Hiking to Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu: A Detailed Guide

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The Inca Bridge (Puente Inka) at Machu Picchu is a one-of-a-kind attraction. It is one of the few remaining Inca-built bridges in existence.

The bridge spans a gap in a narrow stone trail, a secret entrance to Machu Picchu, that runs along a towering cliff.

Comparatively few tourists hike the short (30-minute return) trail to the Inca Bridge, which is all the more reason to do it. It requires a special ticket, in my opinion the best Machu Picchu ticket available.

In this article, I’ll introduce the Inca Bridge, which of the Machu Picchu circuit tickets to buy for it, how to get there, what to expect on the trail, safety issues, and the best time of day to do this hike.

If you’re taking the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, also don’t miss my guides to preparing for the Inca Trail and what you’ll see on each day on the 4-Day Inca Trail.

What is the Inca Bridge?

Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu

The Puente Inka (Inca Bridge) is a removable bridge consisting of two tree trunks. The trunks span a 5-meter gap in a narrow trail along the cliff. The Inca-built stone wall holding up the trail goes down 20 meters, while the valley floor is some 580 meters below.

There are stone steps protruding from the wall on either side, which allowed the workers to build and maintain the wall.

This bridge protected an alternative entrance path to Machu Picchu, which went around the western side of Machu Picchu Mountain. The the common entrance, today’s Inca Trail, goes around the east side of the mountain.

If any intruders came up this trail, the Inca guards could simply remove the log bridge, making passage impossible. It could also serve as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu for the Inca army.

The short trail from The Guardian House (the classic Machu Picchu viewpoint) to the Inca Bridge is an extension of the same trail, so you will be walking on an original Inca trail to get there.

Note: The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu should not be confused with other bridges that have the same name. These include Inca Bridge (Q’eswachaka Rope Bridge) southeast of Cusco and the Puente Inca (Inca Bridge) in Ollantaytambo.

Which Machu Picchu Circuit Ticket Do You Need?

Nick Kembel standing with arms outstretched, facing away from camera, with a view of Machu Picchu
You’ll need the Circuit 2 + Inca Trail ticket, which will include the famous Machu Picchu viewpoint.

This is very important. You can only hike to the Inca Bridge if you’ve purchased the Circuito 1 o 2 + Puente Inka ticket from the official Machu Picchu tickets site or a licensed 3rd party vendor (usually more expensive).

Although the official site is in Spanish only, I’ve typed out step-by-step instructions for how to buy this ticket in my guide to the circuits at Machu Picchu.

If you don’t have this exact ticket, you won’t be allowed to do the hike to the Inca Bridge. There is a guard station at the trailhead and no way to get around it. The guard will ask to see your ticket and for you to sign in for the trail, which is a safety precaution (they want to make sure everyone who goes in also comes back out).

The Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge tickets is the most complete and best ticket you can buy for Machu Picchu. Circuit 2 is widely recognized as the best Machu Picchu circuit, and adding the extra hike to Inca Bridge just makes it even better.

Although the ticket is called “Circuit 1 or 2”, when I visited in 2023, there was no longer any Circuit 1 at Machu Picchu. There used to be a shortcut halfway through Machu Picchu that created the shorter Circuit 1. But now, this shortcut is closed, so all circuits go all the way to the northern end of the site and back. In other words, Circuit 2 is your only option here.

Because this ticket is a sweet deal (it costs the same as a regular Circuit 2 ticket (152 soles), but you get an extra hike for free), it tends to sell out quickly. So make sure to book it well in advance!

Only 280 Inca Bridge tickets are available per day, with 30-40 people walking in each time slot.

What Do the Ticket Times Mean?

Screenshot of the Inca Bridge trail entrance times from the official Machu Picchu website
Entrance time slots of the Inca Bridge trail on the official Machu Picchu tickets site

When buying the Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge ticket, the entrance time that you choose is actually the time that you should start your hike.

So, for example, if you choose the earliest time slot of the day (07:00 a 08:00 hrs), this means you will actually be allowed to enter Machu Picchu anytime from 6:00 to 7:00, and you are supposed to start your Inca Bridge hike anytime from 7:00 to 8:00. If you want to enter Machu Picchu at 6:00, catch the bus from Aguas Calientes at 5:30.

