Traversing the Andes mountains and reaching heights of over 5,000 m (16,500 feet) above sea level, the trails connected the regions of the Inca empire from the northern provincial capital in Quito, Ecuador past the modern city of Santiago, Chile in the south.
Because the Incas did not make use of the wheel for transportation, and did not have horses until the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century, the trails were used almost exclusively by people walking, sometimes accompanied by pack animals, usually the llama. The trails were used by the Inca people as a means of relaying messages, carried via knotted-cord quipu and by memory; and for transporting goods.
By far the most popular of the Inca trails for trekking is the Capaq Nan trail (known as the Inca Trail), which leads from the village of Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. There are many well-preserved ruins along the way, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world make the three- or four-day trek each year, accompanied by trekking guides. There are few treks in the world that combine natural beauty, history and mystery with such an awe-inspiring final destination.
The most famous Inca path through the Andes is known simply as ‘the Inca Trail’, the royal route to Machu Picchu. Arriving at km82 you'll begin this challenging 44km trail that crosses 3 stunning high passes and weaves between many ancient archaeological sites, culminating at the famous Lost City of the Incas. Your group is led by an expert local guide and supported by a team of porters and cooks, leaving you with only a small day pack to carry. 3 nights are spent camping en route. The trail can be demanding but can be completed by anyone who leads a reasonably active life. Everyone is able to walk at their own pace and there is no rush to finish.
As the second day includes the highest point of the trail, it is physically, the most demanding. We stop frequently to investigate the many ruins along the route, as well as pausing to take in the spectacular views which greet us along the way. However, on reaching 4200m you will realise an amazing sense of achievement.
Camping the final night close to our destination, we explore the Winay Winay ruins – a terraced hillside overlooking the valley below and a fantastic entrée to the ruins of Machu Picchu, the so-called "Lost City of the Incas".
Waking early, we complete the final part of the trek prior to dawn. Climbing the steps to the Sun Gate, we all hope for a sunny and clear day ahead. After we have had a guided tour the site, there is ample time to independently explore, before catching the train back to Cuzco this evening.
In order to preserve the Inca Trail and its surrounds, the Peruvian authorities cap the number of Inca Trail permits to 500 per day. This number includes all support staff (ie. porters, cooks and guides) and is very tightly controlled. Once this limit of 500 people is reached, the Trail is effectively closed off for the day and no further bookings can be made. You should aim to book your tour at least 3 - 4 months in advance, particularly if trekking during the peak season from June to September.
When booking your tour with us we’ll need to provide us with:
With this information we can then apply for your Inca Trail Permit. This section of the holiday can not be confirmed until an Inca Trail Permit is obtained. Your permit is linked to your name and passport number which is checked at the start point of the trail and throughout the hike.
No modifications to the permit can be made once you have confirmed the above information with us. Should any of the above details be incorrect or you change your date of travel a new permit will need to be purchased. Furhter it is important at time of booking to check that the passport you want to use to enter Peru is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date your tour concludes. If for some reason you change your passport after booking your permit, you will still need to take the passport that was used to obtain your permit.
When booking your tour with us you will need to pay our standard tour deposit plus a non-refundable Inca Trail Trek deposit (approx US$300). This is not an extra payment and will be deducted from your final tour payment.
Please note - The Inca Trail is usually closed each year during the month of February for a cleanup and during this time we offer the Lares Trek as an alternative.
When the Inca trail isn't available we offer the Lares Trek
The beautiful Lares Valley has all the natural beauty of the Inca Trail – magical mountain scenery and the legacy of the Incas – but without the crowds. With stunning landscapes and remote settlements, the area has remained largely untouched by tourism and retains its authenticity, offering a glimpse of life the way it used to be in Peru. You will meet traditionally-dressed Andean farmers wandering the markets and trading as they have done for centuries, see thatched stone and adobe houses and watch herds of llamas and alpacas roaming free.
The Lares Trek is a similar grade to the Inca Trail Trek (with one challenging high pass) and is fully escorted. This less crowded option, which also ends with a early bus ride up to Machu Picchu on day 4 (allowing a full day to visit to Machu Picchu), is thought to be more spectacular and has more to offer than the Inca Trail (includes 2 nights camping, 1 night hotel – Aguas Calientes & tour of Machu Picchu).
For a less demanding trip to Machu Picchu, travel by train. You can spend an additional two nights independently exploring the sights of Cuzco before a short bus transfer to Poroy, followed by a scenic rail journey taking approximately 3.5 hours, which offers incredible views of the Andes as it plies its route to Aguas Calientes where you will stay overnight The following morning there is a bus ride of approximately half an hour to the ruins of Machu Picchu, where you will enjoy a fascinating guided tour of the Lost City of the Incas with free time to explore before travelling back to Cuzco later in the afternoon.
If you do not want to complete either trek, you must advise your travel consultant at the time of booking.
All other camping equipment is provided for the Inca Trail excursion. Porters carry the camping gear, food, and a portion of your personal belongings. All you will need to carry is a day-pack, containing waterproof jacket, fleece top, camera, water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and hat during the hike. Note: If bringing a walking stick, it must be rubber tipped as steel tips are not allowed on the Inca trail.
Porters are allowed to carry no more than 6Kg of personal belongings per hiker. That means that including your sleeping bag, toiletries, clothing, etc... you are allowed a total weight of 6KG for the hike. Any additional weight must then be carried by you in your day pack. To help achieve this goal we recommend that you carry travel sized toiletries, eg. contact lens solution, that you bring sport sandals that can be worn with socks (which are lighter than running/walking shoes) and that you limit electronics such as MP3 players to those that you are willing to carry.