The article that you need to know before preparing and planning your Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu in Peru. Let’s do it.
Hiking quotes “Returning home is the most difficult part of long distance hiking; you have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” – Cindy Ross.
Hiking the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an amazing experience. It inspires emotion, travelers bring out a little bit of nerves. Causing jealousy between friends; and beating a sense of wonder in your inspiration. Lifetime experience and once in a lifetime.
When you think to visit Peru; do the most popular adventure trek of South America. Why? Because you see all Inca Culture along your journey – also one of the earth’s most glorious hikes to experience the wonder of the world, Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail is the manner of fantastic adventures for which many travelers like traveling in the past; the hiking itself. It brings you along the legendary narrow paths deep into the Peruvian cloud forest, amazon jungle and high into the Andes mountains. It is unbelievable, ancient Inca ruins and breathtaking Andean valley vistas expose; its magnificence along the walk. Here the grand Inka trail ends a 4 day hike on the symbolic Machu Picchu of Perú.
Marko Andinauta’s Hiking Story
I have hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu; more than 500 times in more than 10 years. Fortunately, titanium is replacing my left knee. Therefore, I really want to share all my experiences of hard-earned insights, tips. Through this I want to plan and make ready for your effective hiking experience to Machu Picchu. Everything resumed and an inclusive guidebook of Marko, tourist expert guide.
Wonderful: If you are wishing to hike the Inca trek during low or high season and desire to discover camping and trekking better. You do not have any idea – what to pack for camping or how to get a Inca Trail permit, perhaps worrying about if you are fit enough.
Probably about altitude sickness, when to book a place on a trek. This article provides you almost all necessary information and answers to your questions of experienced Inca Trail expert guide. Inside of The great Inca Trail more than 10 years camping under 1,000000 stars taught me many lessons.
Marko Andinauta: The Inca trail guide who hiked more than 500 times the legendary path to Machu Picchu
Are you ready to join our adventures? Continue to explore and learn all about traveling in the past by foot like my ancestor did.
The Mega project of the 15th century built by 9th Inca or king Tupac Inca Yupanqui; most known as Inka Pachacuteq. The main purpose to build the Trail was to connect Incan cities with the Inca trail network in the whole South America. Which was the Tahuantinsuyo or Incan Empire. The population used to travel round the year by foot following the famous Qhapaq Ñan or Inca path. They travelled to the four cardinal points of the empire which occupied almost the whole Andes of South America.
The LEGENDARY INCA TRAIL HIKE that takes you to discover MACHU PICCHU (One of 7 wonders of the WORLD).
THE INCA TRAIL VIDEO TO MACHU PICCHU
Our Inca Trail trek video tape shows you; the best video journal to Machu Picchu Peru in 4k ultra hd. Watch the amazing film ”Inca Trail to Machu Picchu” in 4 days. Before hiking and booking the Inca Trail, see the hike to Machu Picchu movie where you get to understand – how exactly is the Inca Trail hike? (porters, food, camping equipment, guide, hikers, the trail and Machu Picchu).
WHAT IS THE INCA TRAIL?
The legendary Inka Trail is a very well established and 4-day hike that leads hikers from KM – 82. The starting point is fifty minutes outside of Ollantaytambo village. It is all the way to Machu Picchu through its impressive Intipunku or Sun Gate. It is a place of first view of Machu Picchu on day four in the morning.
- The good thing is that it’s a lot shorter than you can expect at only 45 Kms or 26 miles. On the other hand; there is a significant chunk of which is 45 km up steep, narrow Andean mountain trails at altitude.
The biggest Inca Empire in South America from the 15th century. This at its largest joined Peru; large parts of modern Ecuador; western and south central Bolivia; northwest Argentina; north and central Chile and part of southwest Colombia. Basically the six countries that are in the Andes mountain were part of the Incan civilisation.
The Inca Trail had thousands of kilometers to link important settlements and centres of civilisation. Also along the way there were the famous TAMBOS and WAKAS considered as resting places. Where travellers from the 15th century used to rest, have food and sleep. Today, when you hike the 4 day Classic Inca Trail you get to see more than 10 Inca ruins.
Our comfortable Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 days is for hikers who only want to walk, eat and sleep too.
The Inca Trail: The biggest man-made road of South America (15th century). The paved stone path is built in all the Andes Mountains and finishes in Machu Picchu.
WHY IS IT SO FAMOUS & POPULAR HIKE?
Because hiking the legendary Inca trail is the most amazing way to explore and discover Machu Picchu! Therefore; is the second demanding package to the wonder of the world after Machu Picchu tour by train (easiest way to visit Machu Picchu).
The ancient and legendary trail is Peruvian country in a microcosm. Its impressive green cloud forest is alive with hummingbirds and birds; mountaintops and steep mountain passes; panoramas and landscapes with Incan ruins. It is accessible only for visitors who follow this popular footpath of South America.
Nevertheless, as genuinely as the hike may be. The main reason for its popularity stands at the end of this great 4-day trek. Arriving and passing through the SUN GATE for that first amazing sighting of Machu Picchu ruins in the distance.
For sure, just Inca Trail hikers have access to the GATE at sunrise. It is a very spectacular panorama; at one of the new 7 wonders of the world. The Inca trail makes this hike a hallmark on so many Peru bucket lists. Joining Happy Gringo’s trail to discover the greatness of the Inca Trail of Peru.
The legendary Inca Trail hike marks my five hundred times visiting Machu Picchu. Especially, arriving through the Sun Gate with sweaty eyebrows, left knee replaced with titanium and tired feet. This was rather than taking the bus from Aguas Calientes with hundreds of tourists. Therefore, the best way to arrive at one of the earth’s most symbolical charms is by foot.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with a locally tour company, you won’t regret it.
The Inca Trail porters: Our are the best treated porters; they carry all necessary camping equipment and logistics to hike & camp the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Happy Gringo Tours the best locally owned tour operator lately.
The Inca Trail Porters are the hardest workers on all treks to Machu Picchu. Happy Gringo Tours is lucky to have the best team of men working to create the greatest journey for our clients. We try to match their work with our own commitment to them. Their health and their families all living better. Thank you superHUMAN porters, you are the HEART of our company!
WHO BUILT THE LEGENDARY INCA TRAIL?
The Qhapaq Ñan or legendary Inca Trail was built by Inca Pachacuteq back in 1438. It took fifty years with twenty thousand workers.
It is believed that the legendary Inca Trail was a route of pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. A route, that was used by the Sapa Inca or King in the 15th century.
Besides, the trail passes through many important settlements between Ollantaytambo, Llactapata, Huayllabamba, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna, IntiPata, Inti Punku and Machu Picchu. It gives a high level of importance and mysticism to the ancient road.
During colonial time the Inca Trail was hidden and abandoned from 1536 until 1915. Almost 4 centuries the trail has survived the hitting of nature. In 1915; Hiram Bingham after rediscovering Machu Picchu found this famous trail. He cleaned up the trail from Machu Picchu to Km 82. But today, the Classic Inca trail starts in Km 82 or Piscacucho.
The Inca road system (The trail before arriving at Dead Woman’s pass 4215 m). This stone paved Trail used to be very useful for messengers or runners. They had to give messages orally back in the 15th century because the communication was very important.
BOOKING THE INCA TRAIL HIKE
WHAT ARE INCA TRAIL PERMITS & DOES HIKER NEED A GUIDE?
There are 6,000 travel agencies in total in Cusco city. There are only 120 LEGAL Inca Trail operators who can operate the train. Happy Gringo Tours is a certified and licensed Inca Trail operator. It is 100% locally owned tour Operator; 100% Peruvian company and Official Inca Trail or Camino Inca Operator.
Before 2000; hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu used to be free but what happened? Basically; the hikers were not respecting the archeological sites. Porters who load the camping equipment were overloaded (they could carry almost fifty kilos or 100 pounds). There were no ranger stations on the way to control it. Therefore; after 2000 the regulations are very strict to get your permit; which is good for porters, tourists and Inca ruins.
