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5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most fascinating treks in the world that you can do. That is why you shouldn’t miss it. Try to picture yourself walking through one of the oldest paths of South America built by the Incas, “Qhapaq ñan”. Above all, This route has a great cultural importance worldwide that was declared World Heritage in 2014.

Along South America, the Qhapaq ñan links diverse towns and cities. However, it is one that stands out the most and it is widely known, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The 5 day Inca Trail allows you to visit archeological sites on the route, observe the impressive mountains, and get to a privileged viewpoint from where you can have the most beautiful view of Machu Picchu, declared one of the 7 New Wonders of the World in 2007.

Most importantly, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is full of mysteries, feelings, and history. It is considered an engineering marvel since the way it was built surpasses the vision of any construction of the era. Even today, this road is still alive. Be part of this great experience and start the hike through the Andes Mountain Range, snow-capped mountains, high Mountain Pass, streams and observe a unique variety of flora and fauna.

Reasons why the 5 day Inca Trail is highly recommended:

  • The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an ancestral route that comes from the Incas time.  If you find a spot to hike the 5 day Inca Trail, you will be walking along the same path that Inca had walked.
  • What you will observe in the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu is unique from the beginning to the end.
  • You will arrive in Machu Picchu through a privileged access zone, which only a few visitors have the chance to see. Most travelers arrive in Machu Picchu by train, or by bus and 2-hour walk.
  • It has a diverse variety of flora and fauna thanks to the microclimates. Everyone is fascinated by the lush vegetation; and when they watch the spectacled bear, it just blows their minds.
  • This zone is protected and regulated by the Peruvian State, which means only a few people have the opportunity to hike. Don’t miss your chance and be part of the selected group of people who will hike the 5 day Inca Trail.
  • Not only you will have the chance to visit the Archeological Park of Machu Picchu, but also observe other Inca constructions such as Llactapata, Qoriwayrachina, Paucarcancha, Warmiwañuska, Runkurakay, Sayaqmarka, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñaywayna.
camino inca a machu picchu

credits: Tyler Bell

Location

Where is the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu located?

Something that characterizes Cusco is the many tours and hikes that will fascinate and captivate you. The 5 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of those hikes that will take your breath away at every step you walk. So, It starts on Kilometer 82 which is located in the district of Ollantaytambo and ends in Machu Picchu. The 5 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is located in the province of Urubamba, department of Cusco.

ubicación camino inca

credits: Shriram Rajagopalan

Altitude

What is the altitude in the 5 day Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail presents a variety of diverse ecological levels, each one of them with its respective altitude starting in the city of Cusco. This hike starts in the community of Wayllabamba, also known as Km. 82. From this point, you will hike along the Andes Mountain Range, going through high mountains such as Warmiwañusca Pass and lowest sites to finally arriving in Machu Picchu.

  • Minimum Elevation: 2050 m / 6561 ft – Aguas Calientes town (fourth day)
  • Highest Elevation: 4200m / 13779 ft – Warmiwañusqa Pass (third day)

altura camino inca 5 dias

Climate

What is the climate like in the 5 day Inca Trail?

The climate along the 5 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is usually warm with a maximum temperature of 27 °C and a minimum temperature of -2 °C (during the months of June, July and August). Likewise, The temperature usually drops at nights starting on the second camping night.

From November to March, it is the rainy season. We have sunny days, with the presence of heavy rains, but from April to October the climate is warm with little rain. This is known as the dry season, the best time of the year to do the 5 day Inca Trail. As a result, You will enjoy a clear sky with amazing panoramic views along the route.

clima camino inca 5 dias

credits: Chuck Moravec

Attractions

Main Attractions along the 5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Inca Trail 5 day / 4 night compared to the Classic Inca Trail allows you to go at a lower pace which means you will have more time to enjoy the hike and the landscapes. Certainly, You will also visit archeological sites along the route. Among the Inca sites you will visit, we can name the following:

  • Piskacucho 2720m / 8923ft:

Famous place for being the start point of the 5-day/4-night Inca Trail. This place is also known as kilometer 82. It is located in the district of Ollantaytambo, Province of Urubamba.

  • Llactapata 2850m / 9350ft:

Llactapata comes from 2 Quechua words “llacta=town” “pata=elevated place”. It is considered an Inca town since it presents channels, plazas, terraces, staircases,  and more Inca manufacture. The site is called the Archeological Center of Llactapata.

  • Wayllabamba (1st campsite) 3000m / 9842ft:

The word Wayllabamba comes from a Quechua word that means ‘grassy plain’. This small village is located at the confluence of the river Cusichaca and Llullucha stream (or Hatun Wayruro). It is here where you will camp on the first day. There is a village nearby where travelers can buy some basic things they will need for the hike.

  • Llulluchapampa 3800m / 12460 ft:

The reason for the name is thanks to the Llullucha stream that flows along the Inca Trail. This point is a clear proof of the steep climb ahead. Along the way, you will observe the great variety of the flora and fauna, and the charm birds chirping. 

This is the first mountain pass that tourists walk through on the 5 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and it is the highest point along the hike. Likewise, It is a high Andean zone from which you can observe a magnificent and diverse landscape. Although the climb to the steep summit requires a great effort, it is worth it for the incredible view and feeling of achievement of the high altitude.

  • 1st Warmiwañusca Pass 4200m / 13779ft:

The word Warmiwañusca comes from two quechua words that means “warmi=woman” and “wañusca=dead”. It is known as “the Dead Woman’s Pass” since it is the highest point along the Inca Trail. From this point, you will see spectacular landscapes of the snow capped Mountains and the eyebrow of the jungle.

  • Pacaymayu (2nd campsite) 3580m / 11700ft:

Pacaymayu is the chosen place to camp on the second night. Getting to this campsite is a great achievement because of the strenuous up and down mountains you will hike through.

