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Peru's 4 Day Classic Inca Trail Guided Hiking Tour Itinerary

Follow in the footsteps of the Incas on Peru's Classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, on our all-inclusive guided tour.

The Classic Inca Trail is a four-day hike that finishes dramatically at Machu Picchu early on the fourth morning, giving you precious time to explore the misty ruins before the tour buses arrive. Along the way you'll be hiking through vast expanses of farmland with enormous cactuses springing up alongside the trail, passing mysterious Inca ruins that lie quietly on the hillsides, and wind your way through lush, cloudy jungle, surrounded by the flutter of hummingbirds.

Read on to look over the day-to-day itinerary for our 10 (or 7) day 'Jaguar' trip which explores Cuzco and the Sacred Valley before setting off on our Classic Inca Trail guided tour to Machu Picchu. Stay on board and journey further to the Amazon Basin too - we're locals in Peru and we have the best bilingual guides, so we'll show you Peru's 'hidden gems' and put you in touch with the local culture like no other tour company can.

Alternatively you could check out our 'Alpaca' trip, for a 10 day adventure taking in a lodge to lodge trek in the Peruvian mountains, and a shortened version of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Skip to: Classic Inca Trail Hiking map | How to prepare for your hike | Guided hiking tour itinerary | Required fitness | What's included on the tour | What to bring | How to book

Classic Inca Trail hiking map

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Classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu trail map with Active Adventures South America

Before your hike – preparation is the key to a successful journey

Remember the biggest mistake any keen hiker can make when they’re planning their journey to Machu Picchu via the Classic Inca Trail, is to expect to begin the hike the same day they arrive in Cuzco. The first day of hiking the Classic Inca Trail takes you to an elevation of almost 10,000ft, which is high enough to feel the full effects of altitude sickness. So in our 20+ years’ experience we’ve learned that the best way to prepare for your trek is to take a couple of days to explore the city of Cuzco and take a gentle bike ride in the Sacred Valley. This allows your body to catch up to the lower oxygen levels at a relaxed pace, while you get a first-hand taste of the local culture and cuisine and break away from the norms of day to day life back home.

So below you’ll see that day 1 and day 2 are designed to set you up for the journey ahead – then your hike to Machu Picchu on the Classic Inca Trail will begin on day 3 of this 10 day tour of Peru.

Fun Group Cycling Perus Sacred Valley with Active Adventures South America

Guided hiking tour itinerary - Cusco to Machu Picchu on Peru's Classic Inca Trail

Day 1 - Arrive in Cuzco, hike Sacsayhuaman fortress

Our trip starts in Cuzco, the heart of the Inca Empire. Your trip leader will greet you with a cup of hot coca tea – a local speciality to help you adjust to the altitude. After lunch, we’ll set off for a walk around this amazing ancient city and up to Sacsayhuamán fortress overlooking the main Plaza and Cuzco Valley. The fortress, meaning 'House of the Sun', is a magnificent archaeological site representing a set of jaguar’s teeth with massive, perfectly fitted stones weighing up to 130 tonnes each and was the place where the Incas made their final stand against the Spanish conquistadores. No one really knows what the Incas used Sacsayhuamán for – some say it was a sanctuary and temple of the sun, others say it was a granary. No matter who is right, you’ll have a lot of fun hearing all the stories this amazing area inspires. Later, we’ll take a walk through the colourful Cuzco street markets. If you prefer, you can take some time to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of Cuzco’s lively town square and meet up again later for an evening meal.
Accommodations: Local Hotel, Cuzco
Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Day 2 - Cycle Sacred Valley, visit Pisac market, hike Pisac ruins

We’ll head into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas this morning, stopping just above Cuzco, where we’ll jump on our bikes and ride down through breath-taking scenery, dotted with local villages and surrounded by the massive green slopes of the Andes. We’ll finish our ride in the small town of Pisac, where we’ll have a chance to check out the colourful mercado artesanal. From here we’ll begin a spectacular hike up to the Pisac ruins. These Inca terraces rise 600 metres (2000 feet) up from the river below. It’s a heart-pumping walk up through ancient agricultural terraces – you’ll never forget the views of Pisac and the Urubamba Valley! After exploring the ancient complex, we’ll descend the original Inca stairways and head back down the valley to Cuzco. This is the largest existing fortress-city of the Incas, and it’s the perfect warm-up for your Inca Trail trek tomorrow!
Accommodations: Local Hotel, Cuzco
Meals: All meals

