What do you need in order to Hike The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
The Inca trail to Macchu Picchu and your Complete Guide for altitude sickness in Peru. With its stunning vistas, incredible inca ruins, and challenging terrain, it’s no wonder why hiking the Inca Trail is such a sought-after experience. It is on many an adventurer’s bucket list.
This ancient and cherished trail will take you up in elevation for four days of incredible breathtaking sights, sounds, and smells. You may be wondering, “Is hiking the Inca Trail worth it?” For the vast majority of people, the answer is a resounding “YES!”
While people at all fitness levels take on the challenge every year, it pays to be in decent shape before you tackle this gorgeous behemoth of a historic trek. It is a challenging hike, but it is very well worth it.
With all of the things, you may have read about how awesome, gorgeous, and historical the Inca Trail is, sometimes it’s hard to discern exactly how difficult it is to do this 4-day, 26-mile hike. Everyone is at different fitness levels. Don’t believe any of the Inca Trail sickness horror stories. The simple truth is, you do not need a great deal of physical stamina to do this hike!
The distance of the Inca Trail is about 42 kilometers or 26 miles in length. Over the four days, you will be ascending/descending roughly 2,000 meters (approximately 6,500 feet), with about 3,000 steps, going either up or down. The Inca Trail elevation is not bad; it’s completely doable. Essentially, if you are reasonably fit – that is if you exercise fairly regularly (walking, cardio, etc.), you can do this hike!
What Exactly Is the Inca Trail Hiking Guide?
While this iconic trail is by far the most popular, it is not the only one going to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is part of an elaborate trail system devised by the ancient Incans that led to the old Empire of Tahuantinsuyo – this empire spanned much of Latin America. It dates back to the 15th century and was lost to the ages for hundreds of years. That is until it was “rediscovered” again by Hiram Bingham in 1915, during his expedition to find the legendary Lost City of the Incas.
Today, the Inca Trail is one of the most well known and well-hiked paths on the planet.
The journey culminates in the historic city of Machu Picchu – and makes for the best scenic end to four days of invigorating hiking.
You will be trekking through the beautiful Andes Mountains. The trail itself consists of original Inca construction. Which has lasted over hundreds of years, and is proof of the genius of Incan engineering savvy, which has withstood the test of time. You will trek through Alpine tundra, lush forests with heavy cloud cover, and two mountain passes. With panoramic views that you will not soon forget.
Here is a guide to what you will experience on this epic 4-day hike.
Day 1 – Easy to Moderate
The first day is relatively easy. For the first couple of hours you are hiking on mostly flat surface, but for the remaining 3-4 hours, you start the slow climb up to the first mountain pass. Expect to hike about 7-8 on this day.
After a briefing from your guide, you begin your adventure at the trailhead KM 82, with spectacular views of the Andes Mountains. It is these mountains that the Inca paid homage to with ceremonies along the route. The terrain is fairly flat for about 2 ½ hours until you reach the Inca site of Llactapata. At the end of this “easy” first day, you will reach camp for the night, and have a chance to relax before your busy second day.
Day 2 – Challenging
The second day is definitely the most difficult. For about 5 hours the hike will be a rigorous ascent to the first summit. The higher you go, the more altitude sickness may become an issue. Be sure to bring plenty of water and take frequent rests – it’s not a race! Due to the thinner air, your lungs will need more oxygen, which will manifest itself in shortness of breath and/or headaches. Your guide will tell you how to best deal with these on the trail.
Depending on your group tour’s itinerary, you cover either one or both mountain passes on this day. The 4-hour trek in the morning consists of some steep elevation gain and hundreds of ancient stone steps going both up and downhill. But fear not, the views are well worth the workout, with lots of breaks to rest! Passing the meadow of Llulluchapampa, the trail ascends further through lush vegetation to Dead Woman’s Pass, aptly named as the top of the mountain that resembles a woman lying down. It is the highest point of the trail, at 4,200 meters.
Day 3 – Spectacular Scenery along this wonderful Inca stone-paved trail
Day three is easier in terms of terrain, but generally, it is a longer hike. And you are rewarded with even more spectacular views and varying landscapes that keep you enthralled the entire day! It is here that you begin descending through cloud-covered forests, incredible ancient ruins and wide-open vistas that go on forever.
This is a very scenic day, as you will pass through the Inca site of Runkuracay, overlooking the Pacamayo Valley, and Abra de Runkuracay, at an elevation of 4,000 meters. You will traverse over original stone steps laid by the Inca people hundreds of years ago. Next is the ruins of Sayacmarca, meaning “inaccessible town”, and protected on two sides by cliffs. Another nice spot is the small Inca dwelling of Conchamarca. One of the highlights is the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, or “town in the clouds”, as you pass through lush forests to the next campsite.
This is by far the most beautiful scenery you will experience on the Inca Trail. You may hear of tales of the “Gringo Killer,” which are steep steps you will be descending that can be a bit hard on the knees! For this, carrying a walking stick is a good idea. Expect to hike about 7 hours on this day.
Day 4 – Unique and Moving
You are almost there! Today’s final, the short hike ends with a fun but challenging sharp ascent up 50 stone steps. Warmly named the “Monkey Climb.” At the top, pass through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu and your final destination, the incredible ancient city laid out in all of its grandeur! You will feel a profound sense of awe and accomplishment from the beauty and challenges of the last four days. Finally, your guide will tell you all about this great city, with time for you to explore on your own.
All along the Inca Trail. You will be met with surroundings teeming with wildlife, and don’t be surprised if you encounter several llamas in the fields and on the Inca Trail. This also means that when you do reach the top, you will be generously rewarded with unbelievable views of the landscape!
Pro Machu Picchu Hiking Guide and Tips:
- Book your tickets and arrange for your permits well ahead of time. There are only a limited amount of park entrances each year, and they tend to sell out quickly.
- You must get an Inca Trail permit, and Inca Trial tickets to do this hike. Go here for some good information on permits.
- Choose a good trekking company to hike with. Read their reviews and choose an itinerary that best suits you.
- In order to best acclimate yourself to the higher elevations, spend 2-3 days in the town of Cuzco nearby, which is at an altitude of 2,328 meters.
- To help combat any Inca Trail altitude sickness, avoid eating or drinking anything that could upset your stomach in the days before doing the Inca Trail.
- For altitude sickness on the trail, consider taking along some cocoa leaves. This stimulant, while banned in other countries, is widely available in Peru.
- Trekking poles are your friend! Don’t be afraid to use them, although they are not required. There is nothing terribly technical about the hike, but going up and down all of those steps can put a strain on your knees.
- Carry a day pack. Your backpack should ONLY carry the essentials. Let the porters carry the heavy stuff!
- If you can, avoid the Inca Trail high season of July and August. During this time, many people will want to hike it and you don’t want to get caught with the crowds. It will lessen your experience.
- Instead, go during Inca Trail’s low season of May and October. Here, the weather is still nice and permits will not sell out as quickly.
- Research the Quechua history before your trip. Your guide will no doubt tell you a lot about the history of the region and how Machu Picchu came to be. But it helps to have a good background of it going in beforehand. It’ll enrich your entire experience.
- You can bring your camera on the trail, but don’t have it out constantly. You will want to live in the moment and take in all of the scenery with your own eyes! Completely immerse yourself in the trail. Limit yourself to about a dozen landscape shots and panoramas.
Machu Picchu – Peru
Hiking the Inca Trail can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in your lifetime. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your epic trip to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu today.
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