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
Choosing Your Hike
With all the options available to you, how do you know what trek to choose?
First, there are two categories of "treks".
Inca Trail Treks: These treks follow the world-famous Inca Trail. Nearly all of them require a permit issued by the Peruvian government, and are therefore very limited in availability.
Alternative Treks: These treks vary in difficulty and style, do not require a permit and so are easier to book, and are often less crowded than the inca trail.
Inca Trail Trek Options
4-Day and Longer Inca Trail Hikes
Recommended for anyone who is fit. It’s important to note that the hardest day is typically day 2, when traversing through the Dead Woman’s Pass. Permits required and limited.
2-Day Inca Trail
Spend one full day hiking the historic Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu on Day 2. Hiking day still has its challenges, with mostly uphill hiking before lunch. But walking through the Sun Gate for your first view of the ruins make all the hard work worth it. This hike still requires permits, but they are much more available than on the longer version.
Recommended for fit hikers who want to get to the summit of Machu Picchu as soon as possible; repeat travelers who have hiked Machu Picchu before.
7-Day Salkantay and Inca Trail
For those who have a true love for hiking and camping, this 46.7-mile track is a lot more immersive and strenuous – but the most rewarding. Salkantay is the highest peak it in the Vilcabamba mountain range, which is part of the Peruvian Andes.
Recommended for those who want to experience Machu Picchu in its entirety. It’s important to note because of its length and difficulty; this track can only be booked privately.
The Salkantay is one of the more popular track outside of the Inca trail. This is because you’ll be going through several micro-climates with different sceneries in each zone. The 5.5 Day trek path will include two private Alpaca Expeditions campsites and a night camping with views of Machu Picchu.
Recommended for fit hikers who focus on nature and quiet. The scenery can not be matched, but this hike is more challenging than the Inca Trail treks.
The Lares trail starts at the Punta Carretera. It’s an intermediate trail that is about 22 miles long. The trail is unique due to the fact that you’ll experience how the Andean people lived in the past and still do today. It’s a beautiful pass that goes through mountain peaks and natural lake features.
Recommended for hikers who want to immerse themselves in local life as it gives you the unique opportunity to interact with the locals. Note that we do not control their schedule or when they travel through—there is a chance that you may not meet them.
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
Hiking the Inca Trail fully is “possible for all ages as long as you are fit.” The trail is nearly 30 miles long, but incredibly rewarding, especially considering the exhilarating prospect of seeing the lost city of Machu Picchu for your efforts.
Here are fitness & personal care considerations:
- Take your pre-trek training seriously. Start a minimum 2 months in advance if you already have a fitness routine you follow... otherwise consider starting 3 to 6 months before your trek if you don't train actively, or work behind a desk all day long.
- Break in your hiking boots before you go and be familiar with your hiking gear. Breaking in new hiking boots is absolutely critical and is the difference between hiking bliss or hiking blisters. If you are purchasing gear specifically for this trip, spend time with that gear before you’re out using it. Make sure things like day packs and rain gear fit and don’t cause discomfort or annoyance while in use. Small annoyances have a way of growing into the-only-thing-you-can-think-about 8+ miles in. Wear and use the clothes, shoes, packs, sunglasses, sunscreen, underwear that you'll be using on your trek while you train.
- Take care of your toes and feet. They will carry you to Machu Picchu, after all, so get in the habit of cutting your toe nails, and inspecting your feet carefully. Bring toe nail clippers on the trek, too!
Altitude sickness is an unpredictable condition. You might easily think it is just jet lag or feeling under the weather, but if you are in a mountainous region and you start to feel ill, it will most likely be altitude sickness, the effects of which can ruin an enjoyable holiday.
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. The number of oxygen molecules per inhalation decreases. If you live in a place that is positioned at a moderately high altitude, you will get used to the air pressure. But, if you keep climbing to higher heights, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure. As you continue rising without acclimatizing, fluid can build up in the lungs and brain.
There are three forms of altitude sickness:
- Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the mildest form, it is typically what most trekkers experience.
- 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.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
- shortness of breath
- problems with sleep
- low appetite
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.
We encourage all of our trekkers to include at least two days in Cusco before starting their trek for time to acclimate to the new altitude.
Avoid Altitude Sickness
- Stay hydrated! Drinking lots of water really helps to adjust to the altitude
- Arrive in Cusco early and relax in the altitude. This gives your body time to adjust before exertion.
- Take fitness seriously. Ensure that you've properly prepared for your trek at home.
Here are some frequently asked questions about planning a trek with Alpaca Expeditions.
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