Day 3 - Begin the 4 day Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Inca Trail Day 1 - Cuzco to Pisonay (7.5 miles)

The first day of the trek to Machu Picchu is relatively easy and serves as training for the days to follow. We are collected early from our hotel (6:30-7am) and travel by bus, past the picturesque villages of Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, for the 2½ hour scenic trip to Kilometre 82 (the start of the trail).

We cross the Vilcanota River and follow the trail to the right as it climbs steeply up from the river. After passing through a small village, the ruins of the Inca hillfort of Huillca Raccay come into view high above the mouth of the river Cusichaca ('happy bridge'). The Incas, when they conquered the area, built a fort here since the site commanded an excellent view up and down the Urubamba valley and controlled the entrance to the Cusichaca valley. It is a simple descent down to the Cusichaca river. From parts of this trail there are great views of the Cordillera Urubamba (Urubamba mountain range) and the snow-capped peak of Veronica (18,200 feet).

Resting after the first climb on day 1 of the Classic Inca Trail with Active Adventures South America

Photo: Relaxing at the top of the first climb on the Classic Inca Trail

From here we'll get a great view over the extensive Inca ruins of Llactapata (also known as Patallacta on some maps). Llactapata means 'upper town' in Quechua and was first discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and was primarily an agricultural station used to supply Machu Picchu with maize, the staple crop of the Incas. The settlement comprised over one hundred buildings, houses for the workers and soldiers, including five baths.
For a further 4.5 miles the path follows the left bank of the river up to the small village of Wayllabamba (9,500feet). The name in Quechua means 'grassy plain'. We will spend the night close to here at Pisonay. Our porters will have our tents up and have snacks ready when we arrive in camp. Time to rest up!
Accommodation: Camping
Meals: All meals

Hiking distances and elevations:
Maximum altitude: 2954m / 9694ft
Minimum Altitude: 2670m / 8761ft
Distance Travelled: 10.89km / 6.77ml
Approximate Walking Time: 5 hours

Inca Trail Day 2 - Wayllabamba to Pacamayo (7.5 miles)

Inca Trail TrekClimbing up from Wayllabamba following the left bank of the Llulluchayoc river for about 1 hour brings us to 'Tres Piedras' (three stones) and a small bridge over the Huayruro river. The stream is named after the Huayruro which is an ornamental tree. It's seeds are red and black. Many of the porters from the Ollantaytambo district are also known as Huayruros because of their traditional red and black ponchos! A little further on you'll enter a beautiful cloud forest passing a waterfall.

Hikers resting at the top of Dead Womens Pass, on Peru's Classic Inca Trail

Photo: Happy hikers resting at the top of Dead Women's Pass, on Peru's Classic Inca Trail

A further three hours trek through steepening woods and increasingly spectacular terrain brings you to the treeline and a meadow known as Llulluchapampa (11,800 feet). It is another 1½ hours climb to the first and highest pass of the trail (Abra de Huarmihuañusca or 'Dead Woman's Pass) at 13,800 feet. Once at the top we can celebrate having completed the most difficult section of the trail. The descent from the pass is steep although not difficult, following the trail on the left side of the valley to the valley floor and to the 2nd night's campsite at Pacamayo (11,900 feet). This will prove to be one of the most rewarding days hiking you're ever likely to have!
Accommodation: Camping
Meals: All meals

Hiking distances and elevations:
Maximum Altitude: 4226m / 13866ft
Minimum Altitude: 2954m / 9694ft
Distance Travelled: 7.10km / 4.40ml
Approximate Walking Time: 5.30 hours

Inca Trail Day 3 - Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna (9.5 miles)

