What To Expect: Epic Inca Trail Adventure to Machu Picchu

As you gear up for the epic journey that is the Inca Trail, you’re on the brink of an extraordinary adventure that blends history, nature, and a touch of personal magic. Imagine walking in the footsteps of the ancient Incas, surrounded by the stunning Andean landscapes.

In this guide, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on what to expect along this legendary trail.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie to the trekking world, let’s take a sneak peek into the incredible experiences that await you on the Inca Trail.

Why hike the Inca Trail?

Aside from being a UNESCO heritage site, there are more reasons to do the challenging Inca Trail Hike.

Go for an adventure

The Inca Trail, which was crafted by the mighty Inca Empire in the 1450s, is a true wonder. The Incas used carefully carved rocks from nearby quarries to build this extraordinary path. It’s like stepping back in time as you walk on these very stones, giving you a glimpse into their remarkable engineering skills and the design of this mountainous route.

Physical and Mental Challenge

Hiking the Inca Trail is an exciting challenge that flexes both your body and mind. You’ll conquer steep slopes, high altitudes, and long trails. It might be tough at times, but with determination and support from your group, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment when you reach Machu Picchu. It’s like a real-life video game where you level up your skills!

Admire Peru’s Natural Wonders

While journeying along the Inca Trail, you’ll encounter a captivating expedition through various microclimates. It takes you from the high-altitude cloud forests to lush jungles. Throughout the hike, you’ll be mesmerized by the ever-changing landscapes, from snow-covered peaks to vibrant, green forests.

You’ll also have the chance to spot incredible wildlife, like colorful birds and unique plants. The Inca Trail is a nature lover’s paradise, and you’ll get to see animals and vegetation that you won’t find anywhere else.

It’s an adventure through multiple, enchanting worlds.

Learn about its Extraordinary History

The Inca Trail isn’t just a simple hike; it’s a pathway steeped in history and adorned with ancient sites. It guides you through valleys and mountain passes, granting access to intriguing Inca archaeological sites such as Patallacta, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Inti Pata, Winay Wayna, and Intipunku. Each site narrates its unique story about the Inca civilization and their deep connection with nature.

The historical significance of the trail is also extraordinary. It’s the sole route that allows hikers to directly reach Machu Picchu, leading them to the Sun Gate, an essential part of the Machu Picchu complex. Arriving in Machu Picchu is the climax of this adventure.

Is the Inca Trail worth it?

Absolutely! It is the perfect blend of awe-inspiring history, breathtaking natural beauty, and the thrill of exploration.

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This ancient Inca citadel, perched high in the Andes Mountains, not only transports you back in time with its enigmatic ruins but also treats you to jaw-dropping views of lush landscapes and rugged peaks. Complemented with a great tour guide who knows how to tell a story, you’ll find that the hike and views are worth the effort.

If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll appreciate the stories that tour guides share at each leg of the journey. We were lucky to have Ted as our tour guide because he was able to clearly articulate and weave a story throughout the four-day hike.

Inca Trail Itinerary Options

Each tour company usually offers a variety of Inca Trail itineraries to accommodate different travel needs and comfort levels. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll start from Cusco

4-Day Inca Trail Itinerary

This is the classic and the most popular option that majority of trekkers pick.

Day 1 
Start the trek at Km 82, hike through the Urubamba Valley, and visit the archaeological site of Llactapata.

Day 2 
Cross the challenging Warmihuañusca Pass (Dead Woman’s Pass), then descend to the Pacaymayo Valley.

Day 3 
Hike through beautiful cloud forests, visiting archaeological sites like Runkurakay and Sayacmarca, before reaching Phuyupatamarca.

Day 4
Early morning start to reach the famous Intipunku (Sun Gate) and witness the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Explore the incredible Machu Picchu site with a two-hour guided tour.

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5-Day Inca Trail Itinerary

This is a longer variation of the classic Inca Trail hike.

