’s closed at this time every year for conservation work and maintenance.
- Reserving your permit: Travelers need a permit to walk the Inca Trail. Each day there are 500 permits available, approximately 200 allocated to tourists and 300 to guides, porters, and cooks. Demand for Inca Trail permits is high, especially during the dry season. Plan ahead because permits sometimes book up months in advance! If there are no permits for the dates you want to walk the classic Inca Trail, consider an alternative route: Lares or Salkantay.
- What to bring: Download our complimentary packing checklist for trekking to Machu Picchu.
- Gain a visual perspective of elevation changes along the classic 4-day Inca Trail and daily attractions.
- Get a brief summary of walking distances and Inca sites visited along the trail each day, before reaching Machu Picchu.
- Review important trail permit regulations and seasonal tips.
Want to learn more about trekking to Machu Picchu? Browse our Sense Peru – Treks to Machu Picchu online edition to compare options, get tips about seasonal weather, and so much more. If you’re ready to book your trek, contact our team and reserve your spot along the Inca Trail.
*Blog Last Updated by Britt Fracolli October 2019
Peru for Less is a group of travel experts who live, work, eat, and breathe all things South America. Their inspiration stems from a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity that make this continent so special.