Preparing for the Inca Trail
The Inca Trail provides incredible-looking views, from the titanic Andes mountains extending to the clouds, to tropical forests, to beautiful alpine clearings high in the sky where you can see miles of majesty in every direction.
This unforgettable scenery is maximized when you have the mental and physical tools to feel happy and healthy on the trail. Our team will provide you with all the services and amenities you need for an unforgettable experience, but preparing for the Inca Trail will help you tackle the “uphill climb” that the journey entails.
Want to feel confident on your trek through the Andes? Here are our top tips for preparing for the Inca Trail!
Why Prepare for the Inca Trail?
Hiking the Inca Trail is possible for all ages if you are reasonably fit. The trail is about 26 miles long and incredibly rewarding, especially considering the exhilarating prospect of seeing the lost city of Machu Picchu for your efforts.
Thanks to long days of hiking (can be 6+ hours) and intense altitude changes, this trail is one to work up to. Even seasoned hikers can find the trail challenging – so putting some miles in before the trek will help you summit the steep Andean mountain passes.
The more you prepare, the more satisfaction and comfort you will experience on the trail! Taking time to put one foot in front of the other before your trip helps you decrease your chances of injury or fatigue.
Our team works hard to ensure you have everything you need for a phenomenal experience. But having the right amount of training under your belt will also ensure that you are excited and confident (instead of apprehensive and nervous) before you embark on the journey of a lifetime.
How to Prepare for the Inca Trail
6 Months Before the Inca Trail
Book your trek dates. The Peruvian government limits the daily number of trekkers that can start the Inca Trail and requires special permits, which means that prime hiking dates in June, July and August are often competitive to reserve. We recommend confirming your trip at least six months in advance to land your ideal trek dates.
Don’t see a permit for the time you hope to experience Machu Picchu? Consider an Inca Trail Short 2 Day tour that doesn’t require Inca Trail permits! You can choose from comfortable hotel accommodations or sleeping under the stars at a private campsite for an overnight adventure that includes one day of hiking the Inca Trail and one day experiencing the majesty of Machu Picchu.
Start some short hikes. Once you have your confirmed trip, the preparation can begin! Our most popular Inca Trail trek includes four days of intermediate hiking, so building your strength and fitness levels is key to tackling this challenge. Start with adding regular hikes to your weekly activities. Even walking a few miles a couple of times a week can make a big difference!
3 Months Before the Inca Trail
Incorporate longer hikes. Build your endurance by increasing your hiking distance, frequency and elevation. Start hiking for two days in a row to help your body adjust to hiking with sore muscles. You can also incorporate strength and cross-training like cycling, yoga or swimming to increase cardiovascular endurance and enjoy the trip to the fullest.
Break in new shoes. If you bought some new hiking boots for the trail, start using them now! Breaking in your new shoes is a great way to avoid blisters or foot pain on the path. If you try to break in new hiking shoes any later than this, your feet will probably regret it. When in doubt, stick with your current trail shoes.
We do recommend bringing your older trail shoes along if you start feeling some hotspots with your newer ones on the trail. Hot tip: want to make quick friends on the trek? Be the hero who brings enough moleskin and bandaids to share with others! You might save many feet along the trail.
Check your equipment & buy anything missing. Is there anything you know you want on the trail with you but don’t have yet? From a new hat to a GoPro to a quality water bottle, start researching and buying any new clothing, equipment or tools you may want to bring. Note, Alpaca Expeditions has high quality trekking poles for rent on your tour, as well as sleep kits (sleeping bags, sleeping bag liner, sleeping pad AND pillow!). Remember too, that trekking poles have to be checked luggage, not carry on, as you consider your packing.
1 Month Before the Inca Trail
Start some research into the history and culture of the Inca Trail. Knowledge is among the most important things you’ll want on the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, while beautiful even without knowing the rich and extensive history of the Inca people, become so much more meaningful with this narrative.
Your local, indigenous guide will cover many stories on the trail to add even more magic and intrigue to the views, but building your context to the areas will help you connect the dots much faster. So, take the time to study your history and culture before taking this incredible journey.
1-2 Weeks Before The Inca Trail
Pack your bag. There are two types of trekkers – one that packs weeks and months before, and the other that packs at the last minute. No matter what type you are, make sure you have your pack ready to go about a week before your trip!
We recommend starting the packing process even earlier – a month in advance. It may seem early, but packing your bag over a few weeks is a great way to know if you have everything you need for the Inca Trail. You can also confirm that everything you want to bring will fit. And, of course, seeing your packed bag in the corner will only increase your anticipation for your upcoming adventure!
Purchase any last-minute items. We all have things we forget about until the last minute! Now is a great time to buy the last-minute bug spray, sunscreen, or chapstick you’ll sorely miss on the trail.
2-3 Days Before The Inca Trail – Acclimate in Cusco!
Acclimate to the altitude. Spending a few days in Cusco before hopping on the trail to maximize your comfort when climbing the tall Inca Trail peaks. Even relaxing and taking it easy strolling the city will help your body adjust to the new heights you will tackle. It’s really important to fly into Peru at least 2 days before your trek if you can, to acclimate properly.
When reaching the highest point of the trail, at almost 14,000 feet, travelers can expect fantastic views through the Andes but also may experience a bit of nausea or fatigue. Many travelers celebrate the end of this high-altitude portion of the trail with a “quick high-five and a photography session” before continuing on their way.
A great way to acclimate to the altitude before your trek is by doing a the Sacred Valley day tour. This day trip is lower in altitude than Cusco and involves walking around historical sites so that you can complete some acclimatization prep with great views and mild hiking.
Consciously hydrate. Properly hydrating will ensure your systems perform at peak conditions when you exert serious energy on the trail. Prioritize sipping water while you acclimate to the altitude to hit the trail feeling as healthy as possible. Don’t overdo it though.
Focus on quality sleep. Did you know getting good sleep for a few nights before this big adventure is just as important (if not more) than a good sleep the night before? Make sure to prioritize your sleep for at least two days before your trek to feel as rested and invigorated as possible when you lace up for the hike.
The Day Before The Inca Trail – in Cusco
Confirm your final checklist. Now is the last chance you have for last-minute purchases! Double-triple-check our packing list to ensure you have everything you need, including passports, IDs and student cards. If you need help finding some shops for last-minute purchases in Cusco, our Alpaca team can point you in the right direction and help you find everything you need.
Stretch well. Get some easy stretches in the night before to limber up your body and prepare your muscles for the first leg of the trip.
Get a good night’s sleep. Now is not the time for a late night! Head to bed early and get as much sleep as possible – it’s an early morning, and you’ll want to be fully awake for the exciting adventure you are starting in just a few hours.
Follow these tips, and preparing for the Inca Trail will be a breeze. So get ready for an unforgettable experience in the magic of the Andes!
To plan your Peru adventure and to learn more about preparing for the Inca Trail hike, get in touch with Alpaca Expeditions. From friendly guides to thoughtful porters to talented chefs, our team will ensure you have the best possible time on the Inca Trail.
For more helpful information, check out our Guide to Hiking to Machu Picchu and the Top 50 Questions about the Inca Trail.
Alpaca Expeditions Recognitions
ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
In the pursuit to stand out from the rest, Alpaca Expeditions has obtained four ISOs plus our carbon footprint certificate to date. These achievements result from our efforts to implement the internationally-recognized integrated management system. They also represent our commitment to all of our clients and staff of operating sustainability and responsibility in every way possible.