Short Inca Trail Peru Machu Picchu 2023

For the more adventurous travelers, the trek to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu is the most exciting point of their trip. There are different hiking options to reach this historic sanctuary, but the Short Inca Trail is the most sought-after experience through the Peruvian Andes and high jungle.

The Short Inca trail was a network that connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire during Inca times, along which the Incas built administrative, military, and religious centers to rest. It had an extension of 30,000 km and crossed regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Currently, the best-preserved part of this ancient road is the trail to Machu Picchu, which starts at km 82 of the Inca Trail. This adventure takes four days to complete and is considered a challenging hike.

As we mentioned before, the Incas built structures to ensure access to these places, and most of them remained hidden until their rediscovery in 1911. Luckily, while the Incas escaped from the Spanish conquerors, they avoided persecution to protect their village and holy places.

Today, the Short Inca trail remains one of the most popular activities in the Cusco region. Therefore, if you dare to this adventure, here we have listed some recommendations and answered some frequently asked questions so that you can organize your trip.

What to pack for The Short Inca trail?

The excitement of finally booking the Short Inca trail trek is unparalleled, but planning the packing list is not that much fun. However, this trek will be much easier if you know what to take and leave behind.

All companies include porter services, but you will still have to carry a small backpack to store the essentials for the day’s route. Packing smart is not overpacking but knowing what you need for this hike.

Based on our experience as travelers and as a travel agency, we have prepared the best packing list so that you can start making your own according to your preferences. Remember that the porter carries your extra bag, where you will store your clothes and other supplies; they will have the bags at each campsite and pick them up the following day.

With that being said, we are going to start our Short Inca trail essential packing list with the most important things you should take with you at all costs:

  • The Passport: If you were thinking of taking a copy with you, let us tell you that you would not even go through the first checkpoint. To enter the Short Inca Trail, you must show your passport along with the Short Inca Trail Permit. In addition, you will need it to enter Machu Picchu.

Continuing with our essentials, this is the list of clothes that you must take for the walk:

  • Rain poncho / Waterproof jacket with hood. Whether you travel during the rainy or dry season, remember that you will be immersed in the cloud forest, and the weather here can be pretty drastic. Therefore, taking a waterproof jacket with you would be the most suitable option for this trek.
  • Trekking t-shirts. They are better than regular cotton t-shirts that collect moisture and dirt. Consider bringing at least 3 of them.
  • A pair of light pants or hiking tights
  • Lightweight shorts for the walk.
  • Light fleece jacket.
  • Caps for cold mornings and nights and hats for the sun in the afternoon
  • Thermal layers for the nights. Remember that temperatures are lower during the dry winter in the Andes.
  • Mountain socks.
  • Waterproof mountain boots.
  • A pair of light shoes to rest your feet once in the camp.

When it comes to camping gear, most companies include everything. However, sleeping bags are not usually included in the price of the packages, but you can rent them at a store in Cusco or from the same company you are traveling with. Also, you may want to get a headlamp for night walks.

Trekking poles can be helpful in this adventure; they help balance your weight and will indeed prevent knee pain after the trek. We highly recommend carrying lightweight trekking poles; if they are retractable, they will be easier to store.

Are there showers and toilets on the route?

Yes, there are toilets and showers at each campsite. However, the bathrooms are a bit rudimentary, not to say that they are somewhat precarious, and the batteries are cold, although some camps offer hot water for an extra cost.

How to prepare for the Short Inca Trail?

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

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 to places higher than 4,200 meters above sea level.

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

How to prevent altitude sickness?

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 throughout their lives. 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, ensure you don’t do 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 acclimatization.

Some medications help relieve 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.

How long does completing the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu take?

It takes up to 4 days to complete this historic path to the citadel. Along the way, you will pass through the most remote Inca settlements, which offer a glimpse of what life was like in Inca times.

How challenging is the Short Inca Trail?

As mentioned above, a high level of fitness or being an experienced hiker is not required to complete it. However, achieving acclimatization a few days before starting this trip is key to avoiding inconvenience.

Can you make the Short Inca Trail on your own?

Unfortunately, you cannot trek the Short Inca Trail alone, as the permits can only be purchased through a certified tour company. The smallest group allowed is a minimum of two passengers plus guides and possibly porters.

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

To reduce the human impact on the trail, the Peruvian government has limited entry to 500 people per day; this includes hikers, porters, cooks, and guides. Therefore, we recommend booking the excursion six months in advance if you dare on this adventure.

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

What is the best time to travel the Short 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, little rain is expected even during the dry season.

  • Rainy Season: It starts in December and ends around April. However, heavy downpours are expected between January and March. Temperatures range between 15°C and 5°C.
  • Dry Season: It is considered the coldest year, although it is much warmer during the day. However, temperatures are significantly more relaxed in the early morning and evening hours.

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 rain. Check this guide and learn everything about the weather in Peru.

What is the difference between the short and the Short Inca Trail 2 Days?

The Short Inca Trail lasts only 2 Days and 1 Night. It begins at kilometer 104 of the Ollantaytambo railway road and passes through the archaeological sites of Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. The route continues towards the Intipunku (Sun Gate) 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 4 Days and 3 Nights, passing through different archaeological sites and the most impressive natural settings. Remember that this is a somewhat challenging hike, passing through points above 4,000 meters.

The Inca Trail is on the wish list of almost all travelers, not only because it is the most impressive trail in South America but also because it has great historical value. Dare to discover the secrets of the Inca civilization with this famous hike. Don’t forget to check out our Peru travel packages while you’re here!

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