Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an incredible experience! Walking in the footsteps of the Incas, learning their culture and history, you come to understand that it is truly a pilgrimage leading to Machu Picchu. In order to make the most of your experience, you need to prepare for in order to enjoy to its fullest.
Before setting out to hike the Inca Trail there are a number of preparations you must take.
1) Book your tour. You cannot trek the classic 4D 3N Inca Trail without a guide. There are a limited number of permits available for each day of the trek, and your tour company must buy the permit for you. You can’t show up in Cusco and trek the Inca Trail that week. Plan ahead – Like 4-6 months ahead! We chose Alpaca Expeditions and they were amazing!
2) Book your flights. It’s best to spend two or three days in Cusco before your trek starts. You’ll need that time to acclimatize to the altitude, and also to check out the cool city of Cusco! Also remember that you won’t arrive back to Cusco until night time on day 4, so don’t plan to fly out that night.
3) Book accommodations. There are lots of great hotels and Airbnbs in Cusco. Most hotels will let you keep your extra luggage with them while you are on your trek. We stayed in an Airbnb and our tour company held all of your luggage for us. It was in the van that picked us up from the train station.
4) Prepare physically. Hiking 42km over four days at high altitude is no easy feat. In fact you’ll climb nearly 5000 ft to get to Machu Picchu. You don’t need to be an elite athlete to complete the trek, but it definitely helps to increase your anaerobic and aerobic cardio, as well as leg and core strength.
5) Pack your gear. This is often a stressful part of the preparations. I read a number of blogs and TripAdvisor groups about what exactly to bring on the trek. Our tour company also gave us a list of things to pack that was very helpful. See below for the list of items I brought and recommend!
Most importantly, wear layers! The climate varies along the trek, while the weather can change instantly. So be prepared!