Here is the complete 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu intenerary. This world famous trek, is sure to impress any hiker of any skill or experience level. Along the 42-kilometer or 26-mile trail, you’ll walk along the same path as ancient Inca kings have walked nearly 500 years ago. Experience altitudes up to 4,200 meters/13,779 feet, diverse landscapes, original cobblestone trails and staircases built by the Incas. Cross paths with the famous constructions of Runcuracay, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñayhuayna, and the great Machu Picchu Citadel itself. Machu Picchu is located high up in the mountains and is not easy to access. The ability of the Incas to build an architecturally sound structure in such unforgiving terrain will is astounding and it’s guranteed to take your breath away.
If you plan to partake in this once in a lifetime experience, trust in a company with experience and endless recommendations from other travelers. Trust Sam Travel Peru. Check out Top Inca Trail Operators for 2023 and 2024.
BEST 4 DAY INCA TRAIL ITINERARY TO MACHU
Day 1: CUSCO – KM 82 – WAYLLABAMBA – AYAPATA
Today, begins your adventure of a lifetime with the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We will pick you up from your hotel in our private van around 4:30am. From there, we travel to Piskacucho, which is known as kilometer 82, where the 4 Day Inca Trail begins. Along the way, we stop for breakfast in Ollantaytambo between 6:30-7am to load up on energy to start the trail. Breakfast usually is not included.
Upon arrival at kilometer 82, we will have some time to freshen up, use the restrooms, apply some sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. Once at the Inca Trail checkpoint, be ready to show your original passport and (if paying a student rate) your student card. You guide will have all permits and tickets at hand. Here you need to give your duffel bag to the porter. Keep only essential items needed for the hike during the day in your small daypack. Check our packing list for more information.
At the start of the trail (2,720m/8,923ft) we will cross the majestic Vilcanota River with its spectacular views and follow its route towards the right. The first day is a great warm-up as we hike along the flat and only slightly steep terrain. Following the Vilcanota river to kick off our journey automatically gives you the opportunity to witness incredible sights. These sights include the Inca Fortress (Huillca Raccay), the vast and incredible Inca site of Llactapata, (officially called Patallacta), the Urubamba Mountain range, and the Andes Mountains. Add to that the beautiful snow-capped peak of W’akay Willca (5,860m/19,225ft) commonly known as Veronica and you get a diverse set of incredible and stunning views. You will enjoy your first gourmet lunch at Hutunchaca before walking for about 3 hours to our first campsite in the Andes!
Our first campsite is in Ayapata, an hour and a half up towards the small village of Wayllabamba (3,000m/9,842ft) located in the temperate green valley of the same name. Temperatures at night are around (5ºC/41F) depending on the month. It can get colder during the dry season (May to September). We recommend you bring a war jacket for these chilly evenings.
Upon reaching camp you will find a spread of hot tea and snacks that invite you to take your bag off and relax a little while our chef makes dinner. Enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains of Veronica, (5,860m/19,337ft), the lush green valley around us and a myriad of flora and fauna, while sipping on a hot cup of tea and enjoying some appetizers which the guide will have already set up for you.
- Meals: Lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner
- Accommodation: Camping facilities
- Distance: 12kms/7.5mls (about 6 hours of hiking)
- Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Day 2: AYAPATA – PASS – PAQAYMAYU – CHAQUICOCCHA
How about a hot cup of tea or coffee to start another adventurous day? Your guide will gently wake you up with a hot cup of tea or coffee at 5:00am, which you can enjoy in your sleeping bag before getting up for a hot and hearty breakfast. The trek starts with a steep ascent towards the highest pass, Abra de Warrmihuañusca or “Dead Woman’s Pass” at (4,200m/13,779ft). Ensure your daypack is as light as possible, its a steep climb. While this may be the most difficult day of our journey, a true sense of accomplishment awaits you at the summit! After a well-deserved rest and tons of photos to document your hard earned achievement, we begin the descent towards our lunch spot, located at Pacaymayu (3,550m/11,646ft).
