The Inca Trail is the most popular path in South America, and consistently rates among the best treks in the world. Originally traversed by the Incas and now trekked by thousands of tourists, the trail remains awe-inspiring, natural, and challenging despite its ever-growing popularity.
The classic Inca Trail hike is a 4 day adventure through valleys and 3 high mountain passes, one reaching over 11,800 feet above sea level. This 28 mile trek takes you through dramatic Andean landscapes, past Incan ruins, and finally to the Machu Picchu citadel itself. The altitude and ascents are demanding, but doable for anyone with a good level fitness. However, if 4 days in boots and three nights in a tent sounds more like work than fun to you, consider the 2 day Inca Trail trek. This sample-sized Inca Trail adventure consists of one full day hiking along the Inca Trail, a night in Machu Picchu Pueblo, and then a full day to explore the Machu Picchu ruins.
Due to the trail’s popularity, officials only allow 500 people to begin the trek a day (including guides and porters.) This means reservations need to be made months in advance—even more so if you want to go during the high season (June to September). However, do not despair: there are many other ways to trek to Machu Picchu.
The classic Inca Trail is actually only a small portion of a massive Incan road system spanning from Ecuador to Chile and covering over 24,000 miles. To escape the crowds and still make it to Machu Picchu, choose another route: Salkantey, Lares, and Vilcabamba are all treks that conclude with a tour of the famous ruins. You can also make your hike luxurious by taking the 7 day lodge-to-lodge trek.
Thanks to Lisa Weichel for the title image of this blog.