When is the best time for the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail has become the most popular trek in the land of the Incas and one of the most sought-after in all of South America. With its unique combination of ancient ruins, fascinating history, and beautiful Andean mountain scenery leading to Machu Picchu, it attracts hiking enthusiasts worldwide.

Since Peru has become one of South America’s most visited countries, planning your trip is essential. This also applies to the Inca Trail. Knowing the best time to make the Inca Trail is vital to plan accordingly and make the most of your visit to Machu Picchu.

The best time for the Inca Trail

The best time for the Inca Trail is May and October. May is our favorite month because it’s just after the rainy season and just before the peak season, so the landscapes are still green and not crowded yet.

A good alternative is October. Although rainfall can be higher, conditions are usually perfect, and when the high season is over, there will be no overcrowding. May and October are warmer than the peak months of June, July, and August.

Whichever month you choose for the Inca Trail, you should never forget that Machu Picchu and the surrounding landscapes visited during the Inca Trail are located at high altitudes. This means that the weather in Cusco can change quickly, and you must be well prepared. The dry season and the rainy season are considered in more detail below.

Rainy season Inca Trail

The rainy season in Cusco usually begins in mid-November and lasts until the end of March. During these months, the number of tourists on the trail is significantly less than during the dry season, making it more attractive to some hikers.

In November, the conditions for hiking are more than reasonable, and the demand is not that great. The heaviest rains usually begin in December, while January and February are the wettest months (February in particular).

These are the busiest months in Cusco, not only for holidays but also for national holidays such as the Inti Raymi (Fiesta del Sol) in June and the National Holiday of Peru in July (July 28). In addition to international travelers, many locals also visit the city of the Incas.

From July to October, the air is drier, the temperatures are more relaxed, and the landscapes are not as green as in May or June.

Tour Options: Short Inca Trail and Classic Inca Trail

Depending on your time in Cusco, you can choose between the 2-day Inca Trail or the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The short version starts at kilometer 104 of the railway and includes a hike on the Inca Trail on the first day. Please look at the options and our Salkantay Trek vs. Inca Trail comparison.

You will see Machu Picchu from the Puerta del Sol Inti Punku, the official end of the Inca Trail and one of the most incredible places to photograph. Then, you will spend the night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), and you will have your guided tour of Machu Picchu on the second day. You can find more information in our Machu Picchu travel guide.

The 4-day Inca trail, the classic version, begins near Ollantaytambo at kilometer 88 on the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This 24-mile (40 km) trek takes you through the cloud-covered rainforest, beautiful Inca ruins, and campsites in some of the most picturesque Cusco mountain ranges. During this tour, you will enter the Machu Picchu complex through the Puerta del Sol Inti Punku on the fourth day and get unforgettable views that ordinary tourists cannot experience.

The maximum number of permits per day for the 4-day Inca Trail is 500, but only 200 are for tourists. The rest is for the guides, porters, and cooks. For the 2-day round, the number of day tickets is 250.

Because the Inca Trail is so famous, the demand for the trail is often so great that obtaining a permit is impossible. Because of this, many travelers opt for an alternative trek, such as the Salkantay Trek.

Packing list Inca Trail

As mentioned above, not only do you need to be prepared for all weather conditions, but you also need to pack a few essentials no matter when you go hiking.

All agencies bring porters to the circuit carrying your belongings in a sports bag. Typically the allowed weight is around 5kg, which is more than enough for four days. You can pack the rest in your backpack.

Some essential items on your Inca Trail packing list are:

An Inca Trail backpack

such as light trekking shoes with good ankle support, tennis shoes or sandals for comfortable camping, warm clothing (fleece and layers for different temperatures, especially at night), rain gear/raincoats, thermal underwear, shirts, and trekking pants, gloves/mittens, scarf,

  • Three pairs of wool socks wool hat for cold nights
  • Three plastic bags to separate your clothes (clean, wet, dirty)
  • Flashlight, headlamp, and camera (with extra batteries)
  • Small binoculars and sunglasses.
  • SPF 30+ sunscreen, lip balm, and bug spray (lotion is better than spray)
  • Swiss knife
  • Toiletries, toilet paper, and personal hygiene items
  • Personal medicine, medicine for mountain sickness, and anti-blister gel
  • Refillable water bottles and plastic bags ( Ziploc )

The Inca Trail Cusco is an excellent option for trekkers, whether short on time and opt for the 2-day tour or the classic 4-day Inca Trail.

In addition to the available days, it is essential to remember that you must reserve your Inca Trail permits at least six months in advance. Also, be sure to consider the weather of the month of your visit to prepare appropriately.

Travelers on the Inca Trail surrounded by mountains

On your last day, you will arrive at Machu Picchu through the Puerta del Sol, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the “Lost City of the Incas.”

Kondor Path Tours recommends the month to make the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is May since this month offers suitable temperatures, no crowds, and beautiful green landscapes to behold. June, July, and August are the busiest months; January and March are usually the rainiest, so we recommend avoiding them. October is an excellent alternative to May as conditions are similar and slightly warmer.

In the end, we are convinced that, whichever month you choose, the experience will always be unique. Our Sacred Valley Tour will be a great option if you want to visit before starting the Inca Trail.

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