The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of those treks you absolutely have to do at least once in your lifetime. After reading this day-by-day breakdown you'll know exactly what to expect on the classic 4-day itinerary.
The Inca Trail measures 28 miles (45 km) from start to finish. If hiking 28 miles over four days doesn't sound like much, then you've probably never hiked in the Andes (or at altitude). That said, even these obstacles can be overcome through personal determination, pre-trek acclimatization in Cuzco, and embracing the assistance of personal porters and hiking poles. We speak from experience…
Read on for a day-to-day breakdown of exactly what to expect on the classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:
The first day provides a relatively gentle introduction to the trek. You’ll be transferred from your hotel to Km. 82 (2657 m.a.s.l. – 8717.19 ft.), where you will meet your porters and equipment. Setting off on the trek, you’ll pass through semi-arid terrain and a tiny village along the Urubamba River, enjoying magnificent views of snow-capped mountains. You will leave the Urubamba valley (the views of the valley and the Llactapata ruins are awesome) before setting off up the Kusichaca River to your first campsite at Huayllabamba (2963 m.a.s.l – 9721.13 ft.).
After a healthy breakfast, you will approach Warmihuañusca pass (aka Dead Woman’s Pass 4230 m.a.s.l – 13877.95 ft.). After a grueling ascent, you will reach the top of the pass. From the summit, you can spy the Runkurakay ruins in the distance. At the head of the gorge, you will stop at Pacaymayo (3626 m.a.s.l – 11896.33 ft.), your camp for the night.
The real archeological fun begins today. After a short ascent, you’ll reach the Runkurakay circular ruins, surrounded by great forests and steep hills. After a good rest, you will hike on well-preserved Inca Trail to Sayacmarca ruins (3640 m.a.s.l. – 11942.26 ft.). From Sayacmarca the stone road enters the jungle, towards the Phuyupatamarca ruins. After crossing ‘The Tunnel’ (a natural cavity produced by a landslide but adapted by the Incas) you will continue through a landscape of moss and ferns. After visiting the Phuyupatamarca ruins (3670 m.a.s.l – 12040.68 ft.), you will descend for three hours until reaching Wiñaywayna (2693 m.a.s.l – 8835.30 ft.) – after Machu Picchu the most important site on the Inca Trail and your camp for the night.
Departing well before dawn, you’ll you will hike towards Intipunku (aka the Sun Gate, 2739 m.a.s.l – 8986.22 ft.), the showstopping climax of your trek. From this vantage point, Machu Picchu (2400 m.a.s.l – 7874.02 ft.) looks unreal and beautiful. After admiring the views with a well-deserved cuppa, you will enjoy a guided tour of the citadel and be given the chance to hike up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
Now that you’ve done your homework, all that remains is to book the Inca Trail adventure of a lifetime. Speak to a Destination Expert about crafting the bespoke itinerary of your choice.