Check out my Travel Video of trekking the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Click here
If you’re reading this then I hope you have the same excitement I had when I was researching and reading about the Inca Trail and getting to Machu Picchu.
This place is AMAZING, there is really no other way to put it. The pure beauty of Machu Picchu is something you really have to see to believe, no photo will ever do it justice.
The inca Trail is beautiful but so brutal. You come across mountain lakes, amazing paths and stairs that weave up and down the mountain side and the views you get are just jaw dropping.
Now if you are wanting to hike the Inca Trail you have to get a permit and to do that you need to do it through a tour company, you can’t just rock up in Ollantaytambo and get to the gates and expect to be able to start the Inca Trail. The best way I found to make sure the day I wanted to go was available was going to “Tour in Peru” website, they have all the days that are available to hike to Machu Picchu. The set up they have arriving at the start of the hike is a lot like going through customs at an airport, you need your passport, Inca Trail Permit and information of the tour company you are doing it with. They Stamp your ticket and you’re on your way. G Adventures was named best Inca Trail Tour Operator by the Regional Direction of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco (RDFTTC) in Peru, if it was me I’d 100% be doing the Inca Trail through them, they really know what they are doing. The guides are very knowledgeable about Peru, Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. They know everything from rare flowers that bloom at different times of the year to answering all your questions about the trail and the ruins you see along the way.
When I researched what to bring with me on the Inca Trail, I found it a little bit difficult to find good and consistent answer. For example you 110% need hiking boots, many people say you can do it in good quality runners or trail shoes and you definitely can, but the trail itself is very very uneven with huge rocks and then you have to contend with the weather you get and how unpredictable it is. It can be raining one minute and sunny the next or raining all day and you are never dry. I went over with no hiking boots, and my tour guide laughed at me when he found out and told me to go and buy hiking boots because it is to dangerous without them, So I did what I was told and I do not regret that investment.
Depending on who you book it through also depends on what you need to pack. But if you’re planning to book it through a well known company like G adventures then the list below is what I would recommend to bring.
What to Bring on the Inca Trail
- Day pack
- Hiking poles ( do not question this you will need them)
- Sleeping bag (can be hired)
- Sleeping mat (can be hired)
- Pillow, if you don’t want to use a jumper
- Hiking Boots
- Your Shell AKA weatherproof/ waterproof jacket
- Warm Jumper x 2
- Warm Vest
- Shorts x 2
- Hiking pants x 1
- T shirts x 3
- Long sleeve T shirts x 2
- Thermals, bottoms and top
- Trackies (track suit pants)
- Underwear x 5 ( just incase you have an accident or your clothes get wet)
- Socks x 4 one for each day (nothing worse than having wet socks)
- Small towel
- Beanie and a hat
- Sun Glasses (mainly for Machu Picchu if you get a good day)
- Drink Bottle
- Large Zip lock bags x 3
- Roll of toilet paper
- Wet Wipes
- Tooth brush, Tooth paste
- Deodorant ( for everyone around you)
- Deck of cards! always a good idea for the night time
- Camera! Make sure your batteries are charged, they need to last 4 days
- Money to tip porters/guides (recommended 100US for them to split between everyone but not many people do but I personally think they deserve it…)
What I wore most days Hiking
I hiked in shorts for most of the Trail except for the Dead Womans Pass I wore my 2XU skins. Every morning I would layer my top half and wear shorts because my legs don’t get overly cold. You get pretty warm pretty quickly probably within the hour of you starting to hike for the day you would be stripped back to a t shirt and vest or a long sleeve.
The weather on the inca trail is so unpredictable. You ask anyone and they will tell you the exactly the same thing. It’s almost like typical Melbourne weather, “always bring a jacket with you”. So be prepared before you leave camp and make sure you have layered up or you have some extra clothes with you because It can be pouring with rain and then extremely hot and humid. At night its bloody cold so make sure you have warm clothes with you.
The Trail It Self
The trail is full of crazy different terrain. From gravel paths to giant rocks for steps it changes all the time. When it rains the rocks get really slippery so be careful.
Make sure you have good walking/hiking shoes
I did research into this alot before I went away because I didn’t have a pair of hiking boots and I was trying to save as much money as I could before I left. I decided that I would be able to do the hike in a good pair of runners. In the end the best thing I did was to buy a pair of hiking boots in La Paz. My tour guide laughed at me when he found out and told me to go and buy hiking boots because it is to dangerous without them, So I did what I was told and I do not regret that investment. They saved my feet from getting soaking wet and had really good ankle support, the Trail is constantly changing you have to watch every step or else you have a pretty good chance of losing your footing.
