The Inca trail is the most legendary hike in South America, often rated in the top 5 treks in the world and a life changing experience. Trekking the Inca Trail through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu can be difficult though magnificent. In 26 miles (43km)it integrates charming mountain surroundings, profuse and delightful cloud forests, semitropical jungle, and naturally, a beautiful combination of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels and of course the final destination, the cryptic Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”.
The Incas built a highly advanced system of nearly 40,000 kilometers of trails, to connect the far corners of their large empire that extended from Quito in Ecuador down to Santiago in Chile and east to Mendoza in Argentina. Cusco was the heart of this important empire. Practically all of the main trails in the mountains around Cusco were built or worked upon by the Incas; though a specifically exquisite 43km portion of mountain trail joining the valuable Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmara, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna and Machu Picchu has become a favorite of trekkers in the past 30 years. It is known as the `Inca trail to Machu Picchu´. Admission to this portion of the Inca trail is rigidly regulated, and only official hiking companies can sell tickets. All guides must have a license and only a limited number of hiking permits are issued and they must be bought months in advance.
Regulation of the Inca Trail Network of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (HSM), recognized by the UNESCO as Cultural and Natural World Heritage. It encompasses the whole Inca Trail Network and its authorized roads.
The use of the Inca trail network is organized through travel agencies or tour guides. These groups consist of the visitors, the tour guides and the staff (cooks, porters, etc) From 1996 to 2001 during the high season of July and August, there were up to 1500 people on the Inca trail every day (approximately 1000 tourists and 500 porters), there were no rules, trekkers camped where they wanted, using relics as toilets and dispensing with rubbish along the trail. The Inca trail was acquiring bad press and UNESCO was threatening to take away its ranking as a World Heritage site, so the Peruvian government implemented the new Inca Trail Regulations in 2002. These regulations limit the number of hikers and prevent hikers from doing the trail on their own. This also improved the quality of the tour operators and offered a reservation system where people have to make their reservations well in advance.
The maximum number of Inca trail permits is 500. Staff are included in this number, which leaves about 200 spaces for tourists and about 300 for cooks, porters and guides daily. The permits are directly provided by the Peruvian government on a first come, first serve basis. The usual group size is 8-12 persons. Maximum is 16 persons. Minimum group size is 4 persons. For groups larger than 8 people there must be 2 trekking guides.
Make your Inca Trail booking months in advance (or a year), especially if you want to go during high season as spots book up quickly.
When you contact us we will reply to confirm that there are spaces available on your desired Inca trail tour by email. We then ask for your personal data and to make a deposit, then your spot is guaranteed.
The maximum weight that a porter can carry was limited to 20kg. The weight is monitored by government officials at the beginning of the trail and tour operators are fined if they overload their porters. This rule has bettered the working conditions of the porters, nevertheless there are still some companies that do not give decent meals to their porters or sleeping accommodation and still pay very low salaries.
The Inca trail is closed every year in February when conservation work is done, this also give the plant life an opportunity to recoup. During this month you can do one of our alternative hikes to Machu Picchu.
On the classic Inca trail nights are spent camping under the stars along the trail in our high quality tents and camping equipment, set up by our credible support staff. On the short Inca Trail we spend the night in a comfortable hotel in Aguas Calientes.
This is a new rule from the government; Inca Trail Huayna Picchu passes are only available for purchase with the general Machu Picchu entry ticket and there is a special entry ticket for the Inca Trail which does not allow this add-on. When you do the Inca Trail you are among the only people who enter Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (rather than the general public entrance) and you receive a special Machu Picchu tour from there. If you want to purchase a Huayna Picchu pass you will need to buy a new entry ticket for Machu Picchu as well (total USD 60 per person) – note that depending on the speed of your group you may actually have to sacrifice part of your Machu Picchu tour in order to climb Huayna Picchu in the second group. Ask us if you really want to climb Huayna Picchu – otherwise we do not recommend it for the Inca Trail.
Since only 500 trek permits are issued per day for the Inca Trail tours (trek permits are also required for the porters and cooks) it is important to try to make a trek reservation as far ahead as possible. There is no clear rule as to how far ahead is enough to guarantee you a space since this depends on demand.
Trave Tour Group by Tierras Vivas is at Tour Operator the Inca Trail will guarantee the spaces booked provided:
The booking has been first confirmed by our department booking by e-mail, this meaning that spaces are available on the Inca Trail for the requested information at the moment of the booking. The full passenger data have been provided and the required deposit has been paid for.
The following client information is requested for any Inca Trail booking: Complete names and surnames, nationality, passport number, date of birth and gender. The exact information provided by you will be submitted to the governmental institution in charge of regulating the access to the Inca Trail and will be included in the official permit to enter the Inca Trail on the requested date. Should there be any change in the above-mentioned data (i.e new passport number), we kindly request you to inform the department booking at Travel Tour Group and Tierras Vivas Tour Operator via email as soon as possible.
The Vistadome Train Indulge yourself in a cultured and sensory travel experience. This is ideal for those who want to feel immersed in the surroundings and fully appreciate the great excursion to Machu Picchu. Completely encircled by glass and wagons with large panoramic windows, which offer exceptional picturesque views, and plenty of photo taking opportunities, Vistadome commuters feel close to the dramatic landscapes of Peru.
The Vistadome provides air-conditioning and heating, leather seating which adjusts to the body, for your ease and pleasure. This service allows the passenger to fully experience the Andean culture through its scenery, music, dance, and food made with local ingredients. The Expedition Train Is a travel experience with all the quality and advantages at a lower price. This service is designed for the commuters ease, with four passenger seats situated in front of each other, so you can share your experience. There are racks above the seats for your personal equipment. The train has panoramic windows, air conditioning and heating, along with Andean music that creates a buoyant feeling.
Average weather conditions on the Inca Trail The best time to do the Inca trail is between May and September when the weather is adequately dry and mainly sunny, though June, July and August (the high season) are very cold. No matter what time of year the nights get very cold so bring a good quality warm sleeping bag (we provide one at Tierras Vivas) and layer your clothes. The classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu is 4 days and 3 nights, though there are alternative options as well.
Altitude can be a problem on the Inca trail. Locals swear by chewing on coca leaves, or you can use western medicine such as Diamox.
Pace yourself. It is not a race and you will feel better and enjoy the trail more if you take it slow. Prepare your body for the hike beforehand, cardiovascular work is a great preparation.
There are three principle hiking routes that have been developed by Cusco based tour operators in reaction to the over demand for the Inca trail. The first one is Choquequirao, and like the Inca trail this hike ends at the amazing prehistoric site. Hikes around the sacred glacial summit of Salcantay are also well developed and connect to the Inca Trail itself. Less hiked though just as beautiful is Ausangate, another sacred glacial topped mountain. On a clear day this peak can be seen from Cusco, domineering the Southern skyline. Another favorite hike is the Lares Trek to Macu Picchu
Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu or other alternative treks to the Inca Trail