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The Classic Inca Trail is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the adventure-seeker wanting to hike a famous trek in Peru. Each day brings something new as you travel from Andean tundra to cloud forest, passing incredible Incan sites along the way.
From Colombia to Chile, the Andes are home to thousands of “Inca Trails”. The ancient Incas connected their vast empire through an intricate network of roads, facilitating transport for trade and in times of war. There are an estimated 26,000 – 40,000 km of roads criss-crossing the Andes, of which the Classic Inca Trail trekking route is just a tiny part.
The Classic Inca Trail starts in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and finishes in the jungle. You’ll first travel from Cusco to Km 82, where the trail begins, in a combination of private transport and train. This now-famous trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, never to be forgotten. Read more about what makes the Classic Inca trail routes so awesome in our blog!
Only a special few actually get to hike the Inca Trail every year. Peru’s permit system means that just 500 people are allowed on the trail every day – approximately 200 visitors and 300 trekking staff. Permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and are in very high demand: they can sell out as much as 6 to 8 months in advance! Once spaces have been booked, NO OPERATOR CAN OFFER YOU A SPACE. All spaces are personal and non-transferable, and there is no waiting list, so if someone cancels, their spot cannot be taken by someone new. Also note that the Classic Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.
Read more facts about the Inca Trail in our blog!
The Classic Inca Trail is notorious for the mistreatment of porters and other trail staff who are asked to carry more than government regulation allow. At Apus Peru, we do things differently, going above and beyond these minimums. Read more about how we take care of all our staff, including porters and horsemen.
For tips and inspiration before hiking the Inca Trail, check out these blogs on our website:
The Classic Inca Trail follows an ancient Inca road, meaning that you will be hiking along a combination of ground trails and stone-paved paths. Some sections are very steep, and require sustained uphill or downhill climbing. Much of the trail consists of stone steps, some of which are quite tall, as much as 30 cm (12 inches). This can be hard on the knees, and could be a problem for someone with a knee injury. The Inca Trail may also be a problem for you if you suffer from vertigo or have a severe fear of heights, as there are sections with steep drop-offs, where the path narrows and becomes single file.
You will hike through a wide-ranging series of micro-climates, from alpine tundra to lush cloud forest. Expect to see a variety of flora and fauna, including different species of cacti, orchids, birds and possibly a vizcacha or two. Majestic views at high altitude of neighboring mountain ranges also await, as well as the chance to see several impressive Inca ruins along the way.
This is a very popular and busy trek. If you hike the Inca Trail, you will be hiking with hundreds of other people, and staying in busy (sometimes noisy) campsites. If you want a remote, wilderness trekking experience, the Inca Trail is not the trek for you. Talk to one of our Peru trekking experts for tips on alternative treks to Machu Picchu.
>>For more great insight about what to expect on the Classic Inca Trail, check out this great blog about hiking the Inca Trail day by day by past Apus Peru passengers Trans-America Journeys.
We offer you the opportunity to personalize your trek and make your experience more comfortable through our Optional Extras and Upgrades. All options are available during the reservation process; please ask your sales consultant for more information.
We recommend that you bring the following items with you:
For our full packing list for treks in the Andes, see What to Pack for the Inca Trail.
Our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru will also give you some great tips for how to get ready for your trek, before you even leave home.
Our whole trekking team is native to the Lares region and know the Inca Trail like the back of their hand! They are some of the warmest, endearing and wonderful people you are ever likely to meet.
Our guides are all licensed and receive regular training. They share their experience, professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm with our passengers on every trek.
Get to know our team!
Want to join a trek? Ready to confirm a departure date of your own, but interested in having others join you? Then Trekkers Wanted is for you! Our innovative Trekkers Wanted system matches people up who are interested in hiking the same trek, bringing costs down and multiplying the fun for everyone! Visit the link to read more about Trekkers Wanted, post your trek or search for confirmed departures!
Note: Trekkers Wanted for the Inca Trail ONLY available while permits last for your departure date.
General Information About trekking with Apus Peru
Specific Information About Hiking the Classic Inca Trail 4D
Booking Your Classic Inca Trail 4D Trek
Extras & Upgrades on the Classic Inca Trail 4D
Does this trek sound like just what you were looking for? If you’re ready to book or just want to find out a bit more information, fill out the Inquiry Form in the top right-hand corner of this page to get the ball rolling. You’ll be connected with one of our amazing sales people who will be able to turn your dream of hiking in the Andes into a reality. For more information on the entire booking process, please see our How To Book page.
Travel insurance is a must! World Nomads offers travel insurance for adventure activities.
You will be picked up from your Cusco hotel early in the morning in private transport. You should have breakfast in your hotel or bring some snacks. We will stop in Ollantaytambo for last minute purchases, or a quick breakfast if you missed it in Cusco! Then we will continue to Piscacucho (also known as Kilometer 82) where the Classic Inca Trail starts.
On arrival at Kilometer 82, it is necessary to show entrance tickets, original passports and student card (if applicable). Crossing the Urubamba River, we begin our trek through typical dry forest growing prickly pear and other cactus, and the tara tree. We will walk around 3 hours (6kms) to Llactapata the first archaeological site on our journey. From there, another 4 km of gentle uphill through farmland takes us to Huayllabamba and our campsite for the night.
