What is the Inca Trail: the original itinerary to Machu Picchu

person on the inca trail in peru

This post is also available in: Español

Surely you’ve heard that all roads lead to Rome. Well, this popular expression has its own version in Peru, where all roads seem to lead to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail is, in its complete four-day version, the original and most popular road to access the sacred temple of the Incas. A path between ancient stone steps that is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

stone stairs in inca trail

Inca Trail itinerary to Machu Picchu

In total, the Inca Trail in 4 days has around 43 kilometers of route between virgin jungle, dense fogs, majestic views, and a whole series of identifying signs of the glorious and millenary past of power of the Inca people.

Although less requested, there is also the Inca Trail in 2 days, an excellent option if you have fewer days to do the route. Despite this, today we want to talk only about the itinerary of the Inca Trail in 4 days and 3 nights, the original.

travelers group walking along the inca trail

Starting point at Cusco: Day 1

The Inca Trail starts with a first 8 kilometers of distance. During this day you will walk the section that includes the towns of Cuzco and Wayllamba.

At 4:00 a.m. the Inca Trail adventure begins with a bus ride to Piskacuchu, at an altitude of more than 2,700 meters. This is where it all begins. You will travel along the beautiful Urubamba River until its course leaves you in Miskay.

From here you will ascend to 3,000 meters above sea level to enjoy the Llactapata viewpoint at the highest point of the mountain. From here you will be able to enjoy the impressive views of the ancient Inca city of Llactapaca.

The journey will continue for the next 5 hours through the valley that creates parallel to the Kusichaca River. Following its course, you will be able to see a multitude of animals typical of this area.

donkey eating grass on the Inca Trail

You will end the first day of Machu Picchu excursion, with the arrival to the camp in Wayllabamba.

Inca Trail: Day 2

The second day of the impressive Inca Trail will start at 6 am and will last around 12 kilometers.

After a stop for lunch and to get your strength back, you will start with the hardest part of the day.

This is a climb up to 4,200 meters, in which you will pass through Abra Warmihuañusca and the famous Pasa de la Mujer Muerta (Dead Woman’s Pass). Here the landscape is very dry and with little vegetation, so you will be able to contemplate a large number of llamas and alpacas, many of which you can get close to since they are domesticated.

llama between stone walls in machu picchu

Inca Trail: Day 3

The third day of trekking along the Inca Trail is the most demanding of the entire trek. You will have to cover a distance of 16 kilometers, which connects the towns of Picaymayo and Wiñaywayna. In total, you will do half a day, that is, 12 hours.

After 3 kilometers you will arrive at Abra Runkurakay, one of the main archaeological complexes on the way to Machu Picchu. It is around 4,000 meters in altitude and will be the highest point you will reach.

archeologial site in inca trail

After this you will descend to another archaeological complex, that of Sayacmarca, to visit its two parts: the ceremonial and the residential, as well as the irrigation system that centuries later supplies the area.

The demanding trek of the third day will continue through the Inca tunnel to reach the third archaeological complex of the day, that of Phuyupatamarta, also known as “city above the clouds”, a nickname whose origin lies in its proximity to the sky.

Arrival at Machu Picchu: Day 4

The fourth and last day of the Inca Trail is the most relaxed as far as hiking is concerned since on this last day you will enjoy more the arrival to the desired destination: the Machu Picchu. Something that will happen after a final early start that will take you to walk for an hour the cobblestone route paved by the Incas and will take you directly to Machu Picchu.

boy taking a selfie in machu picchu

To finish you will have free time to enjoy all the things to see in Machu Picchu on your own. Around 1:00 pm you will take the bus to Aguas Calientes, where you will have lunch and then take the train back to the city of Cuzco.

Back in Cuzco, you will be able to say that you have traveled the Inca Trail, the sacred road that led the Inca civilization to its most magical city, Machu Picchu.

Did you enjoy the Inca Trail itinerary to Machu Picchu and tell us about your experience on this wonderful trek through the Inca culture?


Lily is happy with a backpack on her back. Every year she travels through one country in Latin America and has repeated several times, especially Peru where she says she feels at home (although she says the same about Argentina, Chile and Bolivia).

She loves ceviche, hiking and Sunday picnics with her friends, although whenever you ask her, she's always planning her next destination.

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *