Free Information Inka Jungle Trail to Machupicchu

Inca history – Inka Jungle Trail

The Incas are arguably the best known of all the pre-Colombian civilisations, and at their peak their vast empire stretched all the way down the Andes from present day Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. Although the Incas originated from humble beginnings as a small tribe in the Cuzco region of Peru in the 12th century, it was only under their warlike leader Pachakuti that their territory rapidly expanded in the early 15th century. A series of conflicts and accords with neighbouring tribes eventually led to the formation of the empire, which was centred on Cuzco and existed for a period of just 100 years until the Spanish arrived in 1528 A.D. (bike inka jungle trail – inca trail to machupicchu).

The Spanish quickly came into conflict with the Incas, exploiting divisions between the ruling elite and executing the emperor Atahualpa in 1532. Cuzco, the Inca capital, was captured in 1533, and as the Incas’ waning power became apparent many parts of the empire revolted and it had effectively collapsed by the early 1540s, despite attempts to recapture Cuzco from the Spanish. (biking to inka jungle trail; classic inca trail to machupicchu)

The Incas were gradually pushed further and further away from their traditional centre of power, retreating first to the fortress at Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley before heading deep into the mountains, where their last stronghold, Vilcabamba, fell to the Spanish in 1572. Vilcabamba was burned to the ground, and over the next few centuries was reclaimed by the forest. (hike to inka jungle trail; salkantay trek to machupicchu).

Inca city of Machupicchu

The legend of Vilcabamba attracted many explorers to Peru, including the American archaeologist and historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. While staying with local families in the Urubamba Valley he was told about an old settlement high on a mountain spur above the river, and he was led to the site by a local boy. The site was largely overgrown, and Bingham didn’t believe it to be of much significance, so he left a team to excavate it while he continued his search for Vilcabamba. Over the next few weeks he found a couple of other sites – Vitcos and Espiritu Pampa. It is now generally accepted that Espiritu Pampa was the site of Vilcabamba, but Bingham only saw a few meagre ruined buildings and again discounted its importance (inka jungle treks).

Returning to the excavations at Machupicchu, he was greeted by a cleared site covering a much larger area than he had previously imagined and he declared that the ruins were so skillfully constructed and on such a scale that they could only be the lost city of Vilcabamba (hike to inka jungle trail; salkantay trek to machupicchu).

Bingham’s team also uncovered the Inca Trail and the many ruins found along its length. The excavation was covered extensively by National Geographic, as well as in Bingham’s book “The Lost City of the Incas”. The story of an intrepid adventurer finding a lost city in the jungles of South America immediately captured the public
imagination. (biking to inka jungle trail; classic inca trail to machupicchu)

Although Bingham always stuck to his belief that Machupicchu was in fact Vilcabamba, later 4 Machupicchu research has proved that it dates back to before the arrival of the Spanish, and was deserted before they reached Cuzco. It was never mentioned in any contemporary accounts, and its exceptional state of preservation suggests the conquistadors never set eyes on it otherwise they would probably have destroyed it. Theories abound as to its purpose, with some suggesting it was a royal retreat, and others suggesting it had astronomical, religious or commercial significance. Its secrets may never be unlocked, but as you walk the Inca Trail and visit the site itself you may come to your own conclusions.(bike inka jungle trail – inca trail to machupicchu).

The Inca Trail – an Introduction with inka jungle treks:

The Inca Trail is a 35km path which runs from the Urubamba River to Machupicchu, crossing three mountain passes and taking in several Inca ruins along the way. The scenery on the trail is incredibly varied, taking in many types of Andean environments including cloud forest and puna (high altitude grassland), and there are often views of snow-capped peaks. The trail is believed to have been an important trading route linking Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas with Machupicchu, and the ruins along the way appear to back this up, as they often combine religious and defence functions. (bike inka jungle trail – inca trail to machupicchu).

Due to these restrictions, we strongly recommend making your booking on the Inca Trail as early as possible so that we can secure your permit – they go on sale in January, and quickly sell out for peak season departures (June to August). (biking to inka jungle trek; classic inca trail to machupicchu)

We do run an alternative trek – the Moonstone Trek – which requires no permits and which can be substituted for the Inca Trail on the vast majority of our trips. For more information about this beautiful, remote and high altitude see page 8.(biking to inka jungle trek; classic inca trail to machupicchu)

Permits Required inka trail to machupicchu:

The Inca Trail is one of the most popular treks in the Americas, and entry onto the trail is strictly regulated through a permit system – only 500 permits are issued every day, which includes the trekking guides, porters and camp staff, so in theory only around 200 trekkers a day can start the walk. (biking to inka jungle trek; classic inca trail to machupicchu).

