Besides the many activities and visits to do around Cusco, there’s the main star, Machu Picchu. And to get there, the Inca Trail is one of the most popular options. We’ve summarised some of the key details to consider.
IMPORTANT!! In an effort to protect this area, there’s a limited amount of visitors allowed simultaneously. That’s why it’s absolutely mandatory to pre-book your visit. Tickets can be sold out several months in advance (at least, half a year for the high season).
What are we talking about here?
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a legendary trail, famous all over the world. In Spanish you’ll identify it as “Camino del Inca”. It’s actually part of a much bigger network that connected different areas of South America, being this one of the masterpieces of the Inca resourcefulness.
There’s two distinct seasons in this area: dry and rainy. The rainy season goes from November to March, which is why the Inca trail is closed in February (the rain makes the trekking complicated, so they’ve chosen that month to keep it without visitors for maintenance). This doesn’t mean that you can’t access Machu Picchu in February, as there are alternative trails available.
The dry season then is from April to October, with the available slots within June-August selling out pretty quickly.
How long? How Much?
There’s two main options, a 2 day or a 4 day trek. The starting price is approximately 500 USD and upwards, depending on which kind of service the provider offers: hiking and camping gear, food and water, accommodation, activities along the trail, transfers back to your hotel, etc.
You should know there are also some alternative trails like the Salkantay Trek (5 days), or the Inca Jungle (4 days). Check with your chosen agency if you want to explore different options!
But most importantly…How?!?!
Thanks to the new protection rules, it’s not allowed to access the trail by yourself. Only through licensed operators, that will take you on groups where you’ll have the visitors, guides, porters, etc. That’s why out of the 500 people allowed on the trail each day, less than half of them are actually tourists! Besides, remember that this is a long walk in high altitude so to have the know-how of experienced tour guides is definitely important here!
For example, in the 4-day journey you’ll start from KM 82 of the railway that leads to Machu Picchu and the total length of the walk is about 42km (26 miles). The guides and support staff will make sure that you’re safe during the whole journey, as they will assist with every aspect of the walk, including camping, supplies, first aid, etc. There are certain rules they will make sure you follow for everyone’s safety and comfort. Expect early nights and veeeery early wake up calls!
Let’s say I made it to Machu Picchu…how do I come back?
After putting your body through all that effort, you’ve earned a trip back by train: the Inca Trail runs in one direction only. The way back will be from the Machu Picchu complex, to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) to Ollantaytambo. There, a van can take you back to Cusco city. Most companies will have this service included in their price.
Don’t forget to reward yourself with some of the best dishes to try around the area (after all that walking, you deserve it!)
Why should I try this experience?
For sure, at some point in your life, someone will say to you “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Or any similar phrase. In this case we could say it definitely describes why this place matters so much. Besides Machu Picchu you’ll get to enjoy several archaeological ruins along the way and the scenery is absolutely stunning. At the same time, you’ll be learning about an amazing culture, making friends and challenging your body through one of the most famous trails in the whole world. Not too bad, right?
Our recommendations for your trip to Machu Picchu here