How Long To Hike Machu Picchu: A Route-By-Route Breakdown

Ever thought of reasons to visit Machu Picchu and how long to hike Machu Picchu?
This ancient Inca citadel is a dream destination for many adventurers, but knowing the duration of the hike is crucial for planning your Peru adventure with us at Skyhook Adventure.
Let’s explore the factors and popular routes determining your journey’s length and Machu Picchu hike difficulty.

How Long is the Hike to Machu Picchu: Factors Influencing the Duration

When answering the question, “How long does it take to hike Machu Picchu?” several factors come into play. Understanding these can help you choose the best time to hike Machu Picchu and better prepare for your adventure and make informed decisions.
overlooking Machu Picchu Mountain (2-day Inca trail)

Choice of Hiking Route

Machu Picchu Mountain offers multiple routes, each with its unique duration and difficulty level. The Inca Trail might take up to 8 days, while you could complete the Lares Trek in 4 days. 
Your choice of Machu Picchu circuits will affect how long you’ll be hiking and what you’ll experience along the way—be it ancient ruins like the Machu Picchu Sun Temple, scenic landscapes, or local villages.
Researching and selecting the route that best suits your interests and fitness level is crucial. Here are the most popular routes:
hiking the lares trek

The Inca Trail

One of the most iconic routes to Machu Picchu, the classic Inca Trail, offers an experience steeped in history and breathtaking scenery.
But before you lace up your hiking boots, let’s delve into what you can expect on this legendary path, so you know exactly what to pack for the Inca trail.
Duration: Typically 4 Days
The Inca Trail is usually a 4-day journey, covering approximately 26 miles. Each day offers a different landscape, from lush forests to high mountain passes. 
Is the Inca trail worth it? While the trek can be demanding, the reward is an unparalleled view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate on the final day.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Don’t underestimate the Inca Trail; it’s a moderate to challenging hike requiring good physical fitness. 
The trail includes steep ascents and descents, and you’ll be hiking at elevations above 13,000 feet. Acclimatising to the altitude a few days before the hike can help you avoid Machu Picchu altitude sickness.
Unique Features: Ancient Inca Ruins, Sun Gate
The Inca Trail is like a journey through time. Along the way, you’ll encounter ancient Inca ruins and archaeological sites that offer a glimpse into the civilisation’s rich history. 
One of the highlights is passing through the Machu Picchu Sun Gate, where you’ll get your first awe-inspiring view of Machu Picchu.
Permits: Required
Due to its popularity and the need to preserve the trail, Machu Picchu permits are required to hike the Inca Trail. These are limited and often sell out months in advance. 
Booking your trek early secures your spot and gives you ample time to think of things to do at Machu Picchu to help you prepare for this adventure of a lifetime.
5 day salkantay trek

The Salkantay Trek

If the Inca Trail is the classic route to Machu Picchu, then the Salkantay Trek is its adventurous cousin. This route offers a diverse range of landscapes and more flexibility in terms of duration and difficulty. Let’s break it down.
Duration: Typically 5-8 Days
The Salkantay Trek can take anywhere from 5 to 8 days, depending on your specific itinerary.
This extended duration allows for a more leisurely pace and the opportunity to explore additional sites and landscapes. Whether you’re interested in glaciers, jungle terrains, or high-altitude lakes, this trek has it all.
Level of Difficulty: Varies
One of the appealing aspects of the Salkantay Trek is that its difficulty level can vary. 
Some routes are more challenging, involving steep climbs and high-altitude trekking, while others are more moderate. This makes it an excellent choice for both novice hikers and seasoned trekking enthusiasts.
Unique Features: Scenic Beauty, Salkantay Pass
The Salkantay Trek is a feast for the eyes. You’ll traverse through stunning valleys, alongside roaring rivers, and up to the Salkantay Pass, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.
The diversity of the landscapes is one of the trek’s standout features, making every day a new adventure.
Did You Know? The Salkantay Trek is named after Mount Salkantay, which is the highest peak of the Vilcabamba mountain range and one of the most sacred in Inca mythology!
See also: Salkantay trail vs Inca trail, Salkantay trek without guide, Salkantay trek packing list and Salkantay trek difficulty
hiking during inca jungle trek

The Lares Trek

If you’re looking for a trek that offers natural beauty and cultural immersion, the Lares Trek is your go-to option. When it comes to the 'Lares trek vs Inca trail' debate, the Lares route is less crowded than the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek, providing a more intimate experience with the Andean landscape and its people. Let’s dive into the details.
Duration: Typically 4 Days
The Lares Trek usually spans 4 days, making it a manageable option for those with limited time. Despite its shorter duration, the trek doesn’t skimp on experiences. You’ll have ample opportunities to engage with local communities and explore the stunning Andean scenery.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
The Lares Trek is considered moderate in terms of Machu Picchu hike difficulty. While you’ll still encounter some steep sections and high altitudes, the trek is generally less strenuous than its more famous counterparts. This makes it an excellent choice for those new to high-altitude hiking or who prefer a less challenging route.
Unique Features: Authentic Andean Life, No Permits Required
One of the standout features of the Lares Trek is the opportunity to experience authentic Andean life. You’ll pass through local villages, interact with indigenous communities, and even have the chance to visit local markets. Best of all, no permits are required for this trek, making it easier to plan and execute your adventure.
white river rafting in Peru

Other Routes

While the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, and Lares Trek are among the most popular routes to Machu Picchu, they’re not the only options available. For those looking to venture off the beaten path, alternative routes offer unique experiences.

Cachicata (or Chaski) Trail

The Cachicata Trail, also known as the Chaski Trail, is a lesser-known but equally rewarding route. It offers a mix of natural beauty and archaeological sites, making it an excellent choice for those interested in history and hiking.
Inca Jungle Trek
The Inca Jungle Trek is perfect for adrenaline junkies. This route combines hiking with other activities like mountain biking and zip-lining, offering a multi-adventure experience. The duration can vary, but it generally is around 4 days.
If you want to save on time and money during your hiking trip, why not combine it with riding a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu? You can even take a detour through the Sacred Valley Cusco while you're at it.
Machu Picchu Weather

Physical Fitness and Hiking Experience

Your level of physical fitness and prior hiking experience can significantly impact the duration of your hike, particularly with the Machu Picchu Stairs of Death.
If you’re a seasoned hiker with strong legs and lungs, you’ll likely be breezing through the trails faster than someone new to hiking. 
It’s essential to assess your fitness level realistically and choose a route that aligns with your capabilities. Starting a Machu Picchu training plan a few months in advance can make a world of difference.

Weather and Trail Conditions

Mother Nature can be unpredictable, and weather in Machu Picchu Peru conditions can change rapidly in the Andes. Rain, mud, and even snow can slow down your progress. 
Always check the weather forecast before embarking on your journey and be prepared for various conditions. Adding the right gear, like waterproof boots and rain jackets, to your Machu Picchu packing list can make your hike more comfortable and safer.
Salkantay 5-day trek
Happy faces at the end of the trek.

Conclusion

Understanding the duration of your Machu Picchu hike is crucial in planning your Peru adventure.
Whether you opt for a shorter trek like the Lares or go all-in with the longer Salkantay, each route offers its unique timeline and experiences. So, choose wisely, follow our hiking and travel Machu Picchu tips, and prepare accordingly to make the most of your time in this ancient wonder.
With our specialised group tours and vetted guides, we at Skyhook can help you plan your next and best adventure in Peru!

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