The Inca Trail is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Peru. Every year, thousands of people from all over the world come to hike the trail and see the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. If you're considering hiking the Inca Trail, you'll need to do some planning and research first. This Inca Trail Ultimate Travel Guide will help you do just that. We'll cover everything from when to go and how to get permits to what to pack and how to prepare for the hike.

Tips For Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

All about the Inca Trails in Peru

The Inca Trails are a series of ancient footpaths crisscross South America's Andes Mountains. The Inca Empire used the trails to transport troops and goods between the empire's far-flung outposts. Today, the Inca Trails are a popular destination for hikers and trekkers from all over the world.

Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a 26-mile (42 km) hiking trail in Peru that connects Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The trail passes through several Inca ruins, including the site of Wiñay Wayna, before reaching the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), the entrance to Machu Picchu. The Classic Inca Trail is one of Peru's most popular tourist attractions, and as such, it is often crowded. Reservations are required and can be made up to six months in advance.

The trail is open from March to January, and the best time to hike it is during the dry season (May-September). Hiking the Classic Inca Trail is a challenging but rewarding experience. The trail takes four to 4 days to complete, and hikers must be prepared for altitudes of up to 13,000 feet (4,000 m). But those who make it to the end are rewarded with some of the most incredible views in all of Peru.

The Classic Inca Trail can also be hiked in a 5-day itinerary and even longer with connections like the Salkantay Inca Trail.

Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

If you're short on time but still want to experience the Inca Trail, the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the perfect option. This trail is only 2 days long, so it's much shorter than the traditional 4-day Inca Trail. Even though it's shorter, the short Inca Trail still offers stunning views of the Andes Mountains and culminates at the world-famous Machu Picchu.

The short Inca Trail starts at Km 104, about 3 hours away from Cusco (by bus and train). From there, you'll hike for about 7 hours on the first day to reach Sungate and finally to Machu Picchu in the afternoon. On the second day, you'll wake up and explore Machu Picchu early in the morning.

The total distance of the short Inca Trail is only 16 km / 9.9 miles, and it's a great option for those who want to experience the Inca Trail without spending too much time hiking. One of the best things about the short Inca Trail is that you will visit Machu Picchu twice, one for the sunset, and the next day you can enjoy the sunrise.

Alternative treks to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is the most popular trek to Machu Picchu, but it's not the only option. Several alternative treks offer different routes and different levels of difficulty.

  • Salkantay Trek

This trek takes you through the stunning scenery of the Andes Mountains and includes a visit to the incredible mountain lake of Laguna Humantay. The Salkantay Trek is a bit more challenging than the Inca Trail, but it's still doable for most people.

  • Lares Trek

This trek takes you through traditional Andean villages, giving you a taste of authentic Peruvian culture. The Lares Trek is a bit shorter than the Inca Trail, making it a good option if you're short on time.

  • Huchuy Qosqo Trek

The Huchuy Qosqo Trek is a trekking adventure through the stunning landscapes from Cusco into the Sacred Valley in Peru. It is a less challenging trek than the rest, but the rewards are great. The views are breathtaking, and the sense of accomplishment is unbeatable. This trek takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery from Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu; it is the only trek that starts in Cusco city and connects with the Sacred Valley.

Glaciers, mountains, lakes, rivers, llamas, alpacas, and authentic Andean villages are there.

  • Choquequirao Trek 

Choquequirao is more challenging than the IncaTrail. This trek is recommended for experienced hikers and is one of Peru's most remote and least-visited treks. The Choquequirao Trek will take you to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, including views of the Apurimac Canyon and glaciers.

  • Inca Quarry trek

The trek starts in a small village in Ollantaytambo and winds its way up into the mountains, passing several ancient Inca ruins, waterfalls, and amazing views of the Sacred Valley from the top of the Mountains. The highlight of this trek is the Inca Quarry in Cachiccata Village, which offers incredible sights of Ollantaytambo. The Trek will finish in the incredible citadel of Machu Picchu.