The last slot of the day for this ticket is 14:00 a 15:00 hrs, which means you could enter Machu Picchu from 1 to 2 PM, then you should start your bike from 2 to 3 PM.

This makes sense, because it takes some time to get from the Machu Picchu entrance to the Inca Bridge Trailhead. The time it takes depends on how long you linger for taking pictures of Machu Picchu at the famous viewpoint, before starting the hike. I’ll cover this in more detail in the next section.

There is some flexibility in the times. For example, if you should up a little past your designated time, it shouldn’t be a problem. However, you probably wouldn’t want to show up many hours before or after your designated time.

Also, don’t be late for the final time slot of the day, because they won’t let you in after a certain time. That’s because they will soon be closing the trail for the day.

Buying Multiple Tickets

A sign pointing to circuit 2 and circuit 3 at Machu Picchu
You might be doing another Circuit before this one.

It is possible you are doing another circuit first, then buying this ticket as your second one for the day, or for the next day like I did. For example, those arriving at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail must do Circuit 3 (4-day Inca Trail) or Circuit 5 (1, 2, or 5-day Inca Trail).

However, since Circuits 3 and 5 miss some of the best attractions at Machu Picchu, including the classic viewpoint from the Guardhouse, I recommend that those people purchase an additional circuit 2 ticket to see those things.

If you must do it on the same day, then I suggest you buy your Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge ticket for 12 to 1 , allowing you to enter MP from 11-12 (a little more rushed) or buy a ticket for 1 to 2, allowing you to enter MP from 12-1 (you’d have time to eat lunch at the entrance before going back in).

When I arrived at Machu Picchu on the 4-day Inca Trail, we reached the famous Guardhouse viewpoint around 8 AM, then exited Machu Picchu, re-entered, and did our Circuit 3 tour. The tour ended around 11 AM. However, I didn’t do the Inca Bridge Circuit 2 next. I did the Huayna Picchu hike (Circuit 4, starting 10-11), then I did my Inca Bridge Circuit 2 hike the following morning. I did this because mornings are less busy, and 3 visits in one day would be too much.

On other words, I actually had 3 Machu Picchu tickets in total. The first was my Circuit 3 tour included in my Inca Trail package. I also wanted to climb Huayna Picchu, which requires a Circuit 4 ticket. I did that right after my Circuit 3 tour, which I recommend. I didn’t even have to leave and re-enter Machu Picchu. When we reached Sacred Stone, the starting point of the hike, I said goodbye to my group and did the hike on my own.

Machu Picchu mostly covered in clouds
Poor weather on my first visit to Machu Picchu. So glad I had multiple tickets!

Then, for my third ticket, I bought a Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge ticket for the next morning. I’m so glad I did this! First of all, even though I did Circuit 3 and the Huayna Picchu hike on my first day, I still missed several spots not included on those (such as Inca Bridge, Machu Picchu Main Gate, Inca Quarry, Torreon Viewpoint, Sacred Plaza, Temple of Three Windows, and Intihuatana).

Secondly, we actually had terrible weather on our first day when we arrived at Machu Picchu. It was pouring rain and Machu Picchu was totally covered with clouds while we were at the famous viewpoint (the pic above is the best one I got after waiting there in the rain for 20 minutes).

When I visited the next day, on my Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge ticket, I had better luck and actually saw Machu Picchu clearly from the viewpoint. So having tickets for two different days increases your odds of having a good Machu Picchu view in case of bad weather.

How to Get to Inca Bridge Trail

It only takes about 15 minutes to walk from the Machu Picchu entrance to the Inca Bridge trailhead. About half of this time involves walking uphill.

However, because you will pass the famous Machu Picchu viewpoint on the way to the trailhead, it will actually take you longer. How long it takes will depend on how long you linger at the famous viewpoint to take your classic Machu Picchu photos.

Most people spend around 15 to 30 minutes there. That means you can budget about 30 to 45 minutes to get from the Machu Picchu entrance to the Inca Bridge Trailhead. Here are the precise instructions for getting there:

A crowd of visitors in front of the Main Entrance at Machu Picchu
Main entrance to Machu Picchu. You’ll take the stairs to the hut on the top-left to enter.

After the bus drops you off in the parking lot, you will see the only restrooms (2 soles) and luggage storage office at Machu Picchu. To the left, follow the stairs up to the Machu Picchu entrance gate (note: this entrance is only for those doing Circuits 1 or 2. Anyone doing Circuits 3, 4, or 5 should use the entrance gate to the right of the restrooms).

