Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
What to expect and how to prepare
The Inca emperor Pachacuti built a mighty royal highway to link his capital Cuzco to his secluded sacred center at Machu Picchu, taking an awe-inspiring route over high mountain passes. He followed the way of the Apus (white-robed mountain deities), the snow peaks sacred to the Incas which dominate the scenery, vanishing and re-appearing around curves and over ridges as we follow this most astounding of treks. At points along the way Pachacuti built small, exquisite settlements clustered upon jagged outcrops, always with sweeping views of the stunning landscape.
Amazingly, all of this survived the Spanish conquest and the hundreds of years of abandonment and neglect that followed. Today the area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Peruvian government protected reserve of immense archaeological and environmental importance. For this spectacular route is both a journey through Inca history and a dazzling sample of Peru’s incredible biodiversity.
We take this challenging trek across high, treeless passes up to 4,200m (13,776ft), and down through multi-layered zones of cloud-forest, culminating at the threshold of the Sun Gate where we have the unforgettable view down to Machu Picchu and the Urubamba river.
Our outfitters take care of all the details and provide a top quality guide to the trail and Machu Picchu, so that you can relax and get the most out of this memorable experience.
THE NATURE IN MACHU PICCHU
The Machu Picchu area is forested, tropical and rainy. It is found in the middle of steeply sloped mountains and flanked by the Urubamba river canyon.
Machu Picchu harbors within its boundaries a diverse fauna and fauna that includes:
- Mammals such as bobcat, puma and the endangered spectacled bear.
- Wide variety of reptiles.
- More than 700 species of butterflies.
- Around 415 species of birds including hummingbirds, ducks, eagles, parrots, quetzals, toucans, manakins, tanagers, etc.
- More than 190 species of orchids.
This region of Peru has become an important destination for nature lovers and birdwatchers. Our guides will interpret the flora and fauna as well as the archeology.
The Andean weather can be unpredictable, despite the sharp divide between dry and wet seasons.
The dry season runs from May to October or November; the rainy season goes from December through April. Nevertheless, in the mountainous Cordillera Urubamba, showers can occur at any time of year. Therefore, even in the “dry” season, your daypack should always include full rain gear (both jacket AND trousers).
Daytime temperatures can vary greatly, with daytime highs ranging from 10ºC/50ºF to 25ºC/75ºF and nighttime lows ranging from 10ºC/50ºF to a cold 0ºC/32ºF, though seldom much lower.
Consult your doctor for all medical concerns. What follows is simply a list of suggestions.
We suggest you talk to your doctor about Acetazolamide (Diamox). It will help speed up the acclimatization process and can be used to treat mild cases of altitude sickness. It's available by prescription. For centuries, indigenous cultures of the Andes, such as the Inca, Quechua, Aymara, have used coca leaves to treat mild altitude sickness. Drinking coca tea and/or chewing the leaves can have benefit. Drinking plenty of water will also help in acclimatization by replacing the fluids lost through heavier breathing in the thin, dry air.
A highly recommended medication to have on hand is an antibiotic to be taken in case of bad gastrointestinal upset. Physicians usually prescribe Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) or Xifaxan.
Be sure to ask your physician about the possible dangers of combining medications, especially if you are already taking prescription drugs.
Aside from this, simply bring along any of the usual medications with which you travel (aspirin, Tylenol, Dramamine, antacids, Pepto, etc.). In every case, please follow your physician's advice about all health aspects.
Common outdoor hazards, like sunburn and dehydration, are dangerous and should be taken seriously. Drink plenty of bottled water. In high elevations you will find less of a protective atmosphere and the UV will be intense. Use a sun-block of SPF 30 or greater.
Transportation to and from the city of departure, a pre-departure information meeting and Inca Trail map, overnight in North Face tents including comfortable sleeping pads, a duffle bag to store your luggage during the trek (please return upon your arrival in Cuzco). Inca Trail and Machu Picchu entrance fee and train ticket back to Cuzco (Vista dome), meals according to the itinerary including a last lunch in a restaurant before returning to Cuzco, bottled water to refill your canteen.
