Hiking the Inca Trail can be an amazing experience! Or it, can be the stuff of nightmares.
Follow the tips below to ensure you are absolutely miserable on the Inca Trail.
- Be a porter instead of hiring a porter. Your quads will be screaming as you summit not one but two mountain passes at nearly 14,000 feet each.
- Hire the cheapest trekking company that will have you. Horror stories abound about guests going to bed starving because their designated company didn’t pack enough food.
- Forget to bring toilet paper. Enough said.
- Hike in sneakers or brand new hiking boots you haven’t broken in yet. You’ll wish you could make the hike in flip-flops once the blisters begin.
- Let a friend talk you into hiking the trail without first researching what you are getting into. You need to train for this hike. If you aren’t in good shape for it, you’ll wish you could kill your friend.
- Think that because you hiked Kilimanjaro the Inca Trail will be a piece of cake. Kilimanjaro is gradual. The Inca Trail is steep.
The Inca Trail is a terrible place to get altitude sick. You’ll either feel miserable hiking with a pounding headache or desperate as you search for a secluded, makeshift bathroom to deal with stomach issues brought on by altitude sickness. And, to be frank, there aren’t many secluded spots on the popular Inca Trail.
Here are four tips to help you ensure that you don’t end up in this uncomfortable situation.
- Spend two to three days in Cusco. You can explore the nearby Inca ruins, visit a weaving community in the neighboring Sacred Valley, wander through the local market, and look for signs of Inca rebellion at the colonial cathedral while you give your body a chance to adjust.
- Slow down. On the Inca Trail, slow and steady wins the race. It’s normal to feel panicky about your ability to keep up. Instead of giving into the temptation to rush, though, slow to a pace that allows you to keep your breathing under control. Huffing and puffing is a sure sign that you are hiking too fast.
The Inca Trail has become so popular that you need to reserve your spot at least six months ahead. In fact, I just had someone contact me to hike the Inca Trail in three months. Unfortunately, the dates he wanted had been sold out for months.
To help you with the advance planning necessary, here are the two best times to hike the Inca Trail.
Summer. June, July, and August are the most popular months to hike the Inca Trail. While it gets quite cold at night, the days tend to be warm and sunny, making it a perfect time to hike.
Spring and fall. April and May as well as September and October are good times to hike, too. There is a slightly increased chance of rain, but it is not quite as cold at night.
Winter. December through February is the worst time to hike the Inca Trail. This is the rainy season in Peru during which torrential rainstorms cause dangerous mudslides. In fact, the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance the entire month of February.
I would strongly recommend against hiking the Inca Trail during the rainy season unless you are a glutton for punishment or a frog.
The night before the 1-day Inca Trail hike, you should prepare two bags.
The first is an overnight bag for your stay in Aguas Calientes. You should pack whatever you need for the night in Aguas Calientes after the hike and for the next day when you are exploring Machu Picchu and returning to Cusco. There is only room on the train for a small bag, so your bag should contain just the essentials. (more…)
Peru is a hiker’s paradise with many options to choose from. The three most popular are the Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, and the Lares trek. I’ve done them all. Below is my advice to help you choose which hike is right for you.
Inca Trail. The Inca Trail is arguably the most well known Peru hike and comes with well-deserved bragging rights. This 26-mile trail snakes up and down two nearly 14,000-foot mountains and through the world’s highest cloud forest on its way to Machu Picchu. You are treated to breathtaking views, in some cases quite literally, as you gasp to catch your breath after a stretch of uphill hiking.
You also explore abandoned ruins that hint at what life must have been like during the time of the Inca. (more…)
So many people have hiked the Inca Trail that it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of complacency. How hard could it possibly be if a 74-year-old grandmother can summit the feared Dead Woman’s Pass?
In spite of the numbers of people who have successfully completed the trek, the Inca Trail is plenty hard. Consider that you will hike a total of 26 miles, summit two mountain passes at nearly 14,000 feet each, and hike for up to 10 hours a day. (more…)
If you have limited time in Peru, the 1-day Inca Trail is a great alternative to the 4- or 5-day hike. The 1-day version gives you a taste of the longer Inca Trail experience as well as some of the bragging rights.
The best way to train is to hike. On the 1-day Inca Trail, you will be hiking approximately 7 hours, with stops, on hilly terrain. If you can consistently hike 5 to 7 hours on hilly terrain at home, you will be in good shape for the trail.
You can learn more details about the trail on our website. (more…)
I am hiking the Inca Trail this May. I must admit I am a tad nervous. It might have to do with the fact that I’ll need to cross over Dead Woman’s Pass. Gulp! I’ve heard the name comes from the shape of the mountain, which looks like a woman’s profile in repose. I certainly hope it’s not because I’ll feel like a dead woman by the time I climb to the top.
Alternatively, I could be nervous from the fact that I’ll be hiking 26 miles over the course of four days. Doesn’t this distance seem like something better traveled by car rather than by foot? Alas, there are no cars on the Inca Trail. The Peruvian government does not even allow emergency horses. This negates my plan B—hopping on a horse if I get too tired. (more…)
Peru is a hiker’s paradise. The scenery is stunning—llamas grazing in the shadows of majestic glaciers, locals doing chores in their colorful garb, exotic birds flitting through the cloud forest. As you pass through rural mountain communities, you gain a glimpse into a lifestyle that is not much different from that of the Incas.
My biggest obstacle to enjoying this hiking experience, though, is the discomfort that comes from hiking at high altitude. There never seems to be enough air. A hike I might consider moderately strenuous at sea level turns into an epic endurance event at altitude.
Since I trek at least a couple times a year in Peru to scout potential routes, I’ve had to find ways to make the experience more comfortable, more doable. (more…)
Over drinks the other night, a friend mentioned how much she missed going backpacking here in California. The problem was she didn’t have anyone to go with. Then, she gave me one of those looks. You see she knows that I do a lot of backpacking in Peru and is mystified why I only indulge in this sport south of the equator.
Here are my reasons. In Peru:
I don’t have to carry my own backpack. I carry a daypack with water and snacks while a horse, llama, or porter carries my backpack.
I eat gourmet meals on the trail. Lomo saltado, homemade soup, pancakes and eggs, freshly popped popcorn, and trout are examples of some of the meals I’ve eaten while backpacking. No Top Ramen, freeze-dried veggies, or beef jerky for me! (more…)