Top tips for trekking the Inca Trail
22 September 2009
The Inca Trail is on the wishlist for many avid travellers, but how much do people actually know about what the trek involves?
Here, tour operator The Adventure Company provides some top tips that will help travellers prepare for one its most popular experiences.
Research the best travel dates
The most popular months to hike the Inca Trail are June and July, when the weather is warm and visibility is at its best. However, the summer shoulder months; April, May and October are less busy, so walkers will have more time and space to enjoy this spiritual trip. In addition, the nights will be warmer and the route will be particularly pretty with more wild orchids en route.
Get to know your destination
To make the most of the journey, The Adventure Company recommends reading The Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham, the man who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. It gives a wonderful insight into the search and discovery of the site and includes fascinating background on the Incas which is sure to whet the traveller’s appetite for the trek.
Don’t forget the permit
Peruvian authorities regulate the number of people on the Inca Trail to 500 a day – including porters, guides and cooks who will take up the majority of spaces. It is therefore imperative to plan in advance since it can be difficult to secure a permit with less than three months notice. As an incentive to book early, The Adventure Company offers a £50 discount for 2010 bookings made before 20th December 2009. The Adventure Company will organise permits on the customer’s behalf.
Get rubber soles
If planning to walk with poles, make sure you add rubber soles to them. Non-covered poles have been banned from the Inca Trail by authorities due to well-founded concerns over erosion.
The highest point on the trek is Warmiwanusca (Dead Woman’s Pass) at 4,200m. Don’t let the altitude put you off – to help avoid discomfort, buy coca tea before the trek and drink it en route. Never just take aspirin to fight off headaches since this could mask the symptoms of altitude sickness and stop diagnosis by the group leader. The Adventure Company’s trips include regular breaks for refreshments plus three meals a day, but it is also worth taking energy bars and glucose tablets which are easy to digest even if you are not feeling hungry
Beat the crowds
Make sure you reach Inti Punku (The Sun Gate) early. There will be around 250 other Inca Trail walkers there to capture the sunrise over Machu Picchu so arriving early will allow time to set up cameras for this memorable sight. Remember also that buses from Aguas Calientes bring day-trippers up regularly during daylight hours, so make the most of your time before the larger crowds arrive
Use your guide
Walk around Machu Picchu with a local guide, who can explain about the buildings and history. The site does not contain extensive signage All Adventure Company trips are led by English-speaking guides, and you’ll also benefit from a dedicated Machu Picchu guide.
Go for the bird’s eye view
Save the strength to climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain that forms the backdrop for most iconic Machu Picchu photos. The peak contains more Incan ruins and the route offers some great aerial views of Machu Picchu. Trekkers should register for this extra leg on the first day of the Inca Trail.
Late booker? Then consider an alternative route
Only the classic Inca Trail route requires a permit, so late bookers can still visit Machu Picchu by trekking an alternative trail from the Sacred Valley via the Inca quarries of Cachicata. This trek like a variety of The Adventure Company’s Peru wide tours allow you to visit Machu Picchu by train.
Wear your walking boots to fly
If the worst was to happen and your luggage was to go missing on the flight to Peru, clothes are easily replaceable. Good, comfortable, well worn-in walking boots are not, so it is a good idea to wear them on the plane.
Weather in the mountains can change quickly and temperatures can vary vastly from day to night, so pack plenty of layers that will help regulate your temperature. Keep wet weather gear easily accessible. All trips with The Adventure Company are fully supported, so porters will carry your main baggage.
Trekkers will camp every night on the Inca Trail in some amazing predetermined sites, next to ancient Inca ruins offering spectacular mountain views. Do not expect bathroom facilities however – you will get a bowl of hot water every day, but be sure to pack wet wipes and toilet paper.
The Adventure Company has half a dozen trips that include the trek to Machu Picchu. Three options are The Inca Trail – the classic trekking route; The High Inca Trail, which includes an extended seven-day trek; and Teens on the Trail, for families with older children. In addition, there are a number of other trips for those who want to visit Machu Picchu by train whilst on a wider tour of Peru.
The Adventure Company offers daily flights to Peru with Iberia, their preferred carrier to Latin America. Their long haul Economy cabins boast:
- Complimentary catering with a choice of meals
- Complimentary full bar with meal service
- Throughout the flight a free bar and snack service is available
- You will be entertained with the best Spanish and international cinema and using the controls on their seat, music lovers can choose what to listen to from hundreds of tracks and a wide variety of genres
- Free personal headphones, newspapers, pillows and blankets are also provided.
To find out more about the Inca Trail and Peruvian trips from The Adventure Company, see adventurecompany.co.uk.