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Inca Trail Campsites – The Ultimate Peruvian Camping Adventure

Alison Macallister

When hiking the Inca Trail, you are signing up for the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t expect to find 5-star accommodation here though.

Part of the fun of this once-in-a-lifetime trek is camping out under the stars. Take a shower, refuel with a warm meal and get some rest before your next day of trekking.

There are several Inca trail campsites available for each day. So what’s the difference between each?

In this article I'll give you a better idea of what to expect when camping on the Inca Trail.

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Inca Trail Camping

As much as you might want to, you can’t just set up a tent anywhere along the Inca trail.

Inca trail campsites are regulated to marked areas that are safe for campers. This also helps minimise any environmental damage.

Campsites are large, open areas with basic bathrooms and pre-marked spots to set up a tent. 

To be honest, most Inca trail camp are fairly similar. It is more a matter of walking distance between the camps and the final destination at Machu Picchu.

camping inca trail

Camping On The Inca Trail

Each campsite has basic toilets, some are definitely better than others (see: Inca trail toilets). Only a few sites have showers and you can forget about hot water.

Please Note: There is no electricity or signal on the Inca Trail, so be prepared to go off the grid for a few days. Also make sure that you charge your batteries beforehand and pack a flashlight / headlamp.

Sites get allocated by the Peruvian authorities to Inca trail tour operators. This works on a first-come-first-served basis. The most popular sites get assigned first. Tour operators can request preferences.

However, the site you get depends on how early companies book Inca trail permits

Day 1 Inca Trail Campsites

Wayllabamba is the most popular day 1 campsite on the Inca Trail. There is more space at this campsite and most Inca Trail tour operators book here. If your first stop is Wayllabamba, you will likely have a 6am pick-up from Cusco.

Another popular site is Ayapata. The walk to Ayapata is a little further. This means a super early Cusco pick-up. Be prepared to rise and shine at 4:30 am! Ayapata sits almost 11,000 ft above sea level. It is best for those who are already acclimatized to the Inca trail elevation.

Mesqay campsite is generally not recommended unless as a last-minute option. The hike from the trail beginning to Mesqay camp is a short one. You will likely be collected from Cusco at 7am. Although it’s great to sleep in a little, keep in mind that your second day will be longer.

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Day 2 Inca Trail Campsites

Pacasmaya is the preferred choice for day 2. If you are hiking Wayllabamba to Pacasmaya, you will have a shorter hike on the second day. This is because you will only need to hike one pass (Dead Woman’s Pass).

Another popular choice is the Chaquicoccha campsite. The drawcard to Chaquicoccha is the resident herd of llamas. These animals make for great photo opportunities.

However, the downside to hiking from Ayapata to Chaquicoccha campsite makes for a tough second day. In this case, you will have to climb both the Runqurakay and Dead Woman’s Pass.

Day 3 Inca Trail Campsites

Wiñay Wayna Campsite

On day three of the Inca Trail, you are going to have two options for campsites. The most popular is the Wiñay Wayna campsite. When you book, you are automatically given a spot at this site unless it is already full.

Wiñay Wayna is sometimes marked as Winaywayna. It means ‘forever young’ in Quechua. This 125 square meter (about 410 square feet) campsite is close to the Wiñay Wayna ruins, which are some of the most spectacular ruins on the trail.

This site is popular because it is only 3 miles (4.8km) from Machu Picchu. From here, you should be able to reach the Sun gate around 7:30 am when the first light bathes the site.

The other reason travelers prefer camping here is that there are more facilities at your disposal. In addition to showers, there is a small shop for drinks and snacks. You can even buy a beer to celebrate your last day.

Phuyapatamarca Campsite

The Peruvian authorities will only book sites at Phuyapatamarca if Wiñay Wayna is full. If you prefer a more peaceful and spacious area, you can request this site.

Phuyapatamarca means ‘the city in the clouds’. The archeological site of the same name is close to this campsite. This campsite sits high on the mountain, at 3680m (over 12000ft) above sea level.

From Phuyapatamarca, it is 13miles (8km) to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, this means you will get to Machu Picchu later in the day on your final day of trekking.

On the plus side, Phuyapatamarca is a much quieter campsite. In addition, you have a breathtaking view of Salkantay mountain’s snowy peak. The campsites are also much bigger than those at Wiñay Wayna. Finally, this location is safe from landslides over the rainy months (see: when to hike the Inca trail).

salkantay-snowy-peaks

Mount Salkantay

Inca Trail Camping FAQs

Can I go glamping on the Inca Trail?

There are no pre-set-up luxury glamping sites along the trail. You can however book with tour operators that offer ‘Inca trail glamping’ experiences. In this case, you will get better tents, good quality food and additional equipment.

What are the toilets like on the Inca Trail?

There are toilets at the campsites and intermittently along the trail. Keep in mind that these are very basic. You will also need to carry your own toilet paper. Some higher-end tour companies provide portable toilets and hand-washing stations.

inca-trail-toilets-2

Do the showers on the Inca Trail have hot water?

Not all of the Inca trail campsites have showers and with camps that do, the water is very cold. So, be sure to prepare yourself mentally for that experience.

Do I need to carry my own camping equipment on the Inca Trail?

No, you don’t need to carry your own camping equipment on the Inca Trail. Your tour company will carry the tents and most luggage is portered between sites.

Is there hut accommodation on the Inca Trail?

Unfortunately, there are no huts on the Inca trail. You will be staying in tents at the allocated campsites. There is a good range of hotels and accommodation in Cusco though if camping isn’t for you.

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

See more Cusco accommodation options.

Are the campsites on the Inca Trail safe?

Yes, campsites on the Inca Trail are safe. They are located in safe areas and there are permanent guards on duty. These security guards help regulate activities and prevent disturbances at the sites. See: safety on the Inca trail.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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