After a good night’s rest, we will get started on what is generally considered the most challenging day of the Classic Inca Trail trek. We wake early in order to get a good start, then, leaving pastoral villages and farmland behind, we enter the subtropical forest, stopping for lunch around Llulluchapampa.
From here we will start a steep ascent towards the highest pass: the Abra de Warmihuañusca, or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, coming in at an impressive 4215m (13,828ft). You’ll feel an amazing sense of achievement upon reaching the top! After a short rest, we continue downwards 600m (1,968 ft) over 3 kms (1.8 mi) through very humid forest to the evening campsite of Pacaymayo.
After another early breakfast, we walk to the beautiful Inca site of Runkurakay, one of the check points and the beginning of the original Royal Inca trail to Machu Picchu, known as Qhapaq Ñan. We continue on to Sayakmarka, one of the most beautiful Inca remains on the Classic Inca trail. After lunch, we enter the cloud forest, trekking through some incredible scenery filled with orchids and hummingbirds.
An hour later we arrive at Phuyupatamarca (‘town in the clouds’), the third highest point on the trail (3680m / 12,073ft) where we will have breathtaking views of Salkantay mountain. After feasting our eyes for a moment, we continue downhill through the forest for about 3 hours until we reach Wiñay Wayna (‘forever young’), our campsite for the evening. Steps away from camp is the Inca site of the same name, the most impressive on the trail. No matter how tired you are, talk to your guide and don’t miss out on seeing this wonder!
Please note: Campsites are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and we cannot guarantee that Wiñay Wayna will be available. If not, the alternative campsite is located at Phuyupatamarca, located farther away from Machu Picchu but generally less crowded.
We will rise very early on this day in order to arrive at Inti Punku (the ‘Sun gate’) (2730m/8,956ft) in the early morning. This early morning hike is the final part of the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and from the Sun Gate, you have your first view of the enigmatic Machu Picchu. If we’re lucky, we may be able to spot the sun rising over Machu Picchu from where we stand!
After some time there, we will walk down the last part of the trail to the spot where you can take the classic shot of this ancient city. From Inti Punku we descend into Machu Picchu through the control point where we register ourselves and leave our backpacks and then we enter this famous city. Finally, we visit Machu Picchu itself! Your guide will give you a 2-3h walking tour of the historic citadel.
If you’re feeling adventurous you may wish to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, but take note: this requires an extra permit, and they can sell out well in advance! Be sure to tell us at booking if you would like to add one of these hikes. For more tips on what to see, check out our Visiting Machu Picchu page.
Want more time to explore? Consider our Extra Day Upgrades!
After spending time enjoying Machu Picchu, you will return to Aguas Calientes on your own, either on foot or by bus (bus fare is included in the price of your trek), where you will meet your guide. There, you will enjoy your last lunch together before heading back to Cusco on the train.
It was better than expected, and we had high expectations! The route was challenging but so rewarding. We loved the Inca sites and scenery, and changing landscapes. The food was incredible, we were blown away by the quality and quantity. One of the best experiences of my life! I loved it so much and I know [my wife] Emily did too. The staff were just outstanding and so kind.
“Would give it 5 stars from moment of enquiry to end of trip!
Excellent communication, including at the pre-trip meeting which [our travel consultant] Sarah attended too. [The route was] challenging in some parts but [our guide] Herbert was great of helping us get through and giving information as a distraction, and resting when necessary. [He was also] constantly removing litter from trail, the porters made sure no food, etc. was wasted.
I’m vegetarian, [our cook] Herbert made excellent alternatives to meat, very good at preventing cross-contamination. Absolutely delicious.
Our guides, cook, porters were so friendly and welcoming, took excellent care of us – we had so much fun, felt safe and comfortable the whole time. We can’t thank Apus Peru, Herbert (guide), Herbert (cook), Valentine (head of porters), and our 5 porters enough!”
Greco was the best guide, understood how we should pace ourselves, very knowledgeable, pleasant to be around, 10/10! The route was beautiful, challenging but very enjoyable. [Edgar prepared] some of my favorite food I had in Peru. The highlight of our trip was making it to the Sun Gate before other groups because of Greco’s planning.
Greco was the most knowledgeable guide on the trail by far. He was funny, knew so much history/culture, and answered all of our questions with respect. The trek was harder than I expected, but doable. I did not expect the trail to be so rocky , but the views were more beautiful than I ever imagined! The highlight was hiking Huayna Picchu, and I honestly enjoyed my meals and playing cards with Greco at the camp. [One thing I noticed:] No single use plastics! Other trekking companies had more trash and to-go containers. Best trip ever! Beyond my wildest expectations. Oh and Greco was an amazing translator! And the private bathroom was an unexpected surprise.
Urbano embraced a mentality of enjoyment perfect for our group. Though we were slow, he never rushed us and provided a ton of support. Sarah was amazing and we appreciated Julio’s presence at the pre-trip briefing. Thank you for the amazing trip!