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The Classic 4 day Inca Trail

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 21-02-2022

Peru’s Classic Inca Trail is quite possibly the most famous hike in the world and there are many reasons why!  This “bucket list” hike is nothing short of spectacular, with fabulous scenery and terrain all along the route, impressive Inca Archaeological sites around every corner and the only hike in the region that allows you to walk directly into the magnificent Machu Picchu, as the Inca´s did, once up on a time!

Machu Picchu at the end of the trail!

 Considered by some experts as a holy Inca pilgrimage, its hard to not agree as you climb up to an altitude of 4,200m above sea level, before you drop into the cloud forest, passing by the sacred Apus, revered by The Inca´s in times gone by. Every day of trekking is better than the next, as you eventually arrive at the Sun Gate and the first uniquely mind-blowing views over Machu Picchu. Here is an overview of why this trek is in most people´s top 5 treks in the world.

Section of the Inca trail day 3

Why do the Inca trail?

The stones step and walkways you hike along are those very same that the Inca´s used, many years ago and the terrain is unlike any other place on the planet.  As you twist and turn, navigating around snow- caps along an “Inca Flat” path – which means not very flat at all! .... down into the jungle, with some of the most ecologically and biodiverse landscapes in the world, it’s hard to believe that you live in the 21st century! The Inca Trail was also thought to have been designed as a holy pilgrimage, to test if you were worthy enough to enter Machu Pichu which lends to the trail being as close to a religious experience as one could hope for!

Up hill section on day 2

The classic four day Inca trail

The main thing to bear in mind when planning to hike the Inca trail is that you need to book 6-12 months in advance and that you have to trek with an authorized operator.  The Peruvian government has limited the trail to 500 permits a day including the porters, who usually take up 300 of those spaces, in an attempt to preserve the trail. Camp sites have allocated spaces depending on your group size and for porter welfare, the incredible Inca trail porters are limited to the weight they can carry.

Inca trail campsite

If you prefer more solitude during your hike, we recommend the five day version. The 5 day Inca Trail trek allows you to stay at the lesser -visited, more remote campsites, away from the crowds. It gives you more time to absorb the essence of the Inca trail, the flora and fauna and offers a more authentic experience. It also allows the fourth night in Aguas calientes so you have the time for an all-important shower, just in time for the Machu Picchu photos!

Unparalleled views

Private or Group trek?

The Private Inca trail trek will of course be more expensive; however, you will be able to have a tailor-made trek in your own private group and the guide will be there to answer each and every question. Private tours are perfect for useful information, but are of course more expensive.

Private guide


Joining a group trek is of course a much cheaper option, however expect to trek with 10 to 15 other people. The hike is the same, but you will share a guide with the other group members, and campsites may or may not be noisy… depending on your group members…it’s the luck of the draw!

Group trek


Pack light, pack smart, and pack for two very different temperatures - that’s the key advice for every Inca Trail experience.  Firstly, you are going to leave the bulk of your luggage in a luggage storage room back at the hotel in Cusco.

The Incredible human beings who carry the Inca trail gear

You will be provided a duffel bag which allows for 6kgs and will be where the majority of the items you bring for the Inca Trail will be stored, such as clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toiletries, etc. The Inca trail porters will carry these duffel bags as well as all the food and camping equipment for the trek, so it is important to stick to the weight limit, for the porter’s welfare.

Inca trail porters

You should be prepared to carry a small daypack for snacks, camera, water, sunscreen and any personal medication. You will also carry your water for that day’s walking which can be refilled at the lunch stops and the campsites each day. 

Porters on the Inca Trail

Two day trail

This 2 day option is for those who are short on time and still want to enter Machu Picchu through the famous Sun Gate, where the classic 4 day Inca trail hike ends. The Sun Gate is an amazing place to enter Machu Picchu because you get your first glimpse of the sacred city from above and hike down to the ruins. This option will give you a little bit of hiking and enters at day 3 of the classic Inca trail and of course allows you to hike directly into Machu Picchu.

The IntiPunku - "sungate"

Whichever is your chosen option, longer or shorter, group service or private service, this incredible trek should be hiked at least once in your lifetime. As well as an incredible sense of achievement, walking along the path of ancient civilisations, the bragging rights of having walked the Inca trail, are almost as incredible as the amazing photos you will have to show your friends and family!

Machu Picchu in all its glory!