I ended up going for Merrell recommended by a couple of people in my tour group, and they were pretty experienced hikers so I trusted them. So i got them and wore them in for the next week so I didn’t get blister on the trail.
Closest Pair of boots to mine Merrell sell now are these – Click here
We left Ollantaytambo and headed to the start line of the Inca Trail Km 82. You hike for about 5-6hrs stopping along the way and looking at all the Inca ruins along the trail, you get to hike up some small hills and get your ready for the next day for the most challenging climb ever “Dead Womans Pass” to point of no return.
Day two is the most challenging day of all. You tackle “Dead Woman’s Pass” reaching a total height of 4200m, and boy is it a tough walk. There is a toilet stop just before you start the ascend and this is the last chance to be able to buy some snacks like chocolate bars, lollies, coca leaves soft drink. We started the challenging stretch of the trail and this is probably one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Dont get me wrong the hike is hard, very steep and big steps made from rocks and constantly changing terrain. The biggest thing I found was the mental side of things and it plays a big role in getting you there. Yes you are fatiguing like there is no tomorrow, your whole body is aching and you can’t breath but it’s having the mental toughness to just keep going and getting to the top. You dont have to go fast (although myself and couple of others did) we would walk for about 10 minutes and would have to stop and have a drink and catch our breath. This is where your hiking poles come in handy they are a life saver through this part of the hike. Once you get to the top and if you’re lucky enough you’ll have a clear day and you can see all the way down the valley you just hiked. It’s bloody freezing up there so make sure you have warm clothes to wear once you stop hiking.
What goes up must come down, and down you go! The view on the other side of Dead womans pass is awesome! Be careful of the steps as you go down if they are wet. Almost everyone slipped at some point and you can easily see how people injure themselves if they try and go to fast. On the way to the camp site for the night it non stopped rained and didn’t stopped untill the next morning, it was pretty cold and miserable, but we did get to wake up to a good view in the morning.
After a huge day hiking up Dead Woman’s Pass Day 3 feels like a breeze. Don’t get me wrong there are some challenging parts but nothing compared to day 2.
On Day 3 you stop for lunch in a really good view spot and its a great place to relax and take a break. You do come across some animals on the Inca Trail an especially where the lunch break is there seemed to be a lot of Llamas around.
On the way to our final Camp site for the Inca Trail, you see how many people are actually doing the trail at the same time as you. And this is your competition the next morning. It’s a race to the front.
It felt like it I was 5 years old and it was Christmas eve and Santa was dropping off all the goodies and I get to open them all up the next day, that was the excitement I had! So waking up at 3am was no issue. Reason it’s a 3am wake up is that if you don’t get to to the gates to start the final leg of the Inca Trail early then you will be standing in line just to get to Machu Picchu because there are that many people finishing the trail at the same time. Its 100% worth the early wake up though.
You hike for about an hour (depending on people infront of you) and you arrive to the stairs to the Sun Gate. These Stairs are so steep isnt not funny, you are pretty much climbing up a wall it is that vertical. Once you reach the top you can see the beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu.
Arriving at the Sun Gate and exploring the Ancient Ruins.
I don’t want to burst your bubble of excitement but just be prepared that the view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate isn’t the typical image you see when you google the Inca Ruins. The Sun Gate is pretty far away from the site itself but it is still a great view of the ruins. It is really busy up there as well, we were one of the first groups to get to the Sun Gate and it felt crowded already and there was only probably about 3 groups there. We headed down the path leading to the amazing ruins and that itself is still another 20 minute walk.
Once we all got to the best view point of Machu Picchu we took as many photos as we could, and then we left to get a private tour through the ancient site.
Walking through Machu Picchu is mind boggling, you really cannot comprehend how this ancient civilisation built this amazing site. The Size of the Stones used and how they transported them around the site is very hard to imagine. The craftsmanship of the stone work is amazing in itself let alone how they engineered the whole site from the bottom up.
When you are walking through the site just take note of how massive some of the stones are.
Once the the tour was done we had free time to explore any other parts of the site we didn’t really cover.
A good little spot to go and visit is the Inca Bridge just outside of Machu Picchu. This is pretty cool thing to see It’s basically an ancient bridge the Incas used to walk along the cliff face, I would recommend you to go and see it!
Now you can Hike up the Mountain at Machu Picchu but you do have to pre book that, we didn’t get to do it because we weren’t told you had to book a tour and they sell out fast apparently.
By the end of the tour everyone was done and ready for a nap, being up since 3 am and it was midday before we finished the tour and we hadn’t really eaten anything all day and most of us had run out of water.
There is a cafe outside of the site but it really expensive.
We caught the bus back down the mountain and had lunch in the small town call Machu Picchu and waited for the rest of the group to meet us down there before we headed back to Cusco!