  • Runkuracay 3680m / 12073ft:

The word Runkuracay comes from quechua words which means “Abandoned or collapsed house”. It is known as the Archeological center of Runkuracay. We can observe a semicircular construction, with a main square and other facilities that surround the construct such as niches, recesses, and trapezoidal doors.

  • 2nd Runkurakay Pass 4000m / 13779ft:

It is the second highest Mountain pass that you will walk through. From the Archeological site of Runkurakay, it is not difficult to get there. Once you reach the summit, you can observe beautiful panoramic landscapes such as Cochapata lagoon, Archeological site of Sayacmarka and Runkurakay.

  • Sayacmarka 3650m / 12000ft:

The word Sayacmarka comes from Quechua words that means “Inaccessible town”. This place presents plazas, channels, enclosures, narrow streets, trapezoidal doors and niches built in Inca Empire style in a wild zone..

  • Chaquicocha 3600m / 11800ft:

Here you can find the Chaquicocha lagoon, which means “Dry Lagoon”, and it is here where you can rest. From this point, you can observe the change in the ecosystem that is the beginning of the tropical forest. Near the area, you can find an Incan tunnel that takes you to the other side to continue with the hike.

  • Phuyupatamarca (3rd campsite) 3680m / 12073ft:

The word Phuyupatamarca comes from the Quechua words and means “The City Above the Clouds”. This is because it is surrounded by clouds. It is the third Mountain pass of the Inca Trail. When going downhill, you can observe the top of the Salkantay, Verónica, Pumasillu snow capped mountains as well as Machu Picchu Mountain.

Here you also find the Archeological Site of Phuyupatamarca which presents terraces, enclosures, 3 plazas, a small bridge, irrigation channels, etc. We will camp here on the third night of the trek.

  • Intipata 2800m / 9270ft:

The Archeological Site of Intipata presents Inca terraces and enclosures. There is also evidence that it had irrigation channels. This with the purpose of making maximum use of the mountainside for agriculture and preventing erosion of the Mountain.

  • Wiñay Huayna 2680m / 8792ft:

Wiñaywayna comes from Quechua words that means “Forever Young”. It is assumed to have been built by the Inca Pachacutec, considered as the most important governor and representative of the Inca Culture. 

In Wiñay huayna, we find a complex of dwellings that are grouped. They present doorways of just one door jamb and trapezoidal niches.

  • Inti Punku 2730m / 8956ft:

Inti Punku comes from the Quechua words and means “Sun gate”. It is the entrance door to Machu Picchu for those who do the Inca Trail. The Archeological site of Intipunku consists of a set of constructions built in Empire style which presents doors, windows and lintels. Inside the walls, we find trapezoidal niches. From this point, you can have the first and amazing view of Machu Picchu, Wiñaywayna, Urubamba river and others.

  • Machu Picchu elevation 2400m / 7873ft:

The name of the impressive Machu Picchu Inca citadel comes from the Quechua words and means “Old Mountain”. This site is the reason why we hike the Inca Trail. Likewise, It possesses unique architecture and engineering. You can observe the religious enclosures, enclosures for the Inca and the urban area. The other area is for agriculture in which you can notice the terraces on the slopes of the mountain that also work as retaining walls. In addition, There is an irrigation system with aqueducts in the whole citadel.

  • Aguas Calientes 2050m / 6561 ft (4th night, lodging):

Also known as Machu Picchu town. It is located at the Urubamba riverside. It is the main access to Machu Picchu citadel for the other alternative treks such as Salkantay, Inca Quarry or Ancascocha. In addition, people who come by train must make a stop in the town to then get to Machu Picchu.

In the case of the 5 day Inca Trail, you will spend the 4th night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes and on the 5th day visit Machu Picchu citadel.

Puerta del Sol - inca trail to machu picchu

credits: bobistraveling

Itinerary

Itinerary 5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Introduction

From all the hikes in the department in Cusco, the Inca Trail is the most popular and desired. The 5 day Inca Trail takes you on diverse archeological sites until arriving in Machu Picchu citadel, one of the 7 wonders of the world. That is to say, In the Inca Trail, you will hike a total distance of 43 kilometers approximately.

Find below a detailed information of the 5 day Inca Trail trek.

inca trail map

Day 1: Cusco - KM 82 (in a private bus) - Wayllabamba (12 km)

We will pick you up early in the morning from your hotel (from 5:30 am to 6:00 am). The journey starts in Cusco private transportation ride. From Cusco, we will head to the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along the trip, we will observe towns such as Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Making a 30 to 40 minute stop to have breakfast. Breakfast is not included in the cost of the trek. Each tourist will have to pay for it. He can also bring some snacks and water for the hike. After breakfast, we continue the trip by car until we get to  “km 82” after a 2 ½ hour ride approximately.

Usually we arrive at km 82 at around 10:00 a.m. It is here where we will organize the duffels and backpacks. The agency staff will do the same with the camping equipment, food, and other things. Once ready, we will start the hike crossing the Urubamba river and walking along the left side of the river for one hour and a half approximately.

The first uphill is to Wilka Rakay from where you will have a spectacular view of the Patallapta site and Kusicacha valley. Then we will go downhill to Kusicacha river. On the way to our first campsite, we will observe wonderful landscapes of the Urubamba Mountain range and the peak of “Veronica” snow capped mountain (5750m, Wakay Wilka). We will continue the 7km hike approximately along the Kusichaca valley until Wayllabamba (3000m). It is here where we will camp on the first night.

  • Lodging: Wayllabamba Campsite
  • Highest Elevation: 3000 m.a.s.l – Wayllabamba
  • Minimum Elevation: 2720 m.a.s.l – Piskacucho

Day 2: Wayllabamba - Pacaymayu (11 km)

Early in the morning and after a delicious and nutritious breakfast, we will start our one-hour uphill hike. Here we will observe the area called “Tres Piedras” (The Three Stones) and moving ahead, we will enter the cloudy forest. After a 2 hour tour through spectacular lush vegetation, we will get to a treed shelterbelt in Llulluchapampa, located at 3750m. Ideal place to have a break with a delicious cup of coffee or tea and some sandwiches.

