Inca Trail Vs Inca Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu

Inca Quarry trek - trekkers going to the first summit

Everyone has heard of the Inca Trail: your friends may have hiked it, and it’s the echo you hear when Machu Picchu is mentioned across the Andes. In this blog of Inca Trail Vs Inca Quarry Trail, we are going to explain the difference between the two famous hikes to Machu Picchu.

No matter which trail you choose, hiking in Peru offers a breathtaking view of ancient mountain peaks, the rewards of a physically demanding trek, and a journey that connects you with locals along the way.

While many travelers panic and Google “other hikes in Peru” after discovering that Inca Trail permits are sold out, you might find the Inca Quarry Trail a better option for you.

If you find yourself at a crossroads trying to decide, here is a brief overview of what you can expect from both incredible hikes.

Classic Inca Trail

What you should know before you hike the Inca Trail 4 days
Start point of the inca trail 4 days

The 4-day Inca Trail is the classic route to Machu Picchu, known worldwide. The classic trail must be booked in advance, with a tourist limit of 500 people per day. It’s essential to ensure your company has reserved your hike. Once on the trail, you’ll notice more than 500 or 200 hikers with you, making it challenging to connect and enjoy the scenery. The Classic Inca Trail offers diverse microclimates (ranging from highlands to tropical jungle), but it remains one of the most beautiful hikes in South America, at least among those in the know.

We offer two tours to the Classic Inca Trail:

Inca Quarry Trail

Inca Quarry trek - trekkers going to the first summit
Inca Quarry trek – trekkers going to the first summit

If you want to explore and enjoy beautiful landscapes, the Inca Quarry Trail is a new alternative hike to the Classic Inca Trail, where you won’t encounter many hikers. It’s off the beaten path and doesn’t lead directly to the Sun Gate. The main thing you miss with the Quarry Trail is hiking through the tropical jungle, as it doesn’t pass through different microclimates. However, you can still reach Machu Picchu with a short train ride. You can discover a new Sun Gate across the Andes, known as Inti Punku, structures built to honor the sun, typically framing a distant mountain and welcoming the first rays of the winter solstice. Along the trail, you can find Inca mummies within caves, waterfalls for a refreshing shower, and appreciate the Inca ruins and terraces. The stone quarries were used by pre-Inca and Inca civilizations to build the vast Ollantaytambo complex.

We offer two hikes to the Inca Quarry:

Inca Trail and Inca Quarry Trail

The path to the mystical Inca site was a mystery for a long time. During the Inca era, numerous trails led from the Inca capital of Cusco across Peru, the most famous connecting the Sacred Valley with Machu Picchu, the city in the clouds. Both the Inca Trail and Inca Quarry Trail (Ollantaytambo) were rediscovered in the last century. The Inca Trail spans 45 kilometers over 4 days, while the Inca Quarry Trail covers 28 kilometers over 3 days. Though shorter than other long-distance hiking routes, both trails offer an unforgettable experience filled with adventure and breathtaking moments.

Classic Inca Trail Vs Inca Quarry Trail

AspectClassic Inca TrailInca Quarry Trail
What is it?A 43-kilometer route along ancient Inca paths to Machu Picchu, considered the best trek in South America. Starts at Pisqacucho (kilometer 82) and ends at Intipunku (Sun Gate). Allows a maximum of 500 people per day, including tourists and support staff.Dedicated to carving and extracting stones for Ollantaytambo’s construction. Offers views of Inca terraces, a short authentic Inca trail, the Temple of the Water God, secret waterfalls, Inca mummies, and high Andean lands. Ends with a train ride to Machu Picchu.
Distance43 kilometers26 kilometers
Where is it located?In the heart of the Peruvian Andes, between Cusco and Machu Picchu.12 kilometers from the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 9 kilometers from Ollantaytambo, near Machu Picchu.
DifficultyConsidered moderately difficult. The hike spans 4 days and 3 nights, with the initial days being intense. The highest point is the Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215 meters.Total distance is approximately 26 kilometers, with the maximum altitude at 4,450 meters. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some.
Best time to hikeMay to September (dry season) is ideal. Closed in February for maintenance due to heavy rains.May and October are the best months. Peak season is June to August, but the Andes are less crowded.
Key HighlightsOffers diverse microclimates, ranging from highlands to tropical jungle. Famous Sun Gate view at Machu Picchu.Unique views of Inca terraces, the Temple of the Water God, secret waterfalls, and high Andean landscapes. Ends with a train ride to Machu Picchu.
CrowdsHighly popular, making the trail crowded. Check Inca Trail Availability.Much less crowded, offering a more solitary experience.
Flora and FaunaDiverse due to varying microclimates, including highland and jungle species.Less diverse as it doesn’t pass through different microclimates, but still offers unique Andean flora and fauna.
Cultural SitesNumerous Inca ruins along the way, including Intipunku (Sun Gate) and Wiñay Wayna.Includes ancient quarries, Inca mummies, and the Temple of the Water God.
AccommodationCampsites along the trail are regulated and often crowded.Campsites are less crowded, offering a more peaceful experience.

Other Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu

Many routes lead to Machu Picchu, but none are like the Inca Trail, the most famous pedestrian path in America. After flying from Peru’s capital, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to hike for four days along a trail through forests and dense fog, ancient stone steps, and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, all while enjoying majestic views.

  • Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 5 Days
  • 5-Day Inca Trail
  • 3-Day Inca Trail
  • Vilcabamba Trek to Machu Picchu 6 Days
  • Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu 9 Days
  • Ausangate Trek 7 Days

If you wish to visit Machu Picchu, we recommend booking your Machu Picchu Ticket in advance to enjoy your vacation without any problems.

When is the best time to hike to Machu Picchu?

The best season is during the dry season, from April to the end of September. In October, the rains begin, and you might find Machu Picchu covered in clouds. If you travel in June, we recommend booking the Inti Raymi Tour 2024, held on June 24, and also doing the Palcoyo Mountain Tour, an incredible Rainbow Mountain located in the Andes.

Read more: Best time to hike Inca Trail.

At AdventureInPeru, we are proud to be a 100% local tour operator, committed to providing authentic and memorable experiences.

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