Inca Trail to Machu Picchu picture
R. Tyler Gross/Getty Images

Key Info

Cusco-Aguas Calientes Railway

Details

Hiking, Sightseeing Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
3.9

scorecard

  • 3.0Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Winding through Peru's verdant landscape toward Machu Picchu, this famous four-day hike is not for the faint of heart. That said, recent travelers say the laborious trek pays off with gorgeous scenery, interesting wildlife and for many, a life-changing experience.

You'll likely start your journey near KM 82 along the Cusco-Aguas Calientes railway and then follow the trail's zigzagging path toward the "lost city." The three-night journey pays off with the views from the Sun Gate at dawn.

Since interest in the trail and the ruins has skyrocketed in recent decades, trekkers are only allowed to visit with licensed tour operators. The best time to visit is during the dry season (from May to September, with peak season in June, July and August). Since spots fill up quickly, plan to book well in advance with a reputable company that includes camping gear, meals and the Machu Picchu entrance fee. You'll also want to select a company that treats its porters fairly. A few reputable companies include Aventours, PeruTreks, Llama Path and SAS Travel, but there are dozens more. You can find a list here, along with tips for visiting Machu Picchu.

No matter which operator you choose, you'll still be roughing it along the trail. Make sure to pack sturdy hiking shoes, a warm sleeping bag and plenty of layers, as temperatures drop at night throughout the year. You’ll also want to arrive a few days early and check out the other attractions in Cusco, if only because you'll need to acclimate to the altitude before starting your journey. 

See all Hotels in Cusco »

More Best Things To Do in Cusco

Plaza de Armas1 of 8
Machu Picchu2 of 8
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Plaza de Armas

The history of the Plaza de Armas stretches back all the way to the Inca Empire when it was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata. The massive square (originally twice its current size) was built as a venue for festivals and ceremonies in ancient times.

According to legend, this plaza once marked the exact center of the Inca Empire, earning Cusco the nickname "the navel of the world." After Spanish conquistadors conquered the city in the early 1500s, they erected two churches on the either sides of the square – Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús and La Catedral – where the former Incan palace once stood.

Read more
mckaysavage/Flickr
See full list of Best Things To Do in Cusco »

Explore More of Cusco

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Let these gorgeous destinations inspire you to travel more.

Holly JohnsonJanuary 16, 2020

50 Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

From relaxing weekend getaways to epic adventures, these honeymoon trips will help couples create memories to last a lifetime.

Kyle McCarthyJanuary 8, 2020

The Cheapest Days to Fly: A Guide to the Best (and Worst) Times to Travel

Use these tips and tricks to get the best deal on your next flight.

Lyn MettlerDecember 23, 2019

30 Top Florida Weekend Getaways

Spend sun-filled days exploring Florida's beautiful beaches, cities, parks and small towns.

Gwen PratesiDecember 9, 2019

The Best Travel Backpacks for 2020

U.S. News rated the best travel backpacks using recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019

30 Top Wellness Retreats

Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit at one of these relaxation-focused properties.

Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019

30 Fun All-Inclusive Family Vacations

Book one of these all-inclusive trips that cover food, accommodations and activities galore.

Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019

5 Ways Cruise Lines Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Industry considers impact as it looks to the future.

Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019

11 Unique and Quirky Cruise Destinations

Venture off the beaten path for an authentic cruising experience.

Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019

The 2020 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Gather up the gang and head out to sea with one of these six kid-friendly cruise lines.

Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019