The Machu Picchu hike along the Inca Trail of Peru draws millions of travelers every year. It’s one of the most iconic treks on our planet. For myself, hiking to Machu Picchu was the highlight of my South American journey.
Yes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is busy, and yes, it feels like a tourist trap, but there is still no escaping the magic that one feels when standing among the ancient stones. This feeling is only enhanced by trekking up the original pilgrimage route to reach the site. The route we now call the Inca Trail.
To help you prepare for your perfect Inca Trail experience, I have written my top 8 tips to help you on your Machu Picchu hike.
Hiking The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Tips
1. Best time to hike Machu Picchu
In the Peruvian Andes, you generally get two seasons.
- April till October is considered the dry season.
- November through to March is considered the wet season (although warmer).
- May to September is considered the best time to trek because of the dry days. But I disagree.
April to Oct: Tourists literally flock to Machu Picchu during the dry season and this can be somewhat off-putting.
Nov – March: Yes, the wet season is wet, but if you can get past that, then you’ll have a far more tranquil experience hiking to Machu Picchu than you would during the peak season.
The Best Time: My favorite time is late March when the days are getting drier and the place isn’t swarming with tourists.
Unless you enjoy getting soaked avoid trekking in December and January.
The Inca Trail is closed in February.
2. Book your Machu Picchu hike early
Book early. I really can’t stress this enough.
While Machu Picchu allows thousands in a day, the Inca Trail does not.
Only a strict amount of tourists are allowed on the trail to Machu Picchu each day.
Book 6 Months in Advance
To make sure you get your ticket, you’re going to want to book 6 months in advance if you’re planning on trekking during the peak season.
Even if you plan on going during the wet season you’ll need to book at least 3 months in advance.
The last time I trekked the trail I witnessed a Dutch couple in floods of tears because they hadn’t booked in advance.
Alternate Hikes to Machu Picchu
If worst comes to worst, you can always trek another route to Machu Picchu such as the Inca Jungle Trek or the Lares Trail.
Only the Inca Trail requires you to book early.
3. Train before your trek to Machu Picchu
The classic Machu Picchu trek takes only 3 days. H But you’ll be trekking for nearly 7 hours each day which does take it out of you. On top of this, you need to cross Dead Woman’s Pass standing at 4,215m (13,828 ft).
I’m a fairly fit young chap, but that pass had me breathing so hard I had to stop several times. No, you don’t need to be superman to complete the trek, but having a decent fitness level will increase your enjoyment that much more.
I would advise doing as many day treks as you can in the months leading up to your trek to build up your cardio level.
4. Acclimatize properly to the elevation
Landing in Cusco I felt absolutely nothing. I took a taxi to my hostel, I had a nice dinner and I went to sleep. But the next morning was another story.
Altitude Sickness on the Inca Trail
I awoke with a splitting headache and stayed in bed for most of the day. The kind lady who ran the hostel made me some nice coco leaf tea, which apparently wards away altitude sickness. Although it didn’t cure me, I did feel a little better.
Tips to acclimate to altitude
If I was to go back I would have taken a bus down into the Sacred Valley, stayed in the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo, and acclimatized properly over a few days before tackling the Inca Trail.
5. Get the right gear for The Inca Trail
The temperature actually stays fairly level throughout the year, hanging around the 20-degree mark during the day and 4/5 degrees at night. If you’re trekking during the dry season I would still bring a lightweight waterproof breathable jacket, and if you’re trekking during the wet season then it’s a must.
On top of this, you need to avoid cotton clothing and bring trekking clothes that are made from a high-wicking material.
I remember feeling constantly damp in the muggy atmosphere and was super relieved not to be wearing jeans or cotton shirts. Make sure you bring a good fleece, a warm jacket and base layer for the cold nights and mornings.
6. Pack insect repellent
I made the serious mistake of not bringing insect repellent on my trek to Machu Picchu. The flies on the trek are big, bad and annoying. The bites I obtained on the trek became itchy and quite painful and did not disappear for a few months!
Make sure to get a reliable repellent brand that has a high Deet content – greater than 90% is ideal. Chuck a fresh coating on twice a day and stay vigilant.
7. Get comfy at night
A good night’s sleep on the Inca Trail is a must. Walking for 7 hours a day requires all your strength and you seriously don’t want a sleepless or uncomfortable night during the trail. Having proper gear and equipment to rest well at night is a must.
I chose to bring my own warm sleeping bag, blow up pillow and Thermarest mat. Having my own sleeping bag was a great feeling and the others in my group looked longingly at my Thermarest mat, which kept me nicely comfortable on the hard ground.
What to pack for Hiking the Inca Trail:
- Warm lightweight sleeping bag
- Fleece jacket or lightweight down jacket
- a breathable waterproof outer shell
- This socks – for sleeping
- Merino Wool base layer
- Good hiking boots that are broken in in advance
I can’t stress how important it is to choose the right sleeping gear to keep you comfortable. w Whether it’s an inflatable pad or foam mattress choose one that’s small and light enough not to be too much of a burden on the trail.
Warning – you may get jealous onlookers.
8. Enjoy the Machu Picchu trail
It may sound obvious, but I saw so many people huffing and puffing and generally looking down at their feet as they walked.
Remember where you are, remember to stop and take in the views, and remember to enjoy the Machu Picchu hike.
Yes, you may get tired, yes, you may get wet and uncomfortable, but you will probably only do this amazing experience once – so make the most of it.
The ancient ruins, deep rainforest and perfectly sculptured stone continue to amaze and delight visitors from all over the world.
Planning resources for your next Peru Vacation
- Rainbow Mountain: What To Expect When Hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru
- Food: 5 Authentic Cusco Restaurants Where You Can Eat Like A Local
- Cusco: Top Three Little Known Hiking Day Trips in Cusco, Peru
- Iquitos: Things to do in Iquitos, Peru – A Gateway to the Amazon
- Amazon Cruise: What to Expect on an Amazon River Cruise – Life on the River
- Amazon River: 10 Reasons to Visit the Amazon River
- Facts About Peru: Fun Facts About Peru You Never Knew
- Things to do: 21 Of The Best Things To Do In Peru In 2021
- Paracas: Paracas Peru – Adventures In The California Desert
9 thoughts on “Machu Picchu Hiking Tips – How To Hike the Inca Trail”
I love your blog and the way you write it; a tip when I travel is that the climate of Machu Picchu is very changeable, and they even told me that I had to be lucky to be able to see it in all its splendor and they recommended some tips and my trip was unique and unforgettable.
Thanks for taking the time to write this. lots of info, that I’m sure is going to be useful. looking forward to this excursion. Are their any trekking company you recommend a solo guy booking through?
Are there any recommendations on selecting the best tour guides? I simply have no idea where to begin
Machu Picchu is both a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the site of an ancient Inca city, high in the Andes of Peru. Since its discovery in 1911, growing numbers of tourists have visited the site each year. As Peru’s most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually exposed to economic and commercial forces. Discover the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu with expert private Photographer Guide Photo Tours Peru, who’ll make the ruins come alive with history, and enjoy the scenery of the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, Ausangate Hike, Salkantay trek, Lares trek. You’ll get up close to ancient cultures and awe-inspiring natural wonders in the company of local Guides whose passion for their country is contagious. Your luxury trip to Peru can include as much or as little as you like. I have planned to go for a trip to Peru with the help of a premier adventure company, an accomplished with the Photo Tours Peru guide.
Thanks & regards
Wonderful post. I loved to travel to Machu Picchu. It is an awesome place. You guys are lucky to travel to this admirable destination.
Appreciate it for sharing this incredible post.
this is an amazing place to visit. i would definitely take some time to visit these places.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, full of great insight and tips! The photos and your experiences are awesome! Continue to be an “Unstoppable Traveler” and sharing with the rest of us!
Great tips. I have done MP and HP. I would add that the best time to tour MP is at sunrise or just before closing. Otherwise, the ruins are like an anthill of tour group stumbling upon another tour group all speaking different languages and tour guides with their flags. You may be interested in checking out my blog and books: http://heidisiefkas.com/blog/ I’m all about inspiring others to think outside of the cubicle, travel more, and live a life full of adventure.
Great post! I wouldn’t have thought about the insect repellant. And the booking 6 months in advance. I’ll definitely have to add this one to the bucket list, thanks for the tips! love the blog by the way! ~ Darren @ everydayharts.com