The following section consists of an hour and a half uphill hike to the highest point of the Inca Trail. This place is known as the Warmihuañusca Pass or “Dead Woman’s Pass” (4215m).

The predominant flora to this part of the Inca Trail includes vast grasslands that you will hike through when getting to the Pass. Once you reach the summit of the Pass, you will definitely celebrate such a great achievement since it is the highest and tough point of the Inca Trail. From this point, we will go downhill towards the campsite in Pacaymayo (3600m). It will take 2 hours to get there. We will spend the second night there.

  • Lodging: Pacaymayu Campsite 
  • Highest Elevation: 4200 m.a.s.l – Warmihuañuska Pass
  • Minimum Elevation: 3000 m.a.s.l – Wayllabamba

Day 3: Pacaymayu - Phuyupatamarca (10 km)

After a nutritious breakfast, we start the 40-minute from Pacaymayu to Runkuracay. These small archeological sites are located in a strategic place from where  you have an amazing view of the Pacaymayo valley. Then we have to go uphill for about 45 minutes until we get to the second pass, Runkurakay (3950m). From this point, we will go downhill towards Sayacmarca (3500m). It normally takes 1 hour to get there.

The path takes you to a cloudy forest that has lots of orchids, hanging mosses, ferns and native flowers. After a 30-minute hike, we will visit the small Inca site of Conchamarka and Chaquicocha (3550m). In Chaquicocha, people usually enjoy a delicious lunch that gives enough energy to continue the journey to Phuyupatamarka pass (3550m). When you get to this pass, you will be able to observe the peak of snow capped mountains such as Salkantay, Verónica, Pumasillu and Machu Picchu Mountain. Finally in Phuyupatamarca, we will spend the third night.

  • Lodging: Phuyupatamarca Campsite
  • Highest Elevation: 4000 m.a.s.l – Second pass near Runcuracay
  • Minimum Elevation: 3580 m.a.s.l – Pacaymayu

Day 4: Phuyupatamarca - Machu Picchu (10 km)

On day 4, you have to get up very early to have breakfast and start the journey to Machu Picchu. Going downhill towards Intipata, another archeological site, takes 2 hours approximately. Inti Pata was the biggest agricultural sector of the area which is an eastward hill. After visiting this site, you will visit another important archeological site, Wiñay Wayna, which was recently found in 1941. From Wiñay Huayna, we will walk for an hour to get to the Sungate (Inti Punku). At this entrance door, you will have the first view of Machu Picchu.

It is located 40 minutes walking from Machu Picchu citadel, to the classic viewpoint to be precise. Here you will observe and admire the whole complex of  Machu Picchu. Visitors take the famous picture of Machu Picchu from this point. You can stay here for a while and have an incredible view of Machu Picchu citadel.

Then we will go to the closest town, Aguas Calientes. Your last night will be at a hostel/hotel located in this town. Next day you will visit Machu Picchu again.

  • Lodging: Hotel *** or similar in Aguas Calientes.
  • Highest Elevation: 3680 m.a.s.l – Phuyupatamarca
  • Minimum Elevation: 2050 m.a.s.l – Aguas Calientes

Day 5: Machu Picchu Peru - Cusco

On your last day, you will have breakfast at the hotel. Then we will go to the bus station. We have to take one of the first buses, so we arrive first in Machu Picchu. It would be great to witness the sunrise and observe the bright sun over the Inca complex of Machu Picchu. After this spectacular view, we will start with the guided tour of the citadel, which normally takes from 2 to 3 hours. 

If you have booked in advance the tickets, you can hike the famous Huayna Picchu mountain after the guided tour. It takes from 40 to 50 minutes to reach the top. In total, it takes two hours round Trip to hike it. From the mountain, you can observe the geography of the sacred Machu Picchu and Urubamba river. Also, you will watch the sacred snow capped mountains that surround Machu Picchu.

When you feel you have explored every corner of Machu Picchu, it will be time to come back to the town of Aguas Calientes. The bus ride back to the town takes 25 minutes. You will have lunch in Aguas Calientes (Tour operators don’t include lunch which means you will have to pay for it). Finally, you will have to go to the train station to take the train back to Ollantaytambo and then the bus back to Cusco.

Note: The hike to Huayna Picchu Mountain is optional. It is recommended only for people who are in good physical condition. If you don’t hike it, you will have more time to enjoy the tour of the whole Inca complex.

  • Highest Elevation: 3350 m.a.s.l – Cusco
  • Minimum Elevation: 2050 m.a.s.l – Aguas Calientes

Flora and Fauna

Biodiversity in the Inca Trail

The road known as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu presents an incredible biodiversity along the way. It has interesting and diverse flora and fauna that you can observe.

We have a detailed list of the most outstanding species that can be found in the Inca Trail. Read below:

Flora

The Inca Trail to  Machu Picchu offers a great  variety of unique flora. Along the trek, you will observe beautiful landscapes and hike from the highest mountains to the eyebrow of the jungle. Below we have a list of some species that belong to this area:

orquidea wiñaywayna - 5 day inca trail

credits: Mediocrity

Trees:

  • Intimpa (Podocarpus glomeratus)
  • Cedar (Cedrela lilloi)
  • Bay (Laurus nobilis)

Bushes:

  • Pisonay (Erythrina edulis)
  • Queuña (Polylepis incana)
  • Muña (Minthostachys mollis)

Orchids:

In the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you can find 90 identified species of orchids. Some of them are listed below:

  • Waqanki (Masdevallia Veitchiana)
  • The Anguloa Virginalis
  • Wiñaywayna (Epidendrum Secundum)
  • Choclo Choclo (Elleanthus Capitatus)
  • Sobralia Dichotoma
  • Odontoglossum
  • Sobralia Virginalis
  • Trichopilia Frayans

