Should I hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? This is one of the most important and common questions when planning a trip to Peru. There are three ways to get to Machu Picchu: hike the full Inca Trail, hike just one day of the Inca Trail, or take a train and bus. To help you decide which is the best fit for you, take a look at five of the most frequently asked questions we get from our Inca Trail travelers below. Whether you’ve already planned your Inca Trail trip and are looking to prepare, or you’re just deciding if the Inca Trail is the right fit for you, these questions are a good place to start. Then, give us a call at 612-315-2894 to speak with a Peru Travel Specialist about the many Machu Picchu hike options and to plan your custom South America trip.
How Difficult Is the Inca Trail? How Much Do You Hike Each Day on the Inca Trail?
Knowmad’s Inca Trail itinerary involves 4 full days of hiking with the average distance being 6.5 miles per day. The full trek is 26 miles. For most people in moderate to good physical condition it takes an average of 6 to 7 hours of hiking per day. There are significant ups and downs and the highest point of elevation on the hike is 13,778 feet. You are often hiking on uneven terrain, including Incan stairs and stones. Even for those accustomed to long, multi-day hikes the altitude can make the Inca Trail a difficult trek. It’s important to go into the trek prepared to be challenged not only physically, but mentally as well. Below is a map showing each day of the trek.
If you’re looking to hike the Inca Trail, but aren’t quite ready for the full 4-day hike to Machu Picchu, then take a look at our short Inca Trail itinerary featuring just one day of hiking, the final day of the Inca Trail trek taking you into Machu Picchu.
How Can I Prepare + Train to Hike the Inca Trail?
In the time leading up to your Inca Trail trip, it is a good idea to do as much hiking as possible. Along with day hikes, try and fit in a few multi-day hikes at as high of an altitude as your surroundings allow. Hikes that involve significant uphill climbing are ideal.
Aside from hiking, build up your overall fitness. Create a weekly fitness plan, doing aerobic exercise several times a week. The earlier you start preparing for your trek, the better prepared your heart and lungs will be. It is also a good idea to build up your leg and core muscles, as these are what you use most while hiking.
During this time, we also recommend ensuring that the shoes or boots you plan to use on the Inca Trail have been broken in and are comfortable enough for longer treks.
What Are the Campsites Like on the Inca Trail?
Knowmad is one of the few operators permitted to camp in remote sites away from the crowds. Night one we camp near the archaeological sites of Wayna Q’ente and Llaqtapata in a nearly private campsite. The following night we camp at Llulluchapampa outside the high-altitude indigenous Andean village of Huayllabamba with a breathtaking view of Mount Huayanay. The third night we camp in a beautiful clearing in the vicinity of Phyupatamarca (translates to the village on the edge of the clouds). This combination of sites ensures remoteness, sweeping views, and visits to lesser-known archaeological sites.
All of your campsites will have a toilet tent set up for your use. It will be just outside the camping tents, about 3 meters away. Only your first campsite will have access to a shower. While you are hiking during the day, there are several national park bathrooms along the way for your use. Unfortunately, these bathrooms are not very well maintained by the park. Most travelers prefer to use the toilet tent that will be set up for you at each campsite and also at lunchtime.
What Do You Eat on the Inca Trail? What Will the Meals Be Like?
Your breakfast, lunch and dinner while hiking the Inca Trail are very filling and scrumptious meals. Here is a sample day’s menu while on the trail:
Breakfast (around 7 a.m.): Yogurt, granola, bread, cheese and tea or coffee.
Morning snack (11 a.m.): Two pieces of fruit, chocolate and nuts.
Lunch (1 p.m.): Soup and grilled chicken with potatoes.
Afternoon tea and snack (6 p.m.): Cake, popcorn and tea or coffee.
Dinner (7 p.m.): Soup, beef stew with quinoa and dessert.
Our Inca Trail cooks work magic preparing filling, nutritious and delicious meals throughout the trek. However, if you have specific nutrition bars or items you’ve found work well for you to keep your energy up you can also bring those, but just keep in mind packing weight restrictions. If you have any dietary restrictions, please make sure to let your Peru Travel Specialist know before your trip.
How Do I Get Water on the Inca Trail?
While you are hiking on the Inca Trail and camping our team will be filtering water for the group along the way, so you do not need to pack any water filtration supplies. Bring along a reusable water bottle, as then you will be able to refill this bottle in the morning, at lunchtime, and at camp in the evening.
Still haven’t decided whether the Inca Trail is for you? Email us at [email protected] or give us a call at 612-315-2894 and one of our expert Peru travel planners can help guide you through making this decision. Are you still looking for more facts about Peru travel? Read on, my friend, for more facts on altitude, travel times, and weather.
Renee is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She lived in Mexico for over 3 years and is excited to help Knowmad travelers discover the wonderful impact not just travel, but really experiencing a different country and culture can have on your life. Read Renee’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.