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Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: 4-5 days

View of Machu Picchu, by Jayne Ryan

This is the adventure that's on almost everyone's bucket list -- the challenging 4-day trek to Machu Picchu along Inca roads through lush valleys and over breath-taking mountain passes. Arriving at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and gazing down at the ancient citadel is an exhilarating, emotional experience. As one happy 58-year client said upon arriving at Inti Punku, "I feel 10 years younger!"

Day 1: Cusco - Wayllabamba
View with backpackThe day starts early when our bus picks you up from your Cusco hotel. We travel to a point known as Km 82, which is literally the end of the road from Cusco, where we meet our qeswuas porters for the journey. The trek starts with a bridge crossing over the turbulent Vilcanota River (also referred to as the Urubamba), with views of the snowcapped mountains of the Veronica or Wacay Willca (towering at 5,900 m / 19,356 ft above sea level).

Contact us for pricingInca structures are found at many points along this trail. The first one we visit is the beautiful archaeological complex of Llactapata and Taray.

After lunch near the river we continue our walk, for a total of about 7 hours. We have a hearty dinner and camp overnight at Wayllabamba at 3,000 m / 9,840 ft.

Day 2: Wayllabamba - Pacaymayu
This will be one of the harder days on the route because we begin to ascend, with snowcapped mountains in all directions, including the Huayanay of the Vilcabamba mountain range.

After breakfast, we climb steadily to reach the first high pass called Warmiwañuska (4,200 m / 13,779 feet), also known as Dead Woman's Pass, for its profile. During this ascent, we cross three ecological zones: Yunga, Quechua and Puna. We stop for lunch enroute. 

After achieving the pass, and getting some photos to prove it, we descend to our campsite at Pacaymayu for dinner and camping overnight (3,600 m / 11,808 ft).   

Day 3: Pacaymayu - Wiñayhuayna
Cock of the rockAfter an early breakfast, we walk through Pacaymayu valley and soon come upon the famous remains of Runquraqay. Then we continue on to Sayacmarka, a restored Inca city, where we will stop to explore.

Along this part of the journey we can admire the formations of white granite, the mountains and the dense Inca Trail vegetation. We ascend again, to Phuyupatamarca, where we will have a lunch break with majestic 360 degree views.

The last part of this day's trek descends to Wiñaywayna, where we will make a visit into the ruins, have dinner and spent the night (2,650 m / 8,038 ft).

Day 4: Wiñaywayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco (with option of Day 5)
We will take our breakfast and depart before dawn, leaving at about 4:30 am. This day will be rich with experiences, starting with witnessing the sunrise illuminate Machu Picchu from high above at Inti Punku (the Sun Gate). 

The trail continues down through cloud forest into jungle. This part of the Inca Trail is habitat for a stunnig variety of orchids and hummingbirds.

Once in Machu Picchu we will have a guided tour for 2-1/2 hours. Then you will have free time to explore the ruins as you like. We depart late afternoon, taking the 20-minute bus ride down to Aguas Calientes where we take the train back to Cusco.  

Optional Day 5: Machu Picchu - Cusco
Taking a 5th day for this tour is highly recommended as it gives you more time to experience the journey and the destination. For the 5-day version we travel less far on day 3 and camp that night at  Phuyupatamarca, an exquisite spot with a 360-degree view of the surroundings, from barren mountain peaks to lush jungle.

We arrive in Machu Picchu at mid-day and have a short tour then take the bus down to Aguas Calientes for an evening of fine dining and a comfortable hotel. We return to Machu Picchu on day 5 for a thorough tour, a delicious buffet lunch, and unstructured time at the site. We then board the train back to Cusco and your hotel there.


  • All bus and train travel indicated
  • Permits and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu & Inca Trail
  • Professional guide (fluent in English, Spanish, German, Quechua)
  • All camping equipment, including kitchen and toilet tents, dining table, chairs (except sleeping bags)
  • Porters to carry your gear (note that regulations limit porters to 6kg for your personal items)
  • All meals, daily snacks
  • First aid kit, including oxygen bottle


For tips on what to bring, check our Travel Tips page.