Thanks to Ministerio de Cultura and Sernanp the Inca Trail porters only load today 25 kilos or 50 pounds. This is half the amount than before. Thanks to my colleagues who started hiking to Machu Picchu in 1900 and today most of them are retired.
The access to the legendary Inca trail has been very strict since 2002. It has been capped to 500 hikers per day; that amount is divided 200 tourists and 300 guides, cooks and porters. The crew who take camping equipment survive the impressive 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. They work from March to January every year.
Marko recommends everyone who is interested to do the hiking to obtain the permits months in advance.
Happy Gringo Tours is secure to buy your permit, just let us know in advance. However; there are other hikes, such as Lares trek, Cachicata trekking and Salkantay trail. You can book at any time of the year. Also, amazing hikes to the wonder of the world and operated by us.
Only the ancient Inca Trail needs to be bought and booked at least 6 months in advance because spaces are limited.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO HIKE THE INCA TRAIL?
For many hikers it is difficult to decide when to carry on the hike or many of travelers do not know; the weather conditions of Cusco. The Imperial city of the Incas is located in the middle of the Andes mountains.
Inca Trail is located in Cusco; Peru. Therefore; Cusco has two seasons, wet and dry. Lately, you can book the Inca trail round the year (January to March and February is closed). Nevertheless; dry and wet seasons have their advantages and disadvantages.
Keep in mind: that you have to pack in your daypack enough water; flashlight and rain poncho. In case you get lost or you are a slow/beginner hiker.
May to October (Dry Season).
20% chance of rain is specially on the three tops. The Dead woman’s first pass at 4,215 m; Runkuracay Second pass at 4,000 m and Phuyupatamarca the last pass at 3850m. During the day the mornings and afternoons are dry. The night temperatures in the dry season drop significantly; so expect very cold nights in the tents.
The high tourism season in Cusco; so the Inca Trail is at full capacity every day. It makes the camp sites fuller and 500 people are making traffic on the trail to Machu Picchu as ants. Also, increases the demand for tours during the dry season. June to August sometimes people book a year in advance to assure the Inca trail ticket.
Note: you get to see more landscapes, panoramas, clear sky and dry mountain November to April (Wet season).
Hiking the Inca Trail during the rainy season is fantastic. Because the path and mountains are very colorful. The weather is unpredictable. You must be prepared with your rain gear.
On the other hand; you have more chances to see orchids and wildlife on the way to Machu Picchu. Temperatures at night are also less chilly.
The trail is with few hikers. The number of travelers you are walking the Inca Trail with is notedly reduced. So are the crowds at Machu Picchu citadel. Tours and hikes are slightly cheaper and easy to reserve with only a week in advance. Lately; there are many people who prefer visiting Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail.
Honestly; I met travellers who really like hiking in the rainy season. Also; camping in the rain for four days is never pleasing. Whether there is notably rainfall; then trekking conditions become slippery and more difficult. Because the trail is paved with stones; has thousands of steps that are going up and down; and only imagine what type of hiking boots you should hike with.
I have been hanging around on the Inca Trail since 2009; like “Peruvian Chicken Brass”. Almost the whole year except February. In February the trail is closed, in order to give maintenance and it has a lot of rain. Also this is the only month that Inca Trail guides rest and we have vacation with our families.
DO TRAVELLERS NEED TO BOOK THE INCA TRAIL TOUR IN ADVANCE?
The short answer to this is YES.
Whether I were you and want to go hiking the Inca Trail during the dry season. I could be making a reservation earlier rather than later (it means right now). On the other hand; if you are going to hike the Inca Trail tour in rainy time. You will still have a chance to book a week’s notice and I always recommend doing it in advance.
Lately, many Inca Trail travellers have contacted my person; they have finished the Inca Trail expedition successfully. Do not wait until the last minute to get your ticket. Once during the rainy season, a couple of Australians could not hike because there were no spaces. We at Happy Gringo had to change for another alternative trek to Machu Picchu.
Continue exploring the Inca trail virtual tour and also you can watch Machu Picchu virtual tour.
Happy Gringo Tours is Inca Trail Specialist. We are a local company focused on sustainability and Peruvian organic food on the way to Machu Picchu. We were awarded twice as “BEST LOCAL INCA TRAIL TOUR OPERATOR” by Dircetur and AATC in Cusco. With our Comfort Inca Trail 4 day and Short Inca Tour to Machu Picchu 2 day.
ARE THERE AGE RESTRICTIONS?
I have taken travelers to Machu Picchu from different ages, colors, cultures and countries and never had issues with ages. There is a national institution that looks after Inca Trail visitors. The Inca Trail operators see who is the youngest and oldest.
How old is too old and how old is too young to hike this famous hike?
The Peruvian government does not have established any guidelines regarding age caps for hiking any of the Inca Trails. It’s up to the tour operators to determine what their limits are. Operators who organize group treks can choose any age limits they want.
Happy Gringo Tours organizes private and small group hikes. We have set up hikes for families with children as young as 6 and even toddlers carried in backpacks, as well as people in their 70s. Fitness is a factor and it’s in the best interest of the tour operator to carefully assess groups with members younger than 8 and older than 60s.
Basically; there is no minimum or maximum age limit for hikers on the Inca Trail; Happy Gringo Tours operates according to its own policies and guidelines. My youngest MAISIE SARAH WATT Australian hiker was 6 years old who came with her family. Robin Jamieson the oldest SOLO Senior hiker was 79 years old from England and we have many porters who work after their 60s.
Whether; you are a little older in years and need some inspiration. Then Robin Jamieson is our oldest recorded hiker of the Trail in 2019.
Marko Andinauta advice the following recommendations:
- Not good for travelers with back problems
- Not recommended for pregnant travelers
- I do not recommend to hikers with heart problems or other serious medical conditions
- All traveler children under 17 years old must be accompanied by an adult and we do not have age requirements
Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
HOW MUCH DOES THE INCA TRAIL COST?
It was not easy to get the license of Happy Gringo Tours; to Operate the legendary Inca Trail. So; it’s renewed annually.
All companies operating the Inca Trail hike; must be officially licensed by the government (Ministerio de Cultura). Licenses are only awarded to local Peruvian hiking companies; that have establishments in Cusco state.
However; the new Inca Trail Operators are added to the list every year; as you can see; quality; experiences; and equipment offered will change a lot.
On the other hand; international travel, trekking or adventure companies outsource to local operators like us. Viator, Tripadvisor and various Inca Trail vendors on-line; use our Inca Trail costs. Due to our emphasis on sustainability; our reputation for treating the porters very well. Happy Gringo is a fully licensed and professional tour operator.
Our Classic Inca Trail hike 4 day and 3 nights costs US$670 per person. The price changes according, quality of the tour operator and service; the number of hikers in the group and whether the hiking is a private or comfort service.
It’s necessary to send a deposit of 200 USD in advance to secure your Inca Trail permit. So if you go with a new, non-established, or cheaper provider. Make sure you have done enough research into them before paying anything. After all, you don’t want the upfront savings to mean inadequate equipment, poor quality food, or a less memorable experience.
As well; be aware that permits are only issued with a hiker’s name and passport number and; once booked, they are non transferable and non changeable. If you happen to change your passport between booking and arriving at the trailhead, then contact Marko Andinauta for advice and tips.
Happy Gringo Tours has another cheaper, slightly shorter hike that removes a day either side of the Inca Trail. It is ideal for those on a tighter time scale or budget. Short Inca Trail 2 days to Machu Picchu.
HOW EXACTLY IS THE INCA TRAIL FOOD?
I worked with many Inca Trail companies before starting with my own company. Unfortunately; the food that I had with them was very poor. That’s why the meals with Happy Gringo are totally different from other Inca Trail companies.
Our chef and assistant chef + porters work together to provide the best Peruvian Inca Trail food.
Every morning, the porters knock the tents to wake you up with warm Coca tea before having the organic breakfast. The first meal of the day; pancake with caramels, thick oatmeal with fresh chunks of banana, pan chuta. It is a traditional bread baked in colonial ovens and omelettes with a variety of vegetables.
Drinkable Water to Refill Up
After breakfast, hikers must refill the water containers with boiled water and cooled. The water is included since the first lunch; you only need to ask after meals.
Once you finish the breakfast, the chefs prepare little care packages to take along the hike to snack on. The snacks are coca candies, fruits, granola bars, juices, traditional chocolate bars and cookies.
Hiking all morning; then you see the dining and kitchen tents on the trail that makes you smile. It motivates you to get very quickly, knowing there is waiting for you a very delicious lunch. Happy Gringo Tours has a good balance of nutrients and plenty of food to be full.
The chefs prepare soups creams (quinoa, vegetables, potato and corn); lomo saltado, Peruvian french fries, rice with veggies and vegetable salad. The food is improve every year
Teatime or Happy Hour
After having lunch; hikers continue to walk along the trail. For several hours more before getting to the campsite for the night. The tents are set by porters. Once you arrive at the camps; you only need to clean yourselves up. You will be greeted to assortment of teas; organic coffee, popcorn; crackers with butter and marmalade; hot chocolate; organic baked cookies and wontons refilled with cheese.
The final meal of the day – the dinnertime is with 3 course meals. Our very talented crew of chefs are able to put the most traditional Peruvian dishes with only the aid of a torch and a minimalist propane torch.
Soups with potatoes, Andean corn chowder, Peruvian pastas, pizzas, steamed trout in a mushroom sauce. We also serve fresh vegetables, potato chips, cake made in the middle nowhere and jello.
Note: Whether you have any food allergies or happen to be a vegetarian or vegan, Happy Gringo will cater to you along the way without extra cost.
DOES HAPPY GRINGO TOURS PROVIDE DRINKABLE WATER ON THE INCA TRAIL?
Water is a symbol of life! The first morning on day 1; water is not included until lunch time. Therefore, you must take your own water, according to how much water you drink per day?
Normally, Inca Trail hikers take 2 litres for the first morning. Once you arrive at the lunch spot; the chef provides more. At least, you can have more than 5 litres per day with us when other companies sell it, after boiling the water from the mountains.
No worries, Happy Gringo provides plenty of water. You will not be thirsty on your adventure while you go hiking to the wonders of the world.
PREPARE FOR HIKING THE INCA TRAIL
You won’t believe me! I have hiked to Machu Picchu with worldwide travelers. Some went to hike Kilimanjaro, Mount Everest, Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Patagonia, etc. All of them had difficulties hiking the Inca Trail because the terrain is very rocky and steep.
The secrets at the top of any nature, outdoor enthusiasts bucket list has to be hiking the Inca Trail of Peru. Set in the Andes mountain range; the 4 day classic hike will have you ascending all the way from Km 82. From 2,600m up to 4,215 meters above sea level. It takes you to The infamous Dead Woman’s Pass.
It ends at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World at 2,400m. Whether you are planning on exploring this ancient site, a living emblem of Incan history. There are a few things you should do first to make sure; you are fully prepared to travel into the past by foot.
To prepare for the Inca Trail is not only a case of throwing some unworn walking boots in your rucksack and hoping for a great experience. But rather doing the necessary to ensure you have a prosperous and never-to-be-forgotten expedition on the way to Machu Picchu.
HOW FIT DOES HIKER NEED TO BE?
Oh My Mountains! Honestly; there is not a right answer for this question, it’s all dependent on your own fitness ranks.
We will be hiking on average about 12km per day, often incurring steep Inka stone steps and high levels of altitude; so it is not a simple adventure! Whether; you’re already fairly fit; prepping for this hike will involve you slightly upping your current training game. Perhaps if you’re not so fit? Marko Andinauta suggests starting a strict training routine at least 2 months in advance.
