The Inca Trail is South America’s most iconic trek. If you’ve never done a multi-day trek, the idea of walking 43 kilometres at altitude may seem a little daunting – but we’re here to put your mind at rest.
Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the Inca Trail trek:
1. Is the Inca Trail difficult?
The Inca Trail is doable for anybody that leads a reasonably active life. The difficulty comes in the altitude, the distance covered and, at points, the steps which are uneven and well-worn making them slippery when wet. However, you can take as long as you need and stop to take in all the marvellous views and Inca ruins whenever you want. For those who struggle with descents, trekking poles can help, but it’s often a good idea to prepare with hilly walks or on a step trainer.
2. What is the highest altitude on the Inca Trail?
Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest point on the trek at 4,200m and the majority of the trail is above 3,000m. Altitude affects everyone differently (and some not at all). The more time you spend at altitude before the trek, the better your body will adapt so this is planned into the itinerary. Here are a few tips:
3. How far is the Inca Trail and how many hours hiking will I do each day?
- Drink plenty of water as you dehydrate faster at altitude.
- The higher you go, the less oxygen there is, so you may get out of breath more quickly and take a bit longer to recover. Shorten your stride and go slow and steady.
- Your digestive system slows down slightly, so eat little and often to keep your energy levels up.
It varies from a two-and-a-half hour 6km walk on the first day, when we take it a little easier to allow you to adjust to walking at altitude, to the longest day (day three) - 10km over eight hours. The final day is mostly downhill, taking around 6 hours with stops to visit Inca sites before your first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
4. What kit do I need to hike the Inca Trail?
A comfortable rucksack is a must to carry all the essentials including snacks, clothing layers, waterproofs, sunglasses, sunscreen and of course, your camera. You can hire trekking poles and a sleeping bag before the trip but it’s worth bringing a sleeping bag liner for an extra layer at night.
5. What will I need to carry on the Inca Trail?
You only have to carry your day pack. The porters are there to help your Inca Trail run seamlessly. They carry your main luggage, all food and equipment, and they set up and break down camp each day.
6. What should I wear on the Inca Trail?
You really can experience four seasons in one day so layers are key. Alongside waterproofs, supportive walking boots are essential with breathable socks. Avoid cotton as it is a poor insulator when wet (whether from sweat or rain). Wearing quick-drying, breathable clothes makes trekking much more comfortable.
7. How cold does it get, will I be cold at night?
The coldest months are June to August, when it can drop below zero at night. We provide inflatable sleeping mats to help insulate you from the cold ground and it’s worth bringing a four-season sleeping bag.During the day, temperatures are usually between 20-29°C.
8. What will the food be like on the trek?
Our Inca Trail cooks prepare nutritious, delicious food, served as sit-down meals under canvas. You’re also given a snack bag for each day’s hike plus tea and biscuits to welcome you back to camp.
9. What are the tents and the toilet facilities like on the Inca Trail?
Roomy, well-maintained two-man tents are provided. There are permanent toilets along the trail and portable bathrooms (toilet tents) for the group to use in camp.
10. How do I get a permit to hike the Inca Trail?
There are only 200 tourist permits available per day and these are required to trek the Inca Trail. If you book with Explore we’ll organise this for you; once you’ve booked your trip we purchase the permit on your behalf. The passes sell out quickly, particularly in the high season (July and August), so it’s worth booking your trip at least six months in advance.