This is a more practical post about the key things I think one should consider before and during Inka Trail. A well planned trip is always more enjoyable, isn’t it? Well, then let’s get started.
- Book in advance! The average number of spots for travellers per day is around 200. The Ministry of Culture allows only 500 people at any given day on the Inca Trail, this amount includes travellers and staff (guides, porters, cooks), I would advice you to book on January. That’s what I did to travel in September, on April my friend decided to join me for the trip, but there was no place left, so she had to go on an alternative route.
- Note that you can only access the trail with a guide and staff from certified agencies. You can not just pack your equipment and go, and not all agencies can operate this tour, so make ask your preferred agency to make sure they are selling you the right thing.
- When should you travel? The good season in general to visit Cusco is between April and October, since there is no rain it is also safer to hike the Inka Trail. However, my favorite month is September, right after winter it is not so cold and also not too warm, it is just perfect time!
- Prepare your body for the hike, it is not the hardest hike ever, but keep in mind that days 2, 3 and the morning of day 4 include lots of stairs up and down, so your muscles need to be able to resist the effort. Also due to the altitud at some stretches it is recommended that you are fit and healthy to enjoy the trip without problems .
- Allow yourself to adapt to the altitud in Cusco (3400 meters) for at least 3 days before starting the trip. Mind I say specifically in Cusco, because the pass on day 2 goes up to 4250 meters of altitud, and the one on day 3 goes up to 3900 meters of altitud.
- Will everybody be sick of altitud in Cusco? or during the trip? I get asked this question quite often, and to be quite honest there is no fixed profile of person that will be sick, you just find out if altitud is a matter and how strongly it affects the body as soon as you land in Cusco. I was born in Cusco and lived there for most part of my life, but since I don’t live there for the last 3 years I also feel the altitud, not even locals escape 🙂
- Take with you lot’s of sunscreen and repellent for the long days hiking under blue skies and bright sun. Mind that a factor 50 would be the best for sunscreen, keep in mind that due to the altitud you will be closer to the sun, so it doesn’t just warm, it burns your skin.
- Use proper gear, hiking shoes/boots, clothes for warm and cold weather (especially first two nights are cold) and rain protection for your bag pack and yourself (this just in case and depending on the month you travel). Don’t forget hiking sticks, if you don’t want to carry yours from home, you can always rent some from the agency as well as a sleeping bag.
- Now, this one was a life saver for me, and maybe it is something not in the radar for many. Buy a small bottle of oil to massage your feet, at the end of the day, after the long hours walking up and down, your feet will definitely appreciate it. I massaged my feet for at least 20 minutes as soon as we got to the camp every day, this way I was relaxed and ready for the next day!
- Do not carry unnecessary gear or clothes. Just really the basic for four days: two trousers, t-shirts to change, underwear and light waterproof clothes, a pair of trainers (sneakers) to change for the evening so your feet can relax a bit. Basic and small toiletries, keep in mind you will not be able to shower during all trip (unless you dare to shower with the freezing water coming from the glaciers, but really good luck with that!), snacks for 4 days, and water for the first day (most cooks provide you with boiled water each morning so you don’t need to carry water bottles for all the trip!
- Do not! attempt to carry all your own stuff during the whole trip, especially if you bring your own sleeping bag, if you can, do pay an additional fee so that a porter can carry your stuff during the trip and you carry only a small bag pack with basic things for the day. I didn’t know how challenging the route was going to be so didn’t pay for the porter, but ended up giving half of my stuff to one of them the second day which is the most challenging. I am sure my experience would have been even better if I hadn’t carried my 10 kilo bag pack the third day which is the longest one.
- Don’t hurry or increase your pace unnecessarily, keep a pace that allows you to breathe normally at all times, that way you will resist better the long hours, and also handle better when reaching high altitud. This trip is about enjoying yourself, at the end of the day everyone will have walked the same distance so it doesn’t matter who goes faster or reaches the camp first.
- The last day starts quite early for everyone, and unlike the three previous days, all travellers will start from the same point at the same time, so yes there will be some traffic. So please, please, please be mindful of other people on the way, do not hurry too much, or try to go ahead of other people. By then everyone is excited to reach to the Sun Gate (from which you see the sunrise over Machu Picchu) but a lot of travelers are also tired from the previous days, from sleeping on a tend, and waking up very early that day. So please avoid causing unwanted stress.
- You will see the porters all along the way during the first three days, carrying up to 25 kilos each, all of them walk super fast on the way up and run on the way down. Do not under any circumstances try to do the same, they have done the route hundreds of times, they know every corner of the path and most of the time do not suffer of altitude sickness, so please keep that in mind and walk safely always mountain side (earphones could be also a no go for this route, since you need to be able to listen the fast steps when porters are walking behind).
I am sure most people can do this trip, just to be clear, when I say one should be fit and healthy to hike the Inka Trail, I mean being able to walk long distances without pain and suffering. In my group one of the ladies was diabetic but she had her medication under control at all times, and was used to long hikes, she was amazing! And as you can read in the previous post I was also sort of a beginner for long hikes, yet I had the time of my life.
If you want to experience this incredible trip and have more questions, doubts or simply want some additional guidance, please do not hesitate to drop me a message at any time, I will be more than happy to help. In the meantime Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!