Inca Trail – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Before I get to the good, bad, and ugly, let me share some basic facts that may help you plan your Inca Trail trek.
- The Inca Trail trek is a 4-5 day trek that takes you to Machu Picchu through the sacred trails of the Incas
- Only 500 permits are issued per day for the trail. This includes only 200 hikers. The rest of the permits are reserved for porters and guides
- Permits are available in January of every year and fill out relatively fast for high season
- You need to book in advance to secure a permit for the Inca Trail. I used the services of incatrailreservations.com
- July is considered high season where there is the least amount of rain. However, this is also the coldest month
- The trail is closed during the month of February for restoration
- The highest point of the trail is at 4,200 meters / 13,800 feet
- The total length of the trail for the 4 day trek is 43 km /26 miles
- The cost is around $600-$1000 depending on what services you add on
(In no particular order)
If snow capped mountains, sunny valleys and lush green vegetation is your thing, then look no further than the Inca Trail. The trail is located in the Andes mountain range and passes through varied environments, from cloud forests to alpine tundra. Can you imagine waking up and opening your tent to the sight of snow capped mountains in front of you?
Also, you see some cute and friendly four legged friends along the way too!
If you are a history nerd like I am, then the Inca Trail will offer countless opportunities to learn new and interesting things about the Incas. Honestly, the Machu Picchu citadel is just the tip of a very deep iceberg as you see several Inca ruins on your way there.
Imagine walking the same trail as the Incas to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate!
Also how many other places let you combine nature and history together like this? Double bonus!
Our guides, porters and cooks were seriously amazing! They always made sure we were well fed and taken care of. Speaking of food, be prepared to eat four times a day. (breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner)
The porters carry everything for you. Your luggage, tent, sleeping bag as well as food, cooking utensils and even natural gas cylinders. They often carry up to 40-50 kg/ 100 lbs on their backs. They do all this with a smile, even when they are climbing the highest elevations with all that weight.
I was really lucky to not get AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) or altitude sickness, which some people start experiencing at around 2,400 meters or 8,000 feet.
The trick is to take things super slow and drink lots of water. You get to the highest elevation on the Inca Trail on day 2 of the trek at “Dead Woman’s Pass” or Warmiwañusqa (4,200 meters/ 13,800 feet). It’s easy to want to sprint through the entire thing but remember that altitude sickness does not discriminate. You can be in the best shape of your life and still experience all or some of it’s symptoms. Plus it’s not a race. The best views are sometimes behind you. So stop, take all the breaks in the world and enjoy the view.
Pro tip – Try and acclimatize in Cusco a few days prior to the trek
If you go during the dry season, which is also winter in Peru, chances are that the temperature is going to go past zero and well in to the minus figures at night.
It’s also going to vary a lot during the day. For example, it will be freezing cold as you start the trek each morning but you will start sweating the minute the sun comes.
Pro tip – Bring layers that you can take off or put on as needed. Also bring toe warmers to put on when you go to sleep (trust me on this one!)
Not a minute passes on the trail when you won’t be either climbing up or down steep and uneven steps. This can take a toll on your knees so be extra careful if you have bad knees
Pro tip – Bring trekking poles. Especially helpful on the way down. You can also train by running up and down stairs the months prior to your trip.
This may not be a big deal for you, but I take all my pictures with my phone and not having the ability to charge my phone was a bit alarming.
Pro tip – Bring a couple of external battery packs. The solar types work well so that you can hook it on to your backpack as you trek all day and they will charge in the sun.
If I have to live until the ripe old age of a 100, I would now probably die at 95. No joke! The bathroom situation was just bad and I probably lost 5 years of my life because of it.
Pro tip – Bring your own toilet paper and a head lamp
There is no hot water for bathing purposes so there is no showing. Unless you are brave and want to shower in the freezing cold water. There were some shower facilities on day 3, but at that altitude and that water temperature..pneumonia anyone?
Your crew will give you a bowl of hot water each morning and evening but you can only do so much with this quantity.
Pro tip – Let me introduce you to your new best friend: Wet wipes!
None of these are deal breakers and I live to tell the tale but hopefully you now know what to expect.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. I am SO glad I did this trek and I know you will be too!
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