Everything You Need to Know About the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is one of the world’s most talked about treks, and for good reason. This 26-mile trail meanders, climbs, and descends through Andean countryside and cloud forest, over spectacular passes, past lesser-known Incan ruins, and up mountain-carved steps. Then, after multiple days of trekking, delivers you to the doorstep of an ancient world wonder, the Inca’s mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu. Chances are you’ve arrived to this blog post because you’re pondering an adventure tour on this famous Andean trekking route. Keep reading for the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this popular Peru trek.

Cusco: 3 350 msnm / 10 990 ft
Sacred Valley: 2 850 msnm / 9 350 ft
Machu Picchu: 2 470 msnm / 8 104 ft

Weather in Cusco:
Max.: 17º C / 62.6 Fº
Min.: -2º C / 28.4 Fº
Season: From March to December

Trekking Level:
Easy – Moderate – Challenging

Why is the Inca Trail so famous?

Of course, the promise of an epic and hard-earned arrival to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) is high on the list of reasons why adventure travelers embark on this particular trek in Peru, but what really makes the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu so famous lay in its history and the fact that the entire route is along Inca-laid road. No other trek in Peru can promise that. This route to Machu Picchu was used strictly as a pilgrimage route to the citadel, one that passes a series of sacred peaks, including La Verónica and Wakaywilka.

When is the best time to trek the Inca Trail?

The best time to trek the Inca Trail is June through September when the days are full of sunshine and the thermometer consistently sits at a pleasant temperature. The nights, however, can get quite cold, nothing a few extra layers can’t remedy.  This is also one of the best periods in the year to experience the landscapes at their most beautiful, without the muddy trails of the rainy season (November through April) to detract from the experience.

What are the advantages of doing the Inca Trail in 5 days instead of 4?

The Inca Trail Trek is one to be savored, not rushed. By stretching the trek an extra day, you’re able to slow down and appreciate the view, get the shot, avoid the crowds, and connect to the beautiful landscapes and sites you meet along the way.  Many of the 4-day Inca Trail treks start at the same time and camp at all of the same campsites in near perfect step with each other. The beauty of the 5-day trek is how it inherently staggers you from the rest of the trekking groups, both on the trail and at the campsites, plus those ungodly early morning wake-ups aren’t necessary when there’s an entire extra day to arrive.

What trekking gear will you need to complete the Inca Trail?

The answer to this question actually depends on what time of year you’ll be trekking the Inca Trail. If it’s during the rainy season (November to April), you’ll need to be sure to have a dry sack, waterproof hiking boots, and a poncho or rain jacket to throw on when the skies let loose. Year-round it’s a good idea to have a pair of trekking poles handy for those steep ascents and descents. Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to packing is that it all needs to fit within a small to medium-sized pack that you’ll have to carry for hours on end each day. Only throw into it what is absolutely essential. Your shoulders and back will thank you for it later.

What are some tips for beating altitude sickness?

There is a chance that you’ll experience the dizziness, shortness of breath, vomiting, and headaches of altitude sickness during your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to minimize that risk. Stick to light, easy-to-digest meals, chew on coca leaves or consume them in a tea throughout the trek, and stay super hydrated. In advance of your holiday in Peru, be sure to visit your doctor for a check-up and to stock up on altitude sickness medication that you can take if the preventative measures fail.

What activities can you do on the Inca Trail?

Besides birdwatching and admiring various versions of the orchid flower, there’s a steady supply of Incan ruins to visit en route, including Llaqtapata and Llulluchapampa, and a host of adventure sports to enjoy with each shifting landscape, be it a canoe adventure down the Urubamba River or a scenic bike ride through the Andean countryside. There’s also a zip line near the approach to Machu Picchu that will amp up your already off-the-charts adrenaline levels.

Why is the Inca Trail closed in February?

Since 2002, the Inca Trail has annually gone offline for the month of February for trail and camp maintenance and cleaning. The timing of this closure aligns with what is traditionally the rainiest month in the Andes, when trekking the Inca Trail wouldn’t be ideal anyway. Not to worry, there are Machu Picchu trek alternatives, including the Salkantay Trek and the Ancascocha Trek. The Machu Picchu ruins themselves do remain open year-round.

Ready to book a trek on the Inca Trail? Explorandes’ 5-day Inca Trail trek is one-of-a-kind, affording you all of the trail’s spectacular views and ruins away from the crowds and in the company of an expert guide. Contact us today for more information.

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