What is The Best Time of year to Hike the Inca Trail? Timing is Everything

by | Dec 2, 2023 | Inca Trail | 0 comments

best time to hike the Inca trail

Discover the optimal time to embark on an unforgettable adventure along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! This historical gem, nestled in the heart of Peru, is a must-visit for avid hikers and history enthusiasts alike. In this blog post, we’ll unveil the best time to hike the Inca Trail and address all your burning questions. Let’s dive in and plan your incredible journey!

This ancient trail is steeped in cultural and archaeological significance, offering a unique glimpse into the past of the Incan civilization. But when it comes to planning your Inca trail hike, timing is everything.

RELATED: When is The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu?

Wondering When is The Best Time To Hike And Climb Machu Picchu?

For an optimal experience, the ideal time to explore Machu Picchu and embark on the Inca Trail for 4 days is during the late March to May and September to mid-December period.

These months offer delightful weather conditions and fewer crowds, as they fall just before and after the rainy season. Although the dry season from June to August is also favorable, it tends to be more crowded.

Inca Trail Tours
Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

Can you do the Inca Trail without a Guide?

Unfortunately, this is one dream you are going to have to let go of. Hiking the Inca Trail for 4 Days without a guide is simply not an option.

We love an independent hike more than anyone. And yes, there are extra costs associated with using a tour operator. However, the Peruvian authorities have good reasons for this policy. Don’t feel too down. There are many advantages to hiking the Inca Trail with an expert guide. In this article, we will take a closer look at your options and regulations for hiking the Inca Trail.

Best times of Year to Hike the Inca Trail and Quarry Trail in Peru

Peru indeed welcomes travelers all year, yet the best month to hike the Inca Trail, particularly along the Inca and Quarry Trails, falls between May and September. These winter months present a dry climate, proving to be an opportune time for hikers. A distinct benefit lies in the cooler nights and the presence of a myriad of wildflowers adorning the trail, enhancing the overall scenic experience.

However, it’s worth noting that the winter season is attributed to low cloud cover, leading to colder nights that can approach zero degrees. So, it’s advisable to pack your thermals to ensure a comfortable and restful sleep during your trail journey.

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

Inca Trail Dry Season vs Wet Season: A Tale of Two Climates

The Inca Trail Dry Season (May to September)

Pros:

  • Clear skies offer breathtaking views of the Andean mountain range.
  • Less rainfall means less mud and safer hiking conditions.

Cons:

  • The trail can get crowded, leading to a less solitary experience.
  • The prices for permits and guides are generally higher due to increased demand.
  • Nights can be cold, so pack your warmest sleeping bag!

The Inca Trail Wet Season (October to April)

Pros:

  • Lush vegetation and greener panoramas.
  • Fewer crowds and lower prices make for a budget-friendly adventure.

Cons:

  • Heavy rainfall can lead to muddy and slippery trails, making hiking more challenging.
  • Limited visibility due to fog and rain clouds.
Inca Trail 4 Days
Inca Trail 4 Days Group Service Picchu Peru

The Unofficial “Inca Trail Closed” Month

February is traditionally the month when the Inca Trail closes for maintenance. It gives the trail a much-needed breather and allows conservationists to carry out important work to keep the trail intact for future Hikers and generations.

Despite certain trails being closed, there are still alternative paths available for hiking to Machu Picchu. Don’t worry, you can still embark on a memorable journey to this iconic destination.

Inca Trail Tickets Time of year Hike Inca Trail

The Inca Trail has limited permits (only 500 per day), which means Inca trail admission tickets sell out quickly, especially during the dry season.

To secure a spot, we recommend booking at least six months in advance.

Peak Season to Visit Inca Trail and Quarry Trek

Timing Your Visit: Peak and Shoulder Seasons

June and July constitute the most popular months for exploration in Peru, known collectively as the high season. During this period, expect to encounter long queues and bustling crowds. If you prefer a quieter, more tranquil experience, consider planning your visit during the shoulder seasons.

On the Inca Trail, there’s a daily limit on how many hikers can commence the trek – an effort to conserve the trail and ensure a sustainable tourist experience. Consequently, securing a spot during the high season can be quite competitive. Trail dates can be booked out up to six months in advance, so allow yourself plenty of time to obtain your Inca Trail permit.

However, if you opt for the Quarry Trail, you’re in for a treat. Unlike the Inca Trail, there’s no need to fret about crowd sizes or securing a permit. This makes the Quarry Trail an appealing choice for those who prefer more flexibility in their travel plans.

Ancascocha Trekking tours
Hikem With Locals Quarry Trek to Machu Picchu

Popularity and Routing Preferences Per Season

During the dry season, the Inca Trail is at its most popular, with hikers from all over the world flocking to enjoy the clear skies and stunning views.

However, some prefer the wet season for a quieter, more solitary experience amidst the lush vegetation.

Scenery and Difficulty

From stunning mountain vistas to mysterious cloud forests and awe-inspiring Inca ruins, the scenery along the Inca Trail is nothing short of spectacular. But be warned – the trail can be challenging, with steep ascents and descents, high altitude, and uneven terrain.

Practical Tips and Recommendations

Regardless of what time of year you decide to hike in Peru, you’ll need waterproof clothing and hiking boots (already worn in), thick hiking socks, warm and cool layers of clothing, sunscreen and a fleece. The weather in the Andes can be unpredictable, so you’ll want to ensure you’re well-equipped for your trek.

The rainy season runs from November to March, although taking a waterproof jacket at any time of year will come in handy for hikes. And if you’re considering the Inca Trail, it closes every year in February for maintenance.

Inca Trail Peru Tours
REI Camping Equipment – 5 days Inca Trail

The Altitude and Weather on the Inca Trail

One aspect of hiking in Peru that often takes visitors by surprise is the high altitude. You may find the thinner air makes physical activity more strenuous, and some people may experience symptoms of altitude sickness.

To help your body adjust, consider spending a few days in Cusco before embarking on your hike. Drinking lots of water, eating light meals, and avoiding alcohol can also help prevent altitude sickness. Remember, everyone reacts differently to altitude, so it’s crucial to listen to your body and take things at your own pace.

Altitude

With its highest point reaching an impressive 4,215 meters (13,828 feet), this destination poses a formidable challenge – nearly double the elevation of Cusco! At such lofty heights, the air density significantly decreases, potentially causing shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, or even nausea.

Other Essential Items for The Inca Hike Quarry Trail

Pack appropriate gear:

Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle and water purification tablets or a water filter. Staying hydrated is key, especially at high altitudes. It’s also a good idea to pack some energy-boosting snacks like trail mix or protein bars. Lastly, a first aid kit is a must-have on any hike. Include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and any personal medication.

In the end, regardless of when you choose to embark on this adventure, the Inca Trail promises to be a rewarding and unforgettable experience. However, it is a challenging hike that requires preparation and respect for the environment. So pack wisely, hike responsibly, and enjoy the journey.

Personal Tips

  • Stay hydrated and take time to acclimatize to the altitude.
  • Hire a reputable tour operator or guide to ensure a safe and informative journey.
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the trail’s beauty for future generations.
  • Be prepared for basic camping conditions – this is an adventure, after all!
2 Days Hike to Machu Picchu
Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with Hotel

Festivals and Celebrations in Cusco City

June and July are vibrant months in Cusco teeming with cultural celebrations. Among these, the Inca Festival of the Sun, Inti Raymi, holds a special place. Commemorated on June 24th, this event is a tribute to the Sun God, Inti, and features grand ceremonies steeped in rich traditions. The festivities don’t stop there, as a month later, Peruvians celebrate their

Independence Day

This significant public holiday spans two days, from July 28th to 29th, and is marked by joyous celebrations throughout the country.

During these months, many locals visit Machu Picchu, making it the busiest time for the Inca Trail. However, for those looking for a quieter, more solitary trek, the Quarry Trail serves as an excellent alternative.

Open for hiking year-round, this trail requires no permits. As you traverse through local communities and past grazing llamas or goats, you’ll find yourself immersed in the serene beauty of the Andean Mountains, far from the madding crowds.

Conclusion

So, what’s the best time to hike the Inca Trail? Well, it depends on you! Whether you prefer the bustling excitement of the dry season or the tranquil solitude of the wet season, the Inca Trail offers an unforgettable experience.

Start planning your adventure today and become part of the rich history of the Inca 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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