Even though it’s just one among a multitude of paths across the Andes, the fabulous treasure of Machu Picchu at the end of its 43km path makes the INCA TRAIL the world’s most famous trek. Most people visit the site on a day-tour by train from Cusco, Ollantaytambo or Urubamba, but if you’re reasonably fit and can dedicate at least four days to the experience, arriving along the Inca Trail offers the most atmospheric and rewarding option.
The downside of the trail’s popularity is that you have to book at least nine months in advance and can only go with a tour group run by a licensed tour operator. The trail involves tough altitude trekking at times, but this is rewarded by spectacular scenery, deep valleys, glaciated mountain peaks and remote Inca structures.
Doing the trail in four days is the preferred option for most, and the most common tour length offered by tour agencies. More pleasant still is to spend five or six days, taking in everything as you go along. If you can only spare three days, you’ll be pushing it the whole way – it can be done but it’s gruelling. If this is all the time you can spare, give yourself a head start by catching the afternoon train and heading up the Cusichaca Valley as far as possible the evening before. There are 16 campsites along the trail; where you stay the night will ultimately be decided by your trail guide.