The Inca Trail trek that leads to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Cusco, is one of the most popular and well-known excursions in Peru. The walk from Kilometer 43 groups a series of Incas archaeological remains incredibly preserved. Along the route the natural landscape is impressive, with incredible views of snow-capped mountains and the cloud forest. The Inca Trail trek is one of the classic treks of the world, and it is a fantastic experience for anyone willing to take the effort to do the trek. Entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate is an unforgettable experience. Hiking the Inca Trail usually takes 4 days, but we are great admirers of the 5 day Inca Trail.
Here we explain the main differences and why we believe you will enjoy your experience more if you choose the 5 day Inca trail.
Main differences between the Inca Trail trek 4 day and 5 day Inca Trail
- On the 5 day excursion the hike starts in the afternoon, this is long after the 4 day Inca Trail trek has started; therefore, you will find fewer people on the route and on the line to start the Inca Trail.
- The 5 day Inca Trail trek is much easier during the first 2 days, if we compare it with the Inca Trail trek 4 day. This means that you will have more time to acclimate and adapt hiking the Inca trail. On 5 day Inca Trail, the most difficult day is day 3; during Inca Trail trek 4 day, the most difficult day is 2.
- Obviously, you will have more time to explore the Inca ruins on the way on the 5 day Inca Trail, without rushing to get to the camp in time.
- Finally, on 5 day Inca trail, you have more time exploring Machu Picchu. You will arrive at the Sun Gate that leads to Machu Picchu on the afternoon of day 4. You will also have time to admire the beautiful ruins before heading to the town of Aguas Calientes to rest a little in the hotel or relax in the thermal baths. The next day, after resting a bit from hiking the Inca trail, you will wake up for your complete tour through the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail trek distances, walking times and altitudes
Below we show you the distances traveled in each of the treks (Inca Trail trek 4 days and 5 day Inca trail), as well as the maximum height and walking time per day:
- Day 1: Relatively easy, the distance traveled is 7-8 miles (13 km). On this day it starts at a height of 9000 feet (2750 masl) and approximately 9700 feet (2950 masl). Walking time: 5 - 6 hours. Early start of Cusco (4: 30am) or 7am outside of Ollantaytambo.
- Day 2: This 7-mile (11 km) hike is the hardest day for most. The highest point is Dead Woman's Pass at 4,766 feet (4,200 masl). Camp at 12,590 feet (3850 masl). Walking time: 6 - 7 hours.
- Day 3: 9.9 miles (16 km) of moderately challenging trail. You climb two passes: Runkuracay at 12,470 feet (3,800 masl) and Sayacmarca at 11,887 feet (3,580 masl). Camp at 8,692 feet (2,650 m). Walking time: 9 hours
- Day 4: 2.5 miles (4 km) of descent mostly in old steps. This is an early start in the morning (around 4 a.m.) so you have the maximum time in Machu Picchu. Arrive at Puerta del Sol and Machu Picchu (7474 feet / 2400 masl) around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., and take a complete tour of the ruins. In the afternoon, take the train back to Cusco. Walking time: 2 hours on the road; More possible in Machu Picchu if you want.
- Day 1: Start this hike early in the afternoon to avoid the crowds that start in the morning. You will visit the fascinating Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo this morning. The walk is easy, 3 miles (5 km). On this day it starts at Km82, which has an elevation of 9000 feet (2750 masl), and camping approximately 8690 feet (2650 masl), at Camp Llactapata. Walking time: 2.5 - 3 hours.
- Day 2: This 7.5 mile (12 km) hike is when the trail begins to be challenging. Camp at 12,590 feet (3850 masl), at the Llulluchapampa campsite. Walking time: 5 - 6 hours.
- Day 3: This 9.3-mile (15 km) stretch is the most challenging day on the Inca Trail. You climb two passes: Warmiwañusca at 13,819 feet (4212 masl), travel to Pacasmayo Valley at 11,650 feet (3550 masl) for lunch, and then face the Runcuracay Pass at 13,120 feet (4000 masl). At the end of the day, camp at 12,030 feet (3,600 masl) in Phuyupatamarca. Walking time: 8 hours
- Day 4: 6.5 miles (11 km) of trek downhill or flat on the ancient Inca steps. This is an early start in the morning, so you have the maximum time in Machu Picchu. Ruins of Almorzas in Wiñay Wayna, and a little time to explore these incredible ruins. Arrive at the Puerta del Sol (9025 feet / 2750 masl) in the afternoon for your first view of Machu Picchu, then descend to the citadel of Machu Picchu (7875 feet / 2400 masl) Take a bus to Aguas Calientes where you will spend the night in a local hotel. Walking time: 5 hours on the road; More possible in Machu Picchu if you want.
- Day 5: Return to the ruins of Machu Picchu for a complete guided tour. There is time to walk the mountain.
Now that you know the main differences between both tours, take the risk and animate to travel the same path as the Incas: