How Hard is The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Inca Trail | 0 comments

How hard is the Inca trail?

Before starting the classic 4 days Inca trail hike from Cusco, one burning question you will have on my mind is How challenging would the Inca Trail be? With no expectations and limited trekking experience? As a Tour Guide in Peru, I face different experiences with tourists hiking The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

I have to admit, sometimes tourists ask silly questions. Would I end up collapsing halfway and crawling the rest? Or worse, would I have to call for a $8000 USD helicopter rescue? Maybe I’d give up and wait at the campsite for days until someone saved me?

Fortunately, none of these scenarios unfolded (though collapsing was a possibility). After four intense days of hiking the Inca trail, You stood in awe as you beheld the breathtaking view of Machu Picchu through the sun gate.

If you are also wondering how hard is to conquer the classic Inca Trail, we prepared a video summary of our all experiences and some helpful tips for your adventure!

How Hard is the Inca Trail?
How Hard is the Inca Trail Why do we recommend Hikig pools?

The Altitude Factor Acclitatozation in Cusco Before hiking the Inca trail

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Inca trail altitude. The high elevation can make physical exertion feel substantially harder. It’s crucial to spend a few days acclimatizing in Cusco or another high-altitude city before embarking on the Inca trail trek to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

Short in Time? You can still hike the Inca Trail only in 2 Days – Learn More

How to prepare yourself for the Inca when you arrive in Cusco!

As part of your tour leaders. We want to enjoy Peru. We have a dedicated day for acclimatization in this vibrant city. It’s crucial to take it easy and allow your body to adjust to the high altitude (Cusco sits at around 3,400 meters above sea level) and the change in atmosphere.

Here are some helpful tips to make your acclimatization smoother: stay away from alcohol (sorry!), focus on deep breathing, stay hydrated, and avoid overexertion. Before to intent to hike the Inca trail, we highly recommend you do a classic day tour in Cusco City.

Related: Rainbow Mountain Tour

To manage altitude sickness, many locals use coca leaves and coca tea (mate de coca), which you can easily find in Cusco. It’s also wise to pack painkillers (such as aspirin or paracetamol) in case of headaches, as well as anti-nausea medication, just in case.

Inca TrailMap
Map Of The Inca Trail 4 Days

How is The Weather On The Inca Trail?

The Andean weather can be unpredictable. You might experience sun, rain, and cold temperatures all in a single day.

Temperatures in the region are fairly consistent throughout the year. Days reach higher temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) and drop into the low digits. Campsites on mountain passes are especially cold (Pacaymayu and Chaquicocha ). You may experience sub-zero temperatures at night and in the early mornings.

Pro Tips: Adding an additional layer to your duffle bags can increase the weight, But makes will help a lot with cold weather.

Physical Fitness

A solid level of fitness is required. You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, but the fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy the Inca Trail trek. Regular cardio exercise, strength training, and hikes at home can help prepare you for the trail.

Inca Trail Hike
Dead woman Pass Elevation 4.215m

Get Ready to Conquer the Inca Trail: Top Tips for Preparation!

Embarking on a typical four-day Inca Trail trek involves hiking approximately six or seven miles per day through challenging terrain. To prepare yourself for this adventure in Peru, it’s beneficial to give yourself a head start by increasing the length and difficulty of your hikes at home.

Opt for walks that surround both ascents and declines while carrying a filled day-pack on your back. This will not only improve your overall strength and stamina, particularly in your leg muscles but also help you acclimate to the lower levels of oxygen at high altitudes.

In addition to hiking, incorporating aerobic exercises into your routine leading up to the trip is crucial. Engage in activities such as jogging, running, cycling, power-walking, or swimming regularly.

These exercises will contribute to better oxygen management when the air becomes thin. Each session should leave you feeling like you’ve had a good workout, perhaps slightly out of breath, but not completely gasping for air.

If you find yourself in that desperate state, you’re pushing yourself too hard.

While you’re practicing these hikes, take the opportunity to wear properly your ney new Inca Trail hiking boots you’ve purchased. Ensuring their comfort will make a significant difference as you trek along the Inca Trail. After all, nobody wants to deal with blisters during their journey.

By following these guidelines and maintaining your training regimen over a substantial period, you’ll be well-prepared and in excellent shape for your unforgettable adventure in Peru.

Inka Trail Private Tour
Inka trail Private Tour To To Machu Picchu

Here is The Question – How Hard is the Inca Trail?

Embarking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is completely different with a simple walk. This exhilarating twenty-six-plus mile route (43 km) presents a thrilling combination of steep inclines, challenging descents, stamina-sapping ‘staircases’, and tricky switchbacks you will hike over four to 5 days at an elevation nearing 13,828 feet (4,215 meters).

In conclusion, The difficult Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is considered to be a moderate-level hike But fear not! Along the way, you’ll be delighted by breathtaking natural and historic wonders that will leave you in awe.

It’s important to note that while the Inca Trail is no walk in the park, it doesn’t require any special skills or equipment. As long as you’re reasonably fit, your chances of successfully completing it are pretty good. Rarely does anyone have to abandon the Inca Trail. However, be prepared for a challenging and occasionally grueling experience.

Patallacta inca Trail
First Inca Trail Areological site along the Inca Trail – Llactapata or Patallacta

Now, Brace Yourself For The Most Formidable Part:

The second of three high-altitude passes is known as the ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. Climbing a lung-busting staircase, you’ll reach an elevation just short of 4,200 meters in no time. But once you conquer that, the rest of the journey is relatively smooth sailing. Well, at least less tiring sailing.

Remember, every challenge you face on the Inca Trail is rewarded with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and the sheer wonder of finally laying your eyes upon the majestic Machu Picchu.

But here’s the thing – every bead of sweat, every challenging ascent, and every step along the Inca Trail is worth it. The views are breathtaking, the history is fascinating, and the sense of accomplishment when you finally lay eyes on Machu Picchu is beyond compare.


So, how hard is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? It’s a challenge, no doubt. But it’s also an unforgettable adventure that will reward you with memories to last a lifetime. Lace-up those hiking boots, and let’s hit the trail!


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Cesar Conde

Cesar Conde

Position: Tour Leaders & Digital Creator

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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