So You’re Hiking the Inca Trail: Which One?

Travelers hiking up the Inca trail.
Travelers hiking up the Inca trail.

Dasatariq Peru, a leading tour operator and DMC based in Lima, sends out a useful e-news roundup every month, the last one reminding us that the Inca Trail, leading to the legendary lost city of Machu Picchu, closes every year for the month of February for cleaning, conservation and maintenance. The work embraces the particularly beautiful 27-mile stretch of stone path built by the Incas some 500 years ago.

The road winds through Peru’s Andes, following the path of the historic royal highway and connecting the important Inca archaeological sites of Runkcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and Machu Picchu. According to Dasatariq, more than 75,000 people make the trek each year to get to Machu Picchu the way the Incas did—on foot.

Almost all the principal trails on the mountain surrounding Cusco were built, or improved upon, by the Incas; and indeed today there are many different ways to hike the Inca Trail. For instance, there is the classic 4-day Inca Trail outlined above, but one people often prefer to spread over five days; the Short Inca Trail, typically two days along the Vilcanota River Valley close to Machu Picchu with no camping; the Salkantay & Inca Trail Trek, a 7-day adventure that’s a second alternative to the Classic Inca Trail trek and more strenuous. This latter trip spends the first three days trekking around the foot of the Salkantay Mountain, and on day four, the trail joins up with the route of the Classic Trail.

Dasatariq has its own roster of Inca Trail adventures, a choice of six in fact. The choices include a Luxury Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which they offer for three nights on the classic trail, pegged at a moderate exertion level, with no previous trekking experience needed. Featured along the way are, of course, professional guides, top-level camping gear, portable shower with hot water, gourmet food and Andean cuisine.

A company specialty is called the 3-day Tropical Inca Trail, highlighting a combination of hiking and downhill bike riding, described as “a very cool back door entry to the great citadel of Machu Picchu and staying with a coffee growing family.” Clients have to be in good form for the 5-day Trek to Choquekiraw-Canyonland of the Incas, or the 7-day Ausangate Mountain Trail, a breathtaking trek in the Cordillera Vilcanota.

Other choices include Machu Picchu Lodge to Lodge, a 7-day moderate to challenging trek that not only overnights in lodges, but offers such options as horseback riding; and the new 4-day Lares Trek that hikes the hidden corners of the Sacred Valley, with camping at night, before making the final leg to Machu Picchu by rail. For more information, visit