Running through the Andes Mountains in Peru, the Inca Trail is a trail unlike any other. Historically and geographically significant, it was created in the 15th century as a means to get to the Inca citadel, Machu Picchu.
Every year, thousands of people hike this trail, taking in its historical aura and atmosphere. Are you interested in an Inca Trail hike? If so, there are a few things you need to know before you set out.
Here is what you need to know before hiking the Inca Trail.
A Permit is Required
First, you should know that, in order to hike the Inca Trail, you’ll need a permit. Only 500 people are legally allowed to hike the trail on a daily basis, making it fairly difficult to get on. Permits sell out almost as soon as they’re released, meaning that you’ll have to act swiftly.
How do you obtain a permit? The most typical way of doing so is through a tour operator. You can find such tour operators by searching “Inca Trail tour operators” on Google.
You’ll Need a Guide
You might think that you can hike the Inca Trail on your own. However, the fact of the matter is that you’re legally required to travel with an official guide. It has been this way since 2001.
There are plenty of guided groups available, all of which cost around $650 to $750 to join. These groups handle most of your hiking responsibilities, providing you with meals and luggage transfer, and planning your sleeping arrangements.
The Weather is Erratic
Another thing you must know about the Inca Trail is that its weather is fairly erratic. Along the course of your trip, you can experience everything from bright sunshine to dreary rain, to cold temperatures, to hot temperatures, and everything in between.
Because of this, you need to bring all types of clothing. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, jackets, and shorts are all needed to counteract the many elements you’ll encounter on the trail.
Stairs are Plentiful
You might be surprised to hear that the Inca Trail contains a bevy of stairs. These stairs are made out of ancient stone, climbing both upward and downward throughout the trail.
While the trail does contain flat portions, it primarily moves in an upward direction. If you have healthy knees and a strong respiratory system, you shouldn’t have much of a problem making the hike. However, if you have bad knees and a weak respiratory system, it’s going to be a challenge for you.
The Altitude Can Be Overwhelming
Cusco, Peru (where the Inca Trail is located) exists in the mountains. Because of this, it is at high altitude.
The further your travel on the trail, the higher the altitude is going to be. In fact, by the time you make it to Machu Picchu, the altitude can feel almost overwhelming.
To prepare yourself, you need to train your lungs. Make sure to hang out in Cusco for a few days before setting out on your hike. Doing so will acclimate your lungs to the high altitudes, allowing you to breathe easy as you ascend.
Trekking Poles are Useful
While you can certainly hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without them, it’s generally a good idea to utilize trekking poles. These poles will support your body as you climb upward, taking stress off of your muscles and joints. Typically, tour operators rent them out for an additional charge.
This trail is far from short. In fact, it spans around 26 miles. You will be expected to hike these 26 miles in 4 days, meaning that you’ll be traversing around 6.5 climbing miles each day.
While you might think this to be completely doable without trekking poles, you could very easily change your mind on the 3rd or 4th day. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s Closed in February
Thinking about hiking the Inca Trail in February? Think again! Due to typically heavy rains, the trail is closed for the entire month of February.
Fortunately, there are 11 other months in which you can traverse the trail. May and June typically offer the sunniest and most pleasant weather. October and November are decent months to give the trail a go as well.
If you’re dead set on taking a trip in the wintertime, there are a variety of other, more winter-friendly places to go.
You Don’t Need Hiking Boots
The Inca Trail is primarily made out of stone and dirt. Because of this, hiking boots are not an absolute necessity. You could easily get by with a pair of high-tread tennis shoes.
Nonetheless, if it’s a possibility, you should wear hiking boots. These boots will take stress off of your ankles, making the hike much more pleasant overall. They will also help you to tread through any mud which might present itself.
It Will Take Four Days
Though there is some variation from hiking group to hiking group, most Inca Trail tours take four days to complete. As was noted above, the Inca Trail measures in at around 26 miles, meaning that, in a 4-day hike, you’ll be hiking around 6.5 miles per day.
Note that you won’t be walking for 6.5 miles straight each day. You will take breaks, and you will be given time to check things out along the way. Take in the experience, and be careful not to rush yourself.
There is Plenty to See
Hiking the Inca Trail is one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. The amount of remarkable sites you’ll see is astounding.
Some of the most remarkable attractions include the Last Inca Town, Dead Woman’s Pass, Intipata, Sun Gate, and, of course, Machu Picchu. Make sure to bring a camera. You’re bound to experience memories that you’ll never want to forget.
Ready to Hike the Inca Trail
What do you think? Are you ready to hike the Inca Trail? If so, you had better start planning now; The trail can get very crowded, and necessitates that you plan ahead.
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