The accompanying staff includes bilingual guide on the trek and in Machu Picchu equipped with a first aid kit, an oxygen tank, and excellent cartographies, porters, kitchen crew and commissary gear.
Meals in the cities, alcoholic beverages, extras, tips, taxes, laundry service, additional tours, insurance and airline tickets (where applicable), sleeping bags, hiking boots and other personal gear or items.
Please note that to obtain your permit to hike the Inca Trail, the Inca Trail Authority that issues these permits, requires your passport number. When you show up at the trail head to start the hike, the passport number on the permit MUST match the number in your passport, or you will not be able to hike the Inca Trail. Please send us only valid passport numbers. If you have applied for a new passport, wait until you get the new number to have us request (and pay for) your permit.
One or two days before departure our representative in Cuzco will contact you to arrange the Pre-Departure Briefing in your hotel.
WHAT WE PROVIDE
- A licensed, well-trained, English-speaking guide, who visits the clients the evening before departure to explain the trek and answer any questions.
- Camping equipment: spacious North Face tents, dining tent, toilet tent, tables and chairs, oxygen bottle and cooking equipment, foam sleeping pads. Trekers need only bring a sleeping bag.
- Chef and Assistant Chef preparing healthy, hearty meals cooked with fresh, local ingredients.
- Well-paid and well-treated porters. We supply the appropriate duffel for you to pack and them to carry. You carry only a light daypack.
- Transportation from Cuzco to the start of the trail for Inca Trail Classic and Inca Trail Discovery; First Class train – the Vistadome - to kilometer 104 for the Short Inca Trail.
- First Class train - the Vistadome - from the town of Aguas Calientes to Cuzco.
- Round trip bus transportation from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu archaeological sanctuary on the last morning (“Short Inca Trail” and “Inca Trail Discovery” ONLY) .
- Entrance tickets for the Inca Trail and for the Mach Picchu archaeological sanctuary.
- Hotel accommodation at a comfortable hotel or hostel (“Short Inca Trail” and “Inca Trail Discovery” ONLY)
- We lend you a special duffel bag for your gear. In order to ensure the fair treatment of our porters, we require that each person limit this duffel to 22 pounds (10 kilograms). Your luggage not needed for the hike can stay at your hotel in Cuzco.
WHAT TO BRING
- A good sleeping bag. (Sleeping bags may be rented by request. See below.) (Foam sleeping pad is supplied by the outfitter.)
- Day pack or fanny pack... for daily items and camera. (A SMALL duffle bag is supplied by the outfitter for the majority of your gear that will be carried by a porter.)
- Comfortable walking shoes...WELL BROKEN IN!
- Rain jacket and pants.
- Canteen or plastic water bottle.
- Warm jacket for cool evenings.
- Wool sweater.
- Wool or flannel shirt.
- Pants (two short and two long for the evenings).
- T-shirts or light cotton shirt.
- Hat with brim.
- Flashlight (the campsite has its own light but you will need this in your tent).
- Personal medications.
- Camera and film.
- Towel & toiletries.
- Plastic bag for wet or dirty clothes.
Your outfitter can rent you a high quality North Face sleeping bag. (Model: Snow Shoe - Temp rating 0F / -18 C ) Please inform us ahead of your arrival if you desire to rent a sleeping bag. Inquire of cost.
For Private Service Inka Trail Hikes we include the sleeping bags at no cost, but you must still request them ahead of time.
- Although the trek is rated as moderate, we strongly suggest spending at least two nights before the start of the trek in Cuzco to adjust to the altitude.
- Undertake some daily exercise program in anticipation of your trek.
- Drink plenty of water. This also helps you to acclimatize to the altitude
- The paving stones on the trail are irregular. Please be careful with your steps.
- The maximum weight of your gear to be carried by the porters is 20 pounds/10 kilograms, which you have to fit in the provided duffle bag.
- No refund will be possible for any unused part of the tour or entrance fee bought in advanced.