As you make your way towards the pass, you will be able to see an array of hummingbirds and a combination of other species of birds. There will be plenty of time to appreciate the incredible variety of native plants and the Polylepis or Q’ueuña trees, which grow in the astonishing cloud forest located at (3,650m/11,972ft)!
After lunch, the second two-hour steep climb towards Runkuraqay pass (almost 4,000m/13,123ft) begins. We arrive at our campsite by 5pm for afternoon tea and appertizers. Temperatures at this campsite are around 4ºC/39°F during the night, so be prepared for a cozy evening bundled in your jacket.
- Meals: Breakfast, water, lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner
- Accommodation: Camping facilities
- Distance: 16kms/10mls (about 9 hours of hiking)
- Difficulty: Moderate/challenging
Day 3: CH’AQICOCHA – PHUYUPATAMARCA – WIÑAY WAYNA
Many trekkers consider this to be the most impressive day! Your guide will again wake you up with a hot cup of tea or coffee at 6am before getting up for breakfast.The day starts with a gentle climb towards the archaeological site of ‘Phuyupatamarca’ (meaning ‘Town in the Clouds’). Here, we reach the third highest point along the Inca trail (3,680m/12,073ft). The views of the mountains, canyons and surrounding areas are spectacular!
The extensive Inca site of Phuyupatamarca, is located a few minutes’ walk from the third pass. After exploring this site, we continue walking down 3,000 stairs through the cloud forest to the impressive agricultural Incan site of Intipata. As you descend from the mountains, you will feel the temperature rise. You are approaching not only Machu Picchu, but also the beginning of the Amazon jungle! Next, we continue until we arrive at our third campsite Wiñay Wayna (2,680m/8,792ft). On this day you only walk for about 4 to 5 hours. We arrive at camp by lunchtime! Temperatures during the night are around 12º C or 53°F.
A short walk from our campsite is the renowned Incan site of ‘Wiñay Wayna’ which translates to ‘Forever Young’ in Quechua. This exceptional site derives its name from a remarkable orchid species that thrives abundantly in this area. Take a moment to explore and marvel at the wonders of Wiñay Wayna, immersing yourself in the rich history and natural beauty that surrounds you. This will be our last night camping and having dinner as a group and will be a great time to thank our porters for all their hard work. During the night, temperatures hover around 12ºC or 53°F, so you can anticipate a comfortable evening.
- Meals: Breakfast, water, lunch, snacks, afternoon tea and dinner
- Accommodation: Camping facilities and hot showers
- Distance: 10kms/6.2mls (about 5 hours of hiking)
- Difficulty: Moderate
Day 4: WIÑAY WAYNA – MACHU PICCHU – CUSCO
Today is the day you have been working towards! Wake up time is at 3:30 AM. We’ll eat breakfast at 4:00 AM. We will hurry to the checkpoint to be one of the first to start trekking when they open the gates at 5:30 AM. This is the final leg of your journey with only one more incline to conquer. By 6:00am you’ll reach the iconic Sun Gate, also known as Inti Punku. At this very moment, the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu Citadel will unfold before your eyes, exuding its mystical beauty. Take this opportunity to stop for photos and capture this once in a lifetime moment. From there you start your descent down to Machu Picchu Citadel 2,400m/7,872 ft. On the way you will encounter a few important Inca sites between the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu. After walking for 40 minutes, we enter the citadel from the top through the “House of the Guardians”. Here you will have the opportunity to take those famous postcard perfect photos of Machu Picchu. From there, we proceed towards the control point, where we register and leave our belongings. Your professional guide will direct you throughout the astounding ruins and its main streets for your guided 2 hour tour.
You will also have time to indulge in a few of the following activities on your own if you choose (not included in the price)
- Climb up Huayna Picchu and appreciate the beauty and magnificence of Machu Picchu from there. (only if booked in advance)
- Other optional activities in Aguas Calientes include a visit to the local museum or bathe in the hot springs. (when time permits)
Once you’ve taken in the remarkable vistas of Machu Picchu to your heart’s content, we’ll take a bus back down to beautiful Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included). This is a great time to reflect on your journey and share pictures and memories with your guide and group. Depending on your train departure time
You board The Expedition Train at 2:55 or 3:20pm which will take you back to Ollantaytambo, following the spectacular Urubamba River. Keep an eye on the hill and you may get one final glimpse of Wiñay Wayna! Our private van will be waiting for your arrival and from here you will be transferred to your hotel in Cusco. You can expect to arrive at your hotel arouond 7:00pm.
- On the 4 day Inca Trail, we will be doing the Circuit #3 and there is no way to do another circuit unless you buy an additional entrance to Machu Picchu.
- You can upgrade to the Vistadome Train for the same times, 2:55 or 3:20, 4:22, or 4:43pm. The cost is $67 USD.
- Early trains can be organized by request and it has to be done by booking time.
- Huayna Picchu hike depends on availability, please let us know if you want to add one of these extra hikes at the time of your booking.
What time of year is the best time to do the Inca trail?
The best season to hike the Inca trail is the dry season, which is from April to August every year. During Cusco’s dry season it’s less likely to rain and sunny days are the norm. During this time of the year beautiful weather is the standard. The peak tourism season in Cusco is between the months of May and July, which is due to the weather.
What is the process for getting Inca trail permits?
The Inca Trail permits are regulated by the local government and can only be purchased by a licensed Peru tour operator. The process to get a permit starts with you contacting a licensed tour operator, in this case Sam Travel Peru, and checking the Inca Trail availability for your desired hiking date. The operator then checks if there is availability to hike the inca trail for those dates. Once the client and the operator agree on a day to hike the inca trail.
In order to book, the client sends a $200 USD deposit and the operator purchases an Inca trail permit on your behalf. The permit is non-refundable.
Some frequently asked questions about the Inca Trail
- What is the Inca Trail?. The Inca Trail is a 42-kilometer hiking route that the original Inca kings and royalty used to get through stunning mountainous landscapes to reach the Citadel. You will have the opportunity to explore ancient archaeological sites, mountain peaks, and of course the 7th Wonder of the World: Machu Picchu!
- Do I need a permit to hike the Inca Trail?. Yes, a special permit is required to hike the Inca Trail, which is regulated by the Ministry of Culture of Peru. Only 500 permits are issued per day, and they sell out quickly, so it’s recommended to purchase them as early as possible (at least 6 months in advance).
- How long is the Inca Trail? . The classic Inca Trail is a 4-day, 3-night hike that covers a distance of 42 kilometers. However, there are also shorter 2-day and longer 7-day options available.
- How difficult is the Inca Trail?. The Inca Trail is a challenging hike that requires a good physical condition. The trail reaches a maximum altitude of 4,215 meters, and the hike involves steep climbs and descents, as well as varying weather conditions.
- Do I need a guide to hike the Inca Trail?. Yes, all hikers must hire an authorized tour guide to hike the Inca Trail. Additionally, a team of porters is required to carry camping equipment and food.
- When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?. The best time to hike the Inca Trail is during the dry season from April to September, when there is less rain and the weather is milder. However, this is also the busiest time of year, and the permits tend to sell out quickly.
- What should I pack for the Inca Trail? It’s recommended to pack warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a headlamp. It’s also important to bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as any necessary medication.
- Is the Inca Trail permit refundable? The Inca trail permits are non-refundable and non-transferable to another person because the Ministry of culture does not give back the travel companies any money when clients change dates or cancel. The agency must purchase a new permit if a client changes dates. If any travel company tells you that the permit is refundable, they are for sure not telling the truth and they are not Inca Trail operators. It is as simple as if a traveler cancels their space is not given to anyone else at all.
*** Information about the 4 day Inca Trail itinerary to Machu Picchu was provided by Sam Travel