Day 1
Start the trek at Km 82, hike through the Urubamba Valley, and visit the archaeological site of Llactapata.

Day 2 
Cross Dead Woman’s Pass, descend to the Pacaymayo Valley, and spend a night at a beautiful campsite.

Day 3
Continue the journey, passing by archaeological sites like Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Phuyupatamarca.

Day 4
Hike to Wiñay Wayna and carry on to Intipunku (Sun Gate), where you’ll see the sunrise over Machu Picchu. From there, you’ll take a bus to your hotel in Aguas Calientes

Day 5
Early morning hike to Intipunku (Sun Gate) to view the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Explore Machu Picchu with a guided tour.

2-Day Inca Trail Itinerary

Those that prefer comfort over adventure will find the two-day version to be the perfect itinerary.

Day 1
Start the trek at Km 104, visit Chachabamba archaeological site, and hike to Wiñay Wayna. Enjoy lunch with scenic views.

Day 2
Early morning hike to Intipunku (Sun Gate) to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Explore the Machu Picchu site with a guided tour.

What’s the difference between the 4-day hike and the 5 day hike?

The 5-day hike goes through the same route as the 4-day hike, except you’ll cover less mileage per day and you’ll spend more time at each ruins.

Another big difference is that you’ll see Machu Picchu for both sunrise and sunset on the fourth and fifth day respectively.

That said, if you prefer a more leisurely pace for the hike, pick the 5-day hike. It is also the best route to do for families or those with younger children.

Those that are looking to challenge themselves more can stick to the classic four-day hike.

How difficult is the hike to Machu Picchu?

It is difficult because of the endurance it requires, but the trails are not technical. I’ve been a recreational trail runner for a couple of years when I completed the Inca trail and I still found it very challenging. What makes it difficult? A couple of things.

High altitude
The Inca Trail hike starts at around 2,700 meters (8,858 feet) above sea level in the Sacred Valley and reaches its highest point at Warmiwañusca Pass, where the air is thinner at 4,215 meters (13,829 feet). The altitude can be physically demanding and can affect trekkers differently. Some hikers experience shortness of breath, headaches, and fatigue, especially on the second day of the trek. With good breathing techniques and proper acclimization though, you’ll be just fine!

Steep Terrain and High Steps 
The Inca Trail includes steep ascents and descents, with uneven stone steps that can be slippery, especially when it rains. The second day is notorious for its steep climb through the Dead Woman’s Pass. It’s essential to have sturdy, ankle-supporting hiking boots and trekking poles to help with stability.

While we were walking, I can’t help but think how these people who are about the same height as me (or maybe a bit shorter) manage to hike up these high steps continuously while carrying their heavy load. I was struggling with a 25L daypack, good hiking boots, and poles. How did these people do it?

Weather Conditions
The weather on the Inca Trail can be unpredictable even during the dry season. It can be quite cold at night, and you may encounter rain during the rainy season (November to March). Rain means slippery steps. Proper clothing and gear for various weather conditions are crucial for a comfortable hike.

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I did the hike in September and found myself hiking in shorts while wearing a jacket, just so I have enough ventilation but still keep myself warm from the cold breeze. The point being is that you need to be prepared because in this hike, you’ll be going through multiple microclimates that will expose you to rain, cold, and heat.

Inca Trail 4D/3N Experience – My POV

I know the general itinerary is already found on each tour company’s website, but this is my take on what the tour is like. Take this as my point of view of what the hike was like, and you can be the judge whether this hike is for you or not.

Day 0 – Orientation Day

The day before the Inca Trail adventure begins, you’ll need to head over to the Alpaca Expeditions office. I must admit, I wasn’t a fan of having the orientation the night before, but I get it – some hikers arrive late, and it’s the best time for everyone.

Here, the friendly staff will warmly welcome you and provide a comprehensive briefing, giving you all the details of what to expect on your exciting journey.

As a thoughtful touch, you’ll be presented with green duffel bags. These special bags serve as a convenient way for you to pack items that you’d like your dedicated porter to carry during the trek, ensuring a more comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience.

Day 1 – Warm up for the Big Day 

  • Highlights: Cusco, Ollantaytambo, KM 82, Patallacta
  • Distance: 14 km or approx. 8.5 miles
  • Starting Altitude: 2,720 meters or 8,923 feet
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,300 meters
  • Elevation Gain: 580 meters / 1,906 feet
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 6 to 7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Our big adventure began super early, even before the sun was up. We got picked up from our hotels in Cusco, and I was staying with a homestay family, so they came for me around 4 am. The day before, they told us when they’d pick us up, which was nice. The tour guide even sent me WhatsApp messages to remind me when to be ready.

Upon boarding, we’re given a green blanket in case we want to sleep. It was a sleepy bus ride towards the Porter’s House, where we stopped for breakfast. Breakfast was filling and we enjoyed a table full of fruits, bread, and spreads. We also met the porters there and prepared our duffel bags for them to carry.

From there, we headed towards Km 82, the beginning of the Inca Trail.

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The first day’s journey was relatively gentle, starting with a nice walk along the Urubamba River. We soaked in the stunning views, passing through charming villages. Oh, and if you’re lucky, they might put a red pigment on your face. It’s from Cochineal, which is a bug found on cacti. They use the red stuff for things like lipstick, food coloring, and textiles.

About two hours in, we reached Patallacta, our first Inca site on this hike.

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Finally, after five and a half hours, we made it to our first campsite at Ayapata (3,300 meters). On the way, there’s a little shop, so if you need anything, that’s the place to grab it. I noticed that things got more expensive as we went higher on the trail.

As we settled into our first site, a mix of excitement and a bit of fatigue set in. This was just the warm-up after all.

Day 2 – The Two Big Passes

  • Highlights: Dead Woman’s Pass, Runcu Raccay, Sayacmarca, Chaquiccocha
  • Distance: 16 km/approx. 10 miles
  • Starting Altitude: 3,300 meters / 10,829 feet
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,200 meters / 13,779 feet
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 7-11 hours
  • Difficulty rating: Difficult

Day 2, which they say is the toughest, started super early. We planned to conquer not just one, but two big passes. The first one is called Dead Woman’s Pass, and it’s known for being really steep and quite long. The second pass is even steeper but shorter.

We had to deal with heavy rain that day, although that was expected in this area. I would highly recommend having a rain poncho, which thankfully Alpaca provides.

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The climb to Dead Woman’s Pass was no joke. It’s super steep, and we had to take it one step at a time. I’m really glad I had my trusty knee braces with me; they gave my knees some extra support. If you’ve got knee trouble, bring one too.

Oh, and good news, they have official rest stops along the way up. We took a break at Llulluchapampa. They even had bathrooms there. Plus, it was so pretty! We saw llamas and alpacas munching on grass, and they were too cute. They were busy eating a plant called ichu, which only grows way up here.

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There was also a small stall there selling snacks and other supplies. I realized too late that I left my headlamp on for hours and the battery died, so I was pleasantly surprised that they have battery in stock there.

The path up to Dead Woman’s Pass is long, and the steps are crazy steep. But once we reached the tippy-top, it felt like a massive victory. Our guide, Ted, gave us high fives, and we all had huge smiles. The view up there was mind-blowing. All around, you could see snow-covered mountains and cool jagged rocks. Of course, we took lots of pictures at the top. For me, getting there and doing it with my group is still among my most memorable moments to date.

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Two hours into the second pass , we reached Runcu Raccay. It this circular structure that most likely was used as a resting place for Chasquis. Chasquis are royal messengers that can run unbelievable distances in short periods of time. Of course they needed places to sleep, and this is what Runcu Raccay probably was used for.

I didn’t remember it being as memorable but the structure itself was surprisingly solid after thousands of years. The views do not compare to what you see in the other ruins but the history lesson at this stop was nice touch.

After finishing our snacks, we started our descend to get to Sayacmarca. Like the other ruins, the site was well preserved. It was cloudy and misty when we arrived but one can clearly see another ruin from afar. Even though we’d seen a handful of ruins by now, I still loved how nature was taking back its land. Something about the vines and trees growing over the ruins was really calming.

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Once we got our history lesson about Sayacmarca, we headed off towards Chaquicocha, our campsite for the night. Porters applaused for us as we arrive. To be honest, we should be clapping for them because they even had tubs filled with hot water and soap ready for us. It truly was a 10/10 service. Supper came and once again, we retreat to our tents to prepare for a scenic hike tomorrow.

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Day 3 – Most Scenic Day

  • Highlights: Chaquiccocha, Cloud Forest, Phuyupatamarka, Intipata, Wiñay wayna
  • Distance: 10 km/approx. 6 miles
  • Starting Altitude: 3600 meters / 11800 feet
  • Maximum Altitude: 3680 meters / 12073 feet
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

My knees were really feeling it after all those stairs yesterday, and my leg muscles were sore. Yesterday was super tough, so when Ted told us it would be an “Inca Flat” day, we all breathed a sigh of relief. But we got a bit suspicious when he mentioned “Inca” and not just “flat.” And it turned out, we were right!

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Hiking through the cloud forest itself was an experience, even without the viewpoints. The lichens and orchids I’ve seen there was nowhere close to the ones you see in the tropics or on your regular hike. Lichens are so spongy from holding water coming from the top.

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We passed through some viewpoints showing Salkantay and the entire Vilcambamba range. It was a sight to behold!

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It doesn’t stop there, eventually we reached the beautiful Phuyupatamarka, also known as the Town in the Clouds. This site was supposedly a religious temple, which makes sense because it’s closer to the skies.

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Some speculate that it’s an observatory but Ted discounted that because it is too cloudy for it to be one. It’s from this spot that you get a first glimpse of Machu Picchu Mountain. You won’t see the citadel from this viewpoint because it’s at the other side, but it gave us something to look forward to the next day.

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This is the Machu Picchu Mountain. The citadel is on the other side.

Intipata or the Terraces of the Sun is also a stop on the way, although those that are already tired usually skip this because it requires a steep ascent going up. But if you get the chance, I’d recommend taking in the view.

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Makes you feel like you’re on top of the world…or you’re just a small speck in the massive universe

Getting to the top rewards you a nice view of Urubamba river snaking through the valley below. Sitting from that view made me a bit emotional, and my mind just went into a state of contemplation and a realization of how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

In an interesting turn of events, dark clouds rolled in as head off to our final lesson where Ted wrapped up everything we’ve seen and gave the finale to the story of the Incas and their defeat. Something about the weather that day and Ted’s delivery gave me chills as I listen. I’m sure it wasn’t just me too. This hike gave me a lot to contemplate on.

After that, we made our way to Wiñay Wayna, which I thought was even more amazing than Machu Picchu. It was super peaceful, and the views were unforgettable. In its prime, this place must have been a real wonder!

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IMHO – Winay Wayna was more beautiful than Machu Picchu

We ended the night with a feast that was even better than the past few days (if that’s even possible). There was even some liquor and cake! Yes, they baked a cake at this crazy altitude without an oven. That bumped my rating from 10/10 to 11/10!

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Oh yes, they made cake…at an altitude of at least 3,600 meters above sea level

Day 4 – Sun Gate & Machu Picchu

  • Highlights: Sun Gate (Inti Punku), Machu Picchu
  • Distance: 5 km/approx. 2.5 miles
  • Starting Altitude: 2680 meters / 8792 feet
  • Maximum Altitude: 2730 meters / 8956 feet
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours but 4 hours if you included the tour within Machu Picchu
  • Difficulty: Easy, with one quick difficult hike up to the Sun Gate

We woke up at 3:20 am in order to be one of the first people at the Machu Picchu checkpoint (which didn’t open until 5:00 am), then we waited for the doors to open. It was a long, cold wait. Though waking up that early was not my favorite, we were one of the first groups in line with dozens of hikers behind us.

Here’s a helpful tip: once the gates open and you start hiking to the Sun Gate, there are no restrooms on the trail. With all the people on the trail, finding a quiet spot to go is almost impossible!

The last part of the hike to the Sun Gate was steep uphill. I remember finding it a bit tough and needing a break. It probably wasn’t too bad, but we were all tired by this point.

Unfortunately, when we got to the Sun Gate, we couldn’t see Machu Picchu. It was hidden in the clouds, and even after waiting for nearly an hour, it didn’t clear up. So, we decided to continue our hike. Our tour guide, Ted, got creative and drew a picture of what it might have looked like. At least we can say we saw it and know where it was!

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We were greeted with mist and clouds at the Sun Gate
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Ted doing his best to give us a view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

After that, we hiked to Machu Picchu, which was a moderate walk with some nice paths, narrow trails, and lots of stairs. Two hours later, we made it to the top, and it was breathtaking.

Once we got through the checkpoint, we arrived at the spot where they take those famous postcard photos of Machu Picchu.

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Then, we started a two-hour tour.

To be honest, I was so tired and the crowds made it hard to concentrate on the tour, but it was incredible to think about how this place was built and how the people lived here.

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The Condor Temple, which is unfortunately closed to the public as of this year
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I have to say that Ted really made this tour memorable. His storytelling and humour is not something you get in every guide. Among the tours I’ve done, he’s still the best one I’ve encountered.

When the tour was over, they gave us our train tickets to Ollantaytambo, and we were on our way. The train had windows on the ceiling, which gave us an amazing view of the scenery. The only downside was that the train was pretty noisy and bumpy.

Finally, we arrived back in Ollantaytambo. We picked up our luggage and then headed back to Cusco in a minivan. It was a long day, but the adventure was unforgettable!


So maybe you’re now convinced that you MUST do the Inca Trail hike. Now, next step is planning and all the other preparation you’ll need to do.

When to do the Inca Trail?

The best time to do the Inca Trail is during the dry season, which goes from May to October. This time is great because there’s less chance of rain, and hiking in the rain can be tough.

But there are some downsides too. More people hike during this season, so it gets crowded, and you need to book your trip early. Also, nights can be pretty cold in your tent.

If you can’t go in the dry season, you can consider hiking from November to April (except February). Note that the Inca Trail is closed every February for trail maintenance. This is often the rainiest month of the season as well.

There are fewer hikers on the trail, and tours can be a bit cheaper. You can even book with just a few weeks’ notice. The nights are not as cold, and it’s not as crowded at Machu Picchu.

🔗 Curious to know how far in advance you should be booking? Depends. More info on the FAQ section.

But be ready for the possibility of hiking and camping in the rain, which can make things slippery and more challenging.

Can you DIY the hike to Machu Picchu?

No, securing the Inca Trail permit is only possible through a certified tour company. That means you won’t be able to trek the Inca Trail independently, as there are no free spots for you to book.

What to Consider When Choosing an Inca Trail Tour Company

When it comes to hiking the Inca Trail, you must do so with a tour guide. Here are some factors to keep in mind when picking the right tour company:

Cost
Pay close attention to the quotes and what’s included in the price. Cheaper prices may seem attractive, but they might exclude important fees and permits, such as the Machu Picchu permit fee ($125 USD) or the train ticket back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo ($150 USD). These additional costs can significantly impact your total expenses.

Porters
Investigate how tour companies treat their porters. These dedicated individuals will carry your gear, and their well-being often reflects the company’s commitment to a positive experience. Look for companies that respect and support their porters.

Food
Trust me, after a long day of hiking, you’ll truly appreciate good food. Read reviews or inquire about the quality of meals provided by the tour company. Nutritious and delicious food can make your trek more enjoyable.

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In case you missed it, I’ll say it again, the best Peruvian food I’ve had was the one cooked by the Alpaca Team

Quality of Gear
The right equipment is essential for your journey. Pay attention to the quality of gear provided, especially hiking poles and sleeping gear. Quality gear can enhance your comfort and safety during the hike.

Service
Your tour guide plays a crucial role in shaping your four-day adventure. A knowledgeable and attentive guide can turn an ordinary hike into an extraordinary one. Research the reputation of tour companies and their guides to ensure you receive excellent service throughout your journey.

I picked Alpaca Expeditions after reading a countless reviews about them. What made them stand out for me was the fact that they treat their porters really well, that in turn made the service exceptional. The food I had in those high altitudes are the best Peruvian food I’ve ever had, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this.

Inca Trail Group Photo
By the end of the trip, we became a tight-knit bunch. It was hard to say good bye after the 4 days. To this day, this was the best overnight tour group I’ve had.

How to get to Cusco

I took a 23 hour bus ride from Lima to get to Cusco. It was the worst bus ride I’ve ever had. I never had motion sickness but the zigzagging of the bus made it impossible. On the bright side, I was already acclimated to the high altitude by the time I got to Cusco

Who Doesn’t Love Cheap Flights?

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Skyscanner is your trusted service for buying cheap flight tickets, with no extra fees or markups! Their flight search will not only find the best option for your specific dates, but it will also offer another period when the cost may be even lower.

I would recommend flying instead for a better experience.

Must-Have Packing List for Your Inca Trail Trek

Essential Documents:

  • Passport
  • Valid student card (if you booked as a student)
  • Immigration Card (provided on the plane upon entering Peru)

Gear you can rent or included in tour:

  • Walking poles
  • Sleeping bag: Recommend down bags rated for at least -10°C
  • Sleeping pad
  • Rain poncho (highly recommended)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Small bottle of soap

Must-have gear:

  • Water storage: Camelbaks are highly recommended (you need at least 2-3 liters)
  • Good daypack – Osprey Hikelight worked for me
  • Headlamp with batteries
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Backpack Recommendation

Osprey Hikelight

Apparel:

  • 2-3 moisture-wicking t-shirts
  • 2-3 hiking pants
  • 4 sets of undergarments
  • 4 pairs of hiking socks
  • 1 warm fleece
  • 1 down jacket for chilly nights
  • 1 rain jacket and pants
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 wool hat
  • Pair of gloves
  • Sandals or camp shoes

Toiletries:

  • Sunscreen
  • Face moisturizer
  • Bug spray
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal medication
  • First aid kit: includes band-aids, moleskin, etc.

Others:

  • Battery charger (no charging on the trail)
  • Plastic bag for waste (leave no trace behind)
  • Large plastic bags for organization and keeping clean

Prepare wisely, pack efficiently, and embark on your Inca Trail adventure fully equipped for an amazing journey!

How to prepare before the Inca Trail Hike

  • Make sure you are well acclimatized before starting the hike. Consider arriving in Cusco 2-3 days before your hike
  • Take Diamox or drink coca team or some other form of medication to help with acclimatization
  • If you’re tight on time and do not have enough time to acclimatize, consider taking the bus. The ride itself, while not pleasant, will help
  • Try to do a lot of stairs and cardio 2-3 months before to help with endurance
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Tips on Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness affects many hikers, but it’s usually not too severe. Common symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and feeling out of breath more quickly. In more serious cases, you might experience vomiting or diarrhea.

The key is to adjust your pace, take it slow, and not worry about being the fastest. Your guides are experts at dealing with altitude sickness, so keep them informed as you go.

  1. Acclimatize 
    Spend a couple of days in Cusco or a similar high-altitude location before starting your hike. This allows your body to adjust to the reduced oxygen levels.
  2. Stay Hydrated 
    Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration can worsen altitude sickness.
  3. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine 
    These can contribute to dehydration, so it’s best to limit your consumption or avoid them altogether.
  4. Eat Lightly 
    Heavy, rich foods can make you feel worse at high altitudes. Stick to simple, carbohydrate-rich meals.
  5. Coca Leaves 
    Many locals chew coca leaves or drink coca tea to help with altitude sickness. You can try this, but remember that the effects are mild and it’s not a cure.
  6. Go Slowly 
    Take your time while hiking. The slower the ascent, the more time your body has to acclimatize.
  7. Descend if Necessary 
    If you experience severe symptoms like extreme dizziness, shortness of breath, or confusion, it’s essential to descend to a lower altitude.
  8. Medication 
    Consult with a doctor about taking acetazolamide (Diamox) or other altitude sickness medications. These can help prevent and alleviate symptoms.
  9. Know the Symptoms 
    Be aware of the signs of altitude sickness, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you or someone in your group experiences these, take them seriously.
  10. Travel Insurance 
    Make sure your travel insurance covers altitude-related illnesses. This can be a lifesaver in emergencies.
  11. Local Knowledge 
    Listen to your guides and porters. They are experienced at dealing with altitude and will provide valuable advice.
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Completing the trail is both a physical and mental challenge, so prepare yourself mentally as well. Remember, you’re not alone in your struggles – others in the group will face similar challenges.

Even if you’re trailing behind, both your group and guides will support you, and the connections you form with these fellow adventurers will be truly remarkable.

Pro Tips during the Inca Trail Hike

  1. Footwear Finesse 
    Bring a pair of comfy flip flops for camp strolls (worn with socks if you’d like).
  2. Breathe Easy 
    Use a simple hiking breathing technique: Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Walk for 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. Maintain a steady hiking pace, even on varying terrains. Take 3 steps, then pause for 3 deep breaths.
  3. Gear Wisdom 
    Rent your gear from Alpaca Expeditions to make travel hassle-free. Sleeping bags are mummy-style bags, perfect for temperatures as low as -15°C (5°F), and they provide freshly washed liners.
  4. Night Prep 
    Save time in the morning by wearing the clothes you’ll hike in the next day to sleep.
  5. Stay Sanitized 
    Carry hand sanitizer; many restrooms lack soap and running water. Bring your own toilet tissues or handy Kleenex packs. For a refreshing option, pack shower wipes if cold showers aren’t your thing.
  6. Hydration Helper 
    Use a hiking or hydration bladder for easy sipping on the go.
  7. Rain-Ready 
    Use the rain poncho Alpaca Expedition provides, even if you have a raincoat. This will protect your backpack from the rain.
  8. Dress Layers 
    Be ready for changing weather. Consider convertible pants for versatility.
  9. Passport Pointers 
    Avoid getting the Machu Picchu stamp; it could invalidate your passport.

How much does it cost?

You not only need to pay for the tour itself, but there’s also some other expected costs during the hike itself.

  1. Tour Cost: 750 soles for the tour itself
  2. Tipping : Our guide recommended a minimum of 200 soles for tipping
  3. Additional Costs:
    • Snacks and drinks from shops along the trail. There are three shops that I can remember.
    • Toilet entry fees (typically 1 or 2 soles)
    • Lunch at Aguas Calientes

Make sure to budget for these extra expenses to fully enjoy your Inca Trail adventure!

Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Machu Picchu open?

Yes, it is although some sections of it will be closed. Temple of the Condor, the Temple of the Sun, and the “Intihuatana” will be closed off to the public due to erosion.

Machu Picchu welcomes over 3,000 people every day even though the citadel is only designed to hold around 500 people.

How far in advance should I book?

If you want to go on the Inca Trail Tour, it’s best to plan ahead. If you’re thinking about going during the dry season from May to October, try to reserve your spot 6 to 7 months ahead. It’s when many people want to visit, so spots fill up fast.

But if you’re planning for the slower season, booking about three months early might be enough.

Remember, the Peruvian Government made rules to protect the trail, so they only allow a certain number of people on it each day. This means you need to secure your spot well in advance, no matter when you want to go.

How do we get water during the hike?

Getting water on the Inca Trail Tour is pretty easy. On the first morning, you’ll need to fill your own water bottle before starting your hike. But after that, your tour company will give you safe drinking water with every meal and for your hike. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when you’re walking a lot. If you want to be really careful, you can use water purification tablets, but most people in our group didn’t have any issues with the water provided.

How were the equipment and campsite?

What To Expect: Epic Inca Trail Adventure to Machu Picchu -

The equipment and campsites from Alpaca Expeditions were actually quite good. Most of us had decent trekking poles that worked well. Each night, the campsites were a bit different, but they all had rows of sleeping tents and a dining tent.

The porters were really helpful. They carried the tents and set them up before we got there, and in the morning, they packed them up. The inside of the sleeping tents was quite roomy, with enough space for two sleeping bags and room on each side for our personal stuff.

When we arrived at the campsites, the tents were already set up for us. There was even a little tub with warm water and soap so we could wash our faces and hands, which was nice after a day of hiking.

Overall, the equipment and campsites were well-prepared for us, making our adventure more comfortable!

How was the bathroom situation?

The restrooms on the Inca Trail can vary. Some are like basic gas station restrooms, others are portable toilets (called porta-potties), and there are even less comfortable squat toilets.

At some campsites, they have better restrooms with flushing toilets, which is quite fancy for the trail. In other places, the tour company, Alpaca Expeditions, sets up their private toilet tents in a hidden spot for you to use.

There’s only one chance to take a shower on the trail, and it’s on day three. I felt very gross at this point that I decided to go for it. It felt like taking a bath in a Canadian glacial like, so I understand that no one else followed suit. Works in my favor anywhere, since there’s no long queues to worry about.

Can I extend the Inca Trail Hike?

If the hike to Machu Picchu is not enough, you can also do the Huayna Picchu—the towering peak that looms in the backdrop of Machu Picchu. Here’s what you need to know about the Huayna Picchu hike:

Incredible Scenery: The hike to Huayna Picchu offers breathtaking panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding lush green landscape. You’ll be rewarded with a unique perspective of the ancient citadel.

Challenging Ascent: Be prepared for a steep and at times challenging climb. The trail can be narrow and exposed, and there are some sections with steep drop-offs. This hike is not recommended for those with a fear of heights.

Limited Permits: Due to the popularity of this hike and to preserve the site, only a limited number of permits are issued each day. It’s crucial to secure these permits well in advance, preferably when booking your Inca Trail tour.

Two Time Slots: Visitors are divided into two groups with different entry times: one in the morning and one in the late morning. Choose the time slot that suits your schedule.

Historical Sites: Along the way, you’ll encounter some fascinating archaeological sites and structures that add to the historical significance of the hike.

Permit Requirements: If you wish to hike Huayna Picchu, ensure that your Inca Trail tour includes a Huayna Picchu permit. These permits are separate from the main Machu Picchu entry tickets, and there are additional costs.

Remember to plan and book ahead, as permits for this hike can be limited and can get sold out.

Wrapping Up

As we wrap up our exploration of the Inca Trail, it’s clear that this journey is more than just a hike – it’s an incredible adventure.

What To Expect: Epic Inca Trail Adventure to Machu Picchu -

We’ve covered a lot, from why the Inca Trail is so amazing and why Machu Picchu is a must-see, to the details of the trail, the challenges, and how to get ready. Whether you’re thinking of going it alone or joining a tour group, we’ve provided all the info you need.

Now you’re well-prepared for your journey into the Andes, where you’ll find ancient ruins, stunning scenery, and unforgettable moments. So, put on your hiking boots, embrace the challenge, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Your next big adventure starts right here!


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