Start Here: Choosing Your Hike
Are you ready to plan your Inca Trail journey to some of the most awe-inspiring sights of Peru?
We're taking the guesswork out of the process for you; start here to plan the best Inca Trail trek for you—including choosing your hike, information on permits & tickets, fitness & altitude sickness, and FAQs.
CHOOSING YOUR INCA TRAIL TREK
CHOOSING YOUR HIKE
Welcome to Alpaca Expeditions!
We've put together the key information you need to make an educated decision on the trekking options that are right for you.
INCA TRAIL TREKS
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is generally believed to be one of the best hikes the world has to offer. It is also one of the most approachable, as you do not need any particular skill to be able to complete. Some good health and fitness will help you get from the trailhead to the end, Machu Picchu.
The government has sanctioned a small portion of the thousands of miles of Inca Trail preserved for this hike.
There is a longer version for those trying to make it more challenging - a 7-Day trek that combines the Salkantay pass with the Inca Trail.
Short 2-Day Option
2-Day Trek is one day of hiking and one day spent at Machu Picchu. Permits typically available.
How to Choose the Right Trek for You?
We know you want to have the best vacation you can in the magnificent country of Peru. We understand that you are hoping to find the perfect trek that will take you on an amazing experience to Machu Picchu. At Alpaca Expeditions, we do our very best to help you choose which route is best for you, but no matter which trek you do with us, we assure you that you will have an amazing time.
The Inca Trail
Alternative treks to the Inca Trail are available. Due to the strict permit process for the Inca Trail, these first became popular for those who were not able to secure a permit. Now, people recognize some real advantages to the alternative treks.
Compared to the Inca Trail:
Of course there are several differences between the Inca Trail and other treks. One being, the amount of ruins you pass along the way. However, the main difference is that the Inca Trail is the only hike that allows you to walk directly through the Sun Gate, into the Machu Picchu. Everyone else must enter through the main gates of the citadel. Once inside, you are always able to walk to the Sun Gate and get that view from above (for free), but it will not be your first view of the ruins.
The alternative treks that end at Machu Picchu, will all spend one evening in a hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes, the village below Machu Picchu. Your Machu Picchu day will begin with a bus trip from Aguas Calientes up to the ruins (about 25 minutes), and these buses are first come, first serve. It is possible to hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, but you will still need to enter through the main gate.
Pros of the Alternative treks:
Even though they are growing in popularity, it is still likely that you will hike through the Andes with only your group. The roads are not crowded with tourists, and you are visiting places that can only be reached by foot.
Also, for those interested in nature, these treks are often more beautiful. Each one offers something special, like heading to Salkantay Pass by the glaciers, or to local villages with the Lares Trek. Treks like Choquekiraw or Vilcabamba visit other tremendous and important Incan citadels.
PERMITS & TICKETS
ABOUT INCA TRAIL PERMITS
In order to hike the Inca Trail you need a PERMIT.
Permits are controlled through the Ministry of Culture of Peru, and can only be purchased by an INCA TRAIL TOUR OPERATOR, like Alpaca Expeditions. We purchase this permit on your behalf once you make your booking.
The following information has been collected in order to help you better understand this process, and what it means for your trip planning.
4, 5, and 7-Day Inca Trail Treks
There are only 500 permits available for longer treks (4, 5, and 7-day). Because EVERYONE needs a permit, including crew, they sell out very fast. The government shares how many permits are still available in real time, which we share on our Inca Trail availability page.
2-Day Inca Trail Treks
Permits for the short Inca Trail treks are on a separate permitting process and are generally always available, including 2-Day with Camping and 2-Day with Hotel Stay. Get in touch with us and we'll be glad to help you organize the perfect trek for any experience level!
ABOUT MACHU PICCHU TICKETS
Visiting the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu requires purchasing an entrance ticket.
Tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased before arrival, as tickets are not sold at Machu Picchu itself. They allow you to explore the main grounds or hike up one of its two mountains–like Machu Picchu mountain or Huaynapicchu—for up to 4 hours.
What does this time restriction on tickets mean for you?
If you plan on visiting Machu Picchu at sunrise, but then want to participate in a tour, it means you will need to purchase two entrance tickets for the day.
How do you purchase tickets?
We can book your hike and/or entrance, and handle all of the details for you. Give us a shout and let's get this once-in-a-lifetime experience booked for you!
FITNESS & ALTITUDE SICKNESS
Fitness & Altitude Sickness
Let's talk about how to properly prepare for your upcoming trek!
