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1. How difficult is hiking the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail involves 4 days of hiking with the average distance being 6.5 miles per day. For most people in moderate to good physical condition it could take an average 6 to 7 hours of hiking per day. There are significant ups and downs and the highest point of elevation on the hike is of 4,200 m.a.s.l. In general, most people agree that if one is accustomed to backcountry hiking and amping will have no problem enjoying the trek.
2. How far in advance should I book my Inca Trail hike?
This year’s tendency is that permits get sold out at least 2 months in advance or even before, as such has demand grown in the past year, with permits selling out for the months of May to October typically around 4 months in advance. The trek’s popularity, increasingly stringent regulations, and the possibility of even fewer permits in the future ensures that this time period will only grow.
3. How crowded is the Inca Trail?
In 2012 the Peruvian Government put in place widespread new regulations for the Inca Trail. This has caused crowds to decrease although it is still common for most groups to hike amongst others throughout the day. In Explorandes we prefer that the hike be a more solitary experience, and we are one of the very few operators that, by meeting stringent environmental practices, are able to stay at alternative campsites to the larger, standard sites.
This allows us to be at dfferent points of the trail throughout the day than most other groups, meaning you’ll typically see few people other than those within your group.
4. What are the campsites like?
We are one of the few permitted to camp in remote sites away from the crowds. Night one we camp near the archaeological sites of Wayna Q’ente and Llaqtapata. The following night we camp outside the indigenous Andean village of Huayllabamba with a breathtaking view of Mount Huayanay. The third night we camp in a beautiful clearing in the vicinity of Phyupatamarca (translates to the village on the edge of the clouds). This combination of sites ensures remoteness, contact with authentic Andean indigenous people, and solitary visits to archaeological sites.
5. What are the guides like?
Explorandes Guides are among the very best and most experienced guides on the trail. They are all from the surrounding areas of the Sacred Valley and Cusco; fluent in English as well as Spanish and fluent or conversational in the native tongue Quechua. They are certified Wilderness First Responders, have training or degrees in a diverse range of fields such as tourism, history, culture, spirituality, ecology, anthropology and archaeology. Moreover, they are personable, likable and positive people who thrive on sharing their region and heritage. He/She will meet you at your hotel lobby the evening before the start of your trek and will coordinate pre-trip briefings and make sure you have all necessary equipment and clothing to undertake your excursion or adventure.
6. What is the food like?
Simply put, the food is scrumptious, hardy, and fresh. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and hearty snacks are prepared and provided for you. Meals are a mix of local specialties and international favorites. Vegetarian meals are available upon request, and we can accommodate most dietary restrictions as well with advance notice.
7. How big are the groups?
On our Fixed Departure group treks, which depart every Sunday and Wednesday, the average group size is 10 to 15 people during high demand dates and 4 people during less high demand dates. Most groups never exceed 8 people.
8. Can we hike the Inca Trail without a guide?
No, it is not permitted to hike the Inca Trail without a licensed guide that comes from the area around Cusco/Machu Picchu. For those people that prefer to hike alone, you are more than welcome to hike separately from your group and guide, but are required to be an official member of a guided trek and to camp with the group.
9. We’ve heard that the Inca Trail is sold out. Can we get permits when we arrive to Peru?
We get this question fairly often when Explorandes and/or other reputable companies have told travelers that the Inca Trail permits are sold out. Once permits are sold out on the offcial government website, they are sold out. The government requires exact passenger information to purchase a permit and your passport must match the passenger information registered on the permit when beginning the trek; and they are non-refundable and non-transferrable.
10. How is water supplied while on the Inca Trail?
In spite of there being a couple places along the trail to buy bottled water, we strongly recommend travelers bring a couple reusable water bottles to limit plastic waste. Water is boiled, treated and ltered by cook sta‑ and guides and available to hikers throughout the trek.
11. What equipment does Explorandes provide for Inca Trail hikers?
You will be supplied with all necessary camping gear for your Inca Trail trek other than sleeping bags (which are available for rent with advance notice, however most people prefer to have their own bag). This includes all cook gear and commissary gear, expedition class tents (Eureka Outtter Special Edition or similar models), dining tents, tables, chairs, toilet tents, water puriers and sleeping pads. Our equipment is inspected regularly and replaced on a regular basis.
12. What equipment do I need to pack for the Inca Trail?
Your own personal clothing, supplies, and a sleeping bag are all that you will need to bring. For a detailed packing list and clothing suggestions please see the Inca Trail packing list at the end of these FAQs. The weight limit for your personal items to bring on the Inca Trail is 8 Kilos. It’s best to bring a duffle bag you intend to bring on the trail in addition to your main bag which will be left locked in your hotel or at our Cusco offices (upon request, previous notice) while you’re trekking. If needed, a du el bag for your personal gear while on the trail will be supplied the night previous.
13. What do I carry?
All you will need to carry throughout your trek is your small day bag containing your water bottles, sunblock, a hat for sun, rain gear, sunglasses, and a small personal first-aid kit.
14. What if I have a medical emergency while on the trek?
Guides carry a fairly comprehensive rst-aid kit while on the trek and are Wilderness First Responders as well as having Red Cross training in rst aid, and are capable of treating basic medical problems (cuts/scrapes, blisters, travelers’ diarrhea, etc.). Our guides lead hundreds of treks each year and we have rarely had a traveler unable to complete the hike. In the rare instance that someone is unable to complete the trek, they will be evacuated back to Cusco and, in most cases, are able to rejoin the group back in Machu Picchu going by train. The nearest modern medical facilities are in Cusco.
15. What does Explorandes do to minimize environmental impact?
Specifically while on the trail we use environmentally friendly portable toilet systems, biodegradable soaps, and facilitate hikers utilizing reusable water containers. Most importantly we transport all garbage back to Cusco. All staff and guides undergo continuing education in environmental sustainability.
16. How will altitude affect me while hiking the Inca Trail?
As everyone reacts differently to altitude, the best indication of how the Inca Trail’s high altitudes will a‑ect you is your previous reaction to high altitudes. The average altitude throughout the trek is 10,000 ft, with altitudes ranging from 9,000 ft to 14,500 ft. The highest campsite is at 12,000 ft.
For this reason all hiking-intensive itineraries include at least 3 days of acclimatization before beginning your hike, which allows some amount of acclimatization and an opportunity to see how you will feel while hiking. Most visitors experience mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, trouble sleeping, or light-headedness during their first day or two at elevation. Our porters on the Inca Trail have oxygen available for travelers having problems with the elevation. It is a reasonable precaution to ask your doctor about Diamox or other medications for altitude sickness.
Inca Trail or alternative treks with camping – The weight limit for your personal items to bring on the Inca Trail is 8 Kilos. It’s best to bring a bag you intend to bring on the trail in addition to your main bag which will be left locked in our Cusco offices while you’re trekking. If needed, a du el bag for your personal gear while on the trail can be supplied the night previous. Multi-purpose, layerable, quick-dry clothing used for hiking worldwide as well as comfortable shoes is the recommendation. In addition we recommend bringing your own sleeping bag (0 to 15 degree F rated) as well as a pack towel sold at gear shops. With prior notice a sleeping bag can be rented.
Below is a more detailed Inca Trail pack list:
Short-sleeved shirts or t-shirts (non-cotton recommended)
Light colored long-sleeved shirts
Fleece or wool sweater
Regular and long underwear
Medium weight jacket (synthetic is better but down will suffice)
Hat for sun
Hat for warmth
Rain gear or rain poncho
Medium weight socks
Comfortable hiking shoes
A change of shoes for around camp
Trekking poles (optional)
Sleeping bag (0 to 15 degree F rated)
Strong duffel or other bag for your personal gear to be carried by porters
Sun block, lip balm and insect repellent
Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries and bulb
Quick drying pack towel
Personal first-aid kit – Guides carry a medical kit, but we suggest this for bruises and blisters. Knee or ankle braces are useful if you suffer from weakness or previous injury. Include any special medication your doctor might suggest for you.