Ultimate Inca Trail Travel Guide to Machu Picchu
The Classic Inca Trail is one of South America’s most famous hiking trails, and it’s easy to understand why – breathtaking mountain views, unique archaeological sites, and plenty of cultural experiences await you along the way. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-time trekker, this ultimate travel guide to the Inca Trail will help you plan and prepare for your journey.
The Inca Trail is located in the Urubamba provide, Cusco-Peru. The trail starts at Kilometer 82 on the Cusco-Machu Picchu train line.
The Inca Trail is a network of ancient stone paths and roads that lead to the lost city of Machu Picchu in Peru. The trail was rediscovered in the early 20th century and has since become one of the most popular hiking trails in the world.
The Inca Trail was built by the Inca civilization between the 13th and 15th centuries and used as a trade route between the coastal city of Cusco and the Amazon Basin. The trail was also used for religious pilgrimages to the holy city of Machu Picchu.
The Spanish conquistadors destroyed much of the Inca trials during their conquest of Peru in the 16th century. The trail was forgotten until American historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1915. Bingham wrote about his discovery of the Inca Trail in his book, Lost City of the Incas. Today, the Inca Trail is a popular tourist destination. Thousands of people hike the trail each year, hoping to catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenging trek that will push you to your limits. But the rewards are more than worth it. The breathtaking scenery, the sense of accomplishment, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience are all worth the effort.
If you’re up for the challenge, here are a few things to remember. The trail is altitude sickness territory. Be sure to acclimatize before you start the trek. This means spending a few days in Cusco (the gateway city to Machu Picchu) to get used to the higher elevation. Drink plenty of water and take it easy at first.
The trek is also notoriously difficult to get permits for. The trail is only open from May to September, and tickets usually sell out months in advance. So, plan and book your trip early if you’re set on making the Inca Trail.
But even if you can’t get a permit for the Inca Trail, don’t despair. Plenty of other amazing treks in the area will still allow you to see Machu Picchu in all its glory.
Weather in the Andes
The Inca Trail is located in the Andes Mountains, so the weather can vary. Generally, the best time to hike the trail is between May and September. During these months, the days are typically sunny and dry, with daytime temperatures ranging from 15-25 degrees Celsius. However, nights can be cold, so it’s important to pack warm clothes. October to April is the wet season in Peru, so hiking the Inca Trail during this time can be challenging. However, if you’re prepared for some wet weather, hiking the Inca Trail during this time can be an enriching experience. The scenery is often even more stunning after rainfall, and you’ll have the trail primarily to yourself since fewer people venture out during this time.
Why is the Inca Trail so famous?
There are many reasons why the Inca Trail is so famous.
- First of all, it is a truly unique experience.
- Hiking the trail immerses you in nature while tasting Inca history and culture.
- The scenery along the trail is simply breathtaking, and you will never forget the experience of hiking through the stunning Andean landscape.
- The Inca Trail is relatively easy to hike, even for those who are not experienced hikers.
- The trail is well-marked, and there are plenty of places to rest.
- You don’t need special equipment or gear to hike the Inca Trail – just a good pair of hiking shoes and some comfortable clothing.
- Finally, hiking the Inca Trail is a great way to support local communities in Peru.
The money you spend on your trekking trip directly supports local businesses and families who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. So when you hike the Inca Trail, you are not only having a fantastic experience but also helping to improve the lives of others.
Inca Trail permits
The number of permits is limited to 500 per day, and they often sell out months in advance. You can only purchase a permit through an authorized tour company. If you plan to hike to Machu Picchu, secure your ticket well.
The best time to hike to Machu Picchu
The best time to hike to Machu Picchu is in the dry season, which runs from April to September. This is also the busiest time of year on the trail, so book your trek well. The weather during the dry season is generally sunny and clear, with occasional showers. Temperatures vary depending on altitude but are typically mild during the day and cool at night.
How to Prepare for the trek?
When preparing for the trek, it is essential to be aware of the following: the trail is at a high altitude, so be sure to give yourself time to acclimatize; the trail is also very steep and challenging in places, so be sure to train appropriately beforehand; finally, pack plenty of food and water, as there are no resupply points along the way.
- Start training several months in advance. The Inca Trail is no joke – it’s 26 miles long and includes over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. If you’re not used to hiking, start with some shorter trails near your home before embarking on the trek.
