Best tips before you hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu

Hike the Inca Trail

Deciding to hike the Inca Trail is an experience that should stimulate both excitement and fear. It should also stir up a sense of adventure in your soul. It is a genuinely singular adventure that will take you through Peru’s stunning countryside and Andes mountains. It’s a fantastic multi-day trip that will take you to the iconic Machu Picchu.

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We wanted to share our knowledge and experience with you – so we compiled it into this comprehensive guide.

This post aims to help you plan and prepare for your upcoming trip. Whether you’re planning on heading to a remote part of the world or just want to know more about the accommodations and camping conditions in the area, this will give you all the necessary information.

Why hike the Inca Trail

Why hike the Inca trail?

The Inca trail is genuinely one of the most iconic hikes globally. It’s a spectacular sight to see as you reach Machu Picchu at sunrise.

It features numerous stunning views of the Andes. It passes through various landscapes, including the cloud forest and the alpine tundra. The highlight of this Trail is the trek to Machu Picchu, which can be viewed from both sides.

The Inca Trail is a well-known and iconic multi-day hike that leads to the stunning Machu Picchu. It is a well-established and iconic route at km 82 outside Ollantaytambo and takes about four days and three nights to complete.

The good news is that it’s shorter than you might expect. The bad news is that it involves steep mountain paths.

The Incan Empire created many trails leading to its various settlements and centers of civilization. The Inca Trail is the only route that connects these areas.

Why is the Inca Trail so famous?

The Trail is a journey through Peru’s verdant cloud forest, with its numerous birdlife and steep mountain passes.

The Sun Gate is the ultimate gateway to Machu Picchu, and only the Inca Trail hikers can access it at sunrise. This is one of the reasons why it is so popular, and why so many people visit it.

The trek was our second visit to Machu Picchu, and it was the best way to get to the mountaintop without having to share the bus with thousands of other tourists.

Do I need any particular documents to hike the Inca Trail?

Since 2002, the number of people allowed to hike the Inca Trail has been limited. So, if you want to do the trek, you must obtain a permit in advance.

To secure a permit, you need to contact an approved tour provider, who will then sell you the daily permits in advance. Without a permit, you cannot explore some of Peru’s most iconic hikes.

When should you visit the Inca Trail

Is there a perfect time of the year to do this?

The weather in Peru is split into two opposing seasons. The dry season (from May to October) and, you guessed it, the wet season (from November to April). There is no best time to take the hike. Each season has its pros and cons. To help you decide, let’s see the benefits and drawbacks for each season.

Dry Season

  • Fewer precipitations and high temperatures during the mornings and afternoons
  • Peru’s tourism season peaks during the dry season, which means more people are staying at the campsites, and the demand for tours increases. This means that the Inca Trail will be crowded each day. You should consider booking your tour months in advance if you wish to hike the Inca Trail during the dry season.
  • You should expect lower temperatures during the evenings and at night.

Wet Season

  • As the name suggests, you should expect rain and lots of it.
  • This is a less popular time to hike because of the weather.
  • The crowds at Machu Picchu are also reduced.
  • This time of year is also quieter than usual.
  • If the weather is harsh, the hiking conditions will become more challenging.
    Keep in mind that the Inca Trail is closed in February to preserve the environment and avoid accidents, as January and February have the most precipitations. This can cause landslides or dislodge rocks.

For more information about the weather in Peru, check out our article on the best times to visit Peru.

So, should I book the hike before I get there?

If you’re planning to hike in the high season, book your tour months in advance! If you’re planning to hike the Inca Trail in the rainy season, even though there are fewer tourists, you should still book in advance to be on the safe side.

How old should I be to hike the Inca Trail?

Although there is no minimum age limit for hikers in the Inca Trail, tour companies will often have guidelines and policies. They wouldn’t recommend anyone under the 14 age limit in most cases.

At 84, Alan Goldin became the oldest hiker recorded on the Trail. He was followed by three local porters who were also 62 years old.

How to get ready to hike the Inca Trail

Before heading to Peru, there are some critical steps to take to ensure that your trip is memorable. Doing so will allow you to experience the best possible conditions while hiking the Inca Trail.

Although it wasn’t as physically challenging as some of the other hikes in South America, it provides enough challenge to make you remember it. Getting fit before going to Peru is as simple as setting a goal and making positive changes.

There are a few key things to consider when transporting equipment and supplies on the Trail. It would be best to pack clothes for hot and cold weather, but try not to pack unnecessary items.

You will leave your large bags in a luggage storage room at the hotel.

Depending on the tour operator, you might be supplied with a black duffel bag that has a capacity of 6kgs. You will use this to store the majority of the equipment that you bring with you for the Inca Trail.

The Inca Trail porters are the unsung heroes of every experience, and they will carry up to 25 kgs of food and supplies on their backs. Each morning, your bag will be weighed and collected, and it will be waiting for you at the campsite.

However, there are some essential items that you should also bring with you on the Trail, such as food, water, suncream, and medication. These will stay in your possession for the entire trip, and you will have to carry them.

Machu Picchu

Is the hike difficult?

The Inca Trail is not as challenging as it may seem at first glance. However, it is very subjective, and every participant has their own unique experience. Day Two of the hike is regarded as the most challenging part.

Depending on your group, if you are roughly the same age and have a decent fitness level, you will most likely arrive at the same time at the campsites. If your group is mixed and you have younger or elderly people, they need a bit more time.

The Inca Trail is not about how fast you finish each day. It is about enjoying the route and taking it slow.

The best tour companies have a leading guide and assistant guide, leading the group while another stays at the back. These two will be there to support and guide the group when needed.

If you are one of the faster individuals in a group, don’t shame or make anyone feel bad for taking longer to complete the Trail. Respect is essential when traveling or hiking with a group.

Interesting facts about the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail length

The Inca trail to Machu Picchu usually takes four days to complete. This route is typically challenging due to the steepness and high mountain air. In addition, most people find that making this much of the trail over three days is too challenging since most of them have minimal training before their trek.

Machu Picchu Elevation

Highest point of the Inca Trail

Trekkers reach the Dead Woman’s Pass peak at 13,828 feet, which is 4,215 meters. By comparison, the peak of Mount Everest is a mere 2184 meters.

Where does the name of Dead Woman’s Pass come from?

The name of the mountain pass is Abra Warmiwanusca, which is means a woman’s body. If you see it from above, the valley looks like a woman’s silhouette.

Many people who hike the pass have thought that the name applies only to them, as they feel like they’re a dead man or woman as they reach the top of this mountain.

How many stairs will I climb if I hike the Inca Trail?

Thinking about the massive climb up Dead Woman’s Pass makes me think about the thousands of steps in the Inca trail.

Wayllabamba campsite takes about 1205 meters to hike Dead Woman’s Pass. So, if each step is half a meter, that’s over 2000 steps!

In total, there are about 70,800 steps along the Inca Trail.

Is it cold during the nights?

High altitudes can change rapidly. During the Inca trail trek, it can get cold at night. In winter, the temperature can drop below 0 degrees Celsius.

Why was Machu Picchu abandoned?

It has been theorized that the Incas had a ceremonial purpose for using Machu Picchu. Others believe that it was abandoned by the Spaniards when they arrived in Peru.

Another possible reason why Machu Picchu was abandoned was that it was simply not maintained during a time of crisis. The Incas were already weakened by smallpox when the Spanish invaded. This weakened them even further, allowing them to swiftly conquer the Inca Empire.

Why are porters working on the Trail?

Incan tribes didn’t have horses, so they used a llama instead. It was a better fit for the high-altitude trails due to its size and soft pads. During the early days of the Inca Trail, it was feared that horses could damage the Incan masonry, and large groups of llamas could cause other issues.

After defeating the Shining Path guerillas in the 1990s, tourism on the Inca Trail became very popular. Today, there are over 300 guides and over 200 tourists daily.

Where are the porters from?

Most porters work on the trail in the high mountains, and they live a remote and isolated lifestyle. They tend to raise goats, llamas, and alpacas, and they speak the language of the Incas.

Is there another way tio walk throught the Sun gate?

The Inca trail to Machu Picchu requires passing through the Sun Gate. This ancient passage is located a few kilometers away from the site itself.

On the last day of the trek, you can see Machu Picchu sunrise as you walk through Inti Punku. This is the only trek that allows you to see the ancient citadel at sunrise.

Final thoughts on hiking the Inca Trail

If you choose to hike the Inca Trail, it will be a truly memorable trip to Peru. There are many options for planning your trip, so I hope that this will help make your planning easier.

If you are looking for a great tour operator for your hike, we recommend choosing G Adventure.

For more travel destinations, check out our travel tips section.

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