The 5 day Inca Trail is vastly superior to the 4 Day Inca Trail.
You hike the exact same route, but by taking an extra day, you improve your experience.
Here are our top 10 reasons why the 5 day Inca Trail is better than the 4 Inca Trail
1. You get more sleep
Avoid the ridiculously early starts that are required on the 4 Day Inca Trail. If doing it in 4 days, most companies pick you up at 5 am on the first day. So you have to wake up at 4 am. You are literally shattered before you start. And who can stomach breakfast at that hour? Then when you get to the start, you join a huge queue with everyone else to get through the checkpoint, which can easily take over an hour.
By contrast, on our 5 day Inca Trail, we pick you up at 9 am on the first day. So you wake up at 8 am, eat breakfast and feel relaxed. You then have a look around Ollantaytambo and have lunch before heading onto the trail. So by the time you start, the crowds at the checkpoint and on the trail, have long since gone.
2. You acclimatise better
The high point of the trek is Dead Woman’s Pass 4215m /13,828 feet. We cross it on Day 3. Everyone else does it on Day 2 so we give you an extra night to acclimatize. It also means that if anyone is struggling, the decision on carrying on or not does have to be made till Day 3 rather than Day 2. Once you are over Dead Woman’s Pass you are committed to carrying on until the end. As a result of the extra day, you are not only far more likely to complete the trail, but also far more likely to enjoy it.
3. The 5 day Inca Trail uses quieter campsites
We carefully choose our campsites to give you the best views or be as close as possible to the ruins. You camp where everyone else has lunch on the 4 Day Inca Trail so you generally have the campsite to yourself or share it with few others. The main campsites on the 4 Day Inca Trail are overcrowded and do not have such great views. Stomach bugs often spread fast around the overcrowded 4-day campsites due to the vast number of people in close proximity, so by avoiding these and camping away from others, you will have a far more hygienic experience.
4. You get private toilet tents
We know many people are worried about the toilet facilities when trekking the Inca Trail. The in-situ long drop toilets can be a pretty grim affair at the 4 Day Inca Trail. Therefore we erect our private toilet tents at each lunch and campsite. This makes for a far more pleasant and hygienic experience.
5. You have time to enjoy the trek
By joining our 5 day Inca Trail, you can slow down and really enjoy your time on this world-famous hike to Machu Picchu. On the other hand, if you choose only 4 days, you will most likely go home wishing you had taken an extra day as it will probably all be a bit of a blur. Sure, you will have ticked off the Inca Trail, but did you really see it, let alone really experience the trail? Avoid the doubt by giving yourself that extra day to really slow down and enjoy it. After all, it is a once in a lifetime experience, so why not do it well?
By doing it in 5 days, you have time to take more photos or look at more orchids or spot more birds. You also have time to fully explore all the ruins, and there are many along the way. By contrast, the Inca sites of Llactapata on Day 1, Runcuracay on Day 2, Sayaqmarca and Phuyupatamarca on Day 3, Winay Wayña on Day 4 are all either rushed or skipped entirely by the majority of 4 Day Inca Trail hikers. There simply is no time. But with 5 days, you have all the time you need.
As an added bonus, when hiking our 5 Day Inca Trail, you also get more time to relax around camp. We believe this is often undervalued. Not only does it give your body time to recover, but it also allows you to spend more time chatting with your fellow trekkers, and more time to just sit and take it all in. After all, it is not every day you get to camp in such spectacular places.
6. You can see a great sunrise
Everyone talks about the sunrise at Machu Picchu. But it is a myth. Machu Picchu is built on an East facing slope. But there are huge mountains to the East of it which block any spectacular sunrise.
However, if you do the trail with us in 5 days, you will be able to see a spectacular sunrise ( weather permitting). On the morning of day 4, in our camp at Phuyupatamarca, your guide will wake you up with a cup of tea or coffee just in time to have the chance to see the sunrise over the 6000m snow peak of Salkantay. Obviously, it depends on the weather, but when it happens, is spectacular with the snows of the mountain lit in shades of orange and gold.
7. You visit Machu Picchu at its quietest
When is the best time to see Machu Picchu? In the afternoon when most people have gone home. We time our 5- day Inca trail to arrive at Machu Picchu in the afternoon. This is much better than on the 4-day trail where you arrive in the busy morning. Late afternoon, with the warmth of the day fading away, is truly special. And there are far fewer people.
8. You visit Machu Picchu not once, but twice
By visiting Machu Picchu twice, we make sure you get to explore it properly. On Day 4 you get your first view of the Inca citadel, before taking time for photos and wandering on through it. Then on Day-5, you do your full guided tour of Machu Picchu.
By contrast, those doing the 4-day trek often leave feeling they have rushed Machu Picchu. They get up before dawn, walk 2 hours along dangerous paths in the dark, do a quick tour then rush down to catch the train back to Cusco. If you are travelling all the way to Peru to see Machu Picchu, then surely it deserves more time than that? So by doing it twice, you can fully do it justice.
9. You can get better photos
- Firstly if you want to take photos of your time on the Inca Trail, 5 days allows you far more time to do so. There is less pressure to keep moving which is the case in 4 days.
- Secondly, the light here in the Andes is very harsh throughout most of the day. You can take much better photos early and late in the day when the light is softer.
- Therefore we time our arrival to Machu Picchu late on Day 4 when the light is soft. Then we return on the morning of Day 5 when once again the light is softer. The 4-day trekkers and day-trippers arrive when the light is harsher which makes for pretty bland photos.
- Thirdly, if it is raining on Day 4 when you arrive, you get the chance of a clear day on Day 5. Those on the 4-day trail only have one chance.
- Fourthly -Because we arrive at Machu Picchu when it is almost empty the photos are better, precisely because they are not filled with tourists.
10. You travel back to Cusco in comfort.
The train ride back to Cusco is also spectacular. But sadly many hikers who do the 4-Day Inca Trail are so exhausted, that they do not see the scenery outside, they simply get on the train and fall asleep. Because you do the trail in 5 days vs 4, you will have spent the night in a hotel, so feel less tired, thus can actually enjoy the train ride. You will also be in cleaner clothes!
We use the comfortable Vistadome train to help you relax and enjoy the journey back to Cusco.
Discover how to hike the 5-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu here.
Or choose our 9-day Ultimate Inca Trail, for a complete package including acclimatisation hikes, hotels and transfers.
Read our Trip Advisor reviews here to find out what other people think of our 5 day Inca Trail
We recommend this book by our friend John Hemming, to learn more about the Incas, and what you will see on your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.