Inca Trail Tours: Everything You Need to Know
If you are planning to visit Peru, you probably have Machu Picchu on your bucket list. And what better way to get there than by hiking the Inca Trail, the most famous and rewarding trek in South America?
The Inca Trail is a network of ancient paths that connect various archaeological sites along the way to the citadel of Machu Picchu. It offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the Inca civilization, as well as to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Andes mountains.
But before you embark on this adventure, there are some things you need to know. In this guide, we will answer some of the most common questions about Inca Trail tours, such as:
How to book an Inca Trail tour?
What are the different options and routes for Inca Trail tours?
What are the requirements and regulations for Inca Trail tours?
What to pack and prepare for Inca Trail tours?
What to expect and enjoy during Inca Trail tours?
How to Book an Inca Trail Tour?
The first thing you need to know is that you cannot hike the Inca Trail on your own. You need to book an Inca Trail tour with an authorized tour operator, who will provide you with a guide, a cook, porters, camping equipment, food, and transportation.
The second thing you need to know is that the Inca Trail has a limited capacity of 500 people per day, including tourists and staff. This means that you need to book your Inca Trail tour well in advance, especially during the high season (May to September).
The third thing you need to know is that you need a permit to hike the Inca Trail. The permits are issued by the Peruvian government and are linked to your passport number and tour operator. The permits are non-transferable and non-refundable.
To book your Inca Trail tour, you need to contact one of the authorized tour operators and provide them with your personal information, passport number, preferred dates, and a deposit. The tour operator will then check the availability of permits and confirm your reservation.
You can find a list of authorized tour operators on the official website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru: https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio
What are the Different Options and Routes for Inca Trail Tours?
There are different options and routes for Inca Trail tours, depending on your preferences, budget, fitness level, and availability.
The most popular option is the Classic Inca Trail, which takes 4 days and 3 nights to complete. It covers a distance of about 43 km (27 miles) and reaches a maximum altitude of 4,200 m (13,800 ft) at Dead Woman’s Pass. It passes through several archaeological sites, such as Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna, and Intipunku (Sun Gate), before arriving at Machu Picchu on the fourth day.
Another option is the Short Inca Trail, which takes 2 days and 1 night to complete. It covers a distance of about 13 km (8 miles) and reaches a maximum altitude of 2,700 m (8,900 ft) at Intipunku (Sun Gate). It skips some of the archaeological sites of the Classic Inca Trail and joins it at Wiñay Wayna on the first day. It then arrives at Machu Picchu on the second day.
A third option is the Salkantay Trek, which takes 5 days and 4 nights to complete. It covers a distance of about 74 km (46 miles) and reaches a maximum altitude of 4,600 m (15,100 ft) at Salkantay Pass. It follows a different route than the Classic Inca Trail and passes through diverse landscapes, such as glaciers, lakes, forests, and valleys. It joins the Short Inca Trail at Llactapata on the fourth day and arrives at Machu Picchu on the fifth day.
A fourth option is the Lares Trek, which takes 4 days and 3 nights to complete. It covers a distance of about 33 km (21 miles) and reaches a maximum altitude of 4,400 m (14,400 ft) at Ipsaycocha Pass. It follows a different route than the Classic Inca Trail and passes through rural villages, where you can interact with local communities and learn about their traditions and customs. It joins the Short Inca Trail at Ollantaytambo on the third day and arrives at Machu Picchu on the fourth day.
There are other alternative routes for Inca Trail tours, such as Choquequirao Trek, Vilcabamba Trek, Huchuy Qosqo Trek, etc. You can find more information about them on various websites or blogs dedicated to hiking in Peru.
What are the Requirements and Regulations for Inca Trail Tours?
There are some requirements and regulations that you need to follow when booking and hiking an Inca Trail tour.
First of all, you need to be in good physical condition and have some experience in hiking at high altitudes. The Inca Trail is not an easy trek and involves steep ascents and descents, uneven terrain, changing weather conditions, and possible altitude sickness. You should consult your doctor before booking an Inca Trail tour if you have any medical condition or concern.
Secondly, you need to respect the environment and the cultural heritage of the Inca Trail. You should not litter or damage any natural or archaeological site along the way. You should also follow the instructions of your guide and respect the rules of each campsite. You should not make noise or disturb other hikers or staff.
Thirdly, you need to be prepared for any contingency or emergency that may occur during your Inca Trail tour. You should carry a personal first aid kit with basic medications and supplies. You should also have travel insurance that covers hiking activities in Peru. You should inform your guide if you feel unwell or have any problem during your trek.
Finally, you need to enjoy your Inca Trail tour as much as possible. You should take your time to appreciate the beauty and diversity of nature and culture along the way. You should also take plenty of pictures and memories that will last forever.
What to Pack and Prepare for Inca Trail Tours?
Packing and preparing for an Inca Trail tour can be challenging because you need to balance between comfort and weight. You should pack light but smartly so that you have everything you need for your trek.
Here is a suggested packing list for an Inca Trail tour:
A backpack with a rain cover
A sleeping bag
A sleeping pad
A water bottle
A water purification tablet
A sun hat
A pair of sunglasses
A lip balm
A insect repellent
A rain jacket
A fleece jacket
A thermal underwear
A hiking shirt
A hiking pants
A hiking socks
A hiking boots
A pair of sandals
A toiletries kit
A toilet paper
A personal first aid kit
You can also rent some items from your tour operator or buy them in Cusco or Ollantaytambo before starting your trek.
You should also prepare yourself physically and mentally for your trek by doing some exercises such as walking or jogging regularly before your trip. You should also drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine before and during your trek.
What to Expect and Enjoy During Inca Trail Tours?
During your Inca Trail tour, you can expect and enjoy many things that will make your trip unforgettable.
You can expect:
To wake up early every morning (around 5 am) and have breakfast with your group.
To start hiking around 6 am with your guide leading the way.
To hike for about 6 to 8 hours per day with breaks for snacks or lunch.
To arrive at your campsite around 4 pm where your cook will prepare dinner for you.
To sleep in tents or lodges with shared facilities.
To have access to electricity only at some campsites or lodges.
To have access to internet only at some campsites or lodges.
To have access to hot showers only at some campsites or lodges.
To have access to toilets only at some campsites or lodges.
To carry only your personal belongings while porters carry your camping equipment.
To tip your guide, cook, porters at the end of your trek.
You can enjoy:
The breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains 🏔️ , lush valleys 🌿 , sparkling rivers 💦 , colorful flowers 🌺 , exotic birds 🐦 , etc.
The fascinating history and culture of the Incas 🗿 , their engineering marvels 🏗️ , their religious beliefs 🙏 , their artistic expressions 🎨 , etc.
The friendly interaction with local people 👋 , their hospitality 🍽️ , their traditions 🎭 , their cuisine 🍲 , etc.
The sense of accomplishment 💪 , adventure 🌎 , discovery 🔎 , wonder