Fauna

This is a protected area, and even though some tourists couldn’t see any animal, others were lucky to see the famous spectacled bear and the cock of the rocks near Machu Picchu. Find below a list of different animals that live nearby:

oso de anteojos - machu picchu

  • Spectacled bear (tremarctos ornatus)
  • Cock of the Rocks (rupicola peruviana)
  • Parrot (Psittacidae)
  • Puma (Puma concolor)
  • Andean Fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus)
  • Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita)
  • Taruka or Deer (mazam chung)
  • Mountain caracara (Phalcoboenus megalopterus)
  • Torrent Duck (merganetta armata)
  • White-sided Hillstar (Oreotrochilus leucopleurus)
  • Andean Frog (Telmatobius)
  • Royal cinclodes (cinclodes aricomae)
  • Andean lancehead (Bothrops andianus)
  • Butterflies

The microclimates along the Inca Trail allows the area to have beautiful landscapes and a unique variety of wildlife and plants. You will definitely enjoy the beauty of the Andes.

Machu Picchu Information

History of Machu Picchu – Brief Overview

If you wonder who discovered Machu Picchu, we need to start from the very beginning.

It was built by the Inca Emperor Pachacuteq around 1450. In 1532, the Spaniards arrived in Peru and the downfall of the Tahuantinsuyo or Inca Empire started. After the downfall of the Vilcabamba government in 1572, the Spaniards defeated the Inca resistance and forces and took control of all the properties and lands including Machu Picchu. Over time, Machu Picchu became an inhospitable place due to its remote location. Subsequently, there were expeditions of important figures such as Harry Singer, Herman Gohring, Charles Wiener who informed of the existence of a place known as Machu Picchu.

On July 14, 1902, the Peruvian Agustin Lizarraga guided Gabino Sanchez, Enrique Palma and Justo Ochoa, all from Cusco, towards Machu Picchu. This important figure is the one who promoted the rediscovering of the forgotten city of Machu Picchu; however, the efforts didn’t have positive results. It was not until July 24, 1911, when North American Hiram Bingham guided by Melchor Arteaga arrived in Machu Picchu. And it is thanks to Hiram Bingham that the wonderful Machu Picchu becomes one of the most popular places in the world.

Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Admission – Frequently Asked Questions

Most probably, after booking the Inca Trail, you may have lots of questions. We would love to help answering some of the most common questions:

Machu Picchu inca trail

Should I book Machu Picchu aside from the Inca Trail?

Actually, no. When you buy the entrance ticket for the Inca Trail, it includes the entrance ticket for Machu Picchu. This means that you will have 2 and a half hours to visit the archeological park along with your guide. He will take you on a guided tour in which he will explain the importance of this enigmatic mountainside marvel built by the Incas.

What will my visit to Machu Picchu be like?

In the case of the 5-Day Inca Trail, you will arrive in Machu Picchu through the highest part of the mountains and have the panoramic views of Machu Picchu. But opposite to the Classic Inca Trail, you can explore it at your pace and when you leave the ruins, you will head to Aguas Calientes town by bus and spend the night in a hotel. It will be on day 5 when you have your guided tour of Machu Picchu. For this second entrance, you need to get up very early and take one of the first buses to the entrance of the site. 

At the entrance of Machu Picchu, you have to show your ID or passport along with your tickets. Inside the citadel, your 2-hour guided tour will start. The guide will clarify any doubt you have and will be more than welcome to answer any questions. After the guided tour, you will have some minutes to explore the lower part of Machu Picchu on your own. When you leave the ruins, you have to take the bus back to Aguas Calientes to have lunch there. If you have enough time you can do some walking in the town. Otherwise, you need to head to the train station to take the train back to Ollantaytambo and then the bus back to Cusco.

Where can I leave my belongings to visit Machu Picchu?

In the case of the people who book the 5-Day Inca Trail, they can leave their belongings at the hotel they stay in Aguas Calientes. Most hotels offer a storage room at no additional cost. This way you only take what is very essential for your visit to the Machu Picchu wonder (a small backpack).

If by any case you end up in Machu Picchu with a big backpack, you can leave it at the storage room located near the entrance door of Machu Picchu. Here you can find some lockers to leave your belongings. It has a cost of 10 soles approximately for each backpack.

Can I hike Huayna Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain?

Some tourists hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain after their guided tour of Machu Picchu citadel. If you are eager to add this extra hike to your adventure, you have to book any of these hikes in advance. We recommend informing your tour agency operators about your desire and they will book the one you want to hike. It normally has an additional cost of US$ 85.00 per person).

People who have the extra hike booked, will have their 2-hour guided tour and go to the checkpoint to start climbing the Mountain they have chosen. The guide will show you the start point, but he won’t hike it with you. Note that you will be on your own, bit there will be some park rangers showing you the route.

It takes 2 hours round trip to hike Huayna, while it takes 3 hours round trip to hike Machu Picchu Mountain (don’t confuse it with Machu Picchu citadel, one of the seven wonders). From both mountains, you will have spectacular views of Machu Picchu, but since Machu Picchu Mountain is at a higher altitude it offers a complete view including other peaks of mountains and beautiful landscapes of the surroundings.

NOTE: Only the ones who book Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain can leave the ruins and re enter it. In the case of the people who don’t book it, once your guided tour ends and you leave the ruins, you won’t be able to enter it again. If you are in Machu Picchu and need any advice ask your guide for support or guidance.

Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Regulations
  • The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed in February due to the rainy season. This permits the staff of Peruvian State to perform some maintenance work of the route.
  • You aren’t allowed to hike the Inca Trail on your own. To hike the Inca Trail, you need to hire the service of a licensed tour operator.
  • To enter Machu Picchu, you need to show your ID card or passport along with your entrance ticket. Make sure the information in your permits matches the information  of your personal documents. In case you have updated any documents, let your tour agency know about it, so they contact the Peruvian bureau to make an update. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enter the Inca Trail nor Machu Picchu.
  • It is mandatory to have your permits updated in order to enter the Inca Trail. 
  • You are not allowed to throw garbage along the route. Your tour agency must provide some plastic bags for the garbage that they will later collect and carry it until it is discarded at the end of the hike.
  • Bonfires are not permitted in the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for it is a protected area that preserves the ecosystem of the zone.
  • Responsible use of the public facilities is encouraged among the tourists and locals to prevent deterioration or destruction of the facilities.
  • Campsites inside the Inca Trail are marked and identified correctly. It is not permitted to camp at unauthorized sites. 
  • Part of the experience is meeting people from different backgrounds and living together the dream of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Therefore, avoid disturbing others.
  • It is important to be aware of these regulations and follow them. If not, park rangers will approach you and you will receive a fine for any damage.

Booking Tips

How to book the 5-Day Inca Trail?

Choosing the right tour operator

Cusco Inca Trail is a high demanding trek which is regulated by the Peruvian government. That is why there are limited licensed tour operators that can offer the Inca Trail as part of their tours and treks. They also have to update their license from time to time. Note below some recommendations for this trek:

Choosing the best tour operator requires doing some research in advance. It is very important to be well informed about the agency you will hire. Ask them the kind of equipment and logistics they have. This way you will know what to expect on the hike and make sure everything is ok and well organized.

The best way to book the 5-day/4-night Inca Trail is through online platforms. These platforms are interactive and tourists can leave a review about the tour, the agency, the guide, the service, or give any useful tip. Reading the reviews will help you with your browsing and give you an idea of the agency you want to hire based on other travelers’ experience. Below we share a list of the platforms that offer the most important tours around the world:

5-Day Inca Trail Tour Price

You will find many tour operators that offer the trail at different prices ranging from cheap to expensive. We recommend not booking the cheapest option since those agencies don’t offer a quality service, and food not only for the tourists but also for the staff that assist you along the trek. A reasonable price for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu should be around US$ 750.00.

5-Day Inca Trail Availability

The spots available for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are limited in number. There are only 500 spots available per day, from which 200 are for the visitors and 300 are for the staff who will assist you along the trek like guides, porters and chefs.

Therefore, we recommend booking the trek at least 6 months in advance in order to secure your spot. This is strongly suggested whether you are planning to come from April to September (high season) when most tourists visit the city and want to do the Inca Trail. Permits during the dry season (from April to October) are sold really fast.

NOTE: Once permits are sold out, you won’t get access to the trail. No matter how much you wanted, it won’t be possible to get a ticket, not even if there is a cancellation. Permits are non refundable and non transferable. In case you renew your passport after booking the Inca Trail, you have to send a copy of the old and new passports to the agency you are booking the Inca Trail with before your trek starts. They will go to the Peruvian bureau and request an update of your permits. You have to do this in advance.

Required documentation for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

To hike the fantastic Inca Trail Para, you need to bring your personal identification documents. The names in the permits must match the information in your documents. Therefore, make sure you provide accurate information to the agency you are booking the tour with. If the information is not accurate, you won’t be able to do the Inca Trail. 

  • Valid original Passport
  • Identity card
  • National Identity card (DNI)
  • Student card (if you you want a discount)

If you have updated your passport some days prior to the trek, you have to let the agency know and ask them to update the new information. If possible, bring both the old and new passports. You should also send a copy of both the old and new passports to the agency. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do the Inca Trail. Make sure you have your personal documents with you all the time. Put them in a safe place before and during the hike.

Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Discounts

There is a small discount that the Culture Ministry gives to minors or students who have a valid student card. A student card is considered valid if it shows the following features:

  • PVC Material 
  • Name of the university
  • Full name
  • Student photo
  • Birthdate
  • Expiration date, which has to be the year that the student visits Machu Picchu (NOT a year early or later to the visit date)

Note: To apply for the students discount, you shouldn’t be over 25 years old.

About the hike

What you should know about the 5-Day Inca Trail 

Restrictions to do the Inca Trail

Because of the challenging trek the Inca Trail is, we consider it to be best for visitors above 13 years old to 55-year-old adults. However, since there is no government restriction on the age limit for the hike, a young kid can do the Inca Trail if hiring a personal porter who will assist and help your kid along the trek. This will be the only way a reliable agency can take children on the hike.

Adults over 55 years old, should have hiking experience and be in good health condition. This way, they will be able to arrive in Machu Picchu safely.

Campsites along the 5-day Inca Trail

There are 2 versions to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Classic 4-day Inca Trail and 5-day Inca Trail. Although both versions cover the same area, the main difference is the pace of each one. The classic Inca Trail level is moderate and requires you to be in good physical condition while the second one goes at a slower pace and allows you to spend more time and arrive in Machu Picchu with more energy.

Traditional campsites in the 5-day/4-night Inca Trail are listed below:

First day: Wayllabamba Campsite, altitude 3000 m.a.s.l., maximum temperature: 24 °C, minimum temperature: 6 °C

Second day: Pacaymayu Campsite, altitude 3580 m.a.s.l., maximum temperature: 20 °C, minimum temperature: -5 °C

Third day: Phuyupatamarca Campsite, altitude 3680 m.a.s.l., maximum temperature: 22 °C, minimum temperature: -2 °C

Fourth day: Hostal/hotel in Aguas Calientes, altitude 2050 m.a.s.l., maximum temperature: 26 °C, minimum temperature: 10 °C

Food in the 5-day Inca Trail

Most probably you are wondering what the food will be like along the trek since you will be far from the city. However, you shouldn’t worry about it as long as you book your trek with an authorized and reliable Inca Trail tour operator. Licensed tour operators count with highly trained staff as it is the case of the chef. The chef will offer you a variety of exquisite dishes prepared using his best culinary skills. Read below some of the dishes that you will enjoy during the 5-day Inca Trail:

