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INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert’s Guide

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Buckle up for an epic adventure as we present a comprehensive guide to conquering the legendary Inca Trail – a path that takes you through breathtaking landscapes and unravels historical insights into South America’s past inhabitants. 

Traversing across rugged mountainscapes, you’ll witness firsthand what it was like traveling along this iconic route during the days of the mighty Incan empire. 

Armed with essential planning details, training advice, and triumph strategies, you’re guaranteed to make it to Machu Picchu!

For those seeking a truly authentic travel experience, look no further than the legendary Inca Trail in Peru. From sunrise over Machu Picchu’s majestic ruins to breathtaking views atop mountaintops shrouded in mist, every moment promises to leave an indelible impression on your soul.

Learn why this trail remains one of South America’s most beloved destinations by experiencing it firsthand – hiking through remote landscapes with fascinating cultural sights and meeting friendly locals.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024


The world is a beautiful place filled with endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Hiking through legendary trails such as Everest Base Camp in Nepal or along America’s Appalachian Trail immerses you in locations that ignite passion and fill you up with awe-inspiring views of nature at its finest.

Embark on one of these adventures for a chance to challenge yourself physically while expanding your physical perspective.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is a destination just as prestigious, challenging, striking, and enigmatic as any other illustrious hiking trail in the world.

Imagine a path composed entirely of rocks traversing deep gorges and steeper cliffs than most could imagine navigating.

This path leads towards the towering Andean mountain ranges with high elevations that provide sightseeing opportunities for ancient archaeological sites that exhibit stunning views overlooking glacial valleys, cloud forests, snow-capped peaks, and revered deities worshipped by the Inca.

Hands down, it can be said that this route outshines all other well-known scenic hikes. Hiking through the Inca Trail leads you to experience different flora and fauna as you travel across diverse ecosystems, ranging from lush tropical cloud forests to forests filled with exotic plants like orchids and bromeliads to habitats for some of the world’s rarest endemic bird species.

The uniqueness lies in its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural history that ties it back to ancient Incan values and traditions, and discovering secrets about their civilization along the way – making it an unforgettable experience for hikers.

1.2. Unveiling the Inca Trail: A Brief History 

The Inca Trail, a renowned pre-Columbian road system in South America that traverses the Andes mountain ranges, bears profound historical and cultural importance worthy of recognition. Its intricate network of paths facilitated communication, exchange, and transportation between the ancient communities inhabiting the region. It also served as a religious pilgrimage route to Machu Picchu, an iconic Inca citadel known for its astronomical observatory and breathtaking landscapes.

As we delve deeper into the enigmatic past of the inca trail’s construction and maintenance endeavors conducted by highly-skilled engineers and labor workers under harsh physical conditions at high altitudes up to 4,200 meters above sea level on occasion, it becomes evident that this monumental achievement entailed meticulous planning through innovative strategies driven by intrinsic motivation towards excellence.

Moreover, The Incan Trail’s symbolic value lies in its embodiment of indigenous heritage, with archaeological evidence providing glimpses into centuries-long civilization along what many consider one of mankind’s most remarkable engineering feats -a true testament to human ingenuity defying geographical barriers.

In summing up this discourse on The Inca Trail: A Brief History and Its Significance, it is clear that this unparalleled landmark stands tall as one among many examples framing humankind’s innovative achievement while bridging longstanding cultural paradigms alongside triumphing over formidable natural obstacles thanks to collective intelligence coupled with organizational power perpetuated throughout time.

The exquisitely engineered Inca Trail to machu picchu, a 26-mile (42 km) path consisting of ancient stone-paved walkways meticulously crafted by the ingenious minds of the Incan Empire during the 15th century, was rediscovered in 1911. Arguably acclaimed as South America’s most awe-inspiring and coveted hiking destination, the trail to Machu Picchu’s picturesque terrain continues to captivate adventure-seekers worldwide.

The delightful trail leaves every hiker in awe of its picturesque beauty and takes four days for a complete traversal. The Incan road system, an exceptional example of civil engineering excellence in the New World, has been oft-compared with the unmatched ancient Roman roads.

During the era when it was at its zenith and most prosperous state, the Inca Empire boasted an extensive network of roads that stretched over 25,000 miles (40,000 km), connecting their capital city Cusco (also referred to as Qosqo locally) with other substantial territories across some exceptionally arduous terrains- a challenge that remains unparalleled until today.

The Incas, renowned for their ingenuity, exhibited a propensity for enhancing and expanding the pre-existing roads of prior civilizations and those they subjugated. The infrastructure erected alongside these inca trails, encompassing an array of bridges, waypoints, checkpoints, garrisons, administrative centers, and religious shrines, was symbolic of the pervasive influence wielded by the Inca Empire in the Andean Mountains.

These pathways assumed profound significance concerning their political hegemony and sociocultural fabric while also serving as a powerful device to manipulate citizens under their purview through persuasive tactics imbued with subtle coercion. The unyielding dedication displayed by the Incas towards consolidating and perpetuating power over successive generations is conspicuously reflected in these enduring roadways, which functioned as a potent symbol of the empire’s strength.

The vast landmass of South America holds within it two parallel arteries that traverse from the lower latitudes in the south up to Ecuador’s northernmost tip. The first passage, scaling treacherous Andean terrains and highlands stretching from Quito to the northwestern reaches of Argentina at Tucumán, spans distances never before contemplated by mankind.

Meanwhile, on the coastal plain running through diverse ecosystems ranging from Peru’s Tumbes region up until Chile’s Maule River Valley further south lies another crucial transportation route equally significant to trade and commerce as their mountainous counterparts. These ancient thoroughfares span countless fluvial obstacles, culminating in massive geographical features like the Pacific Ocean’s tumultuous waters or the Atacama Desert, posing unique challenges for exploration, foreign trade, and conquest.

Curiously, the inca roads that spearheaded the Inca Empire’s growth and dissemination from its core at Cusco were also pivotal in its demise. The Spanish invaders strategically employed these well-trodden paths to expedite their military campaigns and transport vital provisions, significantly bolstering their dominance over the once-mighty Andean civilization.

1.3. The Allure of the Inca Trail: Reasons for Its Fame

Few hikes measure up to the level of adventure offered by Peru’s Inca Trail. This historic route leading up to the majestic Machu Picchu gives hikers a unique experience.

A few factors deserve consideration here;

Rediscovered by American scholar Hiram Bingham, this ancient trail was studied extensively by archaeologists and local enthusiasts who uncovered numerous fascinating Incan structures while paving the way for tourism in subsequent years. Today it boasts international recognition as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and a member of the renowned Seven New Wonders of the World list.

As Peru transitioned from a difficult period marked by internal conflict, an opportunity for adventure presented itself on the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The destination saw a sudden surge of tourist arrivals at the turn of the millennium as visitors from across the globe eagerly anticipated witnessing the splendor experienced only through hiking the inca trail to Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Essential Inca Trail Information: Distance, Difficulty, and More

2.1. Length of the Inca Trail

For awe-inspiring views and an unforgettable experience in Peru, all inca trail trekkers should consider hiking along one of several trails that make up the historic Inca Trail route. The distance of each hike varies by length, with the popular four-day trek spanning a total of 26 miles (42 km) and shorter options covering merely 5.81 miles (9.35 km) over two days on foot.

2.2. Inca Trail Starting Point

Hikers seeking to explore the classic Inca Trail have several start points available. The classic inca trail’s four-day and five-day routes originate from Kilometer 82, also known as Piscacucho. For those interested in a shorter journey, the two-day option sets off from Chachabamba or Kilometer 104. Adventurers looking to combine the Salkantay Trek with the Classic Inca Trail begin their expedition at Soraypampa. Most Inca Trail tours start between 5 and 6 in the morning from Cusco and two hours later from the Sacred Valley.

2.3. Difficulty Level of the Inca Trail Trek

The arduousness of the various Inca Trail hikes is contingent on which path is selected. The trials range from simple to complex and depend on multiple factors, including the number of days required, how high individuals ascend, their physical condition, personal expertise levels, and altitude acclimatization capabilities.

Consider the Salkantay and Classic Inca Trek as an example — this path deserves recognition as the most rigorous option due to its extensive terrain coverage, extended timeframe devoted to hiking and final elevation peaking at a staggering 16,000 ft (equivalent to 5000 meters). As one might infer from such descriptors, this trek boasts significant difficulty.

Upon comparison, the Short Inca Route emerges as the path of least resistance – taking a mere seven hours to traverse and posing fewer altitude-related concerns. For an in-depth look into each trail’s unique features, please consult the accompanying tables for more comprehensive details.

2.4. Safety Concerns on the Inca Trail Hike

It is critical to ensure personal safety during outdoor pursuits such as hiking, but one can minimize potential danger with proper proactivity and precautions. One key factor to consider when planning your trek on the Inca Trail hike or any other high-altitude trekking destination is altitude sickness prevention through proper acclimatization. Hiking at high altitudes without proper preparation is a recipe for disaster, given that altitude sickness is prevalent among inca trail hikers in such locations, especially on the dead woman’s pass, which is the highest point of the Inca Trail hike.

The best way to avoid falling ill from this condition when undertaking routes like the Salkantay Trek + Classic Inca Trek, with its long-distance coverage and maximum ascent point of 16k feet (5000 meters), lies in choosing your itinerary wisely based on your experience level and physical condition.

2.5. Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Plan accordingly when scheduling your Inca Trail hike leading up to one of South America’s treasured sites – Machu Picchu. With hefty rainfall beginning in December until February (The wet season, when the trail is closed), this leaves only specific windows worth considering for your trip between spring-fall running from April until November.

We suggest selecting dates within their respected “shoulder season” timeframe of either late April-May or late September-October, where you’ll reap all of nature’s stunning beauty without large crowds blocking your view. When preparing for your hike along the Inca Trail hike, remember that there are specific periods when crowds tend to increase substantially.

Key holidays such as Spring Break, Veterans Day weekend, or year-end celebrations lead numerous hikers towards attempting this world-famous Peruvian route. Securing bookings six months earlier is crucial to avoid disappointment from sold-out permits for the Inca Trail hike on these dates. Conversely, permits are available, even two weeks ahead of the departure dates during the low season.

2.6. Finding the Perfect Inca Trail Hike for You

The Inca Trail is the obvious choice for those seeking a challenging trek in Peru. Most inca trail trekkers rated it as strenuous with its steep hills and high altitude. Consider taking the Short Inca Route instead if you’d like an easier option. It only takes seven hours and doesn’t involve climbing to extreme heights.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Navigating Inca Trail Permits and Selecting a Top-Notch Tour Operator

3.1. Inca Trail Permit Requirements

As an avid hiker or adventurer, few places are awe-inspiring than the Inca Trail. With its rugged mountains and historic landmarks, every step along this path feels like a journey back in time. That said, gaining access to this famous route requires careful planning – as only a limited number of permits are issued daily by the Machu Picchu Master Plan authorities. Considering the cost of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is essential. Choosing a budget inca trail tour may result in poor treatment for porters and inadequate service.

All Inca trail tour operators often guide, meals, a daily snack bag, permits, bus tickets, water, first aid kits with oxygen bottles, and private transport to their final destination.

3.2. Understanding the Inca Trail Permit System

Only licensed and authorized tour operators can book Inca trail permits for travelers, which go on sale every year beginning October 1st.

Book your Inca trail permits early, at least six months ahead of your preferred date, especially if you want to go during the high season from April through July.

3.3. Inca Trail Cost

The Average cost of the 4-day classic Inca trail tours in 2023 ranges between 750 USD and 950 USD for the Group 4-day classic inca trail tours and between 1200 USD and 1900 USD for the private tour. The two-day inca Trail tour costs between 550 USD and 750 USD.

3.4. COVID-19 Related Refund Policies

It is essential to note that COVID-19-related issues typically do not qualify for refunds due to deposit payments being made directly to the Machu Picchu National Park.

When planning a trek along the Inca Trail, travelers must remember that tour operators may not offer refunds based on specific COVID-19-related conditions

3.5. The Importance of Travel Insurance for the Inca Trail

Purchasing travel insurance when visiting Peru, especially in a developing country, is highly recommended.

Most tour operators require proof of travel insurance, and policies should cover outdoor activities and high-altitude-related conditions.

3.6. Choosing the Ideal Tour Operator

Choose a trustworthy tour operator with ethical practices towards their workers and respectful beliefs in interactions with locals who may live along these trails.

Additionally, consider checking with the Federation of the Porters of the Inca Trail for information on the ethical treatment of porters.

Uncovering information on the services offered by tour operators has been made easier thanks to online articles and media coverage.

By browsing various websites, travelers can access different information regarding the reputation of companies offering tours.

Online resources such as TripAdvisor or Facebook accounts will give insights from prior trekkers’ experiences catching any big red flags when reading reviews.

They can provide objective reports and reviews posted by former clients who rate different providers based on how satisfactory their experiences were concerning factors such as pricing, itinerary flexibility, and overall customer care.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Preparing for the Inca Trek: Acclimatization and Arrival in Cusco

4.1. Adjusting to the Altitude in Cusco

Your journey to Machu Picchu begins in Cusco – a city situated at an elevation that requires proper acclimatization before starting your trek. Adjusting to the thin air can be challenging for many visitors, but there are ways you can prepare yourself for a more enjoyable experience along the way.

Here are some strategies that have proven essential for hikers embarking on such high-altitude treks:

– Walk slowly around town when arriving in Cusco

– Limit exercise or physical activity immediately upon arrival

– Supplement drinking extra water by using rehydration salts or capsules.

Following these basic preventive measures completely prepares trekkers both mentally and physically. It greatly lowers the risk of altitude sickness and prepares them to conquer Machu Picchu.

Cusco is a historic wonderland with fascinating sights around every corner – however, it also sits over 10,000 feet above sea level. To ensure an unforgettable experience without losing steam due to altitude sickness – take things slow from the beginning.

Allow two or three days of pre-trekking experience what makes Cusco such an incredible destination; use this downtime wisely to properly hydrate with plenty of water and minimize any potential discomfort down the road.

When visiting high-altitude regions, it’s necessary to remain adequately hydrated by avoiding large intakes of caffeine/alcohol, resulting in increased dehydration risk.

Consume small but nutrient-dense meals throughout the day; consisting of mainly low-fat & high-carbohydrate food sources helps increase digestion efficiency providing more sustainable energy for longer durations. Make sure fresh fruits/vegetables are part of your regular diet regimen. They provide vital micronutrients our bodies require daily for optimal performance, helping us adjust adequately over time at higher elevations.

Achieving optimal acclimation in high-altitude locations requires thoughtful preparation and strategic planning.

To ensure your journey through Cusco remains safe and enjoyable, consider taking proactive steps toward addressing altitude sickness symptoms before they arise.

Rest regularly along the way, listen closely to bodily cues that signal tiredness or overexertion, and investigate options like natural remedies (such as coca leaves) or pharmaceutical interventions (such as Diamox).

Above all else: prioritize health! Consider consuming coca tea or chewing coca leaves to alleviate mild altitude sickness symptoms and increase oxygen levels in your bloodstream. Nevertheless, consider that certain countries may not permit such leaves.

Identifying common altitudes sickness signs like headaches, breathlessness, and nausea is vital for your well-being during high-altitude adventures. Promptly seek out medical assistance if your symptoms become severe or worsen over time.

The stunning landscape and rich cultural heritage of Machu Picchu make it an incredible destination – but if you want to enjoy this adventure fully, it’s important not to rush the acclimatization process upon arrival in Cusco.

Consider spending your first one or two nights at a lower elevation than Cusco. Options like nearby Sacred Valley (around 2,800m/9186 ft.) provide ample time for your body to adjust before traversing higher altitudes.

4.2. Planning Your Arrival Time in Cusco

For an unforgettable Inca Trail experience, give yourself ample time to acclimate properly by arriving in Cusco no less than three days before your trek’s start date.

Prioritizing your physical well-being will guarantee success! Most international visitors come through Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport and take a short domestic flight further inland. Nestled in the heart of the Andes Mountains, Cusco is renowned for its historical significance and natural beauty.

4.3. Reaching Cusco by Plane or Overland Travel

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is a gateway to this dazzling region, offering visitors seamless access to Lima, Arequipa, Juliaca, Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, Trujillo, and beyond. Among the numerous airlines operating at this airport are LATAM Peru and Avianca, both renowned for their safety record and reliability. Those on a tighter budget seeking frugal options for air travel within the country of Peru and further afield in South America can choose from SkyPeru or Peruvian Airlines.

Traveling by bus from Lima to Cusco might seem convenient to cut costs, but it isn’t the most advisable choice. While various comfortable bus companies operate daily services between the two cities and provide a scenic route that includes stops at popular tourist attractions such as Paracas Marine National Reserve, Huacachina Oasis in Ica, and the Nazca Lines, traveling directly might take up too much of your time.

Instead of spending approximately 20 hours cooped up in a vehicle, break up your journey and make the most of your vacation. With hop-on/hop-off tour operators, exploring Peru has never been easier. From Lima to Cusco, these operators offer a convenient single ticket allowing you to visit all the sights. Plus, night buses from Arequipa provide another option for travel between these two popular destinations.

While in Arequipa, take advantage of this charming colonial city by exploring the Colca Canyon or climbing up Chachani and Misti volcanoes. And if trains are more your style, PeruRail’s tourist train service operates regularly between Cusco and Puno.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Inca Trek Packing Guide: Essentials and Organization

5.1. Must-Have Items for the Trek: What to Rent and What to Bring

If you’re setting out on the adventure of hiking along the Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu, make sure you’ve got all your essential camping gear packed in advance. Rather than lugging around heavy equipment from home, most hikers prefer renting equipment from tour operators. Here are some must-have items that people rent when they do not want to bring from home.

Sleeping bag.

A good quality sleeping bag tops the list; we recommend choosing a synthetic fabric 20F/-5C rated model as it is easier to clean and more hygienic. A great night’s sleep is essential when camping or trekking in the great outdoors. That’s why it’s important to pack wisely. Skip bulky down sleeping bags that can be difficult to clean, and choose a comfortable liner.

Inflatable pads

Renting an inflatable sleeping pad adds the extra comfort needed for restful nights after long days on the trail.

Trekking poles.

Hiking poles are essential when hiking the inca trail; they provide stability and balance while hiking down the steep steps of the trail to Machu Picchu

5.2. Organizing Your Duffel Bag

When you hire an extra porter, you will be provided a duffel bag where you will pack light and bring the following items:

  • Two pairs of hiking socks (Merino socks recommended)
  • One long-sleeve dry-fit t-shirt
  • One short-sleeve dry-fit T-shirt
  • One pair of trekking pants (convertible pants are ideal)
  • A complete base layer and compression clothes for sleeping (leggings for women)
  • Two pairs of dry-fit underwear
  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, toilet paper, etc.
  • First aid kit or necessary medications
  • Sleeping bag – 20F/-5C minimum
  • Sleeping pad
  • Down jacket
  • An extra pair of lightweight tennis shoes
  • Store these items in a lightweight dry bag to keep them dry in case of rain.

5.3. Packing Your Daypack Efficiently

In addition to camping equipment, pack all the following items in your daypack.

  • Essential documents such as your original passport and International Student card, if applicable.
  • Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
  • Warm jacket (fleece or similar)
  • Hat and gloves for cold, windy high-altitude weather
  • Sun hat
  • Sun protection cream (SPF 35 recommended)
  • Insect repellent (essential during September and October)
  • Water (1.5L Nalgene bottle or camelback recommended)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Personal medication (if needed)
  • Camera
  • Torch with spare batteries (headlamps are useful)
    *Do not Bring books, tablets, or heavy photographic equipment if you are not used to hiking or this is your first time doing it. That will add weight to your bag, making it more difficult to hike at high altitudes.
INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Maximizing Your Cusco Experience Before the Machu Picchu Hike

6.1. Must-See Attractions in Cusco

Cusco is a vibrant city that needs your attention way before you begin hiking on the Inca Trail. So, how about taking time off your trip and immersing yourself in this beautiful destination? We recommend dedicating day one to discovering Cusco by foot through solo exploration or joining a walking tour group.

With its remarkable landmarks, such as the Plaza de Armas, San Blas, and San Pedro Market, Cusco is a city that begs to be discovered on foot. Book a walking tour that lasts up to three hours and ends in the afternoon to help your body adjust to the high altitude. Avoid going out on your first night to maximize acclimatization.

On your second day, take a day trip to Rainbow Mountain or Humantay Lake using the “climb high, sleep low” approach for adequate acclimatization. To make the most out of your Machu Picchu trekking experience, prepare yourself by scheduling an excursion on the second day that brings you up above 12,000 feet in elevation. Adjusting to this altitude can help prevent uncomfortable symptoms of altitude sickness during your journey. During the high season, we recommend that you depart for any of these routes as early as possible to avoid crowds.

On day three, explore the beautiful Peruvian countryside by going to the Sacred Valley or relaxing in Urubamba or Ollantaytambo before heading on your journey. Why wake up at dawn for a hassle-filled commute when you can opt for a more leisurely start? Staying close to the Inca Trail’s entrance allows you those extra few hours of beauty sleep, ensuring a great start to your grueling yet rewarding trek. As biology dictates, proper rest is essential for physical activity – staying nearby guarantees an enjoyable morning and that all-important energy boost needed for a successful climb.

6.2. Attending the Pre-Trek Presentation (Briefing)

Don’t forget to attend your tour operator’s pre-trek presentation. This gathering allows you to meet your knowledgeable tour guides and ensure all relevant details are in place before starting your journey. During the briefing, you can discuss any dietary requirements or passport updates, rent camping equipment or hire an extra porter if needed.

Remember, attending this essential briefing will guarantee a seamless and enjoyable trekking experience.

6.3. Managing Luggage Not Taken on the Machu Picchu Hike

Being prepared is critical, which extends to sorting out what to do with personal belongings like luggage that won’t be carried throughout the trekking period. Luckily, there are two excellent options available.

One option is leaving bulky suitcases or bags at your lodging in Cusco or elsewhere free of charge, as many establishments provide secure storage facilities for the guests’ convenience. Don’t let excessive baggage weigh you down on your trek. A trustworthy tour operator like Evolution Treks Peru can help you lighten the load by providing safe and secure luggage storage.

Utilize their service by handing over any unnecessary items during your pickup at the start of your journey and retrieve your belongings upon completing the excursion with ease from their headquarters.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Inca Trail Budget Planning

7.1. Estimating Inca Trail Expenses

Inca Trail Expenses and Tipping Guidelines

During the Inca Trail trek, most tour operators cover all essential costs. However, travelers should carry some extra money for tipping porters and guides and meals on the last day in Aguas Calientes (lunch is typically not included). Other small ways of spending money on the inca trail trek are by paying for toilets and other snacks people sell on the inca trail trek.

7.2. Tipping Guidelines for Porters and Guides

While tipping is not mandatory, it is customary and appreciated by porters and guides, who work tirelessly to ensure a comfortable hiking experience. The suggested tipping amounts are:

  • Porters: 100 Peruvian soles per porter
  • Chef: 200 Peruvian soles
  • Tour Guide: At least 15% of your total tour cost

Tour guides receive higher tips due to their extensive professional training, covering various fields such as biology, archaeology, astronomy, and wilderness first response. They provide 24-hour care, entertainment, and education throughout the tour.


8.1. Evaluating Your Fitness Level

8.2. Recognizing Altitude Sickness and Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Trekking at high altitudes, especially above 10,000 ft, can lead to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) regardless of physical condition. AMS occurs due to rapid ascent to high altitudes among unacclimatized individuals, resulting in insufficient oxygen in the blood.

AMS symptoms include:


Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting

Loss of appetite

Fatigue or weakness


To prevent AMS:

Rest for 1-2 days with light exercise if traveling above 10,000 ft/3,000m.

Ascend 1,500 to 2,000 ft (500 to 700m) per day.

Rest if experiencing AMS symptoms.

Climb high and sleep low.

Stay hydrated, but avoid overhydration.

Consider medications like Acetazolamide or DIAMOX for acclimatization.

Severe Altitude Illness or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) can be avoided by following proper acclimatization guidelines.

8.3. Recommended Reading for an Informed Machu Picchu Hike

Prepare to explore Machu Picchu by learning its historical background through these books and videos:


  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
  • The Last Days of the Inca by Kim MacQuarrie
  • 1491 by Charles C. Mann
  • A Brief History of Peru by Bill Harris and Christine Hunefeldt


  • Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  • The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire
INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Inca Trail Insider Knowledge: Tips and Tricks

9.1. Hiking the Inca Trail Trek Like a Pro

Discover essential tips for a successful Machu Picchu hike, including pre-hike preparation, high-altitude strategies for getting to the dead woman’s pass, food, water, and amenities insights. Our comprehensive guide ensures a memorable and enjoyable experience while exploring the iconic Inca Trail. Embark on your adventure with confidence and preparation.

Pre-Hike Tips:

  • Pack all essentials in your daypack.
  • Securely attach your backpack, test the emergency whistle, and familiarize yourself with whistle signals.
  • Wear proper hiking boots, socks, and appropriate clothing layers.
  • Stay hydrated and protected from the sun or cold with hats and caps.
  • Use trekking poles for stability.

9.2. High Altitude Hiking Tips

  • Start slow and steady, using trekking poles, always walk at your own pace.
  • Monitor your pulse and take short, regular breaks.
  • Hydrate and snack during breaks.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises to catch your breath.

9.3. Inca Trek Dining Options

Expect diverse, gourmet meals catering to various dietary preferences. Chefs prepare dishes with fresh, local ingredients. Tour operators provide boiled, filtered water, but you may bring your water purification system.

9.4. Staying Hydrated on the Machu Picchu Trail

At Evolution Treks Peru, we supply boiled, filtered water for our clients throughout the hike. Usually, we refill our clients’ water bottles at every campsite and lunch place. We recommend our customers bring a 2-litter camelback or Nalgene bottle. Alternatively, You are welcome to bring your water purification system; be that a water filter, ultra-violet water purifier, or anything you deem convenient. 

We do not recommend drinking stream water, even if it looks clean and transparent. Waterborne diseases are one of the most important reasons for people to give up on

9.5. Navigating Toilets and Showers Along the Inca Trail Hikes

Toilets are available but may lack cleanliness and supplies. Some companies provide portable toilets. Showers are present but not recommended due to ice-cold water and hypothermia risk. Carry your toiletries and hand sanitizer.

Time to ExploreMachu Picchu: The Guided Tour Experience

10.1. Your Machu Picchu Tour Overview

The Machu Picchu tour, lasting 2-3 hours, takes visitors through the site’s significant locations, including temples, palaces, observatories, fountains, and other inca ruins. The tour starts around 8:30 am and follows one of several circuits established by the Peruvian government, each with varying duration and difficulty levels.