- Entrance fee can not be transferred to another traveler. This is prohibited by law.
- Park authorities may occasionally designate different campsites than those indicated.
- All trash produced during the trek will return to Cuzco.
Every person plays an important role during the trek. The porters, who live in the nearby communities of Willoq, Patacancha and Ocongate, are not an exception. As a responsible and ethical tour operator our staff is well paid and a balanced, protein rich diet is provided for each staff member. The result is that they are happy to go that extra step to keep clients feeling their best.
Our guide will introduce you the porters formally, please tell them a little bit about yourselves. If a porter gets sick our guide will take care of him.
Tips for porters should be handed out during the last night all the trekkers and porters are together in a celebratory goodbye dinner. Tips for guides and other crew members are normally treated separately.
Here we would like to include some suggestions for your interaction with the porters:
Spend time with your porters. They have some amazing stories to tell. Try and learn a few words of Quechua.
Offer them your coca leaves and snacks. If you’re finding day two of the Inca Trail hard, think how tough they’re finding it with up to 25kg on their backs.
Don’t overload your porter. Do not give your pack to a porter who already has a load. If he carries more than 25kg, not only is it bad for his health but he and the agency will receive a substantial fine.
Tip your porter. Most groups collect at dinner on the last night of the trail and then give it to the porters. Remember to take adequate small change in order to tip porters individually. Thirty soles per porter is a recommended minimum and it's best to deal separately with porters that carry individuals' bags. Tip porters directly. Some tourists feel that this "ceremony" is degrading for the porters but they themselves feel that it shows appreciation of their work.
Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders
by Hiram Bingham EXPLORATION • 2001
This classic account is a gripping story of exploration, archaeology and natural history and still an outstanding overview of the site itself. With original expedition photographs. Originally published in 1952, the book is still an excellent account, not only of the expedition but also of the site itself.
The Inca Trail, Cuzco & Machu Picchu
By Richard Danbury GUIDEBOOK • 2005
A practical guide to planning and walking the Inca Trail with good maps, lots of travel information, photographs and a brief overview of Inca culture and history. Not just for those hiking the Inca Trail, it's an excellent compact guide to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lima and surroundings. This fully revised second edition includes the seven-to-ten day hike to Vilcabamba
The Incas, People of the Sun
by Carmen Bernard EXPLORATION • 1994
This jewel of a book features hundreds of archival drawings and photographs, a chronology and long excerpts from the journals of early explorers. It's a guide to the ancient monuments, daily life of the Incas, and history of exploration.
The Incas and their Ancestors, The Archaeology of Peru
By Michael Moseley ARCHAEOLOGY • 2001
An outstanding survey of the archaeology of the Inca, Moche and Nasca civilizations. With hundreds of color illustrations and line drawings, it's an in-depth look at the ancient cultures and history of Peru, the best general introduction to the subject.
Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary
by Peter Frost & Jim Bartle. Nuevas Imagenes, Lima, 1998.
Color photos and text about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
by Peter Frost. Nuevas Imagenes, Lima, 1999.
A guide to the Cuzco region with detailed chapters on Machu Picchu and the Inca trail.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Machu Picchu
by Barry Walker, illustrations by Jon Fjeldså. Profonanpe, Lima 2,001.
All the birds you might see (375 species), and everything about them, fully illustrated in color.
Machu Picchu, the Sacred Center
by Johan Reinhard. Instituto Machu Picchu, Lima 2002.
A scholarly look at Machu Picchu by the famous high altitude archaeologist, through the lens of Inca religion and mountain worship
A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru
By James Clements • Noam Shany • Dana Gardner (Illustrator) • Eustace Barnes (Illustrator), 2001
A comprehensive field guide to the birds of Peru with color plates illustrating almost 1,800 species. Long-anticipated, it covers the diversity of birds and habitats from the Amazon to Andes and Pacific coast. Admirably compact, short descriptions of each species focus on identification, habitat and distribution. With a gazetteer of localities and both English and Spanish names.