For the more adventurous travelers, the trek to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu is the most exciting point of your trip. There are different hiking options to reach this historic sanctuary, but the Inca Trail is the most sought-after experience through the Peruvian Andes and the high jungle.
The Inca Trail was a network of trails that connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire during Inca times, along which the Incas built administrative, military, and religious centers to rest. It extended 30,000 km and crossed Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.
Currently, the best-preserved part of this old road is the path to Machu Picchu, which starts at km 82 of the Inca Trail. It takes 04 days to complete this adventure, which is a challenging hike.
As we mentioned earlier, the Incas built structures to ensure access to these places, and most of them remained hidden until their rediscovery in 1911. Fortunately, while the Incas escaped from the Spanish conquerors, they threw off the persecution to protect their town and holy places.
Today, the Inca Trail continues to be one of the most demanded activities in the Cusco region. So, if you are up for this adventure, we have listed some recommendations and answered some frequently asked questions to organize your trip.
The excitement of finally booking the Inca Trail trek is unmatched, but planning your packing list isn’t that entertaining. However, this hike will be much easier if you know what to bring and leave behind.
All companies include porter services, but you will still have to carry a small backpack to keep the essentials for the day’s route. Smart packing is not over-packing but knowing what you need for this hike.
Based on our experience as travelers and as a travel agency, we have put together the best luggage list so that you can start making your own according to your preferences. Remember that the porter carries your extra bag, where you will keep your clothes and other supplies; they will take the bags to each camp and collect them the following day.
That said, we are going to start with our essential luggage list for the Inca Trail with the most important things that you should take with you at all costs:
– The Passport: If you were thinking of taking a copy with you, tell us that you would not go through the first checkpoint. You must show your passport and the Inca Trail Permit to enter the Inca Trail. In addition, you will need it to enter Machu Picchu.
Continuing with our essentials, this is the list of clothes to take for the walk:
When it comes to camping gear, most companies include everything. However, it does not usually involve sleeping bags in the package price, but you can rent them in a store in Cusco or from the same company you travel with. Also, you may want to get a headlamp for night walks.
Trekking poles can be helpful for this adventure; they help balance your weight and will indeed prevent knee pain after the hike. We highly recommend bringing lightweight trekking poles; if they are retractable, they will be easier to store.
Yes, there are toilets and showers in each camp. However, the bathrooms are a bit rudimentary, not to say that they are somewhat precarious. The local showers are freezing, although some campsites offer hot water for an extra cost.
The Inca Trail is not a challenging hike but feels itself with its steep ascents and descents. However, the primary key to successfully preparing for this hike is acclimatizing your body before taking it.
Even if you are an experienced hiker, we advise you to spend 2-3 days in Cusco to get used to the altitude. In addition, this ancient path will take you through places higher than 4,200 meters above sea level.
Exercising before coming to Peru would be best if you want the best physical condition. Keep in mind that there will be many walkers in your group with different levels of physical condition, so do not see it as a competition, and take your time to enjoy it.
Due to the high altitude of this place, some travelers may experience dizziness, tiredness, headaches, and shortness of breath. These are the symptoms of the so-called Soroche or Altitude Sickness.
This condition affects most travelers above 2,500 meters of altitude, regardless of whether they have lived in higher areas or at sea level. However, we are not here to scare you but to clarify and make things easier for you:
– Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated is the key to avoiding getting sick.
– Avoid alcohol and tobacco at all costs. Alcohol is a dehydrator, and smoking can cause or worsen shortness of breath.
– Take it easy the first few days. If traveling to high-altitude locations, do not engage in physically demanding activities for the first two days.
– 🙂 Drink coca tea or chew coca leaves. This medicinal plant is known for its healing properties and for helping with acclimatization.
Some medications help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness; you can find Diamox or Soroche Pills in almost any pharmacy in Peru. However, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor before taking any of them.
It takes up to 4 days to complete this historic path to the citadel. You will pass the most remote Inca settlements, which offer a glimpse of what life was like in Inca times.
As mentioned above, a high level of fitness or being an experienced hiker is not required to complete it. However, avoiding inconvenience means acclimatizing a few days before starting this trip.
Unfortunately, you cannot hike the Inca Trail independently, as you can only acquire the Inca Trail permits through a certified tourist company. The smallest group allowed is two passengers, the guides and porters.
The Peruvian government has limited entry to 500 people per day to reduce human impact on the trail, including hikers, porters, cooks, and guides. Therefore, if you dare to take this adventure, we recommend booking the excursion at least 06 months in advance.
It is worth mentioning that the Inca Trail permit is not transferable and is closed for maintenance during the rainiest month of the year (February).
The climate in this region is characteristic of the Peruvian Andean region, with a dry winter and a rainy summer. However, due to their geographical position, small rains are expected even during the dry season.
– Rainy Season: It starts in December and ends around April. However, heavy downpours do expect between January and March. Temperatures range from 15 ° C to 5 ° C.
– Dry Season: It does consider the coldest season of the year, although it is much warmer during the day. However, temperatures are significantly more freezing in the early morning and at night.
We want to mention that the cloud forest has a different climatic condition, and even though you are traveling during the dry season, you may experience occasional rains. Check out this guide and learn all about the weather in Peru.
The Short Inca Trail lasts only 02 days and 01 night. It begins at kilometer 104 of the Ollantaytambo railway road and passes through the archaeological sites of Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. The road continues to the Intipunku (Puerta del Sol) to have an exceptional view of the Inca Citadel and then descends to Aguas Calientes to rest. The visit to Machu Picchu will take place the next day.
On the other hand, the Classic Inca Trail lasts 04 days and 03 nights and passes through different archaeological sites and the most impressive natural settings. Remember that this is a somewhat challenging hike; it passes through points over 4,000 meters high.
The Inca Trail is on almost every traveler’s wish list because it is the most impressive hiking trail in South America and has great historical value. Dare to discover the secrets of the Inca civilization with this famous walk. Don’t forget to check out our Peru travel packages while you’re here.