Inca Trail TrekFrom Pacamayo it takes about an hour to climb up to the ruins of Runkuracay. These small circular ruins occupy a commanding position overlooking the Pacamayo valley below. Another 45 minute hike will bring us to the top of the second pass: Abra de Runkuracay (13,200 feet). The views are simply unforgettable. This section of the trail, up till the 3rd pass, is also particularly beautiful as the path crosses high stone embankments and skirts deep precipices. After about 1 hour from the 2nd pass we'll arrive at Sayacmarca by way of a superbly designed stone staircase. The name Sayacmarca means 'Inaccessible Town' and describes the position of the ruins perfectly, protected on three sides by sheer cliffs. No one knows the exact purpose of these ruins.

We have to backtrack a little to rejoin the trail as it passes Conchamarca, a small Inca dwelling situated in the shadows of Sayacmarca, which was probably a tambo for weary travelers on their way to hiking Machu Picchu. From then on the path descends into magnificent cloudforest full of orchids, hanging mosses, tree ferns and flowers, passing through an impressive Inca tunnel, carved into the rock, on the way.

The trail then climbs up to the 3rd pass (12,200 feet). The view from the pass is stunning with several snow-capped peaks towering above us. A few minutes after the pass is Phuyupatamarca, the most impressive Inca ruin so far. The name means 'Town in the Clouds'. Access to the ruins is down a steep flight of stairs passing six 'Inca Baths' probably used for the ritual worship of water. Leaving the site via an impressive Inca staircase leading from the west side of the ruins (the far end from the baths) we descend a thousand or so steps. After about an hour of walking through cloudforest you may just be able to see the tin roof of the Trekkers Hostal at Wiñay Wayna. This is the last campsite before Machu Picchu. There are hot showers here!

A short trail leaves from the southern end of the hostal to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna. The name in Quechua means 'forever young' and is named after a variety of pink orchid which grows here. The ruins comprise of magnificent agricultural terraces set in an impressive location. There are also many buildings of good quality stonework and a sequence of 10 baths, suggesting that the site was probably a religious center associated with the worship of water. Ritual cleansing may have taken place here for pilgrims on the final leg of the trail to Machu Picchu.
Accommodation: Camping
Meals: All meals

Hiking distances and elevations:
Start Height: 3627 masl / 11900 ft.
Max Height: 3974 masl / 13030 ft.
Approximate Walking time: 8 to 9 hrs
Day Distance: 11 km / 7 ml

View from the campsite on Day 3 Classic Inca Trail with Active Adventures South America

Photo: The view of the valley below, taken from the campsite at the end of day 3 of the Classic Inca Trail

Inca Trail Day 4 - Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu (3 miles), Return to Cuzco

The trail from the hostal to Machu Picchu takes about 1½ hours. We'll wake early at 4.30am, have breakfast and set off on the trail again by 5.30am to get to Machu Picchu before sunrise. The sky starts getting light by 5:30am and the first rays of the sun reach Machu Picchu at about 7am. The trail contours a mountainside and drops into cloudforest before coming to an almost vertical flight of 50 steps leading up to the final pass at Intipunku (Sun Gate). Suddenly the whole of Machu Picchu is spread out before you in all its glory - a fantastic sight for all.

Perus Machu Picchu with Active Adventures South America

Photo: Machu Picchu at sunrise, on day 4 of Peru's Classic Inca Trail hike

When you arrive at the ruins you'll have plenty of time to take photos of Machu Picchu from the classic view point. From the sungate we make our way down the cobbled stairs to Machu Picchu where our guide will take us through the city for a complete tour of the major sectors. The tour takes about 2 hours so by about 10:30 you'll have free time for hiking Machu Picchu and exploring the ruins on your own. From Machu Picchu we'll make our way down to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch.
Accommodations: Local Hotel, Cuzco 
All meals

Hiking distances and elevations:
Start Height: 3688 masl / 12100 ft.
Max Height: 3688 masl / 12100 ft.
Approximate Walking time: 4:30 hrs
Day Distance: 7.29km / 4.53 ml

How fit do I need to be to hike the Classic Inca Trail?

