Even though it’s just one among a multitude of paths across the Andes, the fabulous treasure of Machu Picchu at the end of its 43km path makes the Inca Trail the world’s most famous trek. If you are reasonably fit and can dedicate at least four days to the experience, arriving on foot along the Inca Trail offers the most atmospheric and rewarding option.
Inca Trail Essentials
It’s important to make time to acclimatize to the altitude before tackling the Inca Trail or any other high Andean trek, especially if you’ve flown straight up from sea level.
For a basic Inca Trail tour a reasonable price is from around $350 (low season) to as much as $600 (high season) for a standard three- or four-day trek. Some agency prices include things like transport or entry to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu in their price, and others add this as an extra, so check details before booking.
Porters and equipment:
Trekking companies will organize porters and maybe mules to help carry equipment. So many people walk this route every year that toilets have now been built, and hikers are strongly urged to take all their rubbish away with them – there’s no room left for burying any more tin cans. Porters are used by most trekking companies and they normally charge a minimum wage of at least $10 a day for carrying up to 25 kilos.
Rules and restrictions:
The sanctuary authorities have imposed a limit of a maximum of four hundred people a day on the Inca Trail. In addition, it is mandatory for trekkers to go with a tour or licensed guide. Be aware that within these guidelines you must only camp at a designated site.
When to go:
May is the best month to venture on a hike here, with clear views, fine weather and verdant surroundings. Between June and September it’s usually a pretty cosmopolitan stretch of mountainside, with travellers from all over the globe converging on Machu Picchu the hard way, but from mid-June to early August the trail is simply very busy (and the campsites noisy), especially on the last stretch. From October until April, in the rainy season, it’s less crowded but also, naturally, quite a bit wetter. Locals will tell you that the best time to hike the trail is during a full moon, and it certainly adds a more romantic, even mystical feeling to your journey.