With the new entry rules coming into effect, Machu Picchu is definitely a destination that you need to plan ahead for. The Inca Trail is a hike through the sacred valley to the magnificent Machu Picchu and of course one of the most popular Peru holidays you can take. Although a lot of people trek this trail every day, it is not an easy hike. Over four days you will cover 26 miles and climbing to 4000 ft. The altitude makes it more difficult to walk so it might take you a little longer to trek than it would do at home. As long as you train beforehand and plan your journey, you’ll have a fantastic time. Before you book take a look at these main essentials you must know as a beginner exploring the Inca Trail.
Choose the best time to visit
The time for the best weather is May through September. It can get busy especially during peak season which is June, July and August. The rest of the year however is the rainy season, so the views won’t be so spectacular, the hike not no pleasant and when camping you might end up in a soggy tent. The plus side of visiting during off peak season however, is that you will avoid the crowds of the summer months. So, depending on your travel style and what you want to get out of your trip, choose the best time of year to visit that suits you.
Book with a Licensed Tour Agency
It is essential that you book with a licenced agency recognised by the Inca Trail as you are only allowed access if you are booked with the correct operator. Different trekking agencies offer varying options for your journey. You should find out certain things about your trip such as how many people will be in the group how many are sharing one tent and what you will have to carry yourself. Also, what the porters will be carrying and ensure local people are treated fairly and paid a good wage for their services.
Only 500 people per day are allowed to enter to the trail no matter what the season so you do need to book quite far in advance. This number includes porters and guides too. It is advisable to book at least 6 months in advance and the bookings are non-refundable as they are linked to your passport details.
Pack right – remember the most important items
You will need your passport with you, not only to get into the country but to enter the Inca Trail too. You’ll be happy to get the cool stamp of Machu Picchu too. Other essentials include good hiking boots, a torch, perhaps a head torch with fresh batteries, water-purification tablets, cereal bars or other healthy high calorie snacks for the trail and a basic first-aid kit.
You’ll also need to bring some local currency along. You might need some cash for souvenirs and to tip your local guides. Whenever you choose to visit, you’ll need both sunscreen and warm clothing. Due to the altitude, it is very easy to get sunburnt even if it doesn’t feel that warm. At night, it will always get very cold so a good sleeping bag, hat and warm clothing are essential for camping.
Either you or your porters will be carrying your bags and there will be a size and weight limit set by your tour operator. This means you need to pack smart, so using aids such as packing cubes are a good tip to keep everything neat in your bag.
Take time to acclimatise to the altitude
When you arrive in Cusco you will need some time to acclimatise a few days is usually enough before you start your hike. Altitude sickness can be serious so you don’t want to exert yourself too much straight away. It can affect people of different ages, fitness or gender however people at higher risk are those with heart problems or lung problems.
You may not suffer altitude sickness during one trip but feel the effects when you visit again. It is just that unpredictable. To help with any symptoms avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water. You can also drink the plentiful supply of coca tea or chew coca leaves which the locals swear by to help with altitude.
Prepare yourself for the toilet situation
Unlike in previous years, many of the campsites in the area now have toilet facilities. They are generally kept clean and are adequate for your use on the trail. If you do need to go to the bathroom between sites then you’ll need to go in the great outdoors. Make sure you move away from the trail safely and bring your tissue and rubbish away with you. A good tip is to bring tissues and nappy bags with you just in case nature calls. Oh, and baby wipes are usually a great help too. One more essential item is hand sanitiser – don’t forget that hand gel!
Bring a great camera
The trail will bring you to some amazing places so you will want to capture those unmissable moments. You’ll trek through mountains, cloud forest and subtropical jungle mixed with Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. There are so many exciting and interesting views you won’t be able to take it all in.
Bringing along a good camera might not be essential but you really should to invest in your memories. A DSLR or to be compact a GoPro is a good choice. Take spare fully charged batteries and SD cards too ensuring you don’t miss any big moments. Remember you won’t be able to charge any of your electronics for a few days so be sure to plan ahead.
Overall Trekking the Inca trail is an amazing experience
There’s nothing quite like seeing the mist clear and the sun rise over the spectacular Machu Picchu. At the end of your trek this is the reward you are likely to see, standing at the sun gate looking down onto the mountains and this historical site. It will make the arduous trek all worth while to reach what you were aiming for. A real adventurous holiday.
If trekking the trail sounds a little too much for you then there are other ways you can see Machu Picchu. You can visit Machu Picchu taking the train from Poroy near to Cusco straight to the Machu Picchu site. The scenic ride takes around three and a half hours and runs right along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley. The stop is Aguas Calientes, a town located a few miles from the entrance. You can also take a tour that allows access to the historical site and a guide will teach you about Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas history.
With these essential tips, you are sure to have an amazing time trekking the Inca trail in Peru. Have you ever trekked the Inca Trail? If you have why not leave a comment to tell others about your trip, and give ay tips you might have picked up along the way.