About this guide to the Inca Trail:

This guide is based on a mixture of our first hand experience of trekking the Classic Inca Trail plus useful advice from friends and other sites on the web.

Our trek was organised by G Adventures (The Great South American Journey) and I would highly recommend them, everything about the trip was excellent, our guides, chef and porters were amazing.

If you have anything you would like to add or share, please use the comments section at the bottom of the page.

What is the Classic Inca Trail?:

The Classic Inca Trail is a 4 day trek starting at Km82 and finishing at the Lost City if the Incas, Machu Picchu, at sunrise on the 4th day.

The trek is rated moderate and any reasonably fit individual should be able to complete it. Having said that we found this to be one of the most physically challenging things we have ever done. This was mainly due to the Altitude, the highest point “Dead Womans Pass” is 4200m above sea level, the air is thinner at this height and makes breathing more difficult.

Before we set off to tackle the Inca Trail we decided to climb both Snowdon (Wales) and Scafell Pike (England) to get some practice, this was a great idea, not only did it give us some walking practice but we also had a chance to break our new gear in.

If you are a member of a gym where there is a step machine make sure you start using it as part of your regular workout, the Incas loved steps.

When to Trek the Inca Trail:

The Inca Trail is open all year round apart from the month of February when it is closed for maintenance. April to October is the dry season and the months of June, July & August are the busiest when the trail can become fully booked.

There are only 500 (approx 200 tourists, 300 porters) permits allocated for each day on the Inca Trail. It is important to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

We trekked the trail in September, the weather was excellent, a few spots of rain but otherwise a mixture of sun and cloud. Some people even got a little sunburn so don’t forget to take some sunscreen.

Current Weather Forecast for Machu Picchu


Packing for the Inca Trail:

Essential Items:

  • Passport – Essential, and you an get it stamped at each checkpoint
  • Camera, spare batteries & memory cards
  • Torch – Head torch can be more practical
  • Baby wipes – Easy to have a wash and freshen up when there are no showers
  • Hand sanitation gel – Toiletts are pretty grim, you will want to wash your hands
  • Sun lotion – You are closer to the sun at altitude so protect yourself
  • Sunglasses
  • Gatorade powder – Makes boiled water taste better, masks the taste of chlorine purification tablets, and gives you energy and salts
  • Coca Leaves/Candy – Helps with the effects of altitude
  • Toilet paper
  • Plastic bags – For rubbish and wrapping your cloths in so they don’t get wet
  • Strong insect repellent – Goodbye mosquitoes
  • Water bottle (1.5 to 2 litres) – This can be refilled, the porters boil water once or twice a day
  • Small towel and essential toiletries
  • Sleeping bag – Make sure you match this to the lowest temperature you may experience at night, you can hire these before you go if you don’t want to bring one from home

What Clothes to Take:

Essentially you need to make sure you can cater for all weather conditions and temperatures. The Trail can get quite hot during the day but at night the temperature can really drop and go below zero.

The best tactic is to layer your clothing so you can take off/put on layers as you need them.

It is wise to take some sort of waterproof, this could be a cheep plastic poncho or something more expensive, if you can cover your body and legs its ideal.

A good set of walking boots is recommended, from my experience a boot with ankle support is the best option as there are thousands of uneven steps to climb up and down.

How Much Stuff Can I Take?

Your porters will carry 6kg for you, this will be packed in the morning and you won’t see it again until you reach the camp site.

Everything else you may want during the day you will have to carry yourself, therefore it is important you only pack what is essential as you will want to keep your day pack as light as possible.

Your main backpack and any other luggage will remain in a hotel waiting for you to get back.

Altitude and the Inca Trail:

Highest Point:

Altitude is what makes the Inca Trail tough, at its highest point “Dead Womans Pass” you will be 4200m (13,800 ft) above sea level.

The most common effect of altitude is shortness of breath due to the air being thinner.

Always take the trail at your own pace, stop when you need to, at the tough bits this could be every few meters, catch your breath and carry on.

Do not feel pressured to keep up with everyone in your group, you can’t really get lost on the trail, normally you have a guide at the front and back of the group

Easing the effects:

Make sure you spend a at least 2 to 3 days at altitude before attempting the Inca Trail. The more time you can spend at altitude the more your body will have adjusted to it.

Coca – Leaves, Tea, Candy

Most of the locals will all consume coca. You can chew Leaves, Drink Tea or eat Candy. The benefits of this are a Boost in Energy, Suppression of Hunger and alleviating the effects of altitude.

Our porters woke us every morning with a cup of coca tea, and we had bought a few bags of coca candy and lolly-pops to take on the trail… don’t get me wrong, it does not taste great but it does help.

Prescribed Medication

Speak to your doctor before you go, as you will be above 4000m they may give you a prescription for altitude sickness tablets.

Altitude Sickness:

Everyone reacts differently to the effects of altitude. While one person may be severely unwell another person at the same altitude may not be affected at all.

Common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • feling unsteady
  • shortness of breath
  • increased heart rate
  • difficulty sleeping
  • generally feeling unwell
  • lack of co-ordination

Your guides will be monitoring the health of the group but it is important you tell them if you are not feeling well.