INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY. Experience one of the world's greatest long distance hikes

Inca Trail History

The Inca Trail is just a small section in a vast network of trails, estimated between 20,000 km - 45,000 km, built by the Inca Empire over 5 centuries ago. Paved with stones, the trails were meant for transport by llama caravans and people and particularly also infantery, stretching from Colombia to Chile and parts of Argentina and Brazil.


The trails varied in width from 6 - 8m at their widest at the coast to narrow 1m trails in the mountain. Without the use of wheels, the Inca Trails used steps, thereby being very different from the roads built by the Romans. They did originally have stone and wooden bridges.


The Inca trail to Machu Picchu is thought to have been used as a pilgrimage or religious route without commercial use therefore often referred to as the “Royal Road”.


Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, was amazed when he discovered the pilgrimage route leading to the city.

Between 1913-1915, Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, and his team uncovered much of the overgrown trail, and in the 1990s large portions of the route were restored.


Today, the trail, which is situated in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, is one of the most famous trekking trails worldwide and is hiked by thousands of hikers every year.


The Inca Trail actually consists of three overlapping trajectories in order of distance:

  1. The One Day Ica Trail;

  2. The Classic Inca Trail; and

  3. the Mollepata trail.

Mollepata is the longest of the three routes with the highest mountain pass and intersects with the Classic route before crossing Warmiwañusqa ("dead woman"). Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of Andean environments including cloud forest and alpine tundra. Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins are located along the trail before ending the terminus at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain.


Concern about overuse leading to erosion has led the Peruvian government to place a limit on the number of people who may hike this trail per season, and to sharply limit the companies that can provide guides. As a result, advance booking is mandatory. A maximum of 500 people are allowed on the trail each day, of which only 200 are trekkers, the rest being guides and porters. citation needed] As a result, the high season books out very quickly.


The trail is closed every February for cleaning. This was originally done informally by organizations such as South American Explorer, but is now managed officially by the government.


Why consider booking our  Peru National Parks Tour? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL places Peru is so famous for. On top of that, you get to see 9 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a naturalist guide. There is nothing similar on the market. As Peru can be combined with other countries, we organize tours in modules: Lima Cusco, Machu Picchu module, Manu National Park module, National Parks Module, All modules.

Destinations Overview:  World Heritage Site Lima,  World Heritage Site Cusco, Amazon park Manu National Park World Heritage Site Valle Sagrado/Sacred Valley, World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, Cloud Forest Machu Picchu Sanctuary, Highland wetland Titicaca National Reserve, Uros floating islands, Altiplano wildlife park Salinas & Aguadas Blancas National Reserve, World's second deepest canyon Colca Canyon, Word heritage site Arequipa, World heritage site Nazca Lines, Pampas Galeras National Reserve, San Fernando National Reserve, Paracas National Reserve, Ballestas Islands National Reserve.


Inca Trail Difficulty

Most hikers take 4 or 5 days to complete the Classic Inca Trail but a two-day trek is also an option.


It starts at any of these trail heads: 88 km  or 82 km from Cusco on the Urubamba River at 2,800 masl or 2,600 masl, respectively.  The two longer routes ascent to above 4,200 masl, which may cause altitude sickness. The Inca Trail difficulty is determined by the need to make several steep rises along mountain trails combined with the high elevation. This requires a serious solid physical condition.


INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: A trail takes the visitor around the crater-shaped mountain in which Moray was built. INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Walking the Inca Trail.

The .






Both of these trails meet above the Inca ruins of Patallaqta, an ancient pre-Inca site first inhabited around 500 BC. The trail primarily follow the Kusichaka River.


At the hamlet Wayllapampa with some 400 inhabitants, the trail intersects with the "Mollepata Trail". Small, permanent settlements are located along side to the trail; So far horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas are permitted.


At Wayllapampa the trail follows a tributary of the Kusichaka; to avoid damage caused by hooves, pack animals are forbidden on the remainder of the trail, as well as metal-tipped trekking poles.


As the trail ascends toward Warmi Wañusqa, it passes through differing ecosystems, one of which is a grove of Polylepis trees. The campsite at Llulluchapampa is situated at 3,800 masl. The pass rises to 4,215 masl, the highest point on  the Classic trail.


INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Antes altiplano Polylepis incana trees.


After crossing the pass the trail drops steeply into the Pakaymayu drainage. At a distance of 2.1 km and 600 m below the pass is the campground Pakaymayu. The tambo Runkuraqay. After passing Pakaymayu the trail begins steeply ascending the other side of the valley. One km along the trail, at an altitude of 3,750 masl is the Inca tampu Runkuraqay, ruins which overlook the valley. The site was heavily restored in the late 1990s.


The trail continues through high cloud forest, winding through sometimes steep terrain with increasingly dramatic viewpoints of mountains and ravines. Next, Sayaqmarka is reached followed by Tampu Qunchamarka. then the trail goes through a long Inca tunnel followed by a viewpoint overlooking two valleys: the Urubamba and Aobamba.


Another high point at altitude of 3650 masl is crossed, followed by a campground, and then after a short descent, a site with extensive ruins. The name Phuyupatamarka is applied to both the campground, and the ruins.


The trail then descends approximately 1000 m including an irregular staircase of approximately 1500 steps, some of which were carved into solid rock leading through a second Inca tunnel. After the tunnel the town of Aguas Calientes can be seen with trains passing along the river. As the trail nears Intipata, one can see the "Two Day" Inca Trail. A side trail leads directly to Wiñay Wayna, while the main route continues to Intipata. The latter is a recently uncovered which were used for growing potatoes, maize, fruit, and sweet potato were grown here. Two groups of major architectural structures with fountains or ritual baths from some 19 springs run between the two groups of buildings.



INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Machu Picchu citadel overview. INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Machu Picchu in the mountains of the historical reserve.

The .




INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Begonias in National Historical ReserveINCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Pegs to attach thatched roofs.

The .




INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: Sun Gate Inti Punku, is where the Inca Trail enters the monumnet. INCA TRAIL, HISTORY, PERMITS AND DIFFICULTY: National Historical Reserve

The .




The .




Inca Trail Permits

Because of its popularity, the Peruvian Government instituted several controls to reduce human impact. The most notable is a quota system regulated by Inca Trail Permits alowing only 500 people  per day (including hikers, porters, and guides). In order to hike the Inca Trail one must a permit long in advance. The government also mandates that every hiker be accompanied by a guide. As a result, permits can only be acquired through a government registered tour operator. All permits are paired with an individual passport, and are not transferable. The government monitors the trail closely; there are several control points along the trail.


What makes us different from so many other tour operators?

Just look at the quality of our high resolution pictures. We took them all ourselves. We have thousands of high resolution pictures on this website, that you can see enlarged by clicking on them. These pictures show that we have been everywhere in the country of your interest and really know the details. We are professional explorers and biologists with MSc and PhD.


National Parks Tours Worldwide, a social responsibility and conservation company, is a brand name of the World Institute for Conservation & Environment, registered in the Netherlands with headquarters in the USA.


Phone USA:

(++)(1) 304 - 581 - 7740


[email protected]