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© trophygeek / Flickr
© trophygeek / Flickr

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking Peru's Inca Trail

Picture of Brandon Dupre
Updated: 29 November 2017

Peru’s Inca Trail just might be the most famous trail in the world – and for good reasons. Considered by some experts as a holy Inca pilgrimage, the trail to Machu Picchu is nothing short of incredible. You’ll reach dizzying heights – of 4,200m (13,860ft) above sea level at one point – and then plunge back into the jungle, enjoying Inca ruins and sacred mountains (Apus) along the way. Each day it feels like it can’t get any better and then, passing through the Sun Gate, you finally make it to the sacred city in the sky, Machu Picchu. Here is our guide to Peru’s Inca Trail.

Why do the Inca trail?

The stones you walk and the trail you follow were also followed by the Incas centuries ago. The terrain you hike through is unlike anything in the world: you’ll twist and turn towards snow capped mountains and then dive back down into the jungle, witnessing some of the most bio and ecological diverse landscapes in the world. It is also believed by experts that the Inca Trail was designed as a holy pilgrimage, and that after enduring the days it took to get there, you’d be worthy enough to enter Machu Picchu. In this way, hiking the Inca Trail is like going on a holy pilgrimage – and it indeed feels like that.

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Inca Trail | ckmck / flickr | © ckmck / Flickr

The different trails

Two day trail

This option is for those who are short on time and still want to enter Machu Picchu through the famous Sun Gate, where the trail ends. The Sun Gate is an amazing place to enter Machu Picchu because, unlike the other entrance where the buses drop everyone off at, you’ll see the sacred city from above and hike down to the ruins. This option will give you a little bit of hiking to make you feel like you earned it and, of course, the grand finale of Machu Picchu.

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Machu Picchu grazing | eder fortunato / flickr | Machu Picchu | © Eder Fortunato / Flickr

Four and five day trail

These are the classic options for the Inca Trail and are your most difficult to get tickets for. You will not be able to just show up in Cusco to then buy your tickets for the Inca Trail there. You need to buy your tickets months in advanced because the Peruvian government has limited it to 200 permits a day for the trail in an attempt to preserve it. Both trails are incredible, but if you want more solitude during your hike, do the five day version. Most people opt for the four day trek, leaving you with less crowded roads and more time to sleep in.

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Inca trail | tgraham / flickr | Ruins along the Inca Trail | © tgraham / Flickr

The costs

Private

The private trip will set you back around $1500 – $1800 per person, but you’ll be able to tailor every aspect of the trip to your liking. You’ll be in your own private group and have exclusive access to the guide. These trips can be very fruitful in terms of information, but are very expensive.

Group

Joining a group usually costs around $600 – $900 and you’ll be joined by around 10 to 15 other people. The journey is the same, but you’ll have to share a guide with other people in this option.