Early Sign-up Discount

$350 off per person, first 6 sign-ups on all 2021-2022 departures

*Special offers cannot be combined with other discounts

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Ultimate Hiking Adventure to a Legendary Lost City

Trip Level

This trip is Level 5, Moderate to Strenuous. Most hiking is between 8,000 and 12,000 feet. The maximum elevation we reach is 13,766 feet, and the highest place we camp is 12,033 feet. The total mileage hiked is about 29. Trails can be rugged, not the well-maintained trails you may be accustomed to in the United States. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed. Out group will spread out along the trail during about six to seven hours of hiking each day (shorter on some days). On the trail, you will just carry your own daypack for the items that you want with you on the trail, such as a water bottle and a jacket. Our team of Inca Trail porters carries all your other gear from camp to camp. The altitudes are high, but our first hotel night is in Cusco at 11,200 feet, our second overnight is in the Sacred Valley of the Incas at 9,500 feet, our third is at our first camp at 8,900 feet, and our fourth is at our second camp at 9,840 feet. These four days will help your altitude acclimatization before climbing the first pass.

Getting in Shape
The Inca Trail is mostly stone-paved (Inca stones!) and it undulates up and down across green mountains while crossing two high-altitude passes. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed because we always have a staff member hiking in the lead as well as one behind with the slowest hiker in our group. Any fit, experienced hiker will enjoy this hike, but we recommend you make an extra effort to prepare by engaging in regular exercise well beyond your normal routine. To accelerate your conditioning, try walking faster than 1.5 miles per hour, walking on steeper inclines, using your gym’s stair-climbing machines, or going on long hikes (also a good way to break in your boots). Please be aware that there are a few sections of long, steep stone “staircases,” so we do suggest hiking poles to protect your knees. The trek takes place at altitudes between 9,840 feet and 13,776 feet.

A Typical Trekking Day
Hiking distances on trek are normally measured in hours, not miles, since maps aren’t really accurate enough to assess how far we walk up and down on winding mountain trails. With rest stops and photo stops, few people walk faster than one mile an hour in a mountainous region. Some hiking days are shorter than others, and some days are more difficult than others due to altitude gain and loss.

On a typical trek day, you’ll wake up to hot coffee, cocoa, and a choice of teas, brought right to your tent. This is followed by a freshly prepared breakfast of eggs, pancakes, French toast, or oatmeal.  We set off on the trail while the crew strikes camp and the porters shoulder their loads. There is always a guide in the lead, usually the Trip Leader or the camp manager, who supervises the crew, and someone who hikes behind the slowest hiker. Most of our hikers tend to spread out over the trail, taking photos, stopping to rest, and enjoying the scenery. We typically walk for three or four hours in the morning, depending on the day, then stop for a leisurely lunch at a scenic spot. Lunches consist of a wide variety of dishes, including delicious pasta salads, soup, casseroles, and other offerings. After lunch, we walk for another three hours or so until we reach our next night’s camp. The porters and crew pass us in mid-afternoon and set up our next camp. When we arrive at camp, snacks are available, including popcorn, cookies, crackers, and hot or cold drinks. Dinner begins with hearty soup followed by an entrée of fish, beef, or chicken (with vegetarian options), along with vegetable dishes, fruit, and a light dessert.

When is the Best Time to Go?
The Inca Trail can be hiked all year except in late January and February, the rainiest months, when the trail is closed for repairs. The trail reopens in March and April, when the rains lighten up and the mountains are still green. High season begins in May and extends through September, as these are the driest months. October through December are considered shoulder season, when occasional rain is possible, but keep in mind that the highlands of Peru are a temperate desert and it is not uncommon for it not to rain for weeks at a time even in the height of the rainy season. This is also the time with the fewest hikers on the trail, more flowers in bloom, and fewer tourists at Machu Picchu as well as in Cusco. Temperatures in the Cusco-Machu Picchu region range from the high 60s in the daytime to the low 40s at night, with some variation depending on the time of year you go.

Why Do You Need to Book So Early?
To protect the Inca Trail’s monuments and environment, Peruvian authorities only issue 200 permits each day for hikers (plus an additional 300 permits for the licensed porters and staff who carry the gear and work on the trips). Permits sell out extremely fast! We must obtain your permit for you when you sign up, so we urge you to book your trip at least six months in advance, especially if you are considering going between May and September.


Being so close to the equator, Peru has only two climate seasons: a dry season from April to October, and a wet season from December to March. Altitude is the main factor controlling the climate. In the mountains, you’ll encounter sunny days with daytime temperatures ranging between 65°F and 70°F, dropping to the 40s and lower at night. The sun is very strong at high altitude and it can often be warm enough to hike in shorts and a t-shirt. However, it can also get extremely cold; if you’re familiar with mountain weather, you know how suddenly it can get cold even in the daytime if the sun slips behind a cloud. Nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing. Rain should not be a problem on our treks, but always keep in mind that mountain weather is unpredictable and sudden storms can occur, especially on high mountain passes.

Lima lies in a coastal desert where rainfall is rare and temperatures are usually warm (70s and 80s). Days are overcast most of the year due to the Humboldt current that comes up from Antarctica and meets the warm, tropical El Niño current from the north to create the garua, or coastal fog/mist.

The climate in the Amazon Basin is generally warm and humid throughout the year but can also be unexpectedly cool (usually 60s) due to the breezes that blow down from the Andes.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.