The Inca Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. In just 26 miles (45km) it manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, and subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones ruins and tunnels.
The final destination of the trail just cannot be beaten: Machu Picchu, the mysterious "Lost City of the Incas".
Inca trail to Machu picchu usually covered in 4 days arriving at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for sunrise on the fourth day. The Inca trail is rated moderate and any reasonably fit person should be able to cover the route. It is fairly challenging nevertheless, and altitudes of 4200m are reached, so ensuring that you are well acclimatized is important. If arriving from sea level, plan to spend at least 2 full days in Cusco prior to commencing the trek. This should allow plenty of time for acclimatization and give you sufficient opportunity to visit the city of Cusco and nearby Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Pucapucara and Tambomachay, as well as spending a day or two exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas visiting the tradition market town of Pisac and the fascinating Inca fortress at Ollantaytambo.
The Inca Trail can be hiked year round although the months of April till October are probably more comfortable since the weather is drier. June, July and August are in the high season when the Inca trail can become fully booked so be sure to make the Inca trail reservations in advance. The 4 day Inca Trail is closed each year during the month of February to allow conservation work to take place. The months of January and March are in the wet season so hiking the trail can be a little miserable unless you have a good rain jacket and waterproof tent.
There are two main alternative treks to the traditional 4-day Classic Inca Trail that both end at Machu Picchu. The first and most popular alternative is the Short Inca Trail which can be completed in 1 or 2 days. This is an easier trek and starts further along the Vilcanota River Valley closer to Machu Picchu at a place called kilometer 104. The second trek is a more strenuous 7 day hike via Salkantay, a beautiful snow-capped mountain.
If you are searching the web for information about the 4 day Inca Trail you'll find hundreds of tour companies offering this popular trek amongst their services. Many of these companies are acting only as agents for the relatively few specialist trekking companies that actually operate the trek. Prices for the 4 day trek start at US$440 per person for a basic service (including entrance fees and return on train) and can climb anywhere up to $1000 depending on the service and how comfortable you want to be. Purchasing the trek directly with a local tour operator in Cusco can often be less than half the price of buying the trek in your own country through an agent..