The Inca Trail should be on every Bushwalkers bucket list

At 43km the trail is usually completed in 4 days which might seem a lot, but taking into account he hilly terrain and altitude of up to 4000m you will be very thankful for every extra break you can take and every spare minute you get to explore the ground of Machu Picchu.

What to look out for:

Choosing the Right Trail

The original Inca Trail links five important archaeological Inca sites: Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and Machu Picchu. When booking into a tour make sure that you pass all of these sights, many companies advertise “their own version” of the Inca Trail that may lead you along a completely different way and possibly not past all of the sights.

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Choosing An Operator

Access to the Inca Trail is restricted to licensed operators only. You will need to book a tour with porters that will guide you along the trail and up to Machu Picchu. Make sure you book your tour well in advance, sometimes it is necessary to book up to a year ahead as only limited permits are given out each year. When choosing an operator there is a wide range of choice, be responsible and choose a company that treats their porters fairly and is operating with minimal impact – sometimes spending a little more can make all the difference! Operators such as World Expeditions and Inspired Adventures can be a a great place to start researching.

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The Right Time Of The Year

Most tour operators advise to visit between May and September, this is South America’s dry season and also the busiest season on the trail. On the other hand a visit of the Inca sights during the rainy season can be managed if you have the correct equipment. Be warned that the Inca Trail is closed during February when rainfalls have peaked.

Taking Enough Time

It is important that you allow enough time at altitude before you start the trail. Tours usually start in Cusco which is at 3400m and go up to close to 4000m. When you fly into Cusco it is worth spending around two nights to acclimatise to the altitude and explore the local markets and Inca sights of Wagamama before you head off well rested. Chewing coca leaves or drinking tea can help with acclimatisation as does eating starchy high carbohydrates foods like potato’s.

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Machu Picchu

This will be one of the highlights of the trip thus its important to give yourself as much time as possible to explore the ruins. A big tip is to get to the entrance nice and early which will mean a pre dawn wake up but the sun rising through the Sun Gate will more than make up for the early start. Make sure your tour company has provided a guide for Machu Picchu as with out their in-depth knowledge you wont be able to fully appreciate the history of the ruins and their amazing significance to the Inca culture. It is also worth the effort to climb Huayna Picchu as it gives a great perspective of Machu Picchu from the opposite angle that you enter the citadel.

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Spanish

It is wise to learn some basic Spanish as this will help with communicating with the locals in the villages you pass through and when you shop around the markets. It is amazing how far a few thank-you’s and pleases (gracias & por favor) in Spanish will go.

What To Bring

A four day trek should not be taken too easily. It is important to take the right gear (and the right amount too!), especially for the colder nights. Depending on the tour operator you will have to carry all or some of your equipment yourself while some operators might offer porters. Planning ahead and keeping weight to a minimum will help you avoid unwanted surprises.

Gear Check List 

Find a gear list here with some more great ideas on what to pack.


Most of all take time to enjoy the Peruvian culture which is steeped in amazing history, great food, friendly locals and world class trekking.

Adiós

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About The Author

Dave Casey

Dave has worked as an International Expedition Leader and in Outdoor Education for over 15 years. He has extensive travel and guiding experience in Australia, NZ, Asia, South/North America and Europe. In his spare time Dave is a keen bushwalker, mountain biker and climber while also dabbling in some mountaineering and sea kayaking. He is currently working at Paddys as the National Account Manager, to fund all of the above.

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