We made it! Machu Picchu
We made it! Machu Picchu

9 Tips for Hiking the Inca Tail.

If you're going to hike the Inca Trail there are a few things you will need to know, or will wish you had known before you set off.

Make sure you pick the right time of year and check the weather forecast! We hiked the Inca Trail in March, "The Monsoon Season" apparently, although we had very little rain on the trail. I think we were very, VERY lucky.

You might want to take a few minutes before (or after) reading this post to have a look at my Inca Trail post, as it will help put some of these tip into context.

Recommended Reading: 4 Days, 3 Nights, and a 49km Hike on the Inca Trail: It might have almost killed me and my mum, but it was the highlight of time in Peru.

So without further ado, here are my tips for surviving The Inca Trail.

Before you go:

1. Visit the Inca Museum and the Machu Picchu Museum.

The history of the Inca Empire, the discovery of Machu Picchu right up to modern day is all covered at these two museums. It's really great to know some of the history about the site and ruins along the trail before you start the hike. If you only have time for one I'd recommend the Machu Picchu Museum, as there are lost of easy to digest videos and clips that tell you about the place you are going to visit.

2. Don't hire what you can buy for less.

We were able to buy sleeping bags and hiking poles for a third of the price that the tour operator was offering to rent them to us. Our logic was we could use them once and pass them on to someone else.

It is also worth remembering for every sleeping bag, pole, mattress or duffle bag that isn't return in the condition it was hired in YOUR GUIDE (not you) will be penalised and fined out of their already meager wages.

3. Rest at altitude.

You'll read this everywhere. The hike is tough anyway and the altitude can be really harsh even if you have rested for a few days prior to setting off. We broke up the journey a little, with 2 days in Arequipa at 2600m and a few days in Cusco before the hike.

Even if you do have time acclimatise make sure visit one of the many pharmacies and buy some altitude sickness tablets. They work, and are so cheap, you might as well take some with you.

The Crew
The Crew, Machu Picchu

On the trail:

4. Wear in your boots.

New boots are a big no no! Make sure you have some think socks and have broken them in before you set off on the trail. Despite my mum wearing her boots in for four months before the hike, they still caused her some problems, particularly on the third day which is all down hill.

5. Take Vicks Vapour Rub.

You won't regret it! It really does help to clear your airways while you are on the trail. I had decided to use to four days in the wilderness as the impetus to stop smoking, and on the second day developed a cough that almost shook the mountain down. Having some Vicks with me really helped loosen things up and help me breath.

6. Drink lots of water.

Again, you will hear this everywhere, but it's hard to know exactly how much "lots" is. A general rule of thumb is 1 litre every 2 hours. And don't worry, there are plenty of places to stop for the toilet en route.

7. Take the recommended amount for tipping (and then some).

As a Brit, and a Northerner at that, I don't really understand the culture of tipping I'm getting better, but the etiquette for who to tip, who not to, and how much really is lost on me. However there was no question that the team of porters deserved every penny when it came to tipping. The group gave a collective tip to the cooks and porters of $36 or s/120 per person, if you are a bigger group and there is are more porters they will almost certainly deserve a little bit more.

Well deserved beer
Well deserved beer

After the trek:

8. Take a day off.

Make sure you give yourself a day to unwind. You might want to extend your trip a little and have an extra night in Aguas Calientes and enjoying the thermal pools, or you might just want to head back to Cusco and spend the day in bed watching Netflix.

Some of our group went back to Machu Picchu the following day to do another (smaller) climb. Whatever your interpretation of unwind happens to be, make sure you allow for it at the end of your trek.

9. Have a full body massage.

You will notice plenty of people around Cusco offering fully-body, hot stone, Inca Massages for anything from s/20 – s/100. My advice would be to spend the time to find somewhere you like, and haggle a little, but after 4 days roughing it and pushing your body to the limit, a little bit of pamper time will go down a treat.

Have you done the Inca Trail?
What are your top tips?

The Inca Trail was an absolute blast and one of the best things I did on my South American trip, and possibly one of the best things I have ever done in my LIFE! I have written a longer blog post about my adventures on the trail, which you might want to check out too.

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19 Comments on “

  1. Such useful tips (especially for beginners) to conquer the Inca trail! A full body massage sounds definitely like a good way to rewind after the hike. I am saving this now for future reference 😉

  2. I like the last tip:) Full day massage and taking day off would be definitely something I would need as my body hurts now when I walk all day long and we walk about few days of hiking here : ) Inca Trail is one of my dreams and I can’t wait to start planning it soon! Thank you for those unseal tips and great recommendation!

  3. I haven’t done the Inca Trail yet, another one on my ever-growing bucket list. Love your tips for going too. My first altitude trek I suffered with a swollen, puffy face so I’d definitely take meds to help with this!

  4. One of my dreams is to do the Inca Trail and I really hope I will be able to do it soon. I have the same problem as you when it comes to tipping. I never know how much to tip, so I always try to ask around other tourists and have an idea about it.

    Thanks for sharing these tips 🙂

  5. I have not yet made it to the Inca Trail but these are some amazing tips. I had no idea the guides would be penalised if you equipment is not returned in the same state as your rented it in, which worries me hugely, especially as when out in the elements anything can happen!

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty mean, considering how little they get paid. One of our guides was working to put his sister through collage. They were such lovely guys.

  6. I was in Peru quite a few years ago and about a week before I got to Cuzco there was flooding at Aguas Calientes and I couldn’t go. Some good tips about what to take and how to tip. Buying your sleeping bag instead of renting was the most useful tip!

    1. There was flooding in Peru when we were there, not in Cusco though. It was a really great week – worth a trip back if you can make it.

    1. Yes a massage really is all you have energy for the next day. And there are literally 100’s of people offering them. You can get a pretty good deal!

  7. Oh, why didn’t you post some more photos of this site? Truly, I am disappointed…ha ha haha…India had had a long tie with South America…our sunflowers actually came from there.

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