Hike the Inca Trail

The most famous trek in South America

The famous Inca Trail is the old Inca footpath to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is 160 kilometers long and you can start at many different points. This means you can choose whether you want to walk for two, three, four or seven days. The most popular part is the last 40 kilometers to the Inca Citadel, which can be done in 4 days (3 nights). Find the best tips for your hike, with all the attractions and tips to avoid most other tourists.

It is often referred to as the Royal Highway. You can walk the entire route, but also choose a part of it. The three-day trip is the most popular among hikers. You cross two mountain passes, one of which is 4,100 meters high. The air is thin, but the view is amazing.

Camping along the Inca Trail.

Tips for the Inca Trail

Keep an eye out for the ruins of ancient outposts, and enjoy the various villages you walk through. It is possible to hire a private guide and/or bearers. Make sure you book well in advance, as spaces are limited.

Alone or with a group?

Most tourists go with a group. This is cheaper and more fun. With a group and a guide you will then walk part of the Inca Trail. The most popular excursions are the 2-day route and the 4-day route.
You can also go alone with a guide. Logically this is more expensive, but it does give you a lot more freedom. Think about the start time, the time to rest, and each photo opportunity.

Inca Trail in 2, 3, 4 or 7 days?

If you really want to learn more about the life of the Incas, you should take the longer route. The trek departs from Cusco, but you can join the track further along as well. On this route you will pass the Inca tunnels and the ruins of Ollantaytambo, which was where one of the final battles between the Incas and Spaniards took place.

The short version is only 43 kilometers long. The trail leads past important archaeological sites of the Incas. They include Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and of course Machu Picchu.  It can be done in three days, of four.

Cold in the mountains

At night it is chilly in the mountains, or rather cold. Skimp on good clothing against the cold, so that you can enjoy your trip in the evening too. It also helps to have a good look at the starry sky around you. Or if you want a moment of relaxation in the open air.

Bring cash money

Always have some cash with you. It is very useful if you can buy some from the various sellers along the route along the way. Think of a bottle of drink, some candy or fresh fruit. And it is also useful if you want to give the cook or porters something extra for their work.

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness can be life-threatening. What you absolutely should not do is fly to Cuzco and then start the next day with the Inca Trail. Cuzco is located at no less than 3,326 meters, which you really have to get used to. It is best to stay in the city for at least two whole days before you start walking. Fortunately, Cuzco is a nice city with plenty to do.

A view along the Inca Trail.

Do I need a reservation for the Inca Trail?

Yes, it is mandatory that you register in advance through a travel organisation. This can be a local travel organisation, but it can also be in your home country. Mind you, this hiking tour is very popular. This makes it smart to make reservations for the Inca Trail a few months in advance. And preferably a year in advance if you want to do the route during the high season.

What do I have to wear myself?

It is an important question for many tourists. You always walk accompanied by a guide. In addition, porters come along for the tents and cooking utensils. You are supposed to carry your own sleeping gear in a backpack. Although you can discuss whether one of the carriers will do that for you. Do say this in advance, so that you don't get into trouble.
I noticed that carriers are treated differently. Sometimes they are well paid and have good equipment, but this is by no means always the case. So arrange in advance that you have a travel organisation that treats their staff well.

Local kids on the Inca Trail.

Best time for the Inca Trail?

Normally the Inca Trail opens in March, although it is often very rainy and wet until the end of April. It is busiest in June, July and August, so the experience is less. The best months according to experts are May and October, it is therefore warmer with often good weather. You'll see fewer tourists on the trek.

It can get very busy!

  • Although the number of tickets is limited, it can get very busy on the route. Especially in the last part that leads to Machu Picchu. This is mainly because many tourists go out around the same time.
  • Try to avoid the peak season, it's really worthwhile.
  • Get out extra early in the morning, you can start as soon as the sun is up.
  • Take your time: Prefer to walk a day longer so that you enjoy it more
  • Be prepared for all types of weather: Sun and rain in one day is quite normal
  • Arrive at Machu Picchu very early in the morning to stay ahead of the other tourists

There is an alternative

I did the Salkantay Trek myself, a five day hike through the Andes. This is also an Inca Trail, only much less known. But at least as spectacular.
As a result of which you often walk alone. In addition, you have a unique choice here: Do you want to camp or use the luxury logdes along the route. I did a mix, so that I could take a nice warm shower every now and then and sleep in a nice bed.

See my tips for the Salkantay Trek

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