Machu Picchu, the holy grail of Peru is one of the seven new wonders of the world. You can visit it either by train or by hiking the Inca Trail – a four-day walk of 43 kilometers. Many people think that you need to be very fit to be able to make the trail, sure that would help but it is not necessary. Here are our best tips to survive the Inca Trail and making it a memorable trek without being a fitness guru.
Arrive in Cusco at least two days before you start walking the Inka trail to get used to the altitude.
Since the Inca Trail takes you up to 4200 meters above sea level you will easily feel short of breath. By spending a few days in Cusco you will give your body the chance to get acclimated. You will feel out of breath for even the slightest effort you put on your body so make sure to just take it easy and maybe read a book about the Andean culture to help you get immersed into the history of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
Drink Coca leaf Tea and chew Coca leafs.
First of – Coca leaf are legal in Peru and by chewing them or drinking tea made out of them will not have any narcotic effect on you. The Coca leaf is widely consumed in the Andes and there is a reason for why. They help you with acclimatization and reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Make sure to bring a lot of Coca leafs and chew them along the trail, but just in case – bring altitude sickness pills to (you can buy them in Cusco). It is better to bring them and not use them than to be without them.
Get the perfect pair of hiking boots and break them in before you start.
Like every vacation can be ruined by walking in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, the Inca Trail will be a nightmare if you do not have a good pair of hiking boots that fits you perfect and are comfortable to wear. And just in case, make sure to bring some patches to minimize the risk of blisters.
Don’t be cheap and stingy – pay for the porters to carry your stuff.
You will need to carry your daypack yourself but the sleeping bag and other things that you need during the night, can be carried by porters. The porters are the true heroes of the Inca Trail and it is worth every penny to pay for the service of them carrying your things. Trying to save some dollars, carrying everything yourself will make your trek a lot less enjoyable and a lot heavier. Pack some warm sweaters, hats, gloves and long undies to sleep in because it can be very cold at night.
Pack your backpack as light as you can.
Keep in mind that at high altitude, everything seems a lot heavier so try to pack your “daypack” as light as you possibly can. Having said that – there are some specific things that you should bring to have a pleasant trek.
- Money – not only to tip the porters and the cook but also so that you are able to buy some snacks and water along the road. There are several small villages that you pass and where you can buy something sweet for the hike.
- Rainproof gear – it might rain and you will not be happy hiking in soaked clothes. Bring some rainproof clothing that you can put on.
- Insect repellant, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat – The weather changes and you might need to adjust during the day and who wants mosquito- bites during their trek? Make sure to bring repellent but make sure to bring all of it in small packages and not in bulk. Remember that you want to keep your backpack light.
- Clothes – You might not be a person that likes to be seen in the same outfit twice but in this case no one will care. Make sure to just pack enough for the four days of hiking and not a thread more.
- Camera and extra batteries or a portable charger – you will not have electricity to charge your camera (or phone) so make sure to power up on batteries because you will want to take a lot of pictures.
- Headlight – This might seem a bit excessive but you might need it because once it gets dark, it gets really dark. With a headlight you have your hands to spare and can still see everything.
Ok so now you are packed and ready to go… make sure that the trek itself will be wonderful and a great memory rather than a hard challenge. Here are some tips to help you stay motivated and make your trek an amazing one.
Dress in layers.
The temperature changes frequently and wearing layers will help to keep your body temperature perfect all day. You will need to adjust the clothes during the day but a light wind jacket can be a real lifesaver during the trek.
Go at your own pace – listen to your body.
Listen to what your body is telling you. The Inca Trail is supposed to be a pleasurable trek and you need to take it at your own pace and not look at everybody else. Some people need a lot of breaks and some feel that breaks slow down their momentum. Make sure to enjoy the views and take a lot of pictures. The camera can be a great way to take a break. Make the hike more of a stroll and try to enjoy it even when your knees are shaking and your body is tired.
For the whole 4 day trek follow this link Inca Trail – Walkthrough – The Trail
Prepare the camp directly on arrival.
It seems so tempting to head straight for the porter’s tent and get some snacks and a cup of tea after a long day of walking. But before you relax, make sure to prepare your tent for the night. Lay out your sleeping bag and the clothes you might need during the night. Doing that you can enjoy the rest of the evening in peace. It does get dark quite fast and you want to be finished with all the preparations before nightfall.
Stay positive, have fun and be confident.
500 people start the trek each day and most of them complete the trail. If they can do it so can you. Take it step by step, really soak in the environment and the different walks during the trail. Listen to the sounds of the Andes and find your inner peace. Keep in mind that this not polluted place is so pure – a humbling place to be in. And have fun during it all. The Inca Trail is (for most people) a once in a lifetime experience. Make sure to make the effort to enjoy it as much as possible. And once you arrive at Machu Picchu, it will all be worth it!
Be sure to be on the mountain side at all times
Always be safe and always keep on the inside of the path “mountainside”. At times the trail takes you through really steep edges. You need to have respect for that and keep on the mountain at all times.
You made it!
Now forget all about your aching body and walk amongst the ruins of this magical place. This is the reward, but wait there is one more thing. Make sure to visit and swim in the hot pools in Aguas Calientes before you leave. Order a drink and soak in the water (which will actually be your first bath in four days). You made it! You are a true fighter and this is an experience that you will never forget!