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Inca trail to Machu picchu FAQ

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the best trekking routes in Peru. Being so popular, many questions arise; here we will answer the most frequent ones.
Camino Inca
The Inca Trail covers about 43 km of the Qhapaq Ñan, a route formerly used by the Incas.
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ABOUT THE JOURNEY

What is the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a trekking route built by the Inca Empire over 500 years ago that ends at the famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Along the route, countless Inca archaeological remains can be found, such as towers, water fountains, terraces, observatories, temples, houses, and the Inca Trail itself, whose roads or paths are built with stone.

It is considered one of the best short treks or hikes in the world.

How many kilometers is the Inca Trail?

The total extension of the Inca Trail is approximately 43 kilometers or 26.12 miles. This route has sections where extensive stairways must be climbed, as well as steep hills descended, so the route is almost never linear or straight.

How many hours do you walk per day?

The duration of the journey on the Inca Trail depends on the distance between the camping sites assigned by the INC (National Institute of Culture of Peru, the organization in charge of maintaining this route) and the physical condition of the traveler. Normally, between five to eight hours of walking are scheduled for the first three days, and two to three hours of walking on the fourth day.

Do porters carry our luggage all along the Inca Trail?

Porters carry the shared luggage of the trekking group, meaning they carry tents, blankets, food, stoves, utensils, and other items that will probably be used during the journey by all participants.

Each traveler must carry their own backpack with personal use products, water, sunscreen, hats, walking sticks, rain ponchos, etc., up to a maximum of five kilos. This will be checked at the start of the journey (backpacks will be weighed to verify they do not exceed five kg).

Is it dangerous to do the Inca Trail?

Most of the route is made on the path made by the Incas, which is a roadway or path from 1.5 to 15 meters wide, so there are no great dangers if caution is exercised; however, one should not leave the path because there are also deep chasms that are likely fatal.

In general, the route is not dangerous, as it is correctly signposted and with safety measures, in addition to there being park rangers prepared to assist travelers.

If you have heart problems or conditions that require immediate medical assistance, you should consult with your doctor because one of the main characteristics of the route is its inaccessibility.

Tourists on the Inca Trail. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Some sections of the Inca Trail have protective fences.

Are there bathrooms along the Inca Trail?

Along the route, bathrooms have been established, and many of them are equipped with water facilities, although most are ‘pit’ toilets, which is basically a hole in the ground with a small room installed for the bathroom.

Where do you sleep on the Inca Trail?

The INC (National Institute of Culture of Peru) has designated specific areas where tourism agencies and operators, through their official guides, set up their campsites for overnight stays. The traveler only needs to take care of their belongings.

Do I need to be fit to hike the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail does not require any special skills, meaning you do not need to know how to climb, rappel, and the like, so any traveler with good boots and proper gear can undertake it.

However, on the first day of the journey, you walk from 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) in elevation to 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), so the physical challenge is considered moderate to intense, requiring adequate physical condition. Having a good physical condition will make the journey easier.

Does the Inca Trail include a visit to Machu Picchu?

Over the four days of hiking through impressive mountain ranges, valleys, and plains, the Inca Trail concludes at the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the perfect end to an unforgettable experience.

Short Inca Trail Short Inca Trail

Where does the Inca Trail end?

The final stretch of the Inca Trail ends at the archaeological site ‘Inti Punku’ or Sun Gate in Quechua, which is also part of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park. On the fourth day of the journey, you will watch the sunrise through the Intipunku making this experience wonderful.

What is the group size on the Inca Trail?

The maximum number of tourists or travelers allowed per group is sixteen people, while the minimum group size allowed is four people.

Are there alternatives to the Inca Trail?

If tickets or slots are not available to undertake the Inca Trail, several alternatives can be chosen, among which are:

  • The Salkantay snow-capped mountain tour: This journey starts at the foothills of the impressive Salkantay snow-capped mountain, over 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in altitude, and continues through valleys and countless ravines until reaching the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu after five days.
  • The Choquequirao tour: This tour introduces you to the Inca citadel of Choquequirao, discovered just over 10 years ago, located in a geographic area adjacent to Machu Picchu. The tour lasts eight to nine days.
  • There is also the possibility of doing the short version of the Inca Trail, which lasts two days.

Is it possible to do the Inca Trail without the company of a tour guide?

Since 2001, it is not possible to do the Inca Trail without the company of an official tour guide.

Is it possible to do the Inca Trail without a travel agency?

It is mandatory to do the Inca Trail in the company of a group of travelers led by an official tour guide, who, in turn, is controlled by the tourism agency or operator.

Can I hike the Inca Trail with children?

There are no restrictions regarding the minimum age to undertake the Inca Trail; if the child is accustomed to walking long stretches, they can perform this trekking route. However, it would be prudent to communicate and coordinate their entry with the tourism agency.

What if I walk too slow and my group leaves me behind?

It is generally recommended that hikers pace themselves; often, there will be groups that complete the journey before others, as well as groups that overtake others and then fall behind, so there is no reason to become overly agitated.

Hiking on the Inca Trail. Source: CuscoPeru.com
You can go at your own pace on the Inca Trail.

Can I give up finishing the Inca Trail and go back?

Official tour guides are trained to handle all kinds of situations, from altitude sickness, fatigue to falls, bumps, and sprains. They will do everything possible for you to conclude your journey without problems, but if necessary, they will be responsible for coordinating your return.

What water is drunk during the Inca Trail?

It is recommended to carry at least two liters of water per day. The tourism agencies or operators are in charge of providing travelers with this vital element; however, it is also necessary to carry water purification tablets to be able to replenish water bottles at any of the multiple sources along the route.

Where do I leave my suitcases while doing the Inca Trail?

Most hotels and hostels in Cusco have specific places for travelers to leave their luggage while they are on tour.

How many kilos is allowed to carry on the Inca Trail?

You can carry up to five kilos of luggage and a small backpack to carry the camera and other personal use objects.

Can I climb the Huayna Picchu mountain at the end of the Inca Trail?

You can climb to the top of the Huayna Picchu mountain at the end of the Inca Trail, but it must be taken into account that the tickets or entrance tickets to this mountain must be reserved three or four months in advance.

ABOUT THE FOOD

Are all meals included in the Inca Trail tour?

All meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner); as well as the transportation of pots, ingredients, and other items necessary for their preparation, are the responsibility of the tour operator or tourism agency.

Is it possible to request vegetarian food during the Inca Trail?

Yes, it is possible to request that a vegetarian option be included during the journey. This must be requested at the time of booking the tour.

Can I have a different food option in case of allergies?

Yes, in the case of having any type of dietary restriction, such as allergies, being lactose intolerant, or having allergies to certain foods, the menu can be accommodated to your preferences.

Resting place, Inca Trail. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Along the way you will find resting places where you can have a restful lunch.

ABOUT THE LUGGAGE TO CARRY ON THE INCA TRAIL

To embark on your journey through the Inca Trail, here are the essential elements to consider:

  1. Documentation: Do not forget your passport or any other official identity document, they are always necessary.
  2. Reserve of money: It is always convenient to carry a little extra cash for unforeseen events.
  3. Support for hiking: A walking stick can be very useful; remember that it should have a rubber tip.
  4. Equipment for rest: A sleeping bag will be essential for nights outdoors.
  5. Source of energy: Remember to carry additional batteries for your mobile phone and your camera.
  6. Sun protection: A hat and sunglasses are essential, along with a good sunscreen.
  7. Waste management: Plastic bags will help you store trash and keep the path clean.
  8. Insect protection: Mosquito repellent will be necessary.
  9. Rain gear: A rain poncho will keep you dry during unexpected storms.
  10. Lighting: Do not underestimate the importance of a good flashlight for the nights.
  11. Travel log: A camera will capture the unforgettable moments of your adventure.
  12. Appropriate clothing: Bring a variety of clothing, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, rain jackets, gloves, trousers, socks, underwear, among others.
  13. Light foods: Snacks and fruits will provide you with energy during the hike.
  14. Hydration: Rehydrating water or isotonic drinks can be very useful to maintain your hydration level.
  15. Medications: If necessary, do not forget to bring essential medications for you.
  16. Personal hygiene: Personal hygiene items are a must-have on your list.
Luggage on the Inca Trail. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Be sure to carry only what is necessary to avoid excess weight.

WHAT CLOTHING TO WEAR FOR THE INCA TRAIL TREKKING?

You need to be prepared for this incredible trekking; you should have the appropriate clothing for temperature variations throughout the day and night.

  1. Comfortable trousers: Opt for ones that are roomy and comfortable to facilitate movement.
  2. Leggings: They can be useful for keeping warm and as an extra layer under trousers in case of cold weather.
  3. Polyester or cotton t-shirt: These materials are breathable and will keep you comfortable during the hike.
  4. Wind-resistant jacket: This will be your first layer of protection against the weather.
  5. Waterproof jacket: As a second layer, it will help protect you in case of sudden rain.
  6. Gloves: They will protect you from the cold, especially during the nights.
  7. Cotton socks: They will help keep your feet dry and comfortable during the hike.
  8. Hat or cap: Ideal for protecting you both from the sun and the cold.
  9. Hiking shoes: Make sure they are comfortable and have good grip.
  10. Rain poncho: It can be a lightweight and compact alternative for protection against the rain.

ABOUT PAYMENT AND BOOKING

How far in advance should I book the Inca Trail?

The Inca Trail is one of the most famous trekking routes in the world, and tickets for entry sell out many months in advance, with only 200 tickets available per day.

It is recommended to make the reservation as far in advance as possible, typically this should be more than six months.

Do I need to make a deposit to reserve the Inca Trail?

To secure the booking of the Inca Trail ticket, a deposit of 40% of the total cost is required.

Once the reservation is made, can I request a refund?

The entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are managed by the INC, so it is not possible to return the money once the deposit has been made.

Wiñay Huayna Machu Picchu Inca Trail Two Days. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Wiñay Huayna on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

ABOUT THE WEATHER AND SEASONS

Is the Inca Trail open all year?

No, the Inca Trail is closed in February due to maintenance and prevention work, in addition to being the rainy season.

Should I worry about altitude sickness on the Inca Trail?

During the first two days of the journey, you will traverse plains and ascend to very high peaks, so altitude sickness can indeed be a concern. It is advisable to carry medication to counteract its effects.

What seasons are there on the Inca Trail?

From April to November is the dry season, during which significant precipitation does not occur. From December to March is the rainy season, accompanied by landslides, road closures, and many other unforeseen events.

What is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

The best time to hike the Inca Trail is from May to August, as this period is the dry season when there are no rains, making the journey easier and less hazardous.

What clothes should I wear to hike the Inca Trail?

You should wear clothing suitable for both cold and hot weather, as the first part of the route is done in cold climates and at high altitudes, while at the end of the journey you will find yourself in the midst of a warm subtropical jungle, full of vegetation, humidity, and heat.

What equipment do I need for the Inca Trail?

You should carry a sleeping bag, also called a sleeping, a tent, a raincoat, a towel, a flashlight, a hat, toilet paper, among other items. Most of the logistics of the trip are handled by the tourism agency or operator.

What shoes should I wear for the Inca Trail?

It is recommended to wear worn hiking shoes or boots. The drawback is that if the footwear chosen is new or recently purchased, it usually causes injuries or blisters on the foot after one or two days of hiking.