10.2. Essential Items for the Machu Picchu Tour

Bring a small 10-liter backpack containing your passport, entrance ticket, 1-liter water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, cap, and rain gear. Use restrooms beforehand, as there are none inside Machu Picchu. Larger backpacks must be stored outside the entrance, and items like tripods, drones, selfie sticks, and food are prohibited.

10.3. Post-Tour Activities; Climbing Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain.

Machu Picchu offers several additional experiences after the guided tour:

Huayna Picchu Mountain: The ancient narrow paths leading to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain are thrilling climbs with impressive views and mysterious ruins. Permits must be booked at least four months in advance.

Machu Picchu Mountain: If the Inca Trail wasn’t challenging enough, this two-hour climb offers breathtaking views—book reservations at least four months in advance during peak season. It is not recommended to climb Machu Picchu mountain during the rainy season.

Temple of the Moon or Great Cave: This off-the-beaten-path hike is located in the Huayna Picchu mountain and takes you to a fascinating Inca site. The challenging 2.5-hour circuit filled with steep ascents and narrow paths is worth the effort.

Inca Bridge: Located 25 minutes from the Guardian’s house, the trail offers impressive views of the Urubamba River.

Site Museum: A must-see for history and archaeology enthusiasts, the museum houses important artifacts from Machu Picchu and is a 35-minute walk from Machu Picchu Pueblo.

The Sun gate: The arrival point on the way to Machu Picchu from the Inca trail is a must-see attraction located 45 minutes away from the Guardian’s house.

INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

Exploring Aguas Calientes: Activities and Travel


Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, offers various attractions, including the Mandor waterfalls, the Machu Picchu site museum, the butterfly museum, and the Putucusi mountain climb. For relaxation, you can visit the numerous massage parlors in town or soak in the natural hot springs.

11.1. Bus Transportation from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes

Shuttle buses frequently depart from the main entrance of Machu Picchu, taking you to Aguas Calientes’ main street. From there, it’s a short 5-minute walk to the train station.

11.2. Overnight Stays in Machu Picchu Pueblo

Staying Overnight in Aguas Calientes For a more immersive Machu Picchu experience, consider staying overnight in Aguas Calientes, which offers a variety of hotels, restaurants, massage parlors, and shopping centers to keep you entertained.

11.3. Journeying from Aguas Calientes to Cusco

Numerous tourist trains are available from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and Cusco. The train ride to Ollantaytambo takes about two hours, while the journey to Cusco takes approximately four hours.

Inca Trail Archaeological Wonders

12. The Inca Trail Most important archeological sites

This article will delve into the most important inca sites along the classic Inca Trail, providing insights into their significance and features.

  1. Llactapata
  2. Llactapata is an early Inca site along the trail, known for its agricultural terraces and structures.
  3. These terraces demonstrate the Inca’s advanced farming techniques and ability to adapt to the mountainous terrain.
  4. Llactapata shares a direct line of sight with Machu Picchu, suggesting a possible connection between the two sites.
  5. Runkurakay
  6. Runkurakay is a small, circular ruin perched on a hill, serving as a rest stop for Inca travelers.
  7. Its unique circular design distinguishes it from other Inca structures.
  8. As a Tambo, Runkurakay provided shelter and storage for travelers on the extensive Inca road system.

III. Sayacmarca

  1. Sayacmarca is a well-preserved Inca site known for its strategic positioning and intricate architecture.
  2. The site’s location on a cliffside and its complex layout display Inca ingenuity in design and construction.
  3. Sayacmarca’s integration into the Inca road system highlights its significance within the empire.
  4. Phuyupatamarca
  5. Phuyupatamarca is a remote, mysterious ancient site famous for its elaborate water engineering and terraces.
  6. The site showcases the Inca’s mastery of water management and ability to create self-sufficient communities in challenging environments.
  7. Phuyupatamarca’s panoramic views and ceremonial structures suggest its importance as a sacred site.
  8. Wiñay Wayna, which means ‘Forever Young,’ is one of the most impressive ancient incan ruins, featuring agricultural terraces and residential buildings. It is the last campsite on the way to Machu Picchu and the nearest to the sun gate.
  9. The terraces and structures highlight the Inca’s ability to adapt to their environment and maximize agricultural productivity.
  10. Wiñay Wayna’s numerous water features emphasize the importance of water in Inca culture and its role in their spiritual beliefs.
  11. The Sun Gate, which the Incas called Inti Punku in Quechua, stands as a magnificent archaeological structure at the end of the Inca Trail leading toward Machu Picchu. In former times, this location served as a pivotal checkpoint for the Inca activities. Still, now it is known to adventurers as the place where people get their first magical sighting of Machu Picchu from above. The Sun Gate is an impressive gateway explicitly placed so that it catches sight of summer solstice dawn when the sun’s earliest glimmers illuminate everything in its shadowy path. Witnessing this beautiful moment leaves an indelible mark on your memories, with breathtaking landscapes and panoramic views of sacred structures intensifying your appreciation for nature and life. A visit to the Sun gate during your journey makes an integral component and heightens the already mystical aura surrounding Machu Picchu.
INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024

