Where does the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begin?

Inca Trail

The empire formed by the Incas covered a large part of the South American continent, so it was necessary to maintain communication in such a vast territory, it was necessary to build a network of Inca Trail. Thus, the Incas ordered the construction of a network of roads called Qhapaq Ñan (Great Road).

Route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Qhapac Ñan covered up to 30,000 kilometers, which nowadays covers the countries of Peru, Ecuador and part of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. The trekking route of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is only a small portion of the extensive network of roads of the Qhapaq Ñan.

The Inca Trail was revealed to the world in 1915, when excavations were taking place in the Inca City. Three decades later, the route was traced by a Viking expedition in 1942. Today, thousands of visitors choose to walk the 43 kilometers to Machu Picchu’s “Sun Gate”, which is the classic entrance to this historic citadel.

However, Machu Picchu Peru is not the only archaeological site you will see on the Inca Trail. On the trail you will also have the opportunity to visit and learn about the ruins of Llactapata, the archaeological site of Runkurakay, Saycamarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñaywayna, all of them very interesting tourist destinations for visitors.

The 4-day Inca Trail is one of the most popular treks in Peru and even the world, rated as such by a wide variety of expert hikers around the globe, this iconic trail links Cusco with the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. If you plan to stay in Cusco Peru for several days, don’t miss the opportunity to hike this 43-kilometer trail. The trip lasts four days and you will discover incredible forests, ancient villages and stone staircases that seem to climb up to the sky, a unique experience that you must live. At the end of this journey, the Sun Gate and the sacred city of the Incas await you.

To do this route it is necessary to hire an excursion from a tour company that offers this tour, since special permits are required and it cannot be done on your own. It is highly recommended to hire the excursion several months in advance (no less than 5 months), since the Peruvian government limits the number of people per day to 500, and only 200 of these places are for tourists.

Permits for the Inca Trail can only be obtained through a tour operator. There are 255 authorized tour operators in Peru. Before you book with one of these operators, find out if they have the necessary permits for this trek.

During the months of April and October is when most tourists travel to Cusco and especially to Machu Picchu. Keep this in mind when planning your trip and excursion to the Inca Trail, because due to the large influx of tourists may run out of permits available for these visits.

Versions of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu


Not everyone has the necessary days or the right physical condition to walk the Inca Trail (4 days and 3 nights). That is why there are 2 versions depending on the time available:

Classic Inca Trail

  • Duration: 4 days and 3 nights
  • Distance: (43 kilometers of trekking).

Short Inca Trail 2 days of trekking

  • Duration: 2 days and 1 night
  • Distance: 16 kilometers of trekking.

In the Classic Inca Trail it is possible to walk at a faster pace and finish it in less time or you can also add an extra day to take it easy and enjoy your trek without rushing. It is also possible to add the sacred mountain of Salkantay, 3 days more.

Where does the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begin?

Classic Route

In this route, the Inca Trail begins at Km. 82, in the town of Patallaqta, at an altitude of 2,800 meters, from this place you walk about 8 hours, through ancient stone stairs built by the Incas, and in permanent contact with nature, until you reach the area of the first camp, this is located in the Andean village of Hauyllabamba, This point is 3000 meters above sea level. The experience of this first night is unique, after having had the first contact with the magic of the nature of the Peruvian Andes you will want nothing more than to start the next day to continue with this wonderful journey.

The second day’s itinerary is the most demanding and complicated of the entire route. You will start with a 7 to 8 hour hike, and then ascend to 4215 meters to the highest point on the entire Inca Trail called Warmihuañusca (in Spanish Paso de la Mujer Muerta because of the shape of the mountains below as seen from this point). In the open sky, we observe a prodigious high Andean landscape accompanied by snow-capped mountains and surrounded by typical puna vegetation.

On the third day, the landscape changes noticeably. Gradually you will appreciate the welcome to the jungle zone as you will gradually enter the Andean rainforest, the area that houses the citadel of Machu Picchu. The climate is very different from the previous days and, of course, so is the flora and fauna. In this 8-hour stretch, we continue traveling to Wiñayhuayna, where you can visit several Inca archaeological sites, such as Runkuracay, or Phuyupatamarca (known as the city in the clouds because it is an area with a lot of fog). Finally, you will spend the night at the last camp.

As the final stretch of this journey, all the physical effort used during these days will be rewarded when you reach the Intipunku (sun gate). This Inca construction allows you to see the impressive sunrise, and appreciate the way it bathes and illuminates little by little, the magical city of Machu Picchu, this structure was formerly the gateway to the citadel from where visitors were allowed or denied access.

Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

We start at km. 104 and walk to the Wiñahuayna complex, then we continue to Intipunku (Sun Gate) at 2650 masl, from where we will see an impressive sunset of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, and then continue to the town of Aguas Calientes where we will spend the night. Early the next day we start the visit and guided tour to Machu Picchu “The Lost City of the Incas”, as an additional activity inside the citadel we can do the Huaynapicchu Trek or the MAchu Picchu mountain.

About the tickets to enter the Inca Trail

Due to the great demand for tickets, it is necessary to purchase the entrance tickets to the Inca Trail well in advance (minimum 6 months). The purchase can only be made online through the website of an authorized tourism agency. In total, 500 people enter the Inca Trail every day. Of these, only 200 are visitors and the rest are the people in charge of organizing your trip and supporting you during your journey, porters, guides and cooks.

Have you not found availability to do the Inca Trail?

Another alternative to enter the Wonder of the World is by train through the Sacred Valley of the Incas or by alternative routes such as the Inca Jungle Trek that reaches the iconic citadel of Machu Picchu through the Santa Maria rainforest.

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