Everything you need to know before walking the Inca Trail
It is 6am on a beautiful and slightly misty morning. You are making your last steps up to the Inti Punku Sungate, located deeply in the Andes mountains of Cusco. Finally you made it, after four days of hiking through the most stunning nature you are standing there, watching the sun rise behind the impressive ruins of Machu Picchu. But wait? Where is your camera?
Better read this article to fully be prepared before you hike the Inca-Trail through the Sacred Valley.
What to Expect
The Inca-Trail is one of the most stunning hikes in all of Peru, maybe even on this continent. In four to five days you will make your way through the massive mountain ranges of the Sacred Valley. You will pass glaciers and snow-covered summits and lakes in different colours from a light blue to a turquoise tone.
From more than 4200 mts./ 13800 ft. you will overlook infinite valleys and the lush, green rainforest that you just made your way through. Tropical wildlife surrounds you while you walk on paths that the Incas built hundreds of years ago, passing their mystical ruins.
At night you will camp underneath the impressive night sky of the Peruvian mountains, with stars shining as bright as you might not have seen them before.
All the astonishing landscapes on your way might make you forget your real objective, hike your way up to Machu Picchu. But once you stand in the holy citadel of the Incas, overlooking the incredible scenery of the Sacred Valley, you will remember.
This spectacle is not for nothing one of the most popular hikes of Peru. But see for yourself!
Adjust to the altitude
Don’t forget you are pretty high up. Cusco is situated about 3400 meter or 11.150 feet above the sea level. Some of the mountain ranges in the Sacred Valley reach even more than 5.000m or 16.400ft up into the sky.
In order to prevent altitude sickness it is best to take a few quiet days in Cusco before discovering the surroundings. Have a cup of Coca Tea, allegedly it helps your body to adjust to the height. Maybe even let your doctor prescribe you prophylactics in case the symptoms appear to be bad.
After a few days in Cusco you should completely be fine and ready for your adventures on the Inca-Trail.
Best Time to Visit
It is hard to say from a neutral perspective what the ‘best’ time to hike the Inca-Trail is. Everyone has different preferences. Between November and April the chance for rain is way higher than during any other time of the year, possibly making parts of your hike wet.
On the other hand this is the low season of the year and you will encounter way less tourists. The rain season also makes your surrounding super green and lush.
During the months of May to October the paths of the Inca-Trail are way more crowded, but you will have more sunshine each day. Choose what you prefer, but in the end you will have a great time anytime.
Book in Advance
The Inca-Trail is limited to only about 500 people a day, including guides and staff. Therefore it is best to book your hike to Machu Picchu as soon as you know your dates. In the peak season between April and September it might be hard to get last minute tickets. So think ahead and book your trip in advance.
The Inca-Trail is not a walk in the park, keep that on your mind. Make sure to get enough sleep and refrain from drinking one more last beer at the bar before you leave.
Wear proper shoes to keep grip on the trail. Bring a small first aid kit with you in case you need to treat small scratches or bruises. And buy a travel insurance before you come to Peru to prevent high costs in case of an emergency.
What to Bring
It is important to pack lightly while you are hiking your way up to Machu Picchu. You will have to carry your back bag for four to five days up steep paths. If you need a walking stick let your travel agency know in advance and they will equip you with one.
Make sure to have some cash on you in case you want to buy something in one of the old villages you pass on your way. Especially during the nights or when it is cloudy it might get a bit chilly, so bring some warm clothes and just in case, a rain-proof jacket or a poncho.
Taking a tour you will get you inclusive breakfast lunch and dinner, but it still is wise to have some snacks on you for in between. Bring insect repellent and sun glasses. And most important: A camera.