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Inca Trail Tours & Treks

Walking the Inca Trail belongs on everyone's bucket list. Machu Picchu truly lives up to its name as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and one of the most exciting and rewarding ways to visit is by hiking the Inca Trail.

Why hike the Inca Trail with Explore?

Walking the Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu is often at the top of travellers' bucket lists and it is little wonder why. Watching Machu Picchu appear from the mist as you descend from the Sun Gate after trekking the Inca Trail is a sight never to be forgotten. And that's just one highlight of hiking the trail. Along the way you'll see, and walk through, several other fascinating ruins and take in breathtaking views over the spectacular mountains and valleys. The experience of walking the Inca Trail and camping along the way, will create memories to last a lifetime. 

You can visit Machu Picchu by train, but most hikers would agree an Inca Trail walking tour is the perfect way to reach the site, building anticipation as the destination approaches. Our popular Inca Trail Trek holiday includes Cusco and the Trail. We also offer 14- and 19-day trips that take in more of Peru including Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, the Sacred valley and Palccoyo. And why not make the most of your journey to Peru by adding a stay at an Amazon rainforest lodge? The Peruvian Amazon is full of wildlife, from vibrant birdlife to snakes and frogs - a must for wildlife lovers.

Read on to discover the trips we offer that hike the Inca Trail. Or would you prefer to take the train? Visit our Machu Picchu page to discover the trips that take you to the site by train. 

Popular Inca Trail Tours

Peru Walking and Trekking Trip code PQ
Best Seller
9 Days From €1573 without flights
Peru Walking and Trekking Trip code PE
19 Days From €3406 without flights
14 Days From €2837 without flights

What to expect on an Inca Trail trek

The Inca Trail is one of the most scenic and well-known treks in the world. It's a challenging walk at times but our porters will help carry the load and will cook you delicious food each evening of the hike. Hike the trail with us and you'll be in a small group with other like-minded travellers who will share the exhilarating experiences and take in the breathtaking views with you. 

The rush of adrenaline you get as you near the Sun Gate on the last day will make the hike completely worth it. Then, when all the hard work is done, you descend down and the majestic Machu Picchu starts to appear through a layer of clouds - a truly magical experience. 

Our Inca Trail and Machu Picchu tours are small group tours, with average group sizes of 10-16. No matter if you're travelling solo or with a friend or partner you'll have other like-minded travellers in your group to share the experience with. You'll also have an Explore leader with expert local knowledge plus a team of porters and cooks to aid you on your hike. The porters will carry your main luggage so you only need to carry a daysack while you walk, and they will set up the campsites and cook your meals.

Where is the Inca Trail? 

The Inca Trail is in Peru, South America. Most travellers fly into Cusco, a city towards the south of Peru. Cusco sits at 3,400 metres above sea level so is a good place to spend some time to acclimatise. 

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is the ruins of a citadel (a fortified town or city) set high in the Andes Mountains. It was built by the Incas in the 15th century and later abandoned, possibly due to the Spanish colonisation of other Inca cities in Peru. It's believed that the huge stones and rocks used to build the site were pushed up the steep mountain side by hundreds of men. The city was largely forgotten to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.

Do I need a permit and how do I get one?

Only about 200 trekkers per day are given permits to walk on the trail, so popular dates such as the peak month of May sell out months in advance. The permits go on sale at the beginning of October each year. The date at which the permits go on sale changes each year, but it is usually in October for all treks in the following year. We recommend that people book the year preceding their preferred trip. When you book an Inca Trail tour with Explore we'll sort your Inca Trail permit for you. 

How long does it take to hike the Inca Trail?

The classic Inca Trail takes four days to walk. The time and distance of walking each day varies, depending on the terrain and the speed you walk. 
Check out our Inca Trail map below! It spills the beans on what each day's hiking includes and the campsites that we stay at. Our route is a bit different compared to other tour operators - we've paced it slightly differently and stay at quieter campsites. We may reach Machu Picchu a bit later, but we come back the next day, for a full guided tour of the site allowing you more time to explore. 
What is the best route to take?
There are different hiking routes to Machu Picchu but we offer tours that follow the most popular and well-known route, the 'classic' Inca Trail, also known as the Camino Inca. The trail is known for its finishing point, Machu Picchu, but you also get to see many other Incan ruins along the way. The trail starts at an altitude of about 2,800 metres and ends four days later at Machu Picchu, at 2,500 metres. The highest point of the trek is the notorious ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ at 4,200 metres. You'll follow rivers through the dramatic Andes Mountains, hiking past scenic hillside Inca ruins and through cloud forests.

When Inca Permits have sold out for the classic Inca Trail trek, don’t worry! It’s still possible to book with Explore, and instead of doing the four-day Inca Trail trek, we will purchase tickets for the quieter Quarry Trail trek. This alternative trek through the Sacred Valley passes through beautiful mountain villages, and still includes the entrance to the final day of the Inca Trail. You will therefore walk for three days in the valleys surrounding Machu Picchu, and one day on the Inca Trail, entering Machu Picchu through the famous Sun Gate.

How does the visit to Machu Picchu work?

One-way circuits have been introduced at Machu Picchu, to help preserve and protect the archaeological site for future explorers. In practice, this means that your guided visit will take approximately three hours on a specific circuit around the site. On completion of the circuit, you must exit the site immediately and no re-entrance or free time is permitted. Although we can’t dawdle too much in the site, we are still able to take a leisurely pace with plenty of time for in-depth explanations and photo opportunities. As a rule, we purchase tickets for Circuit 2, which is a route of approximately 3 hours. On the occasion that permits for Circuit 2 are not available, we aim to purchase permits for Circuit 4.

The four circuits available are:
Circuit 1: This circuit takes you to the upper and lower levels of Machu Picchu and is about a 2 hour circuit. View circuit map here.
Circuit 2: Pending availability, this is the circuit that we use for the guided tour around the site. The circuit is approximately 3 hours long. View circuit map here.
Circuit 3: This circuit takes you to the start of the Machu Picchu Mountain trek. View circuit map here.
Circuit 4: We offer this 3-hour circuit as an alternative for when there is no permit available for Circuit 2. View circuit map here.

What is the difference between the Quarry Trail and the Inca Trail?
The Quarry Trail is an alternative route through the Andes that we can take to Machu Picchu when the popular Inca Trail permits sell out. If this is the case, our sales team will advise you when you book. It’s a three-night trail that takes you through rural villages within the Sacred Valley and gives hikers a more peaceful trekking experience as well as a better view of rural life in the Andes. Many of the women living in the mountains are traditional weavers who sell their crafts in the markets of Cusco. Passing their houses can provide the opportunity for you to buy direct from the source. What’s more, the Quarry Trail trek still culminates with one day on the Inca Trail, which means that you will enter Machu Picchu site through the famous Sun Gate.

Frequently asked questions - Inca Trail

Peru’s dry season runs from April to October, making this an ideal time to trek the Inca Trail. June to August is particularly cold at night, especially at altitude, and lots of layers are essential for taking you from day to night. March, April, October and November are warmer months but there may be some rain. Many people say that late April - June and October are the best months to travel to Machu Picchu as its a quieter period with fewer tourists. Each year the trail closes in February.

Only about 200 trekkers per day are given permits to walk on the trail, so popular dates such as the peak month of May sell out months in advance. The permits go on sale at the beginning of October each year. The date at which the permits go on sale changes each year, but it is usually in October for all treks in the following year. We recommend that people book the year preceding their preferred trip. When you book an Inca Trail tour with Explore we'll sort your Inca Trail permit for you.

On our Inca Trail tours you'll camp for three nights. After each day's walking you will reach your campsite where our porters will have set up your tents. Two-man tents are provided with plenty of room for two people and your bags. It may be possible (depending on availability) to have your own tent as a solo traveller for an extra cost, check the trip page for the price.

