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BUDGET INCA TRAIL Trek only

Plan your trek on the Budget Inca trail

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Although we call this trek our "Budget Inca trail" you get the same great guides, the same amazing food and in fact the only things you do not get are private airport transfers and hotels which you can then arrange yourselves. If you are looking for a really great trek but would like to save a little money on the extras this is a fantastic choice.

You should still know that there is a permit system that restricts the number starting the Inca trail to 500 each day.  All the crew need permits so there are only about 100 permits for trekker. Permits for the following year all go on sale in October and sell out quickly for the high season so  you must book early.

There is no permit at Machu Picchu itself and most visitors arrive by train. This means that the site itself is very busy in high season.

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About the route

The classic Inca Trail is believed to follow the original pilgrimage route from Cuzco. Cuzco was the capital of the Incan empire and the route took pilgrims to Machu Picchu, their most sacred temple. The Inca's main god was the sun and the temple at Machu Picchu is dedicated to Sun worship.

The current day version of this pilgrimage starts at the somewhat banally named Kilometre 82 gate. Unsurprisingly it is 82 kilometres from Cuzco. The trail from here is not particularly challenging  and most days only involve 5-6 hours of hiking.

It does though, take you up and over a series of high passes, most notably Dead Woman's Pass at 4,215m, and the effect of altitude at this height are very significant so you must ensure you train properly before you arrive.

From Km 82, the path takes you up and down through diverse environments including cloud forest, jungle and alpine tundra. You reach the highest point at Dead Woman's Pass on day 2 of your trek. Of greatest interest though are the  Inca ruins, including Runcuracay, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñaywayna which line the trail becoming grander and more impressive as you approach the big one - Machu Picchu.

The final approach to Machu Picchu on the Inca trail brings you out at the famous Sun Gate where you can stop for a well earned breather and admire the sheer brilliance and scale of the ruins. Even if you have seen this picture a thousand times before, it never fails to impress.

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About the permit system

A permit system restricts number of trekker starting the Classic Inca trail to 500 per day but this number includes all the guides and crew who also need a permit. As a result, the number of permits available for trekkers is only about 200 each day.

For reasons nobody quite understands, the Park Authority makes all the permits for each year available on one fixed date. For 2019 all the permits are to be put on sale in October. You cannot book a permit for a 2019 trek until that date and within days of permit going on sale they will be sold out for the high season.

The critical things to understand is that prior to that date no operator can guarantee that you will have a permit. If an operator  informs you that they are able to block-book or pre-order permits they are lying. The permit system is policed very strictly and permits are only issued against specific names and passport numbers and you are required to check in for the trail at the 82km start point with your passport. If you have married recently you must take a passport in your maiden name as the park authorities are totally inflexible enforcing these rules.

To cope with the permit allocation procedure all operators have developed the same process- bookings are taken prior to the "On sale date" and then there is a scramble to get permits for those bookings as soon as permits are released. Since we started operating treks to Machu Picchu we have always got all the permits we wanted but feel it is better to be upfront about how the process actually works. If, for any reason we are unable to secure a permit, we will offer you either a full-refund or the alternative of switching to one of the alternative routes. You must not though book any flights until your permit has been confirmed.

Unless you book as soon as permits for the Classic Inca trail are released in October for the following year, all the high season dates will have sold out. If you cannot plan your trip well in advance and still want to trek the classic trail you will need to look at dates well into the shoulder periods. Alternatively have a look at some of the alternatives to the classic trail we operate that all follow Inca trails to trek to Machu Picchu.

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How difficult is the Inca trail

If you are used to multi-day hiking with ascent and descents each day then the Inca trail is well within your ability.  You need to bear in mind though that even though the paths are generally good there are a huge number of steps to tackle. And  you will be trekking at altitude which in itself is a challenge.

Most Inca Trail treks begin at Cusco, which, at 3,400 metres, is already considerably higher than Machu Picchu. By staying there prior to your trek, you will give your body time to acclimatize to the Inca Trail altitude.  The Inca Trail altitude varies greatly throughout the trek and your body will notice the differences, especially at the higher points.

The second day is the toughest on the Inca Trail as it is spent hiking up and over Dead Woman's Pass at 4,200 metres. Your body will almost certainly feel the effects of the altitude here as the air is providing less oxygen than your body is used to. You do not spend long at this altitude and the rest of the day is spent descending down to 3,600 metres where you camp at Chaquiccocha

The Classic Inca trail is a three day trek with an additional day visiting Machu PIcchu. Each day involves about 6-7 hours of walking but although this doesn't sound like a lot remember the highest pass goes over 4000m and at this altitude every step can be hard work.

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Budget Inca trail - trek only Route Profile

Detailed itinerary

Day 1Cuzco - pre-trek briefing

Attend pre-trek briefing meeting in Cuzco.  You will need to arrange your own accommodation for this night as it is not included.

Day 2Drive from Cuzco to Km 82, trek to Wayllabamba

We will leave Cuzco at 5:00 am by a private bus heading to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We will make a short break in Ollantaytambo for breakfast. The official beginning of the Inca Trail is called Km 82. Here we will meet our crew and register for your trek.

The official beginning of the Inca Trail is called Km 82. Here we will meet our crew and register for our trek.

After crossing the Rio Urubamba we start the legendary Inca Trail. The first day of the trail is relatively easy and a good warm up for the following days. On the way we will pass a beautiful archaeological site called Llactapata before we reach Tarayoc. After that, we will continue our hike to Wayllabamba (3000m), the camping site where we will spend the night.

  • Elevation: From 2800 metres to 3000 metres
Day 3From Wayllabamba to Pacamayo

Today we cross the first of three passes and the highest point of our trek - Warmihuañusca Pass (Dead Woman Pass) at 4200m. Our trek begins with a fairly steep climb to Llulluchapampa, before levelling out slightly as we head up to Dead Woman's Pass. After a break at the summit to enjoy the view, we  begin the long, steep descent to the Pacamayo River where we will camp overnight.

  • Elevation: From 3000 metres to 3850 metres
  • Highest point: 4200 metres (Dead Woman's Pass)
Day 4From Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna

This morning we climb up to the oval-shaped ruin of Runkurakay, then continue our ascent to the summit of our second pass, Runkurakay Pass at 3900m. From here you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the entire snow-capped Vilcabamba range, before another steep descent. We will then climb up to our third pass, to Phuyupatamarka, an Inca ruin named “The Town in the Clouds”. Finally we descend once more into the cloud forest, visiting the site of Intipata (Terraces of the Sun), before reaching our campsite at Wiñay Wayna.

  • Elevation: From 3580 metres to 2650 metres
  • Highest point: 3900 metres (Runkurakay Pass)
Day 5From Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu to Cuzco

A very early start today as we set off on the final section of the Inca Trail to the famous Inti Punku (Sun Gate) where, weather permitting, you will enjoy your first views of Machu Picchu. You will have a comprehensive tour of the site, which will last for around 2½  to 3 hours. If you wish to climb Huayna Picchu, the famous mountain behind the ruins, you will need to book your permit with us in advance.

In the afternoon, we will return to Aguas Calientes to catch the train to Ollantaytambo. From here, our driver will transfer you back to your hotel in Cuzco.

Availability and prices

Last Updated January 16 2019
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Route
Arrival
Days
Price
Comment
 
 
Arrival: March 9 2019
Days: 5
Price: £699 $909 €0
Comment: OFFER save £50 was £749
Arrival: March 18 2019
Days: 5
Price: £674 $876 €0
Comment: OFFER save £75 was £749
Arrival: July 16 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Limited Permits
 
Arrival: August 13 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Limited Permits
 
Arrival: August 19 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: August 26 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Limited Permits
 
Arrival: September 14 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: September 23 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $979 €0
Comment: Permits Sold Out
 
Arrival: October 7 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: October 12 2019
Days: 5
Price: £749 $974 €0
Comment: Limited Spaces
 
Arrival: October 21 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: November 4 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: November 18 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: November 29 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: December 2 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: December 11 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: December 23 2019
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: March 9 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: March 30 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: April 6 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: April 20 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: May 4 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: May 25 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: June 1 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: June 19 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: July 6 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: July 27 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: August 3 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: August 24 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: September 7 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: September 28 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: October 5 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: October 26 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: November 2 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: November 23 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Arrival: December 7 2020
Days: 5
Price: £725 $943 €0
Comment: Spaces
Speak with an expert Start planning your next adventure by contacting one of our team.
Sarah BW

Sarah Orson

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 1283 499980

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Rachael Bode

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: + 44 1283 499982

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Sharon King

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 1283 499981

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