After showing your entrance ticket and passport, follow the trail until you reach a sign pointing left up a stone staircase. The sign says “To Inca Bridge, Guardhouse, and Sun Gate.” This is where your uphill hike begins.

The hike through the forest takes about five minutes, but you will be huffing and puffing by the end of it! As you ascend, you’ll pass a collection of stone colcas (storehouses) to your right.

Before getting to the top, you’ll reach a junction where you have to go left for the Platforma Superior (Upper Platform) or right for the Platforma Inferior (Lower Platform), indicated by a sign. You must go left to the Upper Platform for getting to Inca Bridge.

Signs with arrows on the Inca trail pointing the way to the Upper Viewing platform and Inca Bridge trail
You’ll go right here. If you went straight, it would go to the Sun Gate.

At the top, you’ll pass a little wooden guard station (you don’t need to show your tickets). After it, turn left. You’re now on the Inca Trail! This trail continues all the way to the Sun Gate, where those hiking the Inca Trail arrive at Machu Picchu.

But you’ll only walk on this trail for one minute before you have to turn right (pictured above) to reach the Upper Platform. A guard will be sitting there to make sure you don’t miss it (and to stop people from trying to hike to the Sun Gate).

The Platforma Superior (Upper Platform) offers the highest view looking down on Machu Picchu from the Guardhouse area. Watch for llamas as you enter it!

You’ll actually see the Guardhouse on a lower terrace below you. Also note the Funerary Stone in the field behind it (visible in below image). The Lower Platform, which you’ll be able to visit later, is next to and below the Guardhouse.

Some llamas sitting on grassy terraces and Machu Picchu with a small thatch roof hut in the background
Looking down at llamas and the Guardhouse from the start of the Upper Platform

As you walk along the Upper Platform, you’ll pass the foundation of a large Kallanka (Hall) where Machu Picchu workers used to drink chicha (corn beer). It is actually one of the largest structures at Machu Picchu.

After you pass the Kallanka, you’ll enjoy your best Machu Picchu views from a few different platforms. Each one offers a slightly different angle of Machu Picchu, so you’ll probably take approximately 1 million photos.

If Machu Picchu is obscured by clouds or mist, as is often the case in the morning, don’t worry. You’ll get one more chance to see the views after your Inca Bridge hike!

A sign with arrow pointing left to Inka Bridge, and a stone wall behind it.
You’ll find this sign at the far end of the Upper Platform.

Don’t take any of the staircases going down. Instead, keep following the uppermost terrace all the way to the end. There, at a final MP viewing platform, you’ll see a small sign pointing to a trail going up into the bush. The signs says “To Inka Bridge / A Puente Inka” (see image above).

A couple minutes up this trail will bring you to the trailhead and guard station for the Inca Bridge trail, where you will have to show your ticket and sign in.

Hiking to Inca Bridge

A walking path with rock walls on left and going way down a cliff on the right, with small stone barricade.
Much of the trail looks like this.

When I checked in for the hike, the guard warned me (in Spanish) to stick to the left while walking along the trail. I soon saw why.

For most of the 15-minute hike to the Inca Bridge viewpoint, there were rock walls on my left, and steep cliffs dropping down on my right.

Trail along a cliff, with no barrier on the side.
Some sections have no barrier at all.

Most of the time there was a short stone wall or barrier, but I definitely felt some vertigo when walking close to it! In some sections, there is no barrier at all, so obviously you’ll want to be careful. The trail is wide, though, with enough room for two people to pass each other safely.

One particular section, with a few stairs, has an especially impressive Inca stone wall going way down on the right side (see image below). It’s hard to even imagine how they built it!

A narrow trail along a stone face, with a steep Inca built stone wall going down the right side
Most impressive section of the trail

Part of the trail is also through the forest, with just a short drop (1-2 meters) down to the forest on the right side. The whole trail is original Inca, and actually reminded me a lot of certain parts of the 4-day Inca Trail!

A stone Inca trail through the forest
Forest section of the trail

The trail ended rather abruptly after I went through a narrow point between two stone walls and reached the viewpoint of the Inca Bridge.