Entrée:

  • Mushrooms Anticucho
  • Cooked Corn (Choclo)
  • Ceviche with vegetables, corn and mushrooms
  • Fried wonton filled with ham, cheese or sausages
  • Escabeche with vegetables and avocado
  • Stuffed Caigua
  • Risotto made with quinoa

Soups:

  • Quinoa with vegetables
  • Cream of Corn Soup
  • Moraya Cream 
  • Morón wheat Soup
  • Pasta with vegetables diet soup
  • Criolla Soup (vegetable soup with pieces of chicken)

Main Dishes:

  • Lomo saltado
  • Chicken stew
  • Spaghetti with beef stew
  • Vegetables with avocado 
  • Yellow rice with Chicken Salpicon
  • Beef appetizer
  • Stuffed Chili pepper 
  • Rolled Trout 

Note: As you can notice, you have different food options. We cater to all food restrictions like vegetarian, vegan or any other. You only need to contact your tour agency and let them know your food restrictions in advance, so they arrange the perfect menu for you. Everyone is more than happy to help you do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without any inconvenience.

Inca Trail Training (physical condition)

To achieve the goal of hiking Inca Trail, it is important to be in good health and have some hiking experience. The route is challenging because it presents different altitudes and micro climates. Therefore we can say that Training in advance is the key to succeed on hiking the Inca Trail.

Some specialists recommend doing the following:

Breathing exercises: To do the Inca Trail, it is important to keep the pace and to avoid feeling tired. Therefore, it is recommended some breathing exercises such as deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, complete breathing and alternate nostril breathing will be useful to do the Inca Trail.

Go hiking or walk: It is recommendable to go hiking as part of your training for the Inca Trail. You can start walking from 2km to 10km every day. This way you will strengthen your muscles and improve your resistance. When you do the Inca Trail you will be better prepared for the challenging hike. 

Hydration: Hydration is essential not only for physical health, but for mental health as well. Staying hydrated before, during, and after the hike can make you feel better. Water can keep your performance up while hiking and prevent fatigue after. It’s important to stay hydrated to avoid headaches.

Eating healthy: Food is very important when hiking. That is why we recommend eating food that is rich in iron and vitamin B. You should eat green vegetables and fish since they help to improve the circulation of blood and have resistance.

NOTE: Before doing the Inca Trail, you should visit a physical therapist. This is in order to rule out that you have any injury done in previous hikes or training.

How long before the hike should I arrive in Cusco?

We highly recommend, arriving 2 or three days before you start the hike. This will help you acclimatize to the altitude of Cusco gradually  (3400 m.a.s.l.). Take advantage of these days visiting sites around the city as long as they are not challenging.

Are there restrooms in the Inca Trail?

At the campsites, you will find suitable facilities that are used as restrooms. However, if there is an emergency along the hike, you will have to use nature and find a place to dig a pit (you will be given a small shovel) and then cover it. The toilet paper will be put inside a plastic bag to then be thrown in the trash.

Is there drinking water in the 5 day Inca Trail?

There is no drinking water in Inca Trail. Normally, your agency will provide boiled water from the first night and on. You need to bring a camel-back or water bottle which will be refilled by the staff. However, you have to bring water for the 8 first hours of the trek.

It is also recommendable to bring pills or water purification bottles, ultraviolet water purifiers, portable suction filter or portable filtration pump. This way, you could drink water from the rivers and streams.

Recommended luggage

What kind of gear do I need for the Inka Trail hike?

  • Passport or original identification card (it must match with the information you provide the agency for booking your permits).
  • Student Card (contact your tour agency for more information)
  • Daypack of regular size (no larger than 25 L. If larger, you will need to store outside Machu Picchu citadel gates).
  • Water storage: Camelbacks or bottles (enough for at least 2-3 liters).
  • Comfortable and lightweight hiking boots.
  • Sleeping bag (for -10°C at least): You can rent one from your travel agency. 
  • Flashlight with spare batteries or a Headlamp (an Eco friendly option)
  • 3-4 2-3 t-shirts (dry-quick preferably).
  • 1-2 long sleeves polo shirts 
  • 2 pair of trekking pants
  • Clean underwear
  • 1 wool sweater
  • Warm jacket for the nights
  • 1 rain poncho and waterproof pants
  • Waterproof Gloves
  • UV sunglasses
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, toothbrush and paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen (SPF 35+), face moisturizer.
  • Insect Repellent (an Eco friendly repellent is highly recommended).
  • First aid kit: band aids, moleskin, iodized alcohol, Diamox, Tylenol, and any medication needed for the trek.
  • Camera with battery / film

Staff - Chef, Porters and Guides

Staff Duties – Chefs, Porters, and Guides in the 5 Day Inca Trail

The support staff that assist you along the inka trail hike is as important as the guide. Among them we have the following people:

Chefs

They are very important staff in the Inca Trail. The chef is the person in charge of preparing delicious meals during the 5 day inca trail. Even though they are at high altitudes, the chefs always manage to cook a variety of dishes that delight all the visitors as well as the support staff. They work really hard to prepare a nutritional diet and varied menu.

Porters

Porteadores: They are locals who live in the highlands and find this job, being porters, a source of income to provide for their house and support their relatives.

  • Why is it mandatory to have porters on the 05 day Inca Trail?

According to Peruvian government regulations, since the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a protected area, pack animals or similar are not allowed. Only porters can carry all the equipment, food, any other things needed on the trek.

  • Porters Law:

Porters play an important role in the success of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is thanks to them that it is possible to have food supplies and lodging during the hike. Before 2002, porters didn’t receive a fair treatment, having to carry heavy burdens. That is why in order to improve their working conditions and provide fair salaries, the Porters Law was created.