On the other hand; cycling, long-distance walking or running is the best way to build your CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM. It helps to process oxygen, whilst aerobic exercises are key to strengthening your legs and upper body.
For example: sit-ups, kettlebell swings, squats, step-aerobics, shoulder presses and back/shoulder flies will all help. It’s also a great idea to do a few 7km or more where you live before your expedition. Of course choosing paths or routes with rocky terrain similar to the Inca Trail terrain.
Also, you must be mentally prepared. It is just as very important as physical preparation when it comes to hiking the legendary Inca trail to conquer Machu Picchu.
Persistence and endurance are what pushes you through these 4 day classic hikes. This is all very much mind over matter. Some parts of the path are tough and will leave you breathless; others are pretty breezy and will offer you the chance to enjoy all the hike.
Pace yourself: the hike is by no means a race. The trail is full of history; amazing views and the tour guides are in charge to show all of the Inca Trail that our ancestors left us. You will walk at your own pace because there is no RUSH! Once you adapt to the altitude, weather and trail; you will enjoy your adventure!.
Do not be proud to underestimate the altitude! You would be the fittest hiker, it does mean the mountain sickness will not get to you. The trail has many heights along the walk that can cause you to get short of breath and feel ill.
But there are many ways to control your heart and lungs while you do the hike. Drink plenty of water, chew Coca leaf and eat less because the digestion is very slow. Especially for people who come from sea level.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PACK FOR THE INCA TRAIL?
What to Pack for Camping? You do not need to pack all your room or hotel. Pack smart, light and pack for different temperatures or microclimates is my own recommendation for Inca Trail travelers. Nevertheless; there are few things to know about how camping equipment is transported along the Inca Trail hike.
What to Pack for Camping?
WHAT IS THE INCA TRAIL ALTITUDE?
The famous Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest summit of the Inca Trail which is at 4,215 meters above sea level and 13, 776 feet above sea level.
WHY IS IT CALLED DEAD WOMAN’S PASS?
Many hikers come to do the expedition a little scared because the name gives fear; but no worries be happy. Here is the answer:
Of all the notable features along the way. The most talked about Inca Trail is WARMIWAÑUSCA” native Quechua word which means Dead Woman’s Pass. This naturally occurring feature is so named because when seen from the valley below LlulluchaPampa. It’s crests resemble the form of a woman’s supine body.
DO YOU NEED SPECIAL INCA TRAIL INSURANCE?
The importance of Inca Trail insurance. You will enjoy your adventure much better with the peace of mind that comes. From knowing you have the right travel insurance cover in place should a mishap occur.
Travel insurance is very essential for any trips. But it is more important when undertaking potentially risky activities. Such as hiking in remote areas where medical facilities may not be close at hand. Also, can be anything from stolen or lost luggage to a full helicopter rescue off a mount.
Hiking the Inca Trail you need to ensure that your travel insurance covers you for altitude. Most standard policies provide cover for trekking up to a max of 4,215 metres (The highest point of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu).
Happy Gringo Tours covers high altitude hikes only with tanks of oxygen, walkie talkies, first aid kit and satellite phones.
Stay safe and informed, before, during and after your trip with our expert advice and flexible travel insurance.
You won’t find a lower price anywhere else for a plan found on Travel Insurance. 24/7 emergency assistance worldwide buys your travel insurance from a trusted provider. Most of our Inca Trail hikers have used this company (Travel smarter).
HIKING THE GREAT INCA TRAIL
INCA TRAIL ROUTE AND MAP
Happy Gringo Tours is your guide to explore the famous route to the wonder of the world. Thousands of outdoor enthusiasts like you hike the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with us.
Join on our Andean hiking adventure to Machu Picchu. Following Marko Andinauta’s decorated Inca Trail map, discover amazing attractions and altitude everyday of the 4 day Inca Trail tour.
The great Inca Trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Peru. Marko has created a detailed Inca Trail map. This helps hikers to explore their way through this unforgettable trekking vacation to Machu Picchu.