Walking the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is the top #1 on the list of things to do before many travelers die. But the Inca Trail is a very popular hiking route and permits for the Inca Trail are in high demand.
The Inca Trail in 6 Steps
Select the right time
The high season in Peru is the dry season of the Andes, from April to October. This is considered the best time to hike in the Andes, as it is not expected to rain so much.
However, this is also the time when the Inca Trail passes sell quickly. In order to conserve nature and keep the number of hikers at an adequate level on the trail, there is a limit of permits per day for the Inca Trail.
The rainy season of the Andes, between November and March, is the time of little tourism. Normally there are more permits for the Inca Trail available during this time of year. And although the likelihood of rain is higher, it is definitely an option for walking the Inca Trail in those months.
Get in shape!
Compared to other trekking options to Machu Picchu that have Cusco as their starting point (e.g. Salkantay Trek), the Inca Trail is considered a little less demanding. However, you will walk for 4 days at a high altitude in Peru, on uneven terrain and with a backpack on top – so prepare your body for the hike.
Especially the second day is famous and feared, as you have to cross the highest pass of the Inca Trail. This is the Paso de las Mujeres muertas or Warmi Wañusqa in Quechua, at an altitude of 4,215 meters above sea level. Interesting fact: this is almost 1,800 meters higher than Machu Picchu itself.
Book in advance
This is probably the most important step: Plan ahead and reserve a place for the Inca Trail up to 5 to 9 months in advance for the high season! Yes – this is necessary!
As mentioned in Step #1, the number of permits for the Inca Trail is limited and demand is very high, especially for May, June and July. Every day, exactly 500 people can enter the Inca Trail, including guides and porters.
If you are independent of international vacation times, if you don’t mind a few raindrops and want to avoid groups on the hike, opt for the low season between November and March. It’s not colder during these months (on the contrary, it could be less cold) – only the likelihood of rain is greater. Even for those months, you need to book 3 to 4 months in advance.
Get to know these interesting facts about Machu Picchu
There are some facts about the Inca Trail that must be taken into account when booking your trip to Peru.
First of all, taking a group of hikers on a hike through the Andes is a great effort and has its cost. Your group will be accompanied by a cook, a kitchen assistant, porters (to carry food and camping equipment) and professional guides.
So how much does the Inca Trail cost? Prices for the Inca Trail range from approximately US $ 550 to US $ 680. This is for a standard service, in a group, all inclusive. There are also VIP services (more expensive and private).
Secondly, it is important to know that your passport is required when booking the Inca Trail. Your tour operator will need it to purchase your pass, as all Inca Trail permits are strictly personal and non-transferable.
At the beginning of the trek, you need to show your permit (you or your guide) with the exact passport number. Once your Inca Trail permit has been issued (in most cases several months before the trek), it cannot be changed. You will not be able to change to another date or transfer the ticket for someone else to do the trek.
Choose a responsible Travel Agency in Cusco
Finding a good and reliable agency in Cusco that is an Authorized Inca Trail Operator is not always easy. How do you ensure that your money is in good hands and that you will receive the service you paid for when you arrived in Peru?
When booking the Inca Trail, beware of booking from the cheapest agency. An agency that offers the lowest prices compared to others is very likely to reduce costs by reducing staff salaries, saving money on food or equipment, or avoiding state taxes.
Packing for the Inca Trail
The amount of things you need on the walk is up to you. However, in general there are weight limits on the backpacks for the walk. For the Inca Trail, tents, mattresses and kitchen equipment are usually provided.