Inca Trail FAQ

We have answered the most common Inca Trail FAQ below. However, if you have any other questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-268-9753 or email us at

When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The dry season, which runs from April to October is the best time (and most popular) to hike because of the milder daytime temperatures and lower chance of rain. You will need to make your reservations 3-6 months in advance if you want to be assured of space during this time. During the rainy season, the Trail is less crowded and less advance time is required for reservations. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February each year.

Do I need to be physically fit to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Yes. You will be hiking 26 miles over four days in altitude ranging from 8,200 ft above sea level (Chilca , 2,500 m) to 13,776 ft (Warmiwañuska, 4,200 m). The high altitude (lack of oxygen), walking up and down stairs, and temperature extremes (warm days and cold nights), make this a physically challenging experience. If you are physically fit and spend a minimum of two days in the Cuzco region to acclimatize prior to your hike, you should be fine.

Should I be concerned about altitude sickness?

When traveling to higher elevations, there is a risk of getting altitude sickness, but it is not possible to predict who will get it. Most experts believe it has more to do with genetics than physical fitness. The best way to avoid or reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness is to rest for 1-2 days upon arrival at altitude, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid alcohol and heavy food intake. We suggest that you discuss your travel plans and personal health with your physician before traveling.

What should I bring for the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu?

We suggest that you bring the following items: Passport, money belt ($100 USD, $100 S.), backpack (day pack if hiring a personal porter), flashlight (spare bulbs and batteries), camera (spare film), comfortable, worn-in, hiking shoes, hat, sