Things to know before hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The classic Inca Trail does much more than reach Machu Picchu. Crossing the mountains, the trail offers breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, dense forests, subtropical forests, and highlands. In addition, you get a great mix of Inca cobblestones, tunnels, and several Inca archeological sites only accessible via the Inca Trail.
Suppose you plan to hike the Inca Trail remotely. We highly encourage you to do so, as you will be amazed at both the sight and what your body can do. The trek covers a total distance of 43 km (26,719 mi) and an altitude of 2,720 m (8,900 ft) to 4,200 m (14,000 ft).
Yes, in 2024, it will be open to all lovers of outdoor walks. The Classic Inca Trail is one of the top 5 hiking trails in the world. Many adventurers around the globe plan their itineraries and start booking to reach their next destination, Machu Picchu. A Machu Picchu hiking adventure awaits you. It is recommended to check the availability of the Inca Trail in advance and reserve a space.
Km 82 (Piscacucho): hiking for four days on rocky roads. First, you will be in the middle of the Andes and the Amazon jungle, where Machu Picchu is located, surrounded by Andean mountains, subtropical forests, and clouds. Along the way, you will encounter impressive Inca and pre-Inca structures. The Inca Trail is one of the best treks in the world, and you can see it in thousands of reviews from travelers worldwide.
The Great Inca Trail refers to the more than 60,000 km (37,282 mi) network of Inca Trails that united the Inca civilization. It included much of South America, from Peru to Colombia, western Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, central Chile, and northern Argentina. According to Peruvian historian José Antonio del Busto, the Inca ruler Huayna Capac expanded the Inca trail network to organize his army into the Inca Empire quickly.
Inca trails vary in quality and size; Inca trails on the coast are 6 to 8 meters wide, the paved trails in the Andes are only 1 meter wide, and some parts of the hiking trail are incredibly steep. The famous classic Inca Trail was rediscovered by the North American professor Hiram Bingham during his clearing work between 1913 and 1915.
Passing through different landscapes, the views of the Inca Trail are stunning, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons it is so unique. Tour participants will also see the high Andes, cloud forests, Puna grasslands, high mountain passes, and various wildlife, birds, and plants native to these climates. The mix of these different types of terrain provides a stunning landscape where the Andes mountains merge into the high Amazon rainforest.
Another reason this route is unique is that it visits three important Inca ruins along the way, all accessible only on foot. On the first day, hikers visit the ruins of Llactapata, an impressive site with terraces and buildings resembling a small fortified hilltop village.
On the third day, hikers visit Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, both large complexes with remains of terraces and buildings. After camping near Phuyupatamarca, one of the highlights of the hike is waking up to the sun rising over the ruins just before taking the final walk to Machu Picchu.
However, the most striking ruin on the way is Wiñay Wayna. This beautiful site, of particular spiritual significance to the Incas, consists of curved Inca terraces that follow the lines of a hill and include a complex of buildings embedded in the ruins.
This trail is unique because it leads to one of the world’s wonders, Machu Picchu. On the fourth day, hikers reach the ruins through the Gate of the Sun, which gives them a unique first view of the site, just as when the Incas came. This is a great experience and very rewarding after challenging days of trekking. And, of course, it’s also worth spending some time exploring this world-famous site.
Walking the Inca Trail without a guide is not allowed. In 2002, an ordinance prohibited visitors from hiking the Inca Trail alone. A registered professional guide must accompany all hikers along the trail.
Since 2002, access to the Inca Trail has been limited to 500 people (about 200 tourists, 300 accompanying guides, and porters) daily, regardless of the season. This means that everyone must obtain a permit in advance for the trek.
A permit is only possible through an authorized travel provider who purchases the tickets in advance.
The weather on the Inca Trail varies depending on the length of the trek and can be pretty unpredictable. The weather on the Inca Trail changes monthly. The temperature inside the entrance can differ from place to place every day. It is best to get ready for different situations.
From April to October, the weather is sunny and ranges from 12oC/53F to 28oC/82F, averaging 17oC/62F. It is windy, and sometimes it rains in the high passes or the highest places. However, the weather in the Andes is unpredictable.
Rain and wind can blow. November to March is the rainy season, so expect drizzle during the trek. Bring suitable equipment such as a down jacket, thermal shirt, trousers, fleece, hard-shell or Gore-Tex jacket, and warm socks to prevent weather problems. Hiking boots, gloves, buffs, bandanas, sunglasses, and hiking pants are also recommended.
The temperature on the second night reaches 01°C (33°F); on other nights, the campsites are in subtropical locations, and sometimes it can rain with strong winds as we are very close to high mountains, especially the first and second nights.
Your sleeping bag must be rated -10oC/14F, and bring a one-liner sleeping bag per person. Thermal shirts, pants, and socks are essential for these nighttime temperatures.
Peru is a year-round travel destination, but the dry/winter season, between May and September, is typically the most popular time for trekking. Then, the nights are quieter, and wildflowers often bloom along the path. Less cloud cover in winter means cooler nights on the hiking Inca Trail (near 0 degrees on the coldest nights).
June and July are the months to visit Peru, so expect long lines and crowds. Consider visiting during the off-season to avoid crowds. The Inca Trail has a cap on the number of trekkers, but the only way to guarantee a spot during peak season is to book your permits in advance.
04-day Inca Trail permits must be booked 5 to 6 months in advance. However, if you plan to trek in May, June, or July, book the Inca Trail eight months in advance for your hiking permit.
High-altitude trekking for 6–8 hours daily for four days is not easy, so training is highly recommended. Hiking the Inca Trail should be fun because it doesn’t hurt. So, staying healthy is essential. When training for the Inca Trail, you must focus on cardio, lift light weights, and think things through. It’s also something you need to prepare months in advance. Our Inca Trail training guide will help you get fit and thrive while hiking. Whether you follow our guide in full or select small parts, we are confident you will be well prepared for the trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The Peruvian government, the National Institute of Culture, and the Ministry of the Environment have not issued guidelines on age limits for trekking the Inca Trails that require a permit. It is up to tour operators to set their limitations.
Operators planning group travel can choose the age limit they prefer. Some people chose 08 as the youngest and 67 as the oldest. We manage great hikes along the classic Inca Trail; we have designed a hiking tour for families with children under 6, infants carrying backpacks, and seniors in their 70s.
Fitness is a factor, and it is in the tour operator’s interest to carefully review groups with members under 15 and over 50. All our employees walk all Inca Trails, and we have detailed explanations, expertise, and practical advice to help people make decisions.
You don’t have to be an intrepid hiker to hike the 4-day Inca Trail, but you must be in acceptable shape. We recommend walking about 10 km (6 miles) to get an idea.
The trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is not just a walk. The hiking Inca Trail is a 26-mile trail with steep inclines and descents, many steps, uneven terrain, rough cobblestone chunks, and tricky switchbacks. It has some of the world’s most impressive natural and historical attractions.
Inca Trail hikes are rated from moderate to challenging. A common misconception is that it will be easy because so many people are hiking the Inca Trail. It’s not like that. The pathway is 26 miles (43 kilometers) long and requires a fair amount of fitness.
The Peruvian Ministry of Culture, authorities, and the Environment have already designated camping nights. Camping on the Inca Trail is one of the best experiences in the Andes mountains and jungle within the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The porters and the cook will prepare the tent and the food for each night.
It is a beautiful camp in the Inca Trail’s buffer zone with the Huayllabamba community and the Inca ruins of Patawasi. Huayllabamba has the ideal climate of the Cusichaca Valley and the Huayruro Grande. The weather is pleasant during the night.
Ayapata Camp is one of the first-day camps; Ayapata is the second camping area after Huayllabamba Camp. The camping area presents a jungle typical of the Inca route, with dense jungle. This camp is one hour away from Huayllabamba.
Located in the middle of the second day of the Inca Trail, the Frosty Camp is a three-hour walk from the Huayllabamba Camp. It is accessible to hikers experienced in lengthy and strenuous treks.
Official camp for day 2 of the Inca Trail trek. The camping area has a warm to cool climate, a high jungle in the middle of the Andes, and great views of the cloud forest and Vilcabamba Batholith.
The Chaquicocha camp area is a second option for camping on the second day of the Inca Trail. To get to Chaquicocha, after Pacaymayo, you must pass through the Runkuracay pass, with a walking time of about 3.5 hours. Chaquicocha offers incredible views of the Aobamba Valley, snow-capped Salkantay, and the ruins of Sayacmarca.
Phuyupatamarca Camp is located just south of Mount Phuyupatamarca. It offers stunning views of Phuyupatamarca ruins, the city of Aguas Calientes, and Machu Picchu, as well as incredible views of Wiñaywayna. The Phuyupatamarca camp is the third official camp after Wiñaywayna. When no spaces are available in the Wiñaywayna camp, the Phuyupatamarca camp is assigned.
Camp Wiñayhuayna is the third official camp of the Inca Trail and the most popular basecamp, as it is located in the cloud forest just two hours from Machu Picchu. Regarding panoramic views, it features the Andes capped by the Urubamba River. The camp is surrounded by two incredible ruins of him, Inti Pata and Wiñaywayna.
This is an optional camp when there are weather restrictions between Wiñaywayna, Inti Punku, and Machu Picchu due to landslides, etc. Puente Ruinas Camp is a 20-minute walk downriver from Aguas Calientes. Hikers also use Puente Ruinas Camp on the Inca Trail, completed in 5 days.
Peruvian soles, preferably around $150. But let’s say you start buying along the Inca trail a chocolate bar, chips, a shower, a few drinks, and perhaps eat lunch in Aguas Calientes (the villages of Aguas Calientes aren’t that cheap). In this case, it should be mentioned that Aguas Calientes has an ATM.
This is an excellent place to start if you can afford it and want to spend it without relying on spur-of-the-moment impulses. Of course, if you don’t tip or drink the water provided by the Inca Trail tour operator, you have very little money to spend. It depends a lot on how you travel.
To give you an idea of how much cash to bring as a tip and how much to provide the support staff. The recommendation is the classic 4-day Inca Trail. Prices are shown in Peruvian Nuevo’s Soles.
Generally, it’s best to tip the tour staff with smaller denominations of Nuevo Sol bills. We recommend 60 soles for each porter and 120 Peruvian currency for the cooks (not for each hiker but for the whole group). Tipping is technically optional in most situations.
Travel insurance is essential for any trip, but it’s necessary when undertaking potentially dangerous activities such as hiking in remote areas where medical facilities or assistance may not be nearby. Knowing that you have the right insurance coverage in case of an accident, you can make the most of your adventure with complete peace of mind. It can be anything from lost or stolen luggage to mountain rescue by helicopter.
When mountaineering, make sure your travel insurance covers you for the altitude. Most standard policies include running up to 2,500 meters. Get insurance up to 4,600 meters, including the highest point of the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu at 4,215 meters.
The short answer is a double yes. Your knees will thank you, especially when walking up and down stairs that make you dizzy. The authorities do not allow the use of metal-tipped trekking poles because they damage Inca Trail stones. Get rubber covers for hiking poles. You can also buy it in Cusco. If you don’t have room for hiking poles in your luggage, purchase cheap wooden hiking sticks! Buy in Cusco or Ollantaytambo. They work well and are made from cultivated wood (usually bamboo).
Tour guides permanently carry a first aid kit with oxygen, but prescriptions are not allowed. When trekking the Inca Trail, there is no harm in having a basic first-aid kit with the medicines you know!
What is usually carried in the first aid of the operating company: Diamox (acetazolamide), Cipro, Ibuprofen, and Imodium are important. Diamox helps with altitude sickness. Ibuprofen helps with headaches. Cipro and Imodium will save you from food poisoning.
Any hotel in the area will store your main luggage at the reception after you walk to the Inca Trail. “Note: The hotel where the customer is staying.” You do not need to book a room for this. You can pick it up when you come back.
Indoor flush toilets are located at the following locations: Trailhead, lunch break on Day 1, Camp on Days 1 and 2, Wiñaywayna Camp on Day 3, and Phuyupatamarca outpost camp on Day 3. There is no water in the restrooms in Phuyupatamarca. The condition of all toilets on the hiking Inca Trail depends on their use. Bathrooms are not “sanitized.”
Want to know why portable toilet camps are an excellent fit for the Inca Trail?
Staying hydrated is essential when hiking the Inca Trail, as it helps your body adjust to the high altitude of the Andes. Carry a 2-liter bottle of water with you for a day’s walk.
On the first day, there are several local shops along the hiking route to Huayllabamba Camp. On the second day, there are only two places where you can buy water in this section: Ayapata and Llulluchapampa. Llulluchapampa is the last place where you can get bottled water.
There are generally several streams leading to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail, and you can bring tablets or charcoal filters to purify the water.
Note: On strategic days, the chefs will provide each hiker with boiled water before starting the trek. We also recommend bringing a reusable bottle to keep the Inca Trail network clean. “Plastic bottles are prohibited.”
Like motion sickness, no one expects to suffer from altitude until they do. Altitude sickness is much more common than motion sickness and can be fatal if left untreated. Many travelers arrive in Cusco experiencing mild symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and more. However, these symptoms usually disappear after acclimatization (about 12–24 hours after reaching the Andes of Cuzco). The Inca Trail has steep ascents and descents, and body movements affect the body’s ability to adapt. This is a big reason why the Warmihuañusca Mountain Pass is a significant challenge for all Inca Trail hikers.
You will walk through Cusco, Sacred Valley, etc., from different heights while chewing or drinking an organic infusion of fresh coca leaves. While these can be helpful, listening to your body and learning to recognize the symptoms is essential.
Overworking or not paying attention to the warning signs can be dangerous. Before arriving in Peru, consult your doctor and discuss the possibility of taking medication for altitude sickness. Altitude sickness medication is usually good for traveling to a high altitude for the first time. You may not need to take altitude sickness medication, but preparing beforehand is a good idea.
Choosing an Inca Trail tour company is one of the most complex parts of planning your hiking adventure. GO. MACHUPICCHU.TOURS offers unforgettable and unique expeditions of the Inca Trail of Peru. One of our primary goals is to support our local towns. We achieve this by hiring local staff (including porters, cooks, guides, and caterers). We provide all porters with quality equipment, uniforms, fair and legal wages, and insurance to provide good service. On the Inca Trail, we operate small groups of up to 2 and up to 16 people.
You did it; you finally decided to hike the Inca Trail. Chances are, you’ve been planning this for quite some time. We read about previous experiences of different hikers, check out other tour companies, visit the gym for the occasional leg workout, and Google Machu Picchu photos for inspiration. You pause for a moment to realize that you are about to walk the Inca Trail and feel at peace, but after a while, you admit that you don’t know what to do on the Inca Trail, so here we describe the essence.
You’ll need your passport to enter Peru when starting the Inca Trail. At the start of the hiking trail, an official government checkpoint imposes strict limits on the number of visitors allowed daily. Any foreigner embarking on a trek must present a passport.
An optional passport stamp is also provided, a great way to commemorate your hike. Since you can’t even start the journey without it, your passport must not be missing from your Inca Trail packing list!
Remember that during your four-day hike, you will shower only once or not at all. This means you’ll want plenty of underwear and socks—clothes that get dirty the fastest and are most miserable the second time you wear them unwashed!
Regarding other clothes, the most important thing to consider is that you want clothes you can wear. Temperatures are sweltering day and night, with a rapid rise in body temperature during strenuous travel and a drop in body temperature during rest. It is better to dress appropriately for these conditions. Ideally, it would be best to have hiking or gym pants that convert to shorts when needed. You should bring short- and long-sleeved shirts and a light jacket. You should also pack cold-weather clothing for the nights, including hats, gloves, and scarves, especially if you’re designing your Inca Trail packing list for the rough times of the year.
Whether you bring hiking or hybrid boots, make sure they are waterproof! Even if you visit during the dry season, you’ll likely encounter rain or slush at some point during the hike.
When choosing between boots and boots on your Inca Trail packing list, remember that boots are much lighter and provide better ankle support. One final shoe recommendation is that blisters are no fun on a 4-day trek, so whatever you wear, ensure they fit well and are somewhat worn.
Again, even when hiking in dry weather, don’t forget your rain gear! A poncho or rain jacket and plastic bags to separate wet clothes from dry clothes are essentials for your Inca Trail packing list.
Do not forget to choose the right sleeping bag for your trip, as this will be your source of relaxation every night of the trek. No matter what season you visit Peru, we recommend the four-season sleeping bag.
If you’re hiking the Inca Trail, face the facts. It will take several days. This means you can bring along basic toiletries to make it more enjoyable.
These include Toilet paper, moist wipes, deodorant, soap, toothbrush/toothpaste, sunblock, and chapstick.
These are essential items on your Inca Trail packing list, especially if you plan to shower on the third night. You can relax and let your feet breathe at night without showering.
The tour company provides food and water, but you may get thirsty or hungry during the day’s hike. These will help you keep going until it’s time to stop eating.
Again, your guides should always carry a first-aid kit with them. Having a basic first-aid kit with you doesn’t hurt when hiking the Inca Trail!
You should also not forget essential medicines for stomach problems and such, as well as medicines you need to take.
This article is easily forgotten but is essential for navigating your campsite after dark. But it’s a must-have for any Inca Trail packing list.
It goes without saying that during your Inca Trail trip, there is no option to plug in and charge your electronic devices. If you can bring extra batteries, it is recommended that if you can’t, use your device sparingly! After the first day, there’s much to see, and you won’t want the cameras off until then.
While you certainly won’t need a lot of cash on the Hiking Inca Trail, having some money with you is still a good idea. Along the way, you will pass a few small local shops and have to pay for any goods you want. Tipping the guide or porter also helps.