The tents are well cared for and after a day of fresh mountain air and walking they make for a comfy place to lay your head. The views when you pop your head out in the morning are hard to beat. As for toilets, there are now permanent toilets intermittently along the trail so you shouldn’t find yourself left short. At the campsites we provide portable bathrooms (toilet tents) with biodegradable bags, which are available for only our one small group to use.

No, or break the tent down either. The porters do an incredible job – often behind the scenes – to help your Inca Trail run seamlessly and to take the strain. Pack animals are not permitted on the Classic Inca trail which is why porters are needed to carry all equipment.

The porters will also cook your meals and you will dine as a group in a large communal tent. You can expect nourishing meals, usually with warming soup as a starter then a meal featuring local ingredients like quinoa and fish and often a pudding or cake for dessert. For drinks, they'll provide boiled water and tea and coffee. Before you start your walk each day you'll be provided with snacks to pack in your bag like fruit and chocolate.

Walking the Inca Trail requires a good level of fitness but with a little pre-tour training it should be well within the capabilities of anyone who leads an active and moderately healthy lifestyle. It isn’t a race, you have the whole day to cover the distance and take in all the marvellous views and Inca ruins. The longest day is 15km on uneven terrain, summiting two different passes over 4000m altitude. If you are reasonably fit and active in general life and have the mental and physical stamina to walk 6-8 hours per day for 4 days, then you'll comfortably be able to do this hike.

Before your trip we recommend doing some endurance training - walking up hills and climbing stairs are both great ways to get your lower body in shape. As you will need to carry a daysack each day on the trail, we'd also recommend that you add weight to your hikes to get used to it. To get used to walking day after day, doing a multi-day walk is also a good idea. And don't forget to wear in your boots before your trip! Learn more in our how to prepare for a walking holiday blog.

Altitude sickness is something a lot of people worry about, however by walking steadily, keeping well hydrated and drinking coca tea, most people encounter no problems. Your Explore Leader will be instrumental in getting you to the Sun Gate, so make sure you listen to what they are saying, and be open about any symptoms that you are feeling.

Whatever the season, the weather in the Andes can be unpredictable, and you will need waterproofs, sun cream and sturdy walking boots with you everyday. We also recommend walking poles (they must have rubber tips) to help you keep steady on the uneven terrain and for the ascents and descents through the steep Inca ruins. The Inca people may have been short but they built their steps very big! We provide tents, thermosets and a trek kit bag, so no need to worry about this. Sleeping bags are not provided and can be rented locally or you can bring your own.

There are some steep steps and exposed areas along the trail but our porters and guides are very experienced in group management. It is always possible to walk two abreast with one person at the side of the wall. Most parts of the trail are enclosed and well-maintained.

We do the Inca Trail at a slightly different pace to many other companies, staying at quieter campsites that are earlier on the trail than the biggest and most-used ones. We don't cover quite as much distance on days one and two, meaning we do the 'Dead Woman's Pass' on day three when trekkers are more acclimatised and warmed up. We also don't leave really early on the last day to get to the Sun Gate for sunrise - it's often very cloudy anyway and because many of the other companies do this, it's often very busy. Instead, we prefer to leave later in the day and get to Machu Picchu in the afternoon. The difference with our trips is that we don't explore Machu Picchu on the day we arrive, instead we spend the night first in Aguas Caliente and then return back to Machu Picchu the following morning for a guided tour, giving us more time.

All of the porters and cooks for our tours are local people, often farmers, employed from the Sacred Valley area. We ensure that they are all paid fairly - being a porter on the Inca Trail pays much better than a farming job and one trip can often mean that they can support their family for weeks.

In 2018 non-reusable plastic was banned and the porters are asked to weigh their rubbish before and after the hike, to meet regulations. We only use designated campsites on the trail and all water is boiled. The food served is sourced from the local area - you'll likely have fish from the rivers and vegetables from the surrounding farms.

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