Skip to content

Tips for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – FAQs

For the more adventurous travelers, trekking to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu is the highlight of their journey. There are different trekking options to reach this historical sanctuary, but the Inca Trail is undoubtedly the most sought-after experience through the Peruvian Andes and high jungle.

The Inca Trail was a network of paths connecting the Inca Empire during the Inca period, along which the Incas built resting places, administrative, military, and religious centers. It extended over 30,000 km, crossing regions in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Today, the best-preserved part of this ancient trail is the route to Machu Picchu, starting from kilometer 82 of the Inca Trail. Completing this adventure takes 4 days and is considered a challenging hike.

As mentioned earlier, the Incas built structures to secure access to these places, and most remained hidden until their rediscovery in 1911. Fortunately, as the Incas escaped the Spanish conquistadors, they managed to mislead pursuit to protect their people and sacred sites.

Today, the Inca Trail remains one of the most sought-after activities in the Cusco region. Therefore, if you’re up for this adventure, we’ve listed some recommendations and answered some frequently asked questions to help you organize your trip.

What to pack for the Inca Trail trek?

The excitement of finally booking the Inca Trail trek is unparalleled, but planning the packing list is not as entertaining. However, this trek will be much smoother if you know what to bring and what to leave behind.

All companies include porter services, but you still need to carry a small backpack throughout the journey to store essential items for the day’s route. Packing smart is not about overpacking but knowing what you’ll definitely need for this hike.

  • Rain Poncho / Waterproof Jacket with Hood: Whether you’re traveling during the rainy or dry season, be aware that you’ll be immersed in the cloud forest, and the weather here can be quite drastic. Therefore, bringing a waterproof jacket with you would be the most suitable option for this hike.
  • Trekking Shirts: They are better than regular cotton shirts that accumulate moisture and dirt. Consider bringing at least 3 of them.
  • A pair of lightweight hiking pants or leggings.
  • Lightweight shorts for the hike.
  • Lightweight fleece jacket.
  • Hats for chilly mornings and evenings and sun hats for the afternoon.
  • Thermal layers for nights. Remember that temperatures are lower during the dry winter in the Andes.
  • Mountain socks.
  • Waterproof hiking boots.
  • A pair of lightweight sneakers to give your feet a break once at the camp.

Regarding camping equipment, most companies include almost everything. However, sleeping bags are usually not included in the package prices, but you can rent them from a store in Cusco or from the same company you are traveling with. Also, you might want to get a headlamp for night walks.

Are there showers and toilets on the trail?

Yes, there are bathrooms and showers at each campsite. However, the bathrooms are somewhat rudimentary, if not somewhat precarious, and the showers are really cold, although some campsites offer hot water for an extra cost.

How to prepare for the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail is not a very challenging hike, but it makes itself felt with its steep ascents and descents. However, the key to successfully preparing for this hike is to acclimatize your body before undertaking it.

Even if you’re an experienced hiker, we recommend spending 2-3 days in the city of Cusco to acclimate to the altitude. Additionally, this ancient trail will take you through places higher than 4,200 meters above sea level.

If you want to be in your best physical condition, it’s best to exercise before coming to Peru. Keep in mind that in your group, there will be many walkers with different fitness levels, so don’t see it as a competition and take your time to enjoy.

How to prevent altitude sickness?

Due to the high altitude of this place, some travelers may experience dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and difficulty breathing. These are symptoms of the so-called Soroche or Altitude Sickness.

This condition affects most travelers above 2,500 meters in altitude, regardless of whether they have lived in higher areas or at sea level all their lives. However, we’re not here to scare you but to clarify and make things easier for you:

  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is the key to avoiding sickness.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco at all costs. Alcohol is a dehydrator, and smoking can cause or worsen shortness of breath.
  • Take it easy for the first few days. If you’re traveling to high-altitude places, make sure not to engage in physically demanding activities during the first two days.
  • Drink coca tea or chew coca leaves. This medicinal plant is known for its healing properties and for aiding acclimatization.

There are some medications that help relieve altitude sickness symptoms; you can find Diamox or Soroche Pills in almost any pharmacy in Peru. However, it is highly recommended to consult with a doctor before taking any of them.

How long does it take to complete the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

It takes up to 4 days to complete this historic trail to the citadel. Along the way, you will pass through the remotest Inca settlements, offering a glimpse into life during the Inca era.

How difficult is the Inca Trail?

As mentioned earlier, a high level of fitness or being an experienced walker is not required to complete it. However, the key to avoiding any inconvenience is to acclimate a few days before starting this journey.

Short Inca Trails

Can you do the Inca Trail on your own?

Unfortunately, you cannot do the Inca Trail on your own, as the permit for the Inca Trail can only be obtained through a certified tourism company. The smallest allowed group is with a minimum of two passengers in addition to the guides and possibly the porters.

How far in advance do you have to book the Inca Trail?

To reduce human impact on the trail, the Peruvian government has limited entry to 500 people per day, including hikers, porters, cooks, and guides. Therefore, if you’re up for this adventure, we recommend booking the tour at least 6 months in advance.

It’s worth mentioning that the Inca Trail permit is not transferable, and during the rainiest month of the year (February), it is closed for maintenance.

What is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

The climate in this region is characteristic of the Peruvian Andean region, with a dry winter and a rainy summer. However, due to its geographical position, small rains are expected even during the dry season.

  • Rainy Season: It starts in December and ends around April. However, heavy showers are expected between January and March. Temperatures range from 15°C to 5°C.
  • Dry Season: Considered the coldest season of the year, although it is much warmer during the day. However, temperatures are significantly colder in the early morning and at night.

We would like to mention that the cloud forest has a different climatic condition, and even if you’re traveling during the dry season, you may experience occasional rains

. Check this guide and learn all about the weather in Peru.

What is the difference between the Short Inca Trail and the Classic one?

The Short Inca Trail lasts only 2 days and 1 night. It starts at kilometer 104 of the Ollantaytambo railway and passes through the archaeological sites of Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. The trail continues to Intipunku (Sun Gate) for an exceptional view of the Inca Citadel, then descends to Aguas Calientes to rest. The visit to Machu Picchu takes place the next day.

On the other hand, the Classic Inca Trail has a duration of 4 days and 3 nights, passing through different archaeological sites and the most impressive natural scenarios. Keep in mind that this is a somewhat challenging hike, passing through points above 4,000 meters in altitude.

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *