Essential things to know before hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
No other walking route in the world can compare with the Inca Trail in Peru, with its varied geography and scenery, and the sheer number of archaeological sites along the trail. Below, our Peru travel experts offer their advice for walking the Inca Trail:
When is the best time of year to book the Inca Trail? The dry season runs from May to September or October, when you can enjoy good weather and fully appreciate the fabulous scenery that surrounds the trail. During the rainy season, rains are heaviest in January and February. Each year, the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.
How far in advance should I book the Inca Trail tour? If you are planning to trek the Inca Trail in June or July, you should reserve your place at least twelve months before. The Inca Trail is incredibly popular, and the limited number of tickets available are sold out months in advance. For other times of the year, try to book at least six months before you plan to travel to Peru.
What is the level of difficulty of the Inca Trail? Hiking the Inca Trail involves loss and gain in elevation. The highest part of the Inca Trail lies at 4200 meters (13,775 feet) above sea level. In addition to being prepared for the altitude, you should expect changing weather conditions; however, every year families with children and older travelers enjoy the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. With good preparation, almost anyone can do this trek.
What do I need to take on the Inca Trail? The maximum weight that travelers are allowed to carry during the Inca Trail is 8 kilograms (17.60 pounds). Your other gear and all camping equipment and supplies will be carried by porters. Check with your Inca Trail operator for a full packing list.
What kind of footwear should I use on the Inca Trail? Footwear is the most important thing to consider when you are preparing for your Inca Trail adventure. Make sure you choose a good quality pair of hiking boots that fit well. And, most importantly, be sure to use your boots before you hike the Inca Trail. Don’t wear brand new boots to hike to Machu Picchu!
Can I do the Inca Trail on my own? Since 2000, the Peruvian authorities have limited the number of people allowed to hike the Inca Trail, as a way of protecting the trail and the surrounding Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. One of the ways of protecting the route is the regulation requiring everyone to do the Inca Trail with an official Inca Trail operator.
Is the Inca Trail dangerous? The Inca Trail is well signposted and guides are responsible for the care of walkers. But of course, when hiking in wilderness areas there is always the possibility of an accident. To ensure you enjoy the trek, you should follow the advice provided by your Cusco tour operator, make sure you start the hike in good physical condition, and be acclimated before you start.