Hike the Ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Greatest Treks to the Lost City of Machu Picchu

The ancient Inca trails are some of the most iconic multi-day hikes in the world. Threading through the towering Andes Mountains to the sacred city of Machu Picchu, each paved stone along the route speaks to more than 900 years of Inca history and culture.

Winding through lush tropical flora, past shrines and ruins, and disappearing into the heaven-piercing Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, these treks will be one of the most treasured experiences of your life. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk among the relics of one of the world’s most fascinating cultures, this is your chance to find out.

The birthplace of the Inca civilization

Peru’s earliest inhabitants arrived about 15,000 years ago and the Inca Empire developed sometime in the early 13th century. With 12 million inhabitants and more than 100 ethnic groups, they flourished for centuries before the Spanish Conquest in 1532.

The Empire once spread across a vast tract of South America that includes today’s Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. To connect the far corners of their expansive domain, the Incas built around 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of trails across four suyu (regions).

Three of the trails lead to the most mystical urban creation of the Inca Empire—the lost city of Machu Picchu. Embedded within a dramatic landscape at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, it remained hidden from the Spaniards and was rediscovered in 1911 by professor Hiram Bingham.

  • TEMPLES & TERRACES
  • UNBLEMISHED NATURE
  • SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
  • UNESCO HERITAGE SITE
  • TRADITIONAL CULTURE
Incredibly beatiful site of Machu Picchu, New wonder of world

As close to the gods as you can get

For the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I do not know another place in the world that compares to it. – H. Bingham

The sacred city of the Inca civilization, perched 8,000 feet (2,438 m) above sea level, is one of the greatest examples of the ingenuity of Incan engineers and architects. Built around A.D. 1450, Machu Picchu consists of palaces, temples, terraces, walls and water channels, made from large blocks of stone precisely cut to fit together without any mortar. 

The unique design and perplexing hisotry ​​are also a reason why it’s become a pilgrimage destination for spiritual seekers. The ancient Incas believed that the towering mountains were a place where mortals came closest to the gods.

Some scientist suggest that Machu Picchu was built as a royal retreat for the Inca ruler Pachacuti while other claim that it served as a cosmological and geographical centre but its purpose will forever remain enshrouded in mystery.

Iconic trails through Peruvian backcountry

Down the Royal Road

To truly understand and appreciate the spiritual and architectural significance of Machu Picchu and the Inca civilization, walk the well-worn trails and steps over 500 years in the making. 

The classic Inca Trail is the most famous stretch of the Inca road system, beginning outside of Cusco and ending at the Lost City 26 miles away. Winding through tundra and cloud forests, through the remnants of centuries-old pilgrimages, the trail is bathed in a unique blend of intact nature and historic sites.

And as truly beautiful as the hike may be, the reason for Inca Trail’s popularity lies at the very end of the adventure—passing through the Sun Gate at sunrise for that first magical sighting of Machu Picchu in the distance.

Machu Picchu view from above with clouds
Landscape image of Machu Picchu shortly after sunrise. Peru has numerous scenic destinations and this tops the list as one of the Ancient Wonders of the World. Yellow flowers were captured in the foreground to capture depth and add another element to the image.

Welcoming locals and crystal-clear lakes

Embark on the Lares Trek and zig zag through the Lares Valley, lush forest, and tranquil Andean lagoons.

On this alternative trail, you’ll meet traditional Andean communities that still preserve their ancestral customs. Witness the smiling Quechua people herding their alpacas and weaving colorful textile and get a better insight into ancient Incan culture.

As you aproach the end of the 22-mile hike, the incredible Machu Picchu will be your ultimate reward.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas or Urubamba Valley is a valley in the Andes of Peru, close to the Inca capital of Cusco and below the ancient sacred city of Machu Picchu. The valley is generally understood to include everything between Pisac and Ollantaytambo, parallel to the Urubamba River, or Vilcanota River or Wilcamayu, as this Sacred river is called when passing through the valley. It is fed by numerous rivers which descend through adjoining valleys and gorges, and contains numerous archaeological remains and villages. The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities. It was one of the empire's main points for the extraction of natural wealth, and the best place for maize production in Peru.
Llamas watch the morning mist rise over the ancient Inca fortress and sloping stone terraces of Machu Picchu with Huana Picchu in background.

Flora and fauna of the rugged Peruvian Andes

The 46-mile long Salkantay Trek is an alternative route to Machu Picchu and although it was named after the Salkantay Mountain, it isn’t just the granite walls you’ll see along the way.

Because you’re hiking at altitude, you’ll witness cloud forests adorned with colorful orchids, roaring waterfalls, sacred alpine lakes and sites beyond the beaten path.

Each step closer to the sacred citadel will make it clearer why the Incas felt so connected to nature and the gods.

Humantay lake in Peru in the Andes aerial view
People trekking through Peruvian mountains on their way to Machu Picchu

The hike to the ruins is like a hike through time itself

The beautiful El Valle Sagrado (the Sacred Valley) carved by the meandering Urubamba River stretches from Pisac Ruins to Machu Picchu’s citadel. This peaceful corner of the Andes is dotted with colonial towns, Quechua-speaking isolated villages, and Inca archaeological sites.

Aerial distant view of Llactapata ruins on inca trail to Machu Picchu archaeological site from the Inca's ancient civilization in Peru. South America
Peru, Ollantaytambo, Pinkulluna Inca ruins in the sacred valley in the Peruvian Andes.
Dead Woman’s Pass is one of the most dreaded points of the Inca Trail, mostly due to its high altitude.
Phuyupatamarca is another archaeological site along the Inca Trail, dubbed as ‘the city in the mist’ - for a good reason.
The Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna, the favorite highlight for many hikers.
River flowing through Aguas Calientes
The Sun Gate or Intipunku is believed to have been a control gate for the people who entered Machu Picchu.

Llactapata

These verdant green terraces boast a number of ruins and two or three modern huts, remains of an extensive complex of buildings that an Inca chieftain had built for his home. The site possibly played an important astronomical function during the solstices and equinoxes, the most important celebrations of the Inca Empire.

Ollantaytambo

Known as the ‘Living Inca City,’ Ollantaytambo is the only preseerved Inca town that is still inhabited. It has suffered a lot of damage during the 16th century wars, but it still conserves the magic and history of the ancient empire. Some of the sites include the Royal House of the Sun, the Temple of the Sun and the Bath of the Ñusta.

Dead Woman’s Pass (4,215 m/13,828 ft)

What makes Dead Woman’s Pass so infamous (beside its name) is its altitude. At 13,828 ft (4,215m), it is 5,905 ft (1,800m) higher than the altitude of Machu Picchu itself and the highest and most dreaded point of the Trail.

Phuyupatamarca

Due to its altitude of roughly 11,810 ft (3600 m), Phuyupatamarca is known as “La Ciudad entre la Niebla” — the city in the mist. It features 15 constructions, 6 of which are small stone baths which provide fresh running water during the wet season.

Wiñay Wayna

Quechua for “forever young”, Wiñay Wayna is a 15-century ruin built into a steep hillside overlooking the Urubamba River. The ageless site consists of upper and lower house complexes connected by a staircase and fountain structures.

Aguas Calientes

Last stop before Machu Picchu is small village built into the surrounding hillside. A series of bridges connect two sides of the town and train tracks connecting Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu run through the center, while small side streets lead to promenades and local markets. Less than a kilometer away, you can find hot springs baths surrounded by a beautiful mountainous landscape.

Sun Gate

The Sun Gate or Intipunku is believed to have been a control gate for the people who entered Machu Picchu. It is dedicated to the Sun god Inti and it is one of the most important archeological constructions along the trail. Catch a first glimpse of the citadel at dawn and enjoy panoramic views of the valley.

Your Incan odyssey begins here

The journey is the destination

WITNESS THE PERUVIAN BEAUTY

Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, home to a wider variety of plants and animals than most other countries on Earth. From tundra to cloud forests and high mountain passes, you’ll travel through an array of scenery and ecosystems, challenging your legs and lungs with long climbs at high elevations.

Between the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon, where heaven and Earth collide, you’ll find the largest collection of native orchids in the world (over 370 types!) and lush unca and queñua forests. Queñua is the only surviving tree indigenous to the high Andes while the unca tree has been considered sacred since the Inca period.

Fog slowly descending on the Runkurakay ruin. The famous Incan terraces at Moray.

SUPPORTIVE GROUP OF LOCAL EXPERTS

Because of its popularity, the Peruvian Government instituted several controls to reduce human impact upon the trail and within the ancient city. Since 2000, you can’t enter the Inca Trail without a licensed guide and porter crew. Because of that, it’s important to have a guide that knows all the secrets of the land, the best way to trek and a ton of information about every site visited.

A team of experienced porters that know every twist and turn will carry your bags allowing you to enjoy the landscape and sites without the burden of tents and equipment. As for the food, get ready for proper gourmet meals prepared on trail by your personal chef.

Every group of hikers will be accompanied by a knowledgeable driver as well. They are in charge of the group from the hotel pick up to the hotel drop off, so you can relax and not worry about any part of the trip!

Machu Picchu follows the religious architecture style of the Inca Empire.

The best view comes from the hardest climb

Your guides

Born and raised in Cusco, Roland Llave knows the lush mountains of Peru like the back of his hand. With over 15 years of guiding experience, his advice and expertise will help you prepare for your own Picchu-perfect adventure. He is a co-founder of CrossoverPeru, a guiding service offering small group adventure tours all around South America.

From ancient history and untouched nature to vibrant cultures and unique sites, CrossoverPeru will honor and enhance the special allure that Cusco and Peru hold for you. With a focus on exploration, cultural immersion and personal achievement, their adventures will challenge and inspire you as you bond with other like-minded travelers who share a love for exploring new places and cultures.

Group of hikers posing with an Alpaca A group of hikers through the Peruvian wilderness
Wilfredoma92

Once in a lifetime trek to beautiful Machu Picchu + other Inca sites! Our tour guide Eddie and porters/chef were amazing! Everything went flawlessly, our tents of excellent quality, food amazing, and everyone made sure we were happy and well taken care of the whole trip. This is not an easy hike but definitely worth it especially when you have an excellent team like Eddie, Cirilo, Mario, and Juan. Don’t miss it!

Meg D

Our trip leader, Edwind, and all the porters made my Inca Trail experience so amazing. I am still in utter shock and awe about the time I had. Edwind really went above and beyond for my group and really cared about each and every one of us. You can tell how passionate he is about the Andes, the Incas, and the outdoors. The porters really worked so hard to make our experience so phenomenal as well. The food was absolutely amazing. Trip of a lifetime! I will remember this for the rest of my life.

Nicole M

The Crossover Peru team led by Edwind was amazing! I was blown away by their attention to detail, professionalism, energy, positive attitude and effort. They did whatever they could to make the experience more enjoyable for my friends and I. The food on the trail was delicious. They prioritized my safety and fun. Edwind made sure the journey was educational and he set really great expectations for the length of our journey and difficulty of the hike. He never left anyone behind and made sure we knew we had his full support the entire time. These porters and guides do a fantastic job and I would absolutely recommend them to future Inca trail travelers!

Vickysh

It’s not an easy hike and you might think about going back halfway but with the energy and encouragement of the guide and the porters, you manage to achieve a once in a lifetime experience! Edwin, our guide, was really patient and knowledgeable! Lorenzo, the chef, was a genius and super creative! His food was delicious and abundant! And the rest of the porters were brilliant and polite. They make you feel secure at all times and make the whole experience much more enjoyable! 

I’ll definitely call them again for another trip on Cusco

Carlos

My wife and I completed the Inca Trail with guide Kevin for our honeymoon. It was an amazing experience, the four day trek made arriving at Machu Picchu feel like we accomplished a great task. During the trip we saw several Inca sites and Kevin’s history lessons throughout the journey were fantastic. Our porters were the sweetest and most hardworking people ever. It was amazing what the chef and assistant chef were able to make for our meals. We are vegetarian and the meals were all delicious! Day two was the hardest section due to the high altitude but the opportunity to walk along this ancient path is well worth the struggle. At the end we were exhausted and happy with our journey. We highly recommend CrossOver Peru and Kevin!! Thank you for the great memories.