The Inca Trail Hike – Logistics, Tips and Training

If you are planning a trip to Peru and are in two minds about hiking the Inca trail, let us help you … JUST DO IT!! You can thank us later. Sleeping under the star-studded skies in the midst of the Andes is an experience of a lifetime. Climbing a mountain is exhilarating, it’s man against rock, and conquering its summit is rewarding to say the least. In this case, your prize is the first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the sun gate at dawn. Watching the sunrise over the lost city is a moment we will cherish forever.

macchu pichuSun rising over Machu Picchu

Being a little nervous before the hike is normal. Most people wonder if they are strong enough to hike for 4 days at a stretch. We certainly did better than we thought and learnt that we are stronger than we think, which is a great feeling 🙂  If we can do it so can you.

A few logistics to consider before booking your hiking adventure:

  • The total hiking distance of the Inca trail is 42.5 km/26.5 miles.
  • Expect to hike about 8 to 10 hours everyday with several breaks.
  • There are a lot of stone steps on this hike; a lot!
  •  The highest elevation on the hike is 4250 m/13779 ft. Give yourself a few days in Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude and carry altitude sickness pills as a backup.
  • You need to book the hike 4-5 months in advance. The Peruvian government only allow 2500 visitors each day to Machu Picchu, the earlier you book the better.
  • The company you choose can make all the difference, do your research and read reviews before you choose your hiking company. We chose Llama Path which came recommended from a friend and were very pleased with them.
  • Make sure you clarify payment requirements with the company. Get answers to questions like – Can I pay by credit card/Paypal/check or do I need to make a cash payment? We were running around in Cusco trying to arrange a large sum of cash for the payment – not fun. We needed to make the full payment 48 hours before the trip.
  • There are plenty of rest stops and toilets on the way, so don’t stress.
  • Be prepared to squat in the toilet 😛 You will be doing your business in a hole in the ground.
  • You can fill your water bottles/camelbaks in the morning and at lunch, we never ran out of water.
  • There is some shade on the trail, but you will be getting a lot of sun so sunscreen up, wear hats and consider buying omni-shade or sun protective clothing
  • Coldest temperature on the hike is about zero degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check visa and other requirements here before you book your trip.
  • The best months for the Inca Trail hike are from May to September during the dry season in Peru, which means you will get less rain. We did the hike in August and it rained almost every night, which is expected.

Training for the hike:

Meet your new best friend – the stair climber. Musu and I were not in the best shape when we booked this hike. I trained for less than a month and all I did was the stair climber and treadmill for 30 minutes each, 5 times a week. Musu primarily worked out on the treadmill and added a few lunges and squats to his workouts to strengthen those legs. We tried to get out on the weekends to do some hiking. Try to find hikes in your area that would give you an opportunity for some uphill training, I would recommend carrying a small day-pack with water and some of the items you would carry on the hike, to give you a feel for the hike. You really don’t need a crazy workout regime to survive this hike, just some uphill training and a decent endurance. We had folks in our group who had never hiked before in their life, and they did fine.

The orientation:

Expect to check in with the hiking company at least 24 hours before the hike. We went to the Llama Path office as soon as we got to Cusco (2 days before the hike), spoke to our guides, and made the rest of the payment. On the following day you meet for a 1 hour orientation where the guides introduce themselves and give a brief presentation on what to expect on the hike. You will also meet your fellow hikers here for the first time who will be your besties for the next 4-5 days. This is a good time to rent any last-minute gear like hiking poles etc. They give you a duffel bag to pack all your stuff in which you hand to the ‘mighty’ porters before you start the hike. Oh yes! Porters are a must, there is no way we would have made it without them. You can choose to hire a full or a half porter, a full porter carries 14 kilos and costs about $150 and a half porter would be the half of that. We had one full porter between the two of us. Hiring a porter is a no-brainer, unless you’re an experienced hiker and have done this a bunch of times.

Packing essentials:

For a complete packing list see The Ultimate Packing Guide for the 4 day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu. We have compiled a tried and tested list for all you adventure enthusiasts.

Contact us if you have any questions about the hike by leaving us a comment below.

Happy hiking!!


  1. Super helpful! Bookmarked for next year. 🙂

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