inca trail 3 days

4 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The famous Classic Trek to Machu Picchu, arriving at the Sun Gate in the afternoon. The Machu Picchu Inca Trail known as one of the world’s ten best hikes, this is the original pilgrimage route for the Inca to their most sacred temple and is a highly popular route, being trekked by hundreds of visitors each day.

Our Classic 4 Day Inca Trail itinerary hike varies slightly in that it takes you all the way to Machu Picchu on day 3 with an overnight stop in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, before returning to the site the next day for a full tour.

There are a number of reasons why we think this is a better option than staying at the final campsite: Firstly, the checkpoint gate on the path from the last campsite is locked until 5:30 a.m. by which time everybody is waiting in a long queue to start walking the next two hours to Machu Picchu. When the gate opens there is a huge rush with lots of pushing and shoving along a wet and narrow trail which can be dangerous.

The reason for this rush is that everyone wants to be first to get to Machu Picchu and the Sun Gate to take the best photos of Machu Picchu uncrowded. However, even if you are the first person to get there via the Inca Trail, it will already be crowded because Machu Picchu opens at 6 a.m.! And the irony is that most days there is heavy morning mist over the site so nothing can be seen at all.

Therefore, this alternative 4 day inca trail hike itinerary that we propose has the advantage of avoiding the crazy early morning stampede. You can walk to the Sun Gate in the early afternoon, almost invariably by yourself, and take time to enjoy the last section of the Inca Trail. The weather is generally better later in the day and there will be far less people photo-bombing your pictures. We then go down to a hotel in Aguas Calientes where you can enjoy a shower and a good night’s sleep, before returning the next day, fully refreshed, to tour the Machu Picchu site.

But please book early, because permits for the Classic 4 Day Inca Trail sell out months in advance!

Day 1 : Cusco – Piskacucho Km 82 – Llactapata- Ayapata:

We will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco or Sacred valley of the incas. Pickup from Cusco will be at 4:30 a.m. (these times will be confirmed at your briefing beforehand as they may differ based on where you’re staying). We’ll set out from Cusco on a True Mountain Traveler bus to arrive in the Inca’s Sacred Valley. We’ll stop in Ollantaymabo for breakfast (not included), then drive to Km 82, arriving at about 7:30 a.m. After you get ready, we’ll go through the first Inca Trail checkpoint to begin our trek (please make sure you have your original passport with you to enter for the Inca Trail hike).

The initial two hours of the trek are comparatively easy as we make our way to our first Inca site, Patallacta which was an ancient Inca check point for the approach to Machu Picchu. From Patallacta it’s another 2 hours hiking to our first lunch stop.

After lunch we are going to hike for another 2½ hours until we arrive at the first night’s campsite at Ayapata (3300m). On this last stretch we pass through two little communities. If you would like to shop for any energy drinks or snacks you’ll be able to do so here, and you’ll be able to get any essential items like batteries that you might have forgotten. We’ll arrive at our campsite by 5:00 p.m. and after settling in for a bit, you can relax and have a hot drink and snack with your team of porters, chefs and guides. By 7:30 p.m. your dinner will be ready and afterwards you can get some well-deserved rest.

Walking distance: 8.7 miles/14 km (6-7 hours)
Campsite altitude: 3300 meters (high) above sea level
Challenge: Moderate day (getting used to the Inca Trail)
Weather: Warm and windy

Day 2: Ayapata – Dead Woman´S Pass – Runcuraccay Pass – Chaquiccocha:

Leave your alarm clocks at home. Instead, your wake-up call will be a hot cup of coca tea in bed! Today is our longest day and we will start early. We’ll hike for roughly four hours to the summit of the trek, Dead Woman’s Pass (4215 m/13829 ft). On reaching the pass we’ll stop for a brief break to enjoy the views before setting off once more to descend to the next natural depression called Pacaymayu Valley, meaning Hidden River. It’s another hour and a half down the side of the valley to our lunch spot and an opportunity to refill your water bottles. After lunch we start ascending once more to the second pass of the trek. It’s 2 hours to the pass and along the way we’ll stop at a small Inca site (Runku Raccay) and see two huge waterfalls cascading down the opposite side of the valley.

After the second pass, it’s another hour of downhill hiking to reach the impressive Inca site, Sayacmarca (an otherwise inaccessible village). We’ll stop here for a rest and have a quick tour of the site and then watch the sunset over the Vilcabamba mountain range. It’s then just another twenty minutes until we stop for the night at our second camp site Chakicocha (Dry Lake, 3600 meters).

After dinner, if you’re not too exhausted, we will do some star gazing and we’ll point out the fascinating Inca constellations. In the impressive southern hemisphere sky, far away from all the artificial lighting, this sky is really something to behold!

Walking distance: 9.94 miles/16 km (7-8 hours)
Campsite altitude: 3600 meters (high) above sea level (chilly weather)
Challenge: Hardest day (you will have survived the two highest passes)
Zone: Andes and Cloud Forest
Weather: Cold and rainy

Day 3: Chaquiccocha – Wiñaywayna – Sun Gate – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes:

Completing Day 2 and beginning Day 3 certainly deserves a pat on the back! Early wake-up call again, to begin what is commonly believed to be the most beautiful day on the whole Inca Trail trek.

We hike for two hours along what we like to call “Inca flats” (gradual inclines) and start to enter the jungle, called the Cloud Forest. As we walk, we are going to have the chance to visualize the majestic Salkantay, the second highest snow-capped mountain within the Sacred Valley, as well as amazing panoramic views of the Vilcabamba mountain range.

Towards the end of the ‘Inka flats’ we start to make our way up to the last peak at Phuyupatamarka (3600 meters) from wherever we’ll have nice views overlooking the Urubamba River and valley. Down the valley we get our first views of Machu Picchu Mountain but the site itself is still hidden from view. From Phuyupatamarka peak it’s a 3 hour walk mainly down steps to our lunch spot (at 2600 meters) and along the way we’ll visit Inca ruins such as Phuyupatamarka (Town in the Clouds), Intipata (Terraces of the Sun) and Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young), which is next to where we’ll have lunch, arriving there around 12:30 p.m.

We like to spoil our guests as we relish our last feast with the porters and chefs. It’s an Inca Trail tradition to organize a ceremony to present the team to the tourists once again and to thank them for the great job done (if you wish to provide tips for them, you can do so at this time). Afterwards we will walk 1 hour to the Sun Gate, from where we will be rewarded with the picturesque landscape of Machu Picchu before us. After taking in the once-in-a-lifetime views, we will begin our descent to Machu Picchu itself.

A big advantage of this hike is that by the time we reach Machu Picchu, most of the day visitors will have returned home, so you will have the area almost to yourself. After taking some photos, we take the bus down to Aguas Calientes and you’ll check in to your hotel. After dinner, we recommend having an early night to make the most of the next day.


Walking distance: 8 miles/14km (6-7 hours)
Considered: Easy day – mostly downhill!
Zone: High Cloud Forest
Weather: Warm and very humid

Day 4: Machu Picchu one of the 7 wonders of world

We will wake up early in the morning and catch the bus to Machu Picchu for our two-hour guided tour by your private English-speaking guide. After that, you will have time to keep exploring Machu Picchu by your own. Those who have tickets to Huayna Picchu will have time to climb the mountain, which takes approximately an hour and a half, round-trip. When you are done exploring, you can either take a bus, or walk, down to Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included). Following this, you will take the train back to Ollantaytambo or Poroy, and then a bus to Cusco, where you will be brought back to your hotel.


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