A narrow section of trail passing between two stone walls
Narrow section right before the viewpoint

You can’t go any further than this viewpoint. Not only is the trail roped off after this point, but there’s also an impassable wooden gate closer to the bridge, which you can see in the photos.

It used to be possible to go right up to and even walk on the bridge, but access is now closed because the trail there is very narrow and not safe.

A zoomed in photo of Inca Bridge
Close-up view of the bridge shot with telephoto lens
An expansive view of the Inca Bridge and cliff faces around it
A zoomed out shot. You won’t get any closer than this.

The sheer scale of the cliffs and scenery around the bridge are breathtaking. Note the stone protrusions sticking out below the bridge, which would have been used for construction and maintenance.

Just like earlier on the trail, I was blown away just trying to imagine who could have been brave enough to build this bridge and the walls below it, and how they could have achieved such a task.

A stone wall supporting a narrow trail along the cliff, with view of river far below to the left
The return hike

On the return walk, the views are quite different. It was only when facing this direction that I noticed the hydroelectric dam on the Urubamba River far below.

When you finish the hike, you will return to the Upper Platform of the Guardian House area. This means you will get a second chance to take more classic shots of Macchu Picchu. From there, you’ll follow a staircase downhill.

You’ll be able to access some of the Lower Platforms on the way down, which offer a closer view and different angle of Machu Picchu than the Upper ones. You’ll never actually get to stand right next to the Guardian House, though, as that particular platform is reserved for visitors on other Circuit tickets.

After the Lower Platform, the trail continues downhill to the Main Gate (traditional entrance) of Machu Picchu.

How Difficult is the Trail? Is It Safe?

A fence made of a single rope on the edge of a stone trail on the hike to Inca Bridge
This rope probably won’t stop anyone from falling…

The hike to Inca Bridge is not difficult. It is mostly flat, with only a few stone stairs. In fact, it is easier than the walk from the Machu Picchu entrance to the Guardhouse Viewpoint, which you’ll have to do to get there, and which most visitors to Machu Picchu do.

However, if you experience vertigo or you are scared of heights, the trail could be a little scary for you. It’s totally safe, though. Just stick to the left and you’ll be fine.

This trail is nowhere near as scarry or difficult as the challenging hike up Huayna Picchu.

Looking far down at a river from the side of a hiking trail
Another spot with no barrier whatsoever

How Long Does the Hike Take?

Almost every source I’ve seen said this hike takes 40 minutes return. However, I did it in 30 minutes total, from the trailhead to Inca Bridge viewpoint and back.

I walked a little quickly, but I also made lots of stops for taking photos. So I’d say that my overall visiting speed was average.  

Is the Inca Bridge Worth It?

Stone staircase on the Inca Bridge Trail

In my opinion, the Inca Trail hike is absolutely worth it.

For the exact same price as a regular Circuit 2 ticket (152 soles), you get to do an extra little hike for free. So why not?

Moreover, my favorite part of the Inca Bridge hike was that I had the trail entirely to myself. This won’t always be the case. In fact, 280 tickets for this hike are sold every day, with 30-40 people allowed to do it in each one-hour time slot.

I guess I was just lucky, but there were a few things that helped. First, I entered Machu Picchu in the first time slot of the day. Machu Picchu is far less crowded in the early morning than in the late morning and early afternoon. I walked quickly up to the Guardhouse viewpoint. I find that visiting alone, you can move much quicker than those traveling in groups.

After spending some time taking pictures from the viewpoint, I reached the Inca Bridge guard station at 6:55 AM, which is 5 minutes before it is supposed to open for the day. The guard was already there and let me enter.

Another factor is that I was visiting Peru during the massive downturn in tourism following the early 2023 protests. This meant that visitor numbers at Machu Picchu were lower than usual during my visit.

Having a little piece of Machu Picchu all to myself felt like such a rare and special thing. The rest of Machu Picchu was super crowded during my visit, even during the downturn in tourism. I can’t even image how busy it is during peak times. I actually didn’t even enjoy Machu Picchu as much as I thought I would because of this.

So having that little Inca Bridge trail all to myself was definitely one of the highlights of my visit!

I hope you found all the information you needed here about the Inca Bridge trail. If you’ve got any questions or would like to share your experience of it, please do so in the comments below!

Also don’t miss my guides to Ollantaytambo, the Ollantaytambo ruins, Pisac, the Pisac ruins, and other ruins in the Cusco region.

11 thoughts on “Hiking to Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu: A Detailed Guide”

  1. Hi! So after hiking Inca bridge, go down to lower platform, then to main entrance, that’s it, have to get out to exit. Or from main entrance, I can continue to go to a full circuit 2 , around 3 hrs to along all route exactly like circuit 2 to see intihuatana, hall of mirror? Thanks

    • No, the Inca Bridge is an add-on to Circuit 2. So after you enter MP, you will go directly to the upper platform (for famous MP views), then do the Inca Bridge trail, then back to the upper platform (for famous view again). Then you will proceed to the classic entrance door frame to MP and do the whole Circuit 2 before exiting. But for Intihuatana, Hall of Mirrors, and Temple of Condor, note their individual opening times. You will only be able to see one of Hall of Mirrors or Temple of Condor if you only do one circuit. The route at the end goes through either one or the other, depending on the time of day.

  2. This information is so helpful. Thank you. I am very confused about all I have read about the circuits, entrance times etc. First, you do not mention a guide. I have read that a guide is required to enter Machu Picchu. Is that true? Then, I have read that once you finish the Inca Bridge hike, you are out of the park and cannot get back in. But, you are saying that is not correct? Our ticket has an entrance time of 7:00am, with Bridge hike 8:00-9:00. so, if we did the hike first, we should be able to get back in?

    • You don’t need a guide for Machu Picchu. And no, you won’t have to exit the park after doing the Inca Trail hike. It’s exactly as I describe in this article. It just wouldn’t make sense or even be possible for them to make you leave the whole area after that hike given its location. With entrance time of 7, you are supposed to enter Machu Picchu anytime 7 to 8 AM. If you enter at 7, it only takes 10-15 minutes to walk up to the famous postcard view of Machu Picchu. Then you can spend some time there enjoying the view. The Inca Bridge trailhaed starts at the far end of the highest viewing platform. Its gate will open at 8. After you finish the hike, you’ll come back to the highest viewing platform, so you can enjoy the view a second time. It would be impossible for them to somehow make you leave Machu Picchu at this point, since you are so far inside the ruins. After enjoying the view again, you’ll walk down some stairs to the traditional entrance of Machu Picchu and do a full circuit (Circuit 2) of the ruins.

  3. So helpful Nick thank you.
    We are planning to do circuit 2 + Inca Bridge for the first entry in the morning. I was wondering whether to arrange for a guide but am presuming the guide doesn’t do the Inca Bridge part of the trail? In which case it’s probably not worth it as we would only have the guide with us for the very beginning of circuit 2, is that correct?
    Also, as we are there in the rainy season (8th March) we are planning to do circuit 4 and Wayna Picchu mountain (10-11 time slot) on the same day as I’ve heard it’s more likely for the sun to be shining by that time. Would you agree?
    Many thanks

    • As for the guide, I I suspect that yes, they would join you, because they would want to explain it to you, and it’s not a difficult or long hike. Personally, I don’t like using guides, and I heard that lots of the guides at MP are not well educated or share false facts/info about the site. I would rather research the info about the site on my own and explore it by myself. But that’s just me! As for rain and possibility of sun vs rain, I really can’t comment on that. No one knows what the weather will be like. This is just luck. But if you’re going in the rain season, well, it might be raining a lot. And when the rain is heavy, the Wayna Picchu trail will be closed because it is very dangerous when wet. My personal experience is that I purposely visited in the supposedly dry season, but it rained on both days that I visited MP.

  4. Thanks for detailed information.
    We are planning to purchase the circuit 2+ Inca Bridge. Can we skip the bridge trail if changing mind? Or can we stop in the middle and turn back since one of us afraid of heights?

    • Yes, if you change your mind, no one will say you have to do it. The side-trail to the Inca bridge starts and ends at the same spot. If you don’t even do it and just continue along your circuit 2, no one will notice or care. And if you do just a little of the trail and get scared, you can simply turn around and go back.

  5. Hello! Did entry time change in 2024?

    I just bought a Inka Trail ticket and it says 1pm on the left side and 1-2pm on the right side.

    This means that you are no longer allowed to enter the citadel one hour earlier but that you have to enter starting 1pm and reach the Inka Bridge entrance by 2pm?


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