Home/Destinations/Peru Travel/The Inca Trail – Our Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail – Our Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu

Imagine yourself walking an ancient old trail, one used by the Inca’s many years ago to see the “Lost City”  Machu Picchu.  If your in good health and love hiking this just might be the most amazing, breathtaking, and spiritual experience to cross off your bucket list.  Find out more about the trail hike, permits, and alternative trail in our post.

The Inca Trail is a 4 day hike that’s government regulated as to how many people may use the trail per day.  Something to think about as a tourist.  If you thought you could just show up to hike like any other place or day think again!  In truth only 500 permits are allowed per day which includes guides, porters, cooks , and tourist.  Strict rules apply and once the quote of permits has been met no more passes are sold for that particular day.  This could leave tourist who have travel from far & wide to see the famous Machu Picchu in despair.  Tour operators must obtain permits for their clients providing names, date of birth, nationality, passport number and expiry dates to secure a permit.

Travelers Tip:  You must bring your passport with you on the day of the tour.

Tour operators visit the town of Cusco to obtain permits for only their clients.  They can’t reserve a block of space and permits are on a first come first serve basis.

Prior to 2002 the trail had no regulations.  Today there are strict regulations to help protect our UNESCO heritage site.  The trail is closes during the month of February to clean & make necessary repairs.  This is also one of the rainiest months.

Hiking the trail

The trail is for those reasonably fit travelers which by no means is easy to trek.  Their are several trails which can lead you up steep hills and lengths of 40km.  Special guides will lead the way along with a cook & porter to carry bags.  Porters booked with companies can carry bags weighing no more than 6kg or 13lbs.  You can even rent a sleeping bag to use for your nights camping on the trail.   We suggest you bring a knapsack with you making it easier to carry your water, camera & sunscreen .

A Sample Tour

Day 1

You’ll start your day off at 82 km for an easier hike of approximately 5-6 hours.  This will definitely get you prepared for what lies ahead.  When you hiked to the Llactapata area you will have actually climbed to a height of 2820 meters.  Pretty amazing for your first day.

Day 2

This is a long day for you with mostly uphill climbing of 8-9 hours.  Make sure you are in good shape and have climatised yourself prior without altitude sickness.  Many people don’t think before planning a trip to Peru about these issues.  When you have reached the Dead Woman’s Pass you are at an unbelievable altitude of 4215 meter above sea level.  Congratulations, how incredible is that.  Don’t forget to take your time along your trek taking in the beautiful scenery and enjoying every breath you take.

Day 3

Sorry but this another long day and probably the longest of 8-10 hours, but the good news to keep up your spirits is you’ll soon be heading downhill if that’s any consultation to the prize.  Remember the prize tomorrow is the historic ancient ruins of Machu Picchu and one of the main reasons for traveling to Peru.

Day 4

Enjoy a short hike today of 2-2 1/2 hours of trek time to the ultimate “Sungate”.    Keep in mind we don’t actually mean you will see the sunrise.  In fact chances are  it will probably be cloudy.  Machu Picchu is a historic UNESCO site you can only imagine by pictures, but to actually see the views itself, feel the energy, and take that sought after “I’m here picture” can only be dreamed.


A lot of people choose to stay a night in Cusco and for good reason.  The opportunity will get your body acclimatised to the elevation before the big trek.  Many people do get sick as they are not informed or aware of the altitude sickness prior to their trip planning.

Altitude Sickness

Coca leaves are actually an alternative medicine to help alleviate altitude sickness.  The effects can be shortness or breath, nausea, headaches, dizziness or even lead to death.  This is a serious matter.  Please consult your doctor before planning a trip to Peru.  Locals usually chew the dried leaves, but you can certainly have cocoa leaves in tea.  The taste I’m told is similar to green tea.  I’ve yet to experience this first had I might add.  A few sips and your headache should be relieved along with your altitude sickness.  Please remember that the use of coca leaves are only legal in Peru and a few other countries.

Lares Trek

So you’ve left it to the last minute to try and get passes to the Inca Trail.  We recommend planning far in advance but please don’t despair.  Lucky for you there is another option.  This can be an alternative to taking the Inca Trail especially if there are no more passes.  The Lares Trek is 3 days, a day shorter than the Inca Trail but takes you through the mountains, surrounding community of the Sacred Valley and gets you to the end result of glory we all hope for Machu Picchu.  This trek gives you an opportunity to connect with local people and experience the culture first hand making for a great story for generations to come.  At one point on the trail the altitude is actually higher than the Inca Trail at 4800 meters.

[all photos courtesy of Celebrity Cruises]

Have you hiked the Inca Trail or seen Machu Picchu?  Or is this still on your bucket list?

We would love to hear about your experiences on the trail or comments.

About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.


  1. John April 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Hi to all, the contents present at this web page are really amazing for peoples knowledge,
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Bruce May 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    You’ve gotten among the best online sites.

  3. Gracie May 16, 2017 at 4:45 pm - Reply
    • laurie March 11, 2018 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gracie. We are working on organizing a tour group to Peru in 2019. Hopefully this guide will be helpful to those thinking of visiting Peru in the future.

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