As long as you enjoy hiking, you'll love the Classic Inca Trail - but there's no rush to get from A to B, and you can take it at your own pace along the way. In fact, the slower the better we say, as that way you get plenty of time to enjoy your surroundings, while letting your body acclimatise to the altitude.

We recommend doing plenty of practice before you arrive, as the fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy your experience. That said our trips are designed for regular active people, so you don’t need to be a triathlete or anything - though if you are you won’t be bored!

What’s included in the Classic Inca Trail guided tour?

  • All transport, food and accommodations from the moment you arrive in Peru’s city of Cuzco
  • Bilingual guides
  • Briefing about the hike the night before departing to Kilometer 82
  • Chef (and assistant chef for larger groups)
  • Quadruple tents to be used by 2 people, allowing more comfort and more space to store backpacks.
  • Mules (for equipment and personal items) and muleteers
  • Inflatable mattresses
  • Sleeping liner and pillow
  • Saddled horse in case of emergencies or if you’re making very little progress (this horse is with the group at all times)
  • First aid kit and oxygen bottle
  • Kitchen tent and dining tent with camp tables and chairs
  • Toilet tent
  • Duffle bags (up to 7kg / 15lbs per person. These are provided by the guides at the briefing
  • Entrance to Machu Picchu (if you want to visit the mountain of Huayna Picchu, let us know when you’re booking)
  • Bus ticket from Machu Picchu back down to Aguas Calientes
  • Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and transfer to Cuzco (where the 7 day trip finishes – or the second half of the 14 day ‘Jaguar’ trip begins).

What should I bring on the Classic Inca Trail trek?

  • Sleeping bag (you can hire this from us if you like)
  • Small, light-weight backpack with a change of clothes for when you are hiking during the day, remember to bring a variety of suitable clothing to account for vast changes in temperature
  • Warm clothes; remember the temperature can reach below zero during the nights of the winter months. Feather jackets, fleeces, scarf, beanie and woollen gloves
  • Rain gear (trousers and jackets if possible)
  • Thermal clothing, especially for the night
  • Trekking boots, preferable waterproof
  • Sandals to let your feet breathe at the camp. It’s an amazing feeling
  • Swimsuit for the hot springs
  • Travel towel
    Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Walking poles (if desired). You can also hire these from us. Note: all hiking poles must be rubber tipped if you’d like to use them at Machu Picchu
  • Camera (NB: batteries are consumed faster in cold climates)
  • Binoculars (if you have them)
  • High-level sunscreen and a hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Non-disposable canteen
  • Cash for souvenirs, gifts and tips
  • Original passport

This list doesn’t include anything that’s provided by the guides on a Classic Inca Trail guided tour… so you can see the benefit of taking mules and porters. Stay safe on the Inca Trail – choose your guided tour wisely. Look for a tour operator that takes the most interest in your ability and travel plans, takes care of the environment, and has the most experience.

How to book the Classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu

The ‘Jaguar’ trip is our all-inclusive guided tour of Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and the Classic (or Lares) Inca Trail hike to Machu. The full ‘Jaguar’ trip is 10 days, so after our Inca Trail hikes, we'll also explore the Amazon Rainforest. But if you’re only interested in hiking the Classic (or Lares) Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you can simply request to join us for the first 7 days.

Remember – the ‘Jaguar’ tour from Cuzco to Machu Picchu is 7 days (opposed to only 4 days like the hike to Machu Picchu) because we’ve perfected the art of getting you prepared for the hike, and connecting you to the Peruvian culture and cuisine before setting off on the trail. We’ll spend the first two days exploring the city of Cuzco, cycling the Sacred Valley and taking a hike to the Pisac Ruins.

Check our ‘Jaguar’ trip availability today, and secure your hike to Machu Picchu on the Classic Inca Trail!

Choose Your 'Jaguar' Departure Date

Learn more about the 'Jaguar' trip

Hike the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on the following Peru adventure tour:

Hike a shortened version of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on the following Peru adventure tour:

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