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Inca Trail picture in Cusco
R. Tyler Gross / Getty Images

Key Info

Details

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

  • Value
    3.0
  • Facilities
    2.5
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

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.

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. 

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Machu Picchu picture in Cusco
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Qoricancha picture in Cusco
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Inca Trail picture in Cusco
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#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 ... Read more » mckaysavage / Flickr

#2 Machu Picchu It's hard to believe this iconic "lost city of the Incas" was untouched during the Spanish conquest. The Incas cleverly obscured these 12 acres of temples, aqueducts and gardens ... Read more » Michael Lawenko Dela Paz / Getty Images

#3 La Catedral Amid the many splendors found in the Plaza de Armas, the sky-high La Catedral is one of Cusco's finest architectural displays. Constructed in the 1550s with stones stolen ... Read more » Claude LeTein / Getty Images

#4 Sacsayhuaman Sacsayhuamán is often overshadowed by Machu Picchu, but this towering ancient Incan fortress – filled with exquisite stone masonry and dramatic vistas – is worth a visit. Much of the massive ... Read more » Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

#5 Qorikancha For a glimpse of the Inca's former grandeur, look no further than Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), also known as "Court of Gold." In its heyday, Inca's ... Read more » DC_Colombia / Getty Images

#6 Planetarium Cusco Located next to Sacsayhuamán, the Cusco Planetarium offers travelers a unique experience in the hills surrounding the city. While it may not be much to look at (the small ... Read more » roman makhmutov / Getty Images

#7 Museo de Arte Precolombino While Qorikancha and Machu Picchu draw more visitors, the Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Art Museum) possesses a world-class Peruvian collection that cannot be matched. This 12-room exhibition ... Read more » Museo Larco Lima – Perú

#8 Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 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 ... Read more » R. Tyler Gross / Getty Images

#9 Museo Inka Located in a beautiful 16th-century colonial mansion that was once home to Spanish Admiral Francisco Alderete Maldonado, the Museo Inka (Inca Museum) boasts an eclectic assortment of Incan artifacts. Read more » Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

Plaza de Armas picture in Cusco
Machu Picchu picture in Cusco
La Catedral picture in Cusco
Sacsayhuamán picture in Cusco
Qoricancha picture in Cusco
Planetarium picture in Cusco
Museo de Arte Precolombino picture in Cusco
Inca Trail picture in Cusco
Inca Museum picture in Cusco
Plaza de Armas picture in Cusco
Machu Picchu picture in Cusco
La Catedral picture in Cusco
Sacsayhuamán picture in Cusco
Qoricancha picture in Cusco
Planetarium picture in Cusco
Museo de Arte Precolombino picture in Cusco
Inca Trail picture in Cusco
Inca Museum picture in Cusco

Eye-catching dancers in traditional Peruvian costumes fill the Plaza de Armas during colorful annual Andean fiestas. mckaysavage / Flickr

Michael Lawenko Dela Paz / Getty Images

This opulent cathedral showcases the clash of Andean and Spanish architecture. Claude LeTein / Getty Images

Sacsayhuamán was once a massive Incan fortress, before much of the structure was used as building materials for the Spanish conquistadors.  Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

Translated as Temple of the Sun, the walls of Qoricancha were once plated with gold.  DC_Colombia / Getty Images

roman makhmutov / Getty Images

The Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Art Museum) features artifacts that date between 1250 B.C. and 1532 A.D.  Museo Larco Lima – Perú

The three-night, four-day hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is moderately difficult, but well worth it to many travelers.  R. Tyler Gross / Getty Images

Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

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