Cusco has an ideal geography for hiking trails. Among the many that exist, the following stand out: the Salkantay trek, the Lares trek, the Huchuy Qosqo trek, the Inca Jungle and more. However, among all the trek routes the best is, without a doubt, the Inca Trail. This hike covers 39 kilometers in 4 days of walking. It ends in no less than Machu Picchu. Find out what this hike consists of, the best in all of Cusco and Peru.
The hiking trails of Cusco
Cusco has a mountainous geography because it is located in the eastern part of the Andes Mountains in southern Peru.
This region is famous for its various hiking trails, some of which lead to Machu Picchu. These are some of the most popular among tourists:
- Salkantay trek – 5 days and 4 nights trek that covers 70 kilometers until arriving at Machu Picchu. It is one of the most demanding routes as they cross very high mountains such as the Salkantay pass, the highest point located at 4,650 meters above sea level. To get to Machupicchu, go through the town of Aguas Calientes. The route is free so it can be done with a tour or on your own.
- Lares trek – Hike of 4 days and 3 nights that travels 32 kilometers until reaching Machu Picchu through the final train journey from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Tour Andean landscapes full of towns with very marked traditions. For this reason it is known as the ‘cultural’ route to Machupicchu. It is an open route so it can also be done with a tour or on your own.
- Huchuy Qosqo trek – Trek of 3 days and 2 nights that covers only 17 kilometers until arriving at Machu Picchu with the final trip by train to Aguas Calientes. It owes its name that on the way it visits the archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo. It is one of the easiest routes in Cusco so it is the most recommended to do with children or older adults. It can be done with or without a tour (on your own).
- Inca Jungle – Hike of 4 days and 3 nights in which trekking and adventure sports are carried out until arriving at Machu Picchu through the jungle region of Cusco (route by Hydroelectric). On the way, you can go cycling, trekking, canoeing and an afternoon of rest in the thermal baths of Cocalmayo. This walk must be done with a tour to complete the sports in complete safety.
- Inca Trail – Trek of 4 days and 3 nights of 39 kilometers that runs through the historic trails used by the Incas (qhapac ñan) to reach Machu Picchu. In the last section you arrive at Intipunku (Puerta del Sol) from where you have a first panoramic and impressive view of the Inca wonder. It is the only route that enters Machupicchu in this way. It is considered the best trek in Cusco and Peru.
What is the 4-day Inca Trail?
This is the 4-day Inca Trail:
The first day
- On the first day, the tourist transport will take you to kilometer 88 of the Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes train track. You will descend in the Qoriwayrachina sector (Quechua word that means “where the wind refines gold.” The place is located at 2,498 meters above sea level.
- After crossing the Urubamba River by a suspension bridge, the walk will begin. The first section is uphill through a not very steep path that runs through a eucalyptus forest. On the walk you will see the archaeological site of Llactapata or Pueblo Alto at 2,650 meters above sea level
- Finally, you will cross a small river called Cusichaca to continue walking about 6 kilometers to the small village of Huayllabamba at 2,950 meters above sea level. There the first camp will be held.
The second day
- The second day the walk is more intense. It begins with a sharp ascent along the Llullucha river. You travel a steep path until you reach the highest point of the route called Abra Warmihuañusca (“Dead Woman’s Pass”, in Quechua language). The place is at 4,650 meters above sea level
- The path continues through a cloud forest. In the distance you can see the archaeological site of Runkurakay located at 3,850 meters above sea level. From there the descent begins to the ruins of the Inca site of Sayaqmarka. The route continues downhill until it crosses the Aobamba River until it reaches the Pacaymayo camp.
The third day
- On the third day the walk is less intense. Almost the entire route is downhill through places full of vegetation. After a section, you will arrive at the archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca, an Inca center with platforms and stone steps.
- From Phuyupatamarca there is a path down hundreds of Inca steps until arriving at the archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna (“Forever young”, in Quechua language). Depending on availability, that night you camp in Phuyupatamarca or Wiñayhuayna.
The fourth day
- The last day starts very early because you have to walk the few remaining kilometers to reach Machu Picchu through the Puerta del Sol, the Intipunku.
- Once in Machu Picchu, the tour guide will accompany you on a tour of approximately 2 hours in which you will visit the main buildings such as: the Temple of the Sun, the Main Temple, the Temple of the Condor, the Intihuatana, the Sacred Rock and more.
- Finally, you will return to the city of Cusco through a trip first by train and then by minivan.
Inca Trail Machu Picchu
What is the 2-day Inca Trail?
The 2-day Inca Trail is an optional route to the 4-day Classic Inca Trail. This route only travels 12 kilometers, the last section of the route through Wiñayhuayna to Machu Picchu (through the Intipunku).
This is the 2-day Inca Trail:
The first day:
- The first day you will travel by tourist transport from the city of Cusco to the town of Ollantaytambo where you will board the train. The final stop will be kilometer 104 of the railway. There, a short distance from the archaeological site of Chachabamba, you will begin the trek uphill for almost 10 kilometers to the route of the ‘Inca Trail’ (qhapac ñan). The resting point will be the archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna.
- The last section of the walk is downhill through Inca trails until arriving at Intipunku, from where you have an impressive view of Machu Picchu. Then the tourists will descend through the archaeological site but will not make the established circuit but will descend by bus to Aguas Calientes.
- In Aguas Calientes you will spend the night in a tourist accommodation.
The second day:
- The second day will start very early with the ascent by bus to Machu Picchu.
- The tour of Machu Picchu is 2 hours or more, always accompanied by a professional tour guide.
- Finally, you will return by bus to Aguas Calientes where you will board the train in the direction of Ollantaytambo and, from there, by minivan to the city of Cusco where the adventure ends.
Other things you should know about the Inca Trail
Unlike other hiking routes in Cusco, the Inca Trail can only be done with a tour organized by a tourism agency. The classic 4-day route must be purchased 6 or 7 months in advance. The short route of only 2 days can be purchased 1 to 3 weeks in advance.
The dry season from May to October is the season with the highest demand due to the absence of rain and the radiant sun that characterizes the area. For many it is the best time to do the Inca Trail.
In February the Inca Trail is not open due to maintenance.
The payment you make to do the Inca Trail also includes the entrance to the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 28-06-2021
Before embarking on the adventure through the Inca Trails, it is necessary to know certain details necessary to enjoy the trek in its fullness.