Overview of Inca Trail Trips – inka jungle treks:

We have several trips which include the Inca Trail treks, many of which combine the trek with an exploration of other regions of Peru. Below is a brief summary of these trips – full details of the itineraries can be found on our website

The Inca Trail (TPT) – inka jungle treks:

Our shortest and most popular trip, with a few days of acclimatisation in Cuzco before the trek itself. This is the classic Inca Trail complete with dawn tour of Machupicchu. (biking to inka jungle trek; classic inca trail to machupicchu)

The Inca Trail in Comfort (TPQ):

This premium itinerary follows the same route as our classic Inca Trail above (TPT) but offers higher standard hotels and more inclusions throughout. A higher personal weight limit on trek (10kg rather than 7kg), a hotel night in Aguas Calientes rather than camping, and an overnight stay in the Sacred Valley constitute just some of the added value. (biking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Inca Trail & the Amazon Rainforest (TPJ):

A two-week trip which starts in the Tambopata Reserve, deep in the Amazon Basin before heading up to Cuzco for the trek and then continuing to the high altitude Lake Titicaca, where a night is spent in an island homestay.(biking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Inca Trail, Titicaca & Nazca (TPD):

Our best value two week trek, which visits the wildlife-rich Ballestas Islands and mysterious Nazca Lines of the coastal desert before crossing the Andes to Cuzco. After trekking the Inca Trail, we then cross over the altiplano to where the floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca await .(biking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

The High Inca Trail (TPS):

Combining the Inca Trail with three days trekking in the remote and beautiful Cordillera Vilcabamba, including a spectacular night camping beneath the glaciers of Mt Salcantay .(biking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Peru Explorer (APX):

Our only three-week trip to Peru, which covers all the highlights of the southern part of the country: Nazca, the Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, the Amazon Rainforest, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. The trip includes the option to walk the Inca Trail for no extra cost, whilst non-trekkers remain in Cuzco to discover the fascinating Inca capital.(biking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Why Trek with Inka Jungle Treks?

There are lots of companies offering the Inca Trail to machupicchu, and it can be hard deciding who to trek with. There are lots of reasons why you should choose INKA JUNGLE TREKS for your Inca Trail adventure. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Great customer feedback – we have over 554 online reviews for our Inca Trail trips, with an average satisfaction rating of 5.4 out of 5 stars (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Excellent trekking guides – we use only experienced local tour leaders who have years of experience with INKA JUNGLE TREKS groups on the Inca Trail. Their knowledge of Inca history and the often changeable mountain conditions is second to none. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Local knowledge – although the trail can feel busy in high season, we carefully select our campsites and walking schedules to minimise our contact with the majority of other trekkers. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Incredible support team – every departure on the Inca Trail is fully supported with a great team of porters and cooks who will look after everything from preparing your meals to erecting your tent, leaving you free to simply enjoy the scenery and the amazing Inca ruins along the way. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Quality equipment – as you can imagine, tents on the Inca Trail can take a lot of abuse over the course of year, but the skilled workmen in our Cuzco warehouse ensure all camping equipment is well maintained, and we regularly invest in new tents to provide optimum levels of comfort. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu) 

No hidden extras – all our Inca Trail trips include the cost of your trekking permit, all meals whilst trekking, sleeping mats, guides and porterage. For most trips, you only need to bring a sleeping bag, although this is included on our Premium Inca Trail in Comfort (TPQ). (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Responsible trekking – we take all our waste with us, leaving nothing behind which could damage the fragile environment along the trail. We also employ only local staff, which provides direct benefits to rural communities. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Our treks: the Inca Trail vs the Moonstone vs Ancascocha Trek:

INKA JUNGLE TREKS offers both the classic Inca Trail and our own version, the Moonstone Trek, Ancascocha Trek, which is a truly remote route at slightly higher altitude. It is not is not subject to any permit restrictions, so it can be booked much closer to departure as a replacement for the Inca Trail if permits run out or if you simply fancy a more challenging and less crowded trek.  (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

To show you the differences between these three treks, we have laid them out side by side for easy reference:

A) The Classic Inca Trail – 4 days point-to-point trekking:

treks Day 1
We set off early and drive to the start of the Inca Trail at Piscacucho, commonly known as Km82. The trail runs alongside the Vilcanota River beneath the impressive snow-capped Nevado Veronica, passing through cactus gardens and fields of corn until we reach the enormous Inca ruins of Llactapata, where we continue up a side valley to camp near the hamlet of Huayllabamba.
Walking distance: 11.4km
Walking time: 6-7 hours

treks Day 2

This is the longest and most strenuous day of the trek. A long climb takes us steadily uphill through an area of cloud forest to the meadows of Llulluchapampa, where we stop for lunch and to admire the views back down the valley. The trail continues upwards until we reach the Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman’s) Pass, at 4,215m the highest point on the trek. After quite a long, steep descent on broad flagstones and steps we camp in the scenic valley of the Pacamayo River (3,600m).

Walking distance: 7.7km

Walking time: 6-7 hours

treks Day 3

We start the day with an easier climb which takes us past the ruins of Runquracay and over the Runquracay Pass (3,930m). From now on the Inca Trail becomes a clearly defined path made of flat boulders. We pass the ruins of Sayajmarca and drop into cloud forest. We are now on the eastern side of the Andes which are subject to clouds rising from the Amazon Basin, and the lush vegetation here reflects the more humid environment. At one point the Trail passes through an Inca tunnel and there are several impressive sections where the path hugs a steep cliff face. We camp on the ridge above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (3,680m) to benefit from sunset and sunrise views of some of the area’s highest peaks.

Walking distance: 6.8km

Walking time: 5-6 hours

treks Day 4

From the ridge we embark on the infamous Inca steps: a two kilometre stone staircase taking us rapidly downhill with the peaks of the Vilcabamba range above, and the river thousands of metres below. After visiting the fascinating ruins of Wiñay Wayna, we have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. From here we get our first full sight of Machu Picchu itself, with Huayna Picchu rising behind. Traditionally busy with groups of trekkers clamouring for dawn photos, we plan our arrival at Inti Punku later in the day so we can enjoy unobstructed views of the magnificent ruins. Passing around the edge of the ruins, we descend to the Urubamba River and the town of Aguas Calientes where we spend the night. Those who have followed the Moonstone Trek will join us this evening.

Walking distance: 8.9km

Walking time: 6-7 hours


B) The Moonstone Trek – 4 days point-to-point trekking:

treks Day 1
An early start as it’s a very busy first day! We take a private minibus to the trailhead, stopping first to explore the nearby ruins from which the trek takes its name. As with the rest of the trek, we are most likely to have the site completely to ourselves. The Moonstone itself is a large carving on an enormous boulder, and its significance is not yet understood.

The trailhead is in a quiet, dusty valley and we soon climb high enough from the floor to enjoy some great views, stopping to visit the pre-Inca fortress of Wata. The path then traverses along a green side valley as we make our way above a few tiny villages before entering the village of Chillipawa, where we camp.
Walking distance: 10.5km
Walking time: 6-7 hours

treks Day 2

A long, steady climb with plenty of rest stops to aid acclimatisation takes us above the villages and into the high pampas, – rugged meadows of long grass. We normally stop for lunch shortly before the crest of the Accoccosa Pass. The last leg of the pass is on loose red scree, but the view from the top makes it all worthwhile: a broad, hidden valley surrounded by snowy peaks – the Huayanay Range on the left, the Urubamba Range straight ahead and beautiful, triangular Mt Veronica (5,800m) to the right.

Walking distance: 8.8km

Walking time: 4-5 hours.

treks Day 3

We start after breakfast by following the stream down the valley into a narrow canyon where rare polylepis trees grow. Our path then turns north and traverses high above a deep and steep valley separating us from the Huayanay Mountains. This is probably the most spectacular section of the trek and our lunch spot is a flat, ridge-top meadow facing straight across the Sacred Valley to the snowy Urubamba Range. After lunch we walk down to Huayrapunku, a ridge-top Inca shrine oriented towards Mt Veronica with a simply incredible view. We camp amongst the rose-coloured granite stones of the Canchiqata Quarry, where the stones used to build the Sun Temple at Ollantaytambo were found.