  • Porters Weight Limit:

Thanks to the Porters Law, people who work as porters are duly registered and receive constant training to provide a high quality service. Regarding the weight limit, porters are not allowed to carry more than 20 kg. This regulation is supervised at the checkpoint of the Inca Trail by the respective Peruvian authorities.

  • Food and camping equipment:

The staff of a reliable and responsible tour agency has all the facilities and ensures optimal food and camping conditions for all the crew and doesn’t skimp on expenses when it refers to their loyal workers and enthusiastic clients.

  • How can you help the porters?

Occasionally some visitors give personal help to the porters. They give clothes, shoes among other items.

Guide - 5 day Inca trail to Machu Picchu

They are in charge of guiding the group along the trek until they arrive in Machu Picchu. Likewise, Guides are experts and receive constant training. You will meet your guide before the hike on your briefing day. It takes place in your hotel or at the office of your tour operator. Therefore, He will pick you up from your hotel on day 1 and take you to the start point of the 5 day Inca Trail.

Note: It is customary in Peru and South America to leave a tip. At the end of the hike, you may feel so grateful with all the staff and like to help them somehow. So, If you decide to leave a tip and express your gratitude, you are welcome to do it. Normally, it is one person of the group who collects the money and then gives it to the staff who has assisted you along the hike (porters, guide and chef). 

Even though they receive a fair salary, plus some added benefits by the tour agency they work for, tips encourage them to keep up with their hard work and show them you appreciate what they do for you. Consequently, They will share the tips with their family as well. Most importantly, Note that tips are not mandatory, but optional.

Tips - 5 day Inca trail to Machu Picchu

The following is a referential example. You can give more money if you want to:

Porters normally receive from all the group of tourists an average of 60 soles per person, the chef receives double, 120 soles. The chef receives a higher amount of money because he not only has to carry food supplies, but also cooks them.

In the case of the guides, the amount of money he receives depends on the experience tourists have and shared. The most important thing in this case is that the tip reflects your personal appreciation.

Frequently Asked Questions

5 Day Inca Trail Frequently Asked Questions

Which hike is best for me?

Mental and Physical condition is very important to do any hike. For instance, if you are looking for a mild hike that doesn’t imply much physical effort, Lares trek is the best hike for you. However, if you are looking for a moderate hike that implies more physical effort, then the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or Salkantay trek is for you. In addition, there is one hike that is for more adventurous tourists who are looking for challenging treks. It is the Choquequirao trek.

What is Inca Trail?

The Inca Capac Ñan or Inca Trail network are routes created by the Incas to interconnect with the diverse towns located near and far but belong to the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca government. Those routes were North, South, West and Eastward oriented in South America. They had the city of Cusco (navel of the world) as the center or start point.

What was the purpose of the Inca Trail in the Tahuantinsuyo?

These routes were used to transfer people, food and special messengers from one side to the other. The messengers were known as Chaskis (people with great running skills) who, as in an Olympic marathon relay race, ran at high speed until they met another Chaski who would continue the path to finally arriving at the desired place to deliver the message promptly.

When is the best time to do the 5 Day Inca Trail?

The best time to do the 5 day Inca Trail is during the dry season (from April to October). This season is warm and there is no rain. You will have the best panoramic views of the route and Machu Picchu. Although it is the best time of the year, there are many tourists in the city who want to do the trek, especially from May to August. Therefore, we recommend booking the trek at least 6 months in advance.

Do all tour agencies have a briefing day before the 5 day Inca Trail?

Actually, yes. Tour agencies have a briefing day before the starting day of the hike. That is why we recommend arriving at least 2 days in before your Inca Trail starting day. As a result, You can take advantage of these 2 days going on mild tours, or just acclimating to the altitude. On your briefing day, you will meet your guide and the rest of your group (if you have selected the group service). All the information your guide provides will come in very handy on the following days hiking the 5 day Inca Trail travel to Machu Picchu.

Do all tour agencies include a porter in the service?

You should know that not all tour agencies include a porter for the 5 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Contact your tour operator and ask them about the service of the porter. So, some tour agencies include a half-porter-service who will carry 5 kg of your personal belongings (this should include your sleeping bag and air mattress). For more information, contact your tour agency in advance.

Can I hire an extra porter for the 5 day Inca trail to Machu Picchu?

Of course. In this case, you should contact your tour agency and request the service of an extra porter. You will have these 2 options:

  1. Hire a half-porter-service: He usually carries 5kg of your personal belongings (this should include a sleeping bag and air matt).
  2. Or Hire a personal porter: In this case, he will carry 10 kg of your personal belongings (this should include a sleeping bag and air matt)

How much money should I bring for the 5 Day Inca Trail?

It is recommendable to bring 500 soles (local currency) per person. Along the 5 day inca trail trek, you will find some places where you can buy snacks, water, some food (note that meals are included on most days of the hike, but not on the first and last day). You can prevent any emergency or avoid any inconvenience by having some extra cash in the local currency.

Do I need to bring trekking poles for the 5 Day Inca Trail?

If you feel you need to have extra support, then it is highly recommended having trekking poles. Along the trek there are steep parts where you need to go up or downhill. So having trekking poles will help reduce knee pain. Trekking poles offer two extra points of balance and support which will help you arrive in better physical conditions in Machu Picchu.

I don’t have a sleeping bag and trekking poles, what should I do?

If you don’t have a sleeping bag or trekking poles for the travel to Machu Picchu, don’t worry. Tour agencies rent both trekking equipment. Contact them and let them know which trekking equipment you want to rent. As a result, They will give you all the information you need to know such as the price and when to receive them.

Where will I get the equipment that I rent from the tour agency?

Certainly, If you rent any trekking item for the 5 day inca trail from your tour agency, they usually give it to you at the starting point on the first day of the trek.

I want to have my own tent, is it possible to have a personal one?

