If hiking the Inca Trail is on your bucket list, and you're gearing up for this challenge, you'll need to get ready for a few surprises along the way. Think unpredictable weather and a mix of high and low altitudes that can really throw your body for a loop. Time and availability also play a crucial role. So, what's the best way to prep for one of the best-rated hikes in the world?

The list can be long, but based on our experience, there are absolute "key" essentials to consider, whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner. Ready to nail this adventure? Here are our top tips for hiking the Inca Trail!

Best tips for hiking the Inca Trail | TreXperience

Best Tips for Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

1. Prevent the Altitude Sickness

Soroche or altitude sickness can stop you from completing the Inca Trail. You won't feel anything if you are one of the lucky few, but others may feel really bad. Before you embark on your journey, your body must adapt to the altitude. Here are the most common signs of Soroche and how you can treat them:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of oxygen

If you have heart or breathing issues, you should always consult with your doctor first. Follow these steps to avoid and prevent altitude sickness properly:

  • Give your body time to adapt: Stay at least two days in Cusco before hiking the Inca Trail. This will help you get used to the altitude and recover faster.
  • Take a break: Try not to spend too much energy on your first day. A gentle tour around Cusco is the perfect way to get started.
  • Consider Diamox: It can be purchased without a prescription in Peru. We recommend taking it at night or in the early morning before your activities. Other options are Sorojchi Pills and Altivital.
  • Go natural: Drink plenty of water and coca leaf tea. The Andean locals have historically utilized it for its anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the symptoms.
Woman drinking water - Tips for hiking the Inca Trail | TreXperience
Stay hydrated before and during the Inca Trail.
coca tea - Tips for hiking the Inca Trail | TreXperience
The classic coca leaf tea

2. Prepare physically before going on the hike

The Inca Trail is a challenging hike, spawning almost 42 kilometers or 26 miles long. We're talking about the famous 4-day classic Inca Trail. You'll go through some serious ups and downs that'll wow you with breathtaking views but also give your legs a workout. Here's the lowdown on getting your body ready for the challenge:

  • Exercise strength and breathing to improve endurance. 
  • Consume a well-balanced diet. 
  • Maintain a positive mindset at all times.
  • Drink plenty of water before and during your hike to stay hydrated. 
  • Get enough sleep to keep your mind sharp.
  • You can rent hiking poles to reduce the strain on your knees.

Since you will be at high altitudes of above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), it is also recommended that you carry out some short preparation walks before arriving in Peru. Take a look at this training schedule for hiking the Inca Trail.

3. Bring only the essentials to the Inca Trail

If you forget to pack batteries for your camera, you might miss capturing important moments. It's crucial to pack all the essentials, but at the same time, you don't want to carry too much weight while hiking. 

Keep your heavy luggage in your hotel or travel agency office; most offer it for free. The goal is to enjoy a fantastic time, so it's best to pack only what you need. Here are the absolute essentials:

  • Comfortable clothes and shoes for different weather conditions.
  • Gloves and sunglasses.
  • Raincoat for rain.
  • Portable chargers for electronic devices.
  • Important documents (insurance, passport, and agenda).
  • Personal toiletries.
  • Medicines for headaches, stomach aches, and colds.
  • Good quality backpack (light and small).
  • Water bottle of at least 2 liters.
  • Trekking poles.
  • Camera and extra batteries.
  • Head flashlight.
  • Snacks.
  • Extra money for souvenirs.
  • Air mattress.

Check out our Ultimate Inca Trail Packing List for a complete guide on what to pack for the Inca Trail.

Packing for the Inca Trail | TreXperience
Don't forget to pack early

4. Choose an authorized travel agency

If you're wondering if you can go hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without a guide, the answer is no. 

The Inca Trail is only available through a licensed travel agency. Because of its popularity in South America, they must take safety precautions and be able to provide fast assistance in the event of an accident.

That's why we recommend you look for a licensed agency that complies with all regulations and ensures your safety. Book the Inca Trail with TreXperience to enjoy an outstanding experience that will make you want to return.

5. Book ahead of time and choose your preferred season

Remember that the Inca Trail is highly in demand, so book at least 4 to 5 months ahead of time. There are just 500 spots available per day, with only 200 reserved for tourists. 

When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

The sun shines from May to September (the highest tourist season), whereas October to April (the low tourist season) is rainy and watery. We recommend you book the Inca Trail during the intermediate seasons, immediately before or after the high season. We're talking about April, May, September, October, and occasionally November because the weather is less crowded and favorable.

6. Get expert advice from our travelers

What better way to learn from those who have conquered the trail? Emily Rose took our Inca Trail in the past 2023 and was absolutely fascinated. Yet, she had to prepare for the trip like most travelers. Check out her 26 tips for the Inca Trail to find other specific and handy tips to know before you embark on the trip. 

Final suggestions

Carry only what is essential and adjust to the altitude at least two days before the trip. Remember to choose an authorized agency and to book in advance. Now it's time to take advantage of these tips for hiking the Inca Trail to bring out the best of one of South America's most popular routes.  See you on the road!

The Best Inca Trail Tours to Machu Picchu

Visit the locations where only a few people can witness incredible natural beauty. Choose your next TreXperience:

  • The Classic 4-day Inca Trail Tour is undoubtedly the best option because it ranks among the top ten treks in the world. Live a four-day experience walking where the Incas did and visiting the heritage ancient sites of this interesting civilization.
  • 2-day Short Inca Trail: This is a short but exciting journey. You will hike for one day and be at Machu Picchu the next day; you only need to bring a little luggage. Chachabamba, Wiñaywayna, Inti Punku, and Machu Picchu are all worthwhile visits. In this tour, you will travel in trains that provide a panoramic view of the endless landscapes.
  • Ultimate Inca Trail Tour 5 days: See the Inca sites and hidden landscapes known by only a few. It is available every day with a minimum of two visitors.

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