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How Long is the Inca Trail?

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 02-05-2022

The Inca Trail is up there with the most famous treks on the planet and definitely one of the most popular. There are a number of ways to hike the Inca trail and the classic version is a four-day, three-night hike that starts at Kilometre 82 in between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes) and ends at Inti Punku (the Sun Gate, in Quechua) at Machu Picchu.

Classic Inca Trail - trailhead

There is also a five-day version which follows the same route as the classic Inca trail but takes it a little slower and uses the more lesser-visited camping spots, with the fourth night in a hotel in Aguas calientes and the fifth day in Machu Picchu. There is also a two-day version for those short on time which enters the trail at day 3 of the Classic Inca Trail and is one day hiking with the second day at Machu Picchu. This 2 day version doesn’t involve camping and you will stay in a hotel a Aguas Calientes.

Inca Trail pathways

The Incas at the height of their ancient empire built an extensive network of roads and trails across their empire and the Inca Trail was the first to be uncovered by Hiram Bingham, the explorer who is credited with discovering Machu Picchu.

It is said that they had built anywhere from 23,000 to 45,000 km of pathways of Inca Trails throughout their territory crisscrossing Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.

The Inca Trail hike length is 43km (26 miles) long and combines beautiful mountains, lush cloud forests, subtropical jungle and, an amazing mixture of original Incan stones, ruins, and tunnels.

The Inca Trail is permit dependent and you have to have a permit booked through an authorized agency. It is best to purchase entrance permits at least six months in advance due to their high demand, especially during high season.

View of the Vilcanota river from the Inca Trail

The Classic Inca Trail Length Day-by-Day

Day 1-12.5 km (7.2 miles)

This first day of the Inca Trail is relatively easy and flat. It starts off with approximately 5-7 hours of hiking before you get to your campsite. You will hike 5 km along the Urubamba River to the ruins of Llactapata. After lunch, you will continue along the Cusichaca River until you reach your campsite at Huayllabamba.


Porters on the trail

Day 2- 8.3 km (5.1 miles)

This is the most challenging day of the Inca Trail. Today is approximately 8-9 hours of hiking with lots of elevation gain. The day will begin the day climbing Warmiwañusca or “Dead Woman’s pass”, The Inca Trail’s highest point. This will take 5.5 hours until we reach our lunch site shortly after getting over the pass. The pass shows an amazing view of Pitusiray and Colquecruz mountains if it is not too cloudy. After lunch, it is approximately 1.5 hours to the campsite at Pacaymayo near Runkuraqay.

Inca Trail campsite at night

DAY 3 - 7.3 km (4.5 miles)

The third day is slightly easier than day two but is longer. There is less elevation gain however, it is the longest day of hiking taking approximately 10 hours. The sunning scenery makes up for it as it is possibly the most beautiful day on the trek. The Inca Trail climbs up another pass for approximately an hour to the ruins of Runkuracay and then up a second pass to the ruins of Sayacmarca. From here we will go up the third and final pass of the day through the cloud forest to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, also known as Cloud-Level Town. From there we hike to our campsite at Winay Wayna, which means Forever Young.

Trail to Phuyupatamarca

DAY 4- 11 km (6.9 miles)

Have an EARLY breakfast to see the sunrise over the ruins of Machu Picchu. You will hike the remaining 11 km (6.9 miles) of the Inca Trail, taking 4 hours approximately, to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu. You will pass through the Inti Punku, or “sun gate” entrance into Machu Picchu in the morning for a 2-hour guided tour.

Unparalled views

 The Inca Trail trek is a relatively moderate hike. But when you combine the Inca Trail hike length with the high altitude it can be somewhat challenging. Fortunately, the spectacular sights along the way will help to lessen the pain on your muscles. This unparalleled hike along the Inca Trail is on the many people’s bucket list and absolutely an experience you are going to remember for many years to come!

Orchids on the Inca Trail