You should know that all tour agencies offer a tent for each two tourists. If you are traveling with a friend, you can share the same tent all nights of the hike. 

However, there are times when tourists want to have a personal tent and don’t want to share it with anyone. Fortunately, for some tourists, it is possible to have their own tent. If you are looking for your own tent, you need to request this service with your tour agency. This service has an average cost of US$70.00. So, The option is subject to availability. Since camping sites are restricted to a number of tents, your agency will confirm availability for a personal tent for 5 day inca trail.

Are there hot showers in the 5 Day Inca Trail?

You will find showers in the camping sites, but only in Wayllabamba campsite during the first night you will have hot showers. This service is organized and offered by the locals as a private service. Consequently, It has an extra cost of 10 soles per person.

For the following days, you will find showers, too; however, since the water comes from the high snow capped mountains, it is very cold. If you don’t mind taking cold showers, you can make use of them.

Where can I leave my luggage before the 5 Day Inca Trail?

If you have many things for your trip, you won’t be able to take all with you on the Inka trail trek to Machu Picchu. But you shouldn’t worry about it. Hotels in Cusco have storage rooms where you can leave your luggage while you are on the tours or hikes to Machu Picchu. Certainly, This service is free. You also have the option to leave your things with your tour agency. In addition, Tour agencies have storage rooms at no additional cost.

Do I need to have travel insurance to do the 5 Day Inca Trail?

Although it is not mandatory to have travel insurance to do the Inca Trail, we highly recommend getting one. This way you can prevent any inconvenience that can happen during your trip and receive the support of different institutions covered by the travel insurance.

Then, these are some important reasons to get travel insurance:

  • In case of an accident, travel insurance will compensate customers financially.
  • If you start feeling sick, they give proper assistance.
  • They help you get an ambulance anywhere you are.
  • Under any trouble conditions, they are 24-hour calls available.
  • If needed, they can help you change your tickets to return home.
  • They can cover the medicine expenses.
  • Among others.

Here you have a list of some recommendable insurance companies websites:

Is there Internet connection in the 5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Note that when you do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will be hiking in the mountains. This means that since you will be far from the city, phone calls and Internet service are limited.

Therefore, using a cellphone or any electronic device is not convenient in most places.

However, during the first night when you are in Wayllabamba campsite, you will have wi-fi. Since this service is private, it has an average cost of 5 – 10 soles per each hour. Likewise, from Phuyupatamarca, the last campsite, to Machu Picchu, there is Internet access and you can make phone calls. This is provided you have CLARO or BITEL telephone operators. Unfortunately, other telephone operators don’t have good signals along the hike. Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes town, you will be able to communicate with your family or friends.

Is there electricity in the 5 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

In the Inca Trail 5 days trek, it is possible to have access to electricity only at the first campsite known as Wayllabamba. Since this is a private service, it has an average cost of 5 soles. You can use it to charge your cell phone, battery or any other electronic device.

Keep in mind that there is no electricity along the inka trail hike. You will have electricity once you arrive in Aguas Calientes town. However, tour agencies use solar lanterns to illuminate the campsites at night.

Do I need to receive a vaccine for the 5 day inca trail?

If you are planning to visit Cusco, do the 5 day Inca Trail trek or any other trek/tour to Machu Picchu, you don’t need any vaccination. This is because there is no register of people having any symptoms of malaria, yellow fever and any illness.

However, if you are planning to go to the jungle of Peru and doing some tours there, you need to receive a vaccine before leaving your country. Coming to cities Iquitos, Pucallpa, Madre de Dios or any jungle city of South America requires a vaccine against yellow fever or malaria.

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that can strike if you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly. Any time you go above 2,500 meters (8,000 ft), you can be at risk for altitude sickness. 

The pressure of the air that surrounds you is called barometric pressure. Therefore, When you go to higher altitudes, this pressure drops and there is less oxygen available.

So, If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure. But if you travel to a place at a higher altitude than you’re used to, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.

Altitude Sickness Mild Symptoms

Mild Symptoms: The first symptoms you will have when arriving at a higher altitude can be avoided. You should use natural remedies like drinking coca tea which is the most effective way to cope with mild symptoms. 

Likewise, Another option is to take some prescribed pills to relieve the pain. You can opt for the best option if you have the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Problems with sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo or feeling unsteady
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

Altitude Sickness Severe Symptoms

Severe Symptoms: If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed below, we recommend visiting a doctor promptly. Note that any inappropriate handling of the medicine can be deadly. You will need to go to a lower altitude and drink lots of liquids. Finally, follow a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates which will contribute to a fast recovery. Some of the severe symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath at rest
  • Cough
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of sense of direction
  • Gray or blue paleness 
  • Weakness
  • Inability to walk

How to prevent altitude sickness during the 5 day inca trail?
  • The best tip to prevent altitude sickness is to acclimatize properly.
  • Avoid eating heavy foods, try eating a balanced diet until your body adjusts to the altitude.
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol on the first day in Cusco.
  • You can drink coca tea or coffee.
  • Chew coca leaves or eat coca candy.

What can I do if I suffer from Altitude Sickness when arriving in Cusco?

It is recommendable to rest once you arrive in Cusco on your first day. Don’t do any challenging activity. Most hotels, if not all, offer you coca tea. Avoid them only if you have heart problems or suffer from high blood pressure.

However, if you have severe symptoms such as headache, dizziness, etc, you should request your 3-star hotel a tank of oxygen.  The cost of this is free for a period of 10 minutes, enough to relieve the pain.

Likewise, you can get some pills to prevent altitude sickness at the drugstore. Take those pills only if you don’t have heart problems or suffer from high blood pressure.

Note: When arriving in Peru, we strongly recommend choosing carefully the restaurant or place you will eat.

Be extreme careful about the food you eat. For example, some tourists had stomach problems before starting the 5 day Inca Trail and sadly had to cancel their trip.

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