Walking distance: 11.8km

Walking time: 5-6 hours

treks Day 4

Photographers are advised to wake up before dawn this morning, to watch the sun rise over the Sacred Valley from our campsite high above it. The sun’s first rays catching the glaciers of Mt Veronica make the effort more than worthwhile. This is our last day on trek, descending from the pampas into the lush valley floor along enormous stone ramps which the Incas used to drag immense stones. We cross the river and explore the huge Sun Temple complex to see where the stones ended up and what use they were put to. Our trek ends at around lunchtime, and in the afternoon we board the train to Aguas Calientes, where we join the Inca Trail trekkers.

Walking distance: 8km

Walking time: 2-3 hours

C) The Ancascocha Trek – 4 days point-to-point trekking:

treks Day 1:
We leave Cusco early in the morning and drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Soqma (3,205 m / 10,512 ft). This is the starting point of our Ancascocha Trek to Machupicchu and where we meet the horsemen that will join us during the hike. We begin the hike with a 1 ¾ hour walk to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. This is a perfect opportunity to stop for photos and a snack. The waterfall that you will see at this location is breathtaking! We will then hike a further 35 minutes until we visit the Inca site of the same name, where we will have a brief tour. We will then ascend 45 minutes until our lunch location, Rayan (3,700 meters/9,350 ft). After a refueling lunch, we begin a 4 hour uphill trek with incredible views of the “nevadas”/snow-capped peaks, llamas, valleys, and if we are lucky, a passing condor – the largest bird in the Andes with a wing-span of up to 10 feet across. Here we reach the Kuychicassa pass (4,450 m /14,596 ft) where we take a break and soak in the magnificent views of the Chancachuco Valley on one side of the pass and the Sacred Valley of the Incas on the other side. From here it is an easy 45 minute downhill hike to reach our camp for the evening.
Meals: Lunch/Dinner
Lowest Elevation: 3,205 m/ 10,512 ft
Highest Elevation: 4,450 m /14,596 ft
Distance to walk: 18 km/10 miles
Approximate walking time: 9 to 10 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Area: Dry Mountain

treks Day 2:
We begin the day with a 45 minute hike with up and down portions. This is followed by a 20 minute ascent by way of a narrow trail following a stream with beautiful views of Mt. Veronica (5,822 m/ 19,100 ft). This is followed by a 2 ½ hour walk downhill to reach the small community of Ancascocha (3,700 m/12,136 ft), in a small, gorgeous wooded valley with a stream running through it. We will continue hiking for 1 hour uphill, while enjoying views of a nearby glacier and well preserved Inca remains. At this point we will reach the Ancascocha Lake, our lunch site. After lunch we will continue our ascent towards the Huayanay Pass (4,650 m/ 15,298 ft) for 2 hours, the highest point of our trek, which is a steep zigzag trail uphill. Along this segment we find an original cobblestone paved Inca trail. After taking time to enjoy the incredible view, we will embark on a 3-½ hour descent into greener vegetation. During this stretch of the trek we will have views of the classic Inca trail to Machupicchu appear in the distance, and fascinating views of the communities of the Qésqua valley. We will also pass the small Inca site of Incarajay. Then we’ll reach our campsite in the Muyu Muyu community (3,850 m/12,628 ft).

 Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Highest Elevation: 4,650 m/ 15,298 ft
Campsite elevation: 3,850 m/12,628 ft
Distance to walk: 18 km/ 10 miles
Approximate walking time: 10 hours
Level of Difficulty: Challenging
Area: Dry Mountain

treks Day 3:
From Muyu Muyu we will descend for 2 hours until the Inca site of Paucarcancha. We will have a comprehensive tour of the site. After the tour we will hike downhill for 5 hours until we reach Km 82, which is the start of the classic Inca trail. Along the way we will be able to see the Inca site of Llactapata. This is the first site on the Classic Inca Trail. Our chef will make us a delicious lunch at Kilometer 82. After lunch we will be picked up by our private van at Km 82 and transported to Ollantaytambo (2,792 m/9,158 ft) where we will catch the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes. When you reach Aguas Calientes you will check in to your hotel room. The natural hot springs in town are a great place to relax if there is time before dinner. Dinner will be at Indio Feliz.

Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Lodging: Hotel
Highest Elevation: 3,850 m/12,628 ft
Lowest Elevation: 2,792 m/9,158 ft
Distance to walk: 13 km/ 7 ½ miles
Approximate walking time: 7 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy

treks Day 4: 

You will have breakfast at your hotel before we take a very early bus (5:30am) along the winding road to Machu Picchu to see the magnificent sunrise. Once there you will be given a 2 hour walking tour of the site. If you have elected to climb Huayna Picchu Mountain you will begin the hike at 10 AM. The ticket price for Huayna Picchu is included in the price of your trek. If you are not climbing the mountain you will have free time to explore Machu Picchu before you return to Aguas Calientes by bus. When you arrive in Aguas Calientes you will board the expedition train to Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo you will travel by private van to Cusco and we will drop you off at your hotel. Arrival time in Cusco depends on the time of your train ticket.

Meals: Breakfast
Highest Elevation: 2,440 m/ 8,052 ft
Lowest Elevation: 2,040 m/ 6,691 ft

What can you expect on trek – inka jungle trail?

On average, you will spend between 6 and 8 hours walking each day, with plenty of rest breaks and time to explore the fascinating Inca sites and appreciate the staggering views along the way. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Meals are served either in a communal dining tent or outside if the weather is good, and always include a hot dish as well as a good supply of drinks (both hot and cold) to keep your hydration levels up. The meals are extremely varied and provide lots of protein and carbohydrates to ensure you have enough energy. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Drinking water is provided every morning and at lunchtime – this is boiled then filtered, so there is no need to take your own purification tablets. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

At each campsite we erect a toilet tent, which eliminates the need for a long walk in the dark to use the often unhygienic communal toilet blocks. Every morning and evening you will be given a bowl of warm water and soap for washing. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Accommodation – inka jungle trail:

We use two-person dome tents which have ample space for your kit bags, while those who have paid a single supplement will get a spacious single tent. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

When is the best time to go – inka jungle trail?

The peak season for walking the Inca Trail is June to August – daytime temperatures at this time of year are warm and the skies are generally clear, providing great visibility. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

However, due to the altitude, night-time temperatures are at their coldest during these months, with the mercury often dipping below zero soon after the sun goes down. The trail is at its busiest at this time of year, and permits will sell out months in advance. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

April, May, September and October are becoming increasingly popular – evenings tend to be warmer (but it can still drop below freezing!) and permits tend to be available for longer, meaning that the trail is slightly quieter and you will have more time and space to enjoy the walk. These are also the best months to trek if you want to see the wild orchids which bloom in the cloud forests as you approach Machupicchu. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu).

We also run departures of our most popular itineraries in March, November and December – although these are on the fringes of the rainy season, days are still generally dry and rains are usually limited to short, sharp downpours. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

Although the weather is more uncertain at these times of year, the trade-off is the fact that less people decide to trek in these months. (bike to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

How fit do I need to be – inka jungle trail?

Although at 35km the Inca Trail is relatively short, there are three high passes along the way, and you will reach altitudes exceeding 4000m, so fitness is imperative. There are steep ascents and descents, as well as lots of uneven steps, but the paths are well-maintained and the trek shouldn’t be beyond the abilities of most people who are fairly active and do regular exercise. (walking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu)

What to Expect at Altitude:

Altitude sickness can be experienced by anyone travelling to altitudes over 2500m, and the higher you travel the more severe the effects can be. It is impossible to tell if someone will suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS) before they travel to high altitudes, but we plan our itineraries to minimise the chances of this happening to you. We walk at a slow and steady pace, and we take plenty of breaks for food and drink (walking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu).

Many people experience minor symptoms, including headaches, nausea and shortness of breath, but most are able to complete the trek without feeling any of the more serious side-effects. To limit the effects, you should drink plenty of fluids (3 to 4 litres per day) and rest if you are feeling out of breath rather than pushing your body too much (walking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu).

Our tour leaders are trained to recognise the symptoms of AMS, and in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley there are clinics which specialise in treating those suffering adverse effects from travelling to altitude. It’s important to let your leader know if you are feeling unwell, and you should avoid taking aspirin or other drugs to fight off headaches, as more serious symptoms could also be masked (walking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu).

If you want to train before setting off on the trek (something we really recommend), then you should focus on aerobic exercises such as walking, running and rowing. If you work in an office, try taking the stairs rather than the lift, or, if you’re taking the Underground, try running up the escalators. To simulate the effects of altitude and lower oxygen levels, try walking or running with a heavy backpack (walking to inka jungle trek; ancascocha trek to machupicchu).

For more tips on getting fit for a trek, see our Walking & Trekking Fitness Plan: INKA JUNGLE TREKS – TOUR OPERATOR.