Tips for hiking Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Classic Inca Trail is a 4-day, 3-night hike that takes you from Cusco to Machu Picchu. It is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the world and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some tips for hiking the Classic Inca Trail:

Best time of the year to hike the Classic Inca Trail

There are two seasons in Peru: dry and wet, and you can choose which period you want to hike the trail.

  • Dry Season (May-October)

The benefit of hiking the Inca Trail during this period is that you will not be affected by the rain, and the trail will not be slippery as it would during the rainy season. Conversely, the dry season is often crowded, especially from June to August. This also means higher demand; therefore, you will need to hire a guide earlier. The night temperature falls to freezing point, so do not let the mid-day high temperatures deceive you.

  • The wet season (November to March)

The Rainy season is watery with several rain showers, but sometimes the weather good can smile for you, allowing you to hike the Inca Trail with few or no showers. The advantage of coming during the wet season is that the trail is not crowded because it is unpopular. The tour guides and permits are slightly cheaper, and temperatures are bearable at night. Conversely, camping and hiking for four days in the rain can be discouraging. We provide proper equipment to hike in the rainy season.

  • The shoulder seasons (April and November)

The shoulder seasons in the Inca Trail are the months of April, May, October, and November. These are the months when the weather is milder, and there are fewer crowds. The Inca Trail is open almost all year round, but the best time to hike it is during the shoulder seasons. Hiking the Inca Trail during the shoulder seasons has its advantages. The weather is milder, and there are fewer crowds.

How to book the Inca Trail Permits?

You must book the permit to hike the Inca Trail in advance.

  • First, you’ll need to decide which agency you want to book with. Several agencies offer Inca Trail permits, so do research to find one that fits your needs and budget.
  • Once you’ve selected an agency, you’ll need to fill out an application form. Be sure to include accurate information, as the Peruvian government requires all hikers to have a valid passport.
  • After submitting your application and paying, the tour operator must book and pay for your permit. You need to wait until final confirmation as this process is manual.
  • Remember that the Inca Trail is very popular, so it is important to book your permit well before your planned hike.
  • The Peruvian government only issues a limited number of permits per day, so if you wait too long, you may not be able to get one.

How fit should you be to complete the trek?

To complete the Inca Trail:

  • You should be able to walk for several hours while carrying a moderate load.
  • You should have good cardiovascular endurance, meaning you can easily sustain activity for long periods without tiring.
  • You should have some level of strength and power, as trail sections may require scrambling or climbing.
  • Finally, your joints and muscles should be accustomed to the repetitive motion of hiking to avoid injuries.

If you can meet these basic fitness requirements, you can likely complete most treks without too much difficulty.

What to Pack for the Trail?

You need to pack a few essential things for the four-day hike.

  • First and foremost, you need proper footwear. A good pair of hiking boots is essential for traction and support on the slippery and steep trail. Make sure to break them in before your hike! You’ll also want to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes to change into at camp each night.
  • You need to pack layers. The temperature can vary greatly, from hot during the day to cold at night. Be sure to pack a light jacket or windbreaker, even if you are hiking during the warmer months.
  • You also need to pack enough food and water. You should bring at least 3 liters of water per day. As for food, you’ll want to bring high-energy snacks like nuts and dried fruit and heartier items like sandwiches or wraps.
  • Finally, don't forget the extras: sunscreen, insect repellent, hat, sunglasses, first aid kit, and toiletries.
  • And be sure to pack your camera for the incredible views along the Inca Trail!

Tips for hiking the Inca Trail

When hiking the Inca Trail, it is important to be prepared. Here are some tips to help you have a successful hike:

  • Make sure you have the proper gear. This includes comfortable shoes, plenty of water, and snacks.
  • Start your hike early in the day to avoid crowds and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Take breaks often to rest and enjoy the scenery.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and cautious of potential hazards such as loose rocks or steep drop-offs.
  • Stay on the trail and do not shortcut switchbacks, which can damage the trail and cause erosion.
  • Be respectful of other hikers and nature. Leave no trace by packing out all your trash.
  • Hiking the Inca Trail can be challenging, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.

By following these tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.