The Inca Trail truly lives up to the hype, especially since you arrive at Machu Picchu at sunrise, before buses of tourists arrive to photo bomb your physical achievement. It takes four days of hiking at altitude through the majestic Andes, passing ancient terraces and temples, before you earn the right to enjoy the Lost City of the Incas all to yourself. Porters, their legs ripped of steel, carry all the supplies, cook up delicious meals, even pitch your tent. Crossing the Sun Gate to see Machu Picchu lit up in the morning sun is the bucket list reward for this bucket list adventure.
Length of Trip : 4 days, 3 nights on the trail itself, but you'll need 2-3 days on either end to acclimatize and recover.
With a reputable operator, you'll pay around US$625 per person, which includes trail permits, entrance fees to Machu Picchu, porters, meals, camping equipment and transit to/from Cusco. Discounts are available for students and hikers under 18.
Best time to go : The trail can be hiked year-round, but May to September sees drier and sunnier days.
Wheelchair friendly : No
Family friendly : Yes, but suited to active, older kids.
Where to eat :
Delicious meals and snacks are served on the trail, with a local chef accompanying hikers. Coca leaves are famously supposed to help with altitude sickness, so it's worth giving it a chew. Peruvian cuisine is outrageously good, so you'll want to look into some of Cusco's best restaurants.
Official Site :
Experience this classic trek along the historic Inca Trail with World Expeditions
Getting There :
It all starts in Cusco, which is accessed via direct flights from Lima. You'll want to spend a few days getting used to the altitude, and enjoying the historical attractions of the city and the Sacred Valley. A mini-bus will pick you up at your hotel and take you the start of the trail. From the end point, Machu Picchu, a bus drops off you at the station in Aguas Calientes for the tourist train back to Cusco.
Note from Robin :
Day 2 is notoriously steep, a long stairmaster to the highest point of Dead Woman's Pass. I learned a nifty trick to make the slog more pleasant. Walk at a snail's pace, with an exaggeratedly slow pace. You'll pass the folks racing up ahead in due course, and they will likely be exhausted and out of breath. As for the altitude, some people have more problems with it than others, so definitely spend time acclimatizing. Booking months in advance is essential because there are only a limited number of permits issued each day.