Below is a chart of our treks, along with how long they take, the distance hiked, maximum and minimum elevation, and difficulty. Please note that all treks are physically demanding and require a good fitness level—and "easy" is not just a walk in the park.
Classic Inca Trek Ratings
|Treks||Distance Hiked||Max. Elevation||Min. Elevation||Fitness Level||Difficulty|
|Inca Trail 4 Day||28 miles/45 kms||13,779 ft/4200 mts||6,725 ft/2050 mts||Average||Moderate|
|Inca Trail 5 Day||28 miles/45 kms||13,779 ft/4200 mts||6,725 ft/2050 mts||Average||Moderate|
|Inca Trail 2 Day with Camping||9.3 miles/15 kms||8,923 ft/2720 mts||6,233 ft/1900 mts||Average||Easy to Moderate|
|Inca Trail 2 Day with Hotel||6.8 miles/11 kms||8,923 ft/2720 mts||6,889 ft/2100 mts||Average||Easy to Moderate|
|Salkantay & Inca Trail Expedition 7D/6N||46.7 miles/75 kms||17,060 ft/5200 mts||9,842 ft/3000 mts||Fit||Difficult|
Alternative Trek Ratings
|Treks||Total Days||Distance Hiked||Max. Elevation||Min. Elevation||Difficulty|
|Salkantay & Humantay Lake Trek||5.5 Days/5 Nights||36 miles/59 kms||15,157 ft/4620 mts||5,413 ft/1650 mts||Difficult|
|Salkantay Trek||4 Days/3 Nights||25 miles/41 kms||15,157 ft/4620 mts||5,413 ft/1650 mts||Difficult|
|Lares Trek||4 Days/3 Nights||22 miles/35 kms||15,355 ft/4680 mts||6,561ft/2050 mts||Moderate|
|Lares & 2 Day Inca Trail||5 Days/4 Nights||Moderate|
|Huchuy Qosqo Trek||3 Days/2 Nights||13 miles/21 kms||13,615 ft/4150 mts||6,561 ft/2050 mts||Easy|
|Humantay Blue Lagoon Hike **||1 Day||Moderate|
|Painted Hill Hike **||1 Day||Challenging|
|Choquequirao & Machu Picchu Trek||8 Days/7 Nights||33 miles/53 kms||11,154 ft/3400 mts||10,498 ft/3200 mts||Moderate/Difficult|
|Choquequirao Trek **||5 Days/4 Nights||33 miles/53 kms||11,154 ft/3400 mts||10,498 ft/3200 mts||Moderate/Difficult|
** Denotes that the tour does not go to Machu Picchu.
Occasionally referred to as mountain sickness, altitude sickness is mainly caused by walking or climbing to a higher altitude too quickly or staying at that height for too long. When you go to higher elevations, the air pressure surrounding you drops, and there is less oxygen available. Your body needs time to adjust to the change in pressure.
There are three forms of altitude sickness:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the mildest form, it is prevalent.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is the accumulation of fluid in the lungs that can be very risky.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is the most severe kind of altitude sickness and occurs when there is fluid in the brain.
The severity of altitude sickness symptoms depends on several factors, including the age, weight, blood pressure, and overall fitness of an individual. How fast a person climbs to 8,000 feet and the amount of time spent at a high altitude are also contributing factors.
- Shortness of breath
- Problems with sleep
- Low appetite
- Loss of coordination
These symptoms usually show within twelve to twenty-four hours of reaching a higher elevation and then get better within a day or two as your body acclimatizes to the altitude change.
If the symptoms you feel get more intense and are characterized by a cough, confusion, and loss of coordination, you have developed a severe form: either HAPE or HACE. These forms of altitude sickness require medical attention immediately as well as moving to a lower altitude.
How to Prepare for the Elevation
The best way to prepare is to ensure you're in good physical condition prior to your trek—and to plan to spend 2 days, at a minimum, in Cusco prior to your trek to give your body the chance to acclimatize.
Hydration is another important part of helping minimize and/or avoid altitude sickness; it also prevents you from suffering dehydration. Many people will never experience severe dehydration, so they won’t be prepared for what it’s like. Among other things, it can give people a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing patterns, and a fever. Developing these symptoms under any circumstances would be terrible, but people who experience problems like this during a challenging hike in a relatively remote area will be in a particularly difficult situation.
Here are some frequently asked questions about planning a trek with Alpaca Expeditions.
Have more questions? Need help?
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