- Get used to hiking at high altitudes. If you live at or near sea level, start spending time at higher elevations (if possible) a few months before your trek. This will help your body acclimatize and reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
- Make sure you have plenty of food and water. There are no resupply points along the trek, so you must bring enough food and water for the entire tour. A good rule of thumb is to get 1 liter of water per person per day, plus some extra in
What to Pack for the Trek
Below is the suggested list of essentials to pack for your trek:
- Hiking boots: You will be doing a lot of walking, often on uneven terrain. A good pair of hiking boots will provide support and traction.
- Warm layers: Nights can get cold, even during the summer months. Pack a few warm layers that can be easily removed during the day.
- Rain gear: As mentioned, it can rain at any time of year on the Inca Trail.
- Pack a waterproof jacket and pants (preferably with Gore-Tex or similar material).
- Sunscreen and sunglasses: The sun is intense at high altitudes. Be sure to pack sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes.
- Hat: A hat will help keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face.
- First aid kit: You never know when you need bandages or antiseptic cream. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
- Snacks and water: You will want to bring plenty
Tips for hiking the Inca Trail
If you’re looking to hike the Inca Trail, you should keep a few things in mind. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:
- Start training early. The Inca Trail is no joke, and it’s essential to be in good physical shape before embarking on the journey. Be sure to give yourself time to train and get in shape before your hike.
- Don’t underestimate the altitude. The trail goes up to over 13,000 feet, so be prepared for some altitude sickness. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take it slow when hiking at high altitudes.
- Watch out for the weather. The weather can be unpredictable on the Inca Trail, so be prepared for rain or shine. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing for both warm and cold weather conditions.
- Be prepared for crowds. The Inca Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the world, so expect to see plenty of other hikers along the way. Be patient and enjoy getting to know your fellow hikers – you’ll likely meet some great people!
- Take your time. It is a challenging hike, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed. Take your time walking and take all the incredible scenery around you – you’ll be glad you did!
When do you need to arrive for the Inca Trail?
If you plan to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you must arrive in Cusco at least 3 days before your trek is scheduled to begin. This will give you time to adjust to the altitude and take any necessary hikes or tours to prepare for the Inca Trail. You will also need to go through a mandatory briefing the day before your trek, which will go over all the details and expectations for the hike.
Getting travel insurance was very important for the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail is located in a remote area of Peru, and hiking and camping at high altitudes can be challenging. Many risks are associated with hiking the Inca Trail, including altitude sickness, bad weather, and injuries. Travel insurance will help you if you need to cancel your trip or if you have an accident while on the trail.
Accommodation on the Inca Trail
There is only the camping option on the Inca trail. You can book a standard camping tour or a luxury glamping tour.
One of the biggest concerns for hikers on the Inca Trail is whether or not they will have an internet connection.
- You will have internet for the first 2 hours on day 1 if you have a local SIM card with data.
- On day 2, you will not have any access to the internet or signal
- On day 3, you will have internet access in the last campsite
- On day 4, you will have a connection in Machu Picchu.
Food in the Inca Trail
One thing that makes the Inca Trail so special is the food. While you might not think Peruvian cuisine is particularly adventurous, the food on the Inca Trail is anything but ordinary. Meals are hearty and filling, designed to give hikers the energy they need to make it through a long day on the trail.
There are plenty of vegetarian options and meat dishes for those who want something more substantial. And, of course, no meal on the Inca Trail would be complete without a healthy helping of quinoa – a staple of Peruvian cuisine.
Breakfast typically consists of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, fruit, coffee, and tea. Lunch and dinner options may include soup, quinoa, rice, chicken, beef, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, and bread. You will also have snacks available throughout the day, such as granola bars, chocolate, candy, and dried fruit. It is essential to stay hydrated while on the trail, so you will have plenty of water and juice to drink. Your cook will also make coca tea for you to drink throughout the day – this tea helps with altitude sickness and gives you energy.
Tipping to porters
When tipping, there is no set amount or percentage that you should tip. It is entirely up to you and depends on the level of service that you received. If you had porters carrying your bags during your trek, we recommend tipping them from 60 to 80 soles to each porter and double to the chef. This is a collective tip, not by travelers.
It is essential to take some time to acclimatize to the altitude before embarking on the trek. You can do a few things to help your body adjust:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eat light meals.
- Avoid strenuous activity. If you start to feel symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache, nausea, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, stop and rest.
- Descending to a lower altitude can also help. Be sure to let your guide know if you are not feeling well.