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Hiking & Biking tours

Inca Trail Trek: Everything you need to know

The Inca Trail is South America’s most iconic trek and thousands of walkers make the journey each year. However if you’ve never been to South America before or done a multi-day trek the idea of walking 43 kilometres at altitude may seem a little daunting – we’re here to put your mind at ease.

Our Cycling Programme Manager James Adkin was, in a previous life, a guide on the Inca Trail and has made the journey over 20 times. He has trekked the trail in all conditions and knows exactly what to expect, so we asked him a few questions about the trek for those who haven’t quite made up their minds.

Is the Inca Trail difficult?

I wouldn’t say the classic route is difficult; it isn’t easy but is totally achievable for anybody that leads a reasonably active life. It isn’t a race, you have the whole day to cover the distance and take in all the marvellous views and Inca ruins.

For those that struggle with their knees on descents, I would recommend getting used to walking with trekking poles as they help spread the weight really effectively. We recommend preparing for your trip with walks in hilly terrain or on a step trainer.

You only have to carry your day pack and your Explore Leader and Inca Trail guide take care of all navigation, leaving you to go at your own pace and enjoy this wonderful hike of a lifetime.


Will I struggle with the altitude?

Very few people experience any significant negative impact from the altitude and I have come to love the journey you take to see the spectacular views. The more time you spend at altitude prior to the trek helps your body acclimatise so we plan this into the itinerary.  Here are a few tips for being at high altitude:

  • You dehydrate much quicker so keep up your liquid intake
  • The sun shines stronger the higher, so we would recommend investing in good quality sunglasses, covering up as much as possible and using sun block or a high factor protection.
  • There is less oxygen the higher you go and you may find you become out of breath quicker and take a bit longer to recover. Try to shorten your normal stride and go slow and steady.
  • Your digestive system slows down slightly so we recommend avoiding overeating, especially in the late evening as it may impact on your ability to have a good night’s sleep.


How many hours hiking will I do each day?

The first day of the Inca Trail is designed to ease you in, allowing you to find your pace and adjust to walking at altitude with a two and half hour walk to the first campsite at Llactapata.

The second day of walking to Llulluchapampa is more of a full on day, following the Kusichaca river and gradually ascending with the views of the surrounding peaks emerging as you reach the campsite.

Day 3 from Llulluchapampa to Puyupatamarca is the longest day with three passes to go over. It is on of the best days on the trek, culminating in 360 degree views watching the setting sun light up Salkantay peak in iridescent pink.

The final day is generally all downhill, taking around 6 hours with stops along the way to visit Inca sites before your first glimpse of Machu Picchu itself, a much anticipated moment!

How cold does it get, will I be cold at night?

The coldest months are from June to August, when it can get very cold at night, dropping below zero, especially on the second night. I remember waking up to find my two litre bottle of water had frozen solid and we estimated it dropped to around 15 degrees below zero, but that was an especially cold one! We would recommend bringing a good four season sleeping bag and the inflatable sleeping mats that we provide help insulate you from the cold ground. I always slept with a woolly hat on too but then I don’t have much hair!

During the day it can be quite warm and sunny and temperatures are usually between 20-29°C.


What will the food be like on the trek?

Our Inca Trail cooks prepare meals that have been planned to be nutritious and suited to the physical exertion of the trek. Hygiene standards are very high and we prepare typical Andean fare using local ingredients so you will also learn about the local cuisine along the way. Customers are always surprised at how great the food is. There are three sit down meals – breakfast, dinner and an evening meal under canvas. Seconds are always available if you wish and snacks are provided for in between meals. Eating together as group is a change to reflect on the day’s hike and relax and enjoy the company of your group.


What are the tents and the toilet facilities like?

Two-man tents are provided with plenty of room for two people and your bags. The tents are well maintained and after a day of fresh mountain air and walking they make for a comfy place to lay your head. The views when you pop your head out in the morning are hard to beat; I have never felt closer to the landscape.  As for toilets, there are now permanent toilets along the trail and we provide portable bathrooms (toilet tents) with biodegradable bags, a less rustic alternative for our small group to use.


Do I need to put up my own tent?

No and neither do you need to take it down. The porters do an incredible job, often behind the scenes, to help your Inca Trail run seamlessly. Pack animals are not permitted on the classic Inca trail, which is why porters are needed to carry all our equipment. We ensure the best conditions for our crew and we have been working closely with the Andean community of Misminay, located in the Sacred Valley, for over two decades and all of our porters originate from this village. The porters carry your main luggage, all food and equipment, as well as setting up and breaking down our camp.


How do I get a permit to hike the Inca Trail?

A permit is required to trek the Inca Trail and only around 200 are available each day for tourists. If you book an Explore trip a permit is included in your holiday; once you’ve booked your trip we will purchase the permit on your behalf. The passes sell out quickly, particularly in the high season months of July and August, so we recommend booking your trip at least six months in advance. If you book an Explore trip before 27 September 2017 we’ll include your Inca Trail permit for free, saving you £125. 

See all our Inca Trail Trips