Know Before You Go – Hiking the Incan Trail – When you think of hiking, the infamous Inca Trail of Peru no doubt comes to mind. It’s South America’s most well-known trek. Taking steps through places people have been trekking through for more than 4000 years has a way of putting life into perspective. Beginning in the Sacred Valley and continuing on to Machu Picchu is a hike not for the fainthearted. The hike takes about four days – four days of being cold, your body telling you that you weren’t cut out for this as you begin to ache and feel the bitter exhaustion take over. But then, the heavy mists begin to dissipate, revealing emerald green peaks and terraces and you realize – you’ve made it. This is one of those treks that are truly worth it.
If you can’t wait to go, there are a few things you should know prior to your journey that will help you have the best experience possible.
First of all, know when to go. The Inca Trail’s best months for visiting are when it’s warm dry, from May through September. It doesn’t matter when you visit, though, the trail becomes chilly after dark. Packing warm clothing to layer and a trail-rated sleeping bag is a necessity. You’ll also want sturdy, closed-toe shoes, flashlights with new batteries, and tablets for purifying water.
The season becomes very busy from June through August, as those in the northern hemisphere begin their summer vacations. But this is also the time of Peruvian national holidays, so it’s a double whammy for tourism. If you would rather go when there’s not many other people on the trail near the end of April or throughout the month of September. It’s worth noting that the trail is closed in February.
It’s also a good idea to make your reservations well in advance. If you’re planning to visit during June, July, or August, you may need to book a year in advance. This is not only due to the influx of tourists, but also because you cannot travel the trail without a licensed guide. Guides’ can get booked quickly.
Make sure to have a bit of Peruvian money as you’ll need to purchase high-calorie snacks to maintain your energy, and it’s a nice gesture to tip your guide.
Finally, adjusting to the change in altitude can take a few days. Plan to begin your hike at least 2 to 3 days after you arrive in Cuzco.
Planning your Incan journey ahead of time will ensure this is a trek to remember.