The Natural Wonders of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary: A Biological Treasure Trove

Amidst the majestic Andean peaks, a remarkable landscape of biological variety and cultural significance awaits exploration. The Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary boasts a patchwork of unique ecosystems featuring diverse flora and fauna – a sanctuary for all life.

13.1 Flora of the Sanctuary

Experience the wonders of the high-altitude grasslands, where the puna thrives and supports a remarkable array of resilient plants and wildlife. You’ll be in awe of the diverse selection of subtropical jungle orchids — over 400 species- showcasing their vivid colors and intricate structures. And don’t miss out on discovering the ferns and mosses that create a lush green carpet beneath towering trees in the sanctuary’s cloud forest. Observe the twisted, gnarled branches of Polylepis trees that have stood in the Andes for centuries. These ancient trees are astonishing and a true marvel of nature.

13.2 Fauna of the Sanctuary

Additionally, inside the dense cloud forest of the sanctuary, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of a spectacled bear – one of South America’s endangered species. Discover the captivating agility and rapidity of the enchanting hummingbirds that occupy the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, whose crucial role in pollination promotes flourishing biodiversity. Delve into the critical issues confronting this sanctuary, including climate fluctuations, rampant tourism activities, and detrimental effects of habitat loss on its various species. Nevertheless, explore the extensive conservation measures undertaken by global organizations and the Peruvian government to preserve and protect these distinct ecosystems and their inhabitants.

Embracing Sustainable Tourism and Supporting Porter Rights

13.1. Getting to Know the Inca Trail Porters

Porters are the backbone of Inca Treks, responsible for carrying essential camping gear and food between campsites. With around 8,000 porters registered with the Peruvian government in Cusco, most are young men aged 18-45, often hailing from distant villages. Many work part-time as farmers, while others have migrated to Cusco seeking employment opportunities.

13.2. Understanding Porter Regulations

Peruvian government regulations in the Machu Picchu National Sanctuary mandate that male porters carry a maximum of 20 kg / 45 lbs, including personal belongings and tourist equipment. Tour operators must provide food, shelter, and outdoor gear, with an average salary of 370 soles / 105 USD for the four-day Inca Trail. The New 2023’s porters law has changed a lot of the porters regulations and is something all travelers should be aware of. 

13.3. Supporting Women Porters on the Inca Trail

Since 2017, some operators have begun hiring women porters to promote empowerment and gender equality. Ensure your tour operator employs male and female porters, paying them equally and adhering to ethical practices.

13.4. Incorporating Sustainability Practices into Your Trek

While many tour operators claim to be sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical, the reality often falls short. Porters are vital for Inca Treks, and their working conditions must meet specific standards. The Federation of Porters’ Facebook page and various international media outlets have highlighted porters’ poor conditions and exploitation.

Travelers must ensure their tour providers abide by ethical standards, treating porters as human beings. This includes providing nutritious food, comfortable backpacks, and quality tents comparable to those used by tourists. By choosing responsible tour providers, your investment contributes to better working conditions for porters on the Inca Trail.


As we conclude our exploration of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and its cultural significance, we believe this journey presents an unparalleled opportunity for contemporary explorers to connect with history by experiencing firsthand how ingenious and resilient ancient civilizations were.

The Andean Mountains provide a stunning backdrop as you traverse the rugged terrain of the Inca Trail en route to Machu Picchu. Achieving this once-in-a-lifetime adventure requires proper planning and preparation.

This involves selecting a renowned tour provider specializing in responsible tourism while focusing on enhancing physical health and ensuring all necessary equipment is packed for the expedition. By taking these steps towards preparedness, trekkers can relish their experience while aiding in contributing to conservation efforts.

Breaking away from modern-day distractions, embarking on the Inca Trail leads walkers along timeless passages towards Machu Picchu’s hidden treasures—the perfect antidote for avid adventurers looking for an offbeat challenge amidst otherworldly peaks and valleys surrounded by rich past growths that still thrive throughout Peru’s wild mountain range passes—an endeavor worth undertaking over your lifetime!


INCA TRAIL-The Ultimate Expert's Guide for 2024