One foot, two foot, three foot and four.
Over and over again.
But don’t forget to look up, because it’s beautiful.
The Inca Trail, it hurts but is one of the most rewarding journeys you’ll ever take. You hike past incredible scenery and eventually hit the point where it makes the sweat and blisters worth it – walking through the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time.
I’m going to start all of this off by saying I do not work out. On a daily basis I try convincing myself to go to the gym, but instead I usually go home and browse Netflix or eat a full plate of nachos. This equals out to about one gym session a week. Yet, I still managed to pull this off.
So, you definitely can too.
Long story short, this was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. You go through nearly every emotion from nervousness, to pain to excitement and everything else. The trail itself is pretty intimidating, as the trail is quite narrow and right on the edge of the mountains (which is pretty amazing after you get used to it).
During your journey your guide explains the history of what you’re seeing and you stop at various points to learn about the ruins, what they represent and what happened there. You’ll find the history of the Incas to be both unique and intriguing.
One thing for sure is, you need to be prepared.
You don’t even need to be the most organized person in the world, there’s just some things to definitely keep in mind.
First off, book the Inca Trail in advance.
Some people think this is a myth and I am putting my foot down and saying otherwise. We met some people while in Cusco that waited to book, and to our (not so much) surprise, they weren’t able to book anything before their flight was heading out. So I would definitely recommend booking 6 – 8 months in advance and keep in mind, you always need to go with a tour guide.
There’s also a number of choices when you book the Inca Trail and you don’t have to do the 4-day option despite its popularity. You can do a 5-day, 4-day or 2-day hike. If you’re travelling with people that aren’t big hikers, they can always meet you in Aguas Caliente which is reachable by train and where you can catch a quick bus up to Machu Picchu.
Making this choice will all depend on your physical (and mental) capabilities, but as mentioned above, you don’t need to be the fittest person in the world to do this trek. However, you do need to be prepared for a big challenge and it’s encouraged that you do some training beforehand. The more you train, the easier it will be. There were points where I was exhausted and my good friends who exercise frequently were doing great. The main point here is, you can do it no matter what, but stay realistic and budget your time accordingly.
One thing you do need to pay special consideration towards is the altitude difference and how it’ll affect you. This is something you need to be very aware of as it can have varying effects on everyone and you can’t simply assume it’ll be okay. I saw some travellers who came unprepared and were stuck in their room for a couple of days, if not more as a result.
The great thing is, you can prepare for this very easily! Before heading there, grab some medication to help with the altitude transition. They aren’t very expensive and you doctor will be able to recommend the right kind for you. Try and arrive in Cusco about 3 days prior to starting the Inca Trail to get used to the altitude change. Lastly, never ignore the symptoms of Altitude Sickness, be aware of what they are so you know exactly what’s going on with your body. Below are a few common symptoms:
– Shortness of breath
Generally, most tours begin in Cusco, Peru. Not only would I recommend going there a few days early to get used to the altitude change, but also because this place is truly amazing. There’s lots to see, eat (Green Point restaurant is a must try) and learn. You can also get to Cusco very easily. There’s an airport you can fly into for fairly cheap (depending on where you are) and from Lima it only takes about one hour to get there. Alternatively you can opt to take a bus, but this takes much longer so make sure you time it accordingly. That being said the bus is easily the more affordable option, and you get to experience some incredible scenery.
So now the big question: what do you pack? Below are a few other things I would recommend you bring to maximize your experience on the Inca Trail:
– High quality shoes and socks (slip polypropylene liner under the socks to eliminate delibitating blisters and sweat)
– Music & headphones (this helped motivate me when I would get tired)
– Bug spray
– Sunscreen (you burn easily in thinner air)
– Hand sanitizer
– Extra snacks – most tour companies provide food, but having extra snacks really helped
– Swimsuit top/breathable clothing – it can get really hot, and it’s amazing how much easier this makes it
– Some bandages and disinfectant (just in case)
– A flashlight
– A camera and sufficient memory cards (obviously)
– Baggy shirts (this may be a personal thing, but I’m always far more comfy in shirts that are a bit more loose and breathable)
There you have it, all my tips and tricks on the Inca Trail! I hope this helped you out in some way and you’re ready to hop on that plane, get to Cusco and discover the incredible world of the Incas.