Everything you will need for Inca Trail

by Freddy November 29, 2022
camino inca machu picchu

The famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the principal attractions of Peru. Known locally as the ‘Camino Inca’, it consists of a network of ancient Inca paths that lead to the lost city of the Inca’s through the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The ‘Classic 4-day Inca Trail‘ is considered to be 1 of the 10 best hikes in the world, and is a 43 km (26 mile) route starting from the check point at Kilometre 82. The trail is notoriously challenging as it ascends and descends over the Andes Mountains, through Amazonian cloud forests and alongside ancient archaeological centers. Therefore, physical ability and thorough preparation, both mentally and logistically is recommended.

The ‘Short Inca Trail’ is a 2-day excursion, starting at the checkpoint of Kilometre 102. The 13km trail takes you on a journey through Inca history, visiting the impressive sites of Chachabamba and Wiñayhuayna, before culminating at the famous panoramic viewpoint atop the Inti Punku Sun Gate. The 2-day tour treats you to not one, but two chances to get to know Machu Picchu, with the in-depth guided tour of the Inca citadel taking place on day 2.

Due to the prestige and popularity of the Inca Trail, we strongly recommend that you book your place in advance and start preparing yourself for the challenge ahead. Below we have provided a list of everything you need to know and pack before embarking on your journey to one of the seven wonders of the world.

What documents to bring

Identity Documents – Peruvian citizens must present their ID card and entrance permits at the first checkpoint of the trail.
Passport – Foreign tourists must present a valid passport and their entrance permits at the first checkpoint of the trail.
Student Card – Visitors who have registered their booking as a student must present a valid student ID card with their entrance permits at the checkpoint at the start of the Inca trail.

When is the best time to do the Inca Trail

Both the Classic 4-day Inca Trail and the 2-day Short Inca Trail are open 11 months of the year. By order of the Ministry of Culture, the trails are closed during the month of February to enable them carry out conservation, maintenance and cleaning work. February is the wettest month of the year in this region, so owing to the constant rainfall and thick jungle fog, it has been determined that the trails would be too dangerous for visitors to attempt. The Inca Trails reopen on March 1 each year.

Regarding the rest of the year, the Peruvian Andes experience two main climatic seasons. The rainy season runs from December till April and the dry season runs from April to December. The winter months are June-August, making them the coldest, but with 12 hours of high-altitude sunshine a day, you will only tend to feel the cold throughout the night. 

Naturally we recommend that visitors favour the dry season, with the best months for exploring the Inca Trail being May and October. Not only are the conditions during the dry season more preferable for hiking, but the trails themselves are significantly less wet. In the case of the Inca Trail, this really does make all the difference, since you will be ascending and descending ancient stone steps for many hours a day. Not to mention your final prize at the finish line, the famous view of Machu Picchu. Your souvenir photo of the citadel is almost certain to be much more glorious throughout the drier months. 

Weather in real Time

El tiempo

What clothing you will need for the Inca Trail

Depending on the time of year you walk the Inca Trail, you will be faced with a number of different weather conditions and temperature variations. Throughout the year the climate along the Inca Trail also varies as you traverse over high altitude mountainous regions and through humid jungle valleys. You will therefore need to consider that the accessories necessary for the trip will depend on the relevant season and the climatic conditions of the region.

Breathable t-shirts – Due to the humidity of the jungle, we recommend bringing at least 2 t-shirts with you per day, as the moisture will likely have you changing your clothing throughout the day.

Long-sleeves – Long-sleeve polos/shirts are also recommended to protect your arms from high-altitude sun and mosquitos.

Hiking trousers – As the Inca Trail can be wet and humid, we recommend wearing lightweight waterproof hiking pants.

Windbreaker jackets – As you venture through varying altitudes and changing weather conditions, windbreaker jackets can provide a relief from the elements when necessary. They also pack down small and light into the rucksack.

Thermal jacket – The high-altitude campsites along the trail are very cold at night, so a warm jacket is essential after dusk.

Footwear – Comfortable, lightweight hiking shoes or boots, with good soles. Preferably Gore-Tex for wet conditions.

Sandals – To give your feet a relief from the hiking shoes and allow them to breathe during downtime.

What medical items to bring

If you are undergoing any medical treatment or have health problems (particularly with the lungs or the heart), then we recommend that you consult your doctor before travelling, since Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,300 meters. The 4-day classic Inca Trail is both physically and mentally challenging, so we do not recommend the trek for those with asthmatic, cardiorespiratory or rheumatic lung problems. 

We also recommend spending at least one day in the city of Cusco upon arrival to help you acclimatise to the high altitude, before embarking on the Inca Trail. To mitigate the effects of altitude sickness, we also recommend drinking the locals’ favourite, a cup of hot Coca tea, and/or taking any relevant prescribed altitude sickness medication.

What Luggage to Take

These are the essential items that you will need for a comfortable journey along the Inca Trail:

  • Small lightweight travel towel – useful for drying sweat.
  • Battery-powered headlamp or torch – essential for navigating camp at night (preferably solar-charged.
  • Trekking poles – essential for knee support whilst ascending and descending the ancient Inca stairs.
  • Camera and spare batteries – essential as batteries are consumed more quickly in cold conditions.
  • Wide-brimmed hat – essential to protect yourself from intense sunlight as UV rays are stronger at altitude
  • Sunscreen – Plenty of good quality, high factor sunscreen is essential as you will need to reapply throughout the day.
  • Insect repellent – Essential for protecting yourself from the jungle mosquitos and creepy crawlies. 
  • Water Purifier – Plastic bottles are not permitted on the Inca Trail, so a water purifying bottle is a must.
  • Snacks – Although you will be treated to 3 hearty meals a day, snacks are always a welcome energy source.

Noteworthy information

Entrance into the Inca trail can only be achieved through entering the official government checkpoints that are stationed along the trail. It is therefore a provision of the Ministry of Culture of Peru that in order to enter, visitors must be accompanied by a licenced tour guide who is registered with an authorised travel agency. Reservations for the Inca Trail must also be secured 3-4 months in advance, due to high demand and a government limit of 500 entrances per day.  

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