The Classic Inca Trail: A Royal Trek to the Peruvian Wonder


There is no travel or trekking wish-list today that excludes the ancient treks of Peru. The South American nation emerged on the tourism map in the latter half of the last century when the footprints of the ancient Incan trails network were traced and hundreds of years old mysterious ruins were opened to explorers and tourists. Decades later, Peru is the home to South America’s most popular trek which offers one of the most thrilling hiking experiences of the world – The Classic Inca Trail. A four-day trek in the heart of Andes is every Bag-packer’s dream today, and it is a dream to live and dare for! Here’s your introduction to the Classic Inca Trail and an account of everything you need to know to plan your trek.

Inca Trail

The Royal Trek

The Classic Inca Trail is a remnant of the centuries-old network of roads built by the then mighty Inca Empire. The trek was a pathway paved for the royalties of the Empire who undertook a holy pilgrimage across the Sacred Valley to honor the mountain deity watching over them. Unlike the other trails where were surfaced to integrate the empire and support communication and logistics, the Classic Inca Trail served the ceremonial purposes for the regal rulers. Holy shrines and temples dot this trail across the Sacred Valley giving the travelers an understanding of its profound history.

Peru - Way to Machu Picchu - Inca Trail (Camino Inca) - Day 1

The Classic Inca Trail stretches from a start point at a forty-minute drive from the town of Ollantaytambo in the Cusco region and leads to the mysterious lost city of the Incas. It is the four-day trail in the heart of the Andean region which is approximately 26 miles long and elevates to a high 3,962 meters above sea level before making a descent towards its final destination, the Peruvian wonder at 2,430 meters. If you wish to hike a trail that was carved out for the Incan royals themselves, head towards Machu Picchu along the Classic Trail!

A Truly Peruvian Experience

The Classic Inca Trail towards the Machu Picchu offers a truly Peruvian experience because of its diversity. It offers everything that Peru itself has to offer, scenic landscape, beautiful culture and magnificent heritage. This twenty-six-mile trek takes you through the Sacred Valley in the Cusco region, through the beguiling cloud forest, along the steep and narrow passes ascending through the snow-cloaked Andean offering enchanting views of pristine glaciers, green sub-alpine tundra, and numerous ancient ruins. The Andean wildlife with its indigenous flora and fauna adds a touch of uniqueness to this landscape.

Peru - Inca Mountain View

The archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Winaywayna and others stand tall as manifestations of the architectural distinction and versatility, while the trail itself which largely retains its Incan construction is a marvel of the civilization’s engineering brilliance. The Classic Inca Trail offers a fulfilling experience for an explorer craving for a thrill.

The Winay Wayna ruins on the one-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

An Adventure Towards Glory

The Classic Inca Trail is a true adventure by every definition of the word and it is an adventure towards glory. What sets this trail apart and makes it so popular is the fact that it leads the trekkers to the main entrance of the city of Machu Picchu, the Puerta del Sol or the infamous Sun Gate. The Sun Gate has been recognized as one of the seven new wonders of the world. It offers one of the most majestic sunrises in the world, a spectacle that only those take up the four-day trek along the Classic Inca Trail can witness. The view of this daybreak at the stupendous Sun Gate brings with itself a reflection of the glory of the once formidable Inca Empire. Ahead of this gate, lie the ruins of the lost city of Machu Picchu, ruins of an impenetrable fortress built atop a mountain to symbolize the greatness of a proud nation.

Inca Trial fort

The ruins of Machu Picchu are the most stunning pieces of Incan architecture found across the Andean region. The city of Machu Picchu was lost when the natives fled during the Spanish conquest. It was rediscovered between 1913 and 1915 by a Yale scholar. These ruins which are remnants of the Incan glory are visited by a million tourists every year, making Machu Picchu one of the most desired and visited tourist destinations in the world.

Peru Ruins Breath taking view

How to Trek the Classic Inca Trail & Why You Need A Tour Operator?

The Classic Inca Trail is a difficult expedition for it includes some very steep, narrow and high-altitude passes. It is also the most iconic and consequently busiest trail in South America as well. Hikers and explorers visit Peru in great numbers every year to experience one of the most magnificent treks in the world. Given the growing numbers, the Peruvian authorities have put a limit on daily travelers on the trail and capped the number at five hundred which includes everyone, tourists, guides and porters. A special permit is also required for this trek which is not the case with the less crowded Salkantay and Ausangate treks which do not require any prior bookings. A permit can only be availed through a certified tour operator and travelers should make sure that they make arrangements for it three to six months before their planned trip.

Trail to Inca Ruins

The hike doesn’t require trekkers to be super fit but it is important to ensure one is fit enough to bear the toil. Guides and tour operators will prove helpful besides arranging for permits as well. Most of the indigenous population is Quechua speaking, therefore, local guides prove helpful in the time of need. Carrying supplies and logistics on one’s own may not be a good idea given the length and difficulty of the trek. Tour operators take care of all these things on their own. They have porters who can provide the much-needed logistical support very easily. It is advisable to carry some extra layers of clothing because glaciers up in the Andean mountains can lower the temperatures quite much. Don’t go about trekking the Classic Inca Trail without adequate hiking gear, it is very steep, narrow and rugged. You should be prepared for everything.

Peru Mountains

When to Trek the Classic Inca Trail?

The Classic Inca Trail is overly crowded during the dry season which lasts between May and October. The dry season is actually the peak tourism season in the Andes as well because the rains can be torrential and make trekking a treacherous affair. It is not advisable to go hiking along the Inca trek to Machu Picchu in the wet season. July is the driest month in this region. If you believe that you are not experienced enough, you should reach Cusco two or three days ahead of your scheduled trek and acclimatize yourself to the Peruvian winters. The Classic Inca Trail takes you 3,900 meters above sea level; therefore, it is important to get used to the generic weather at least. To trek the Classic Inca Trail in the dry season, you should apply for the permit as early as January.

Stone Trail Inca

The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a true Peruvian experience which takes you on an adventure to glory. It is an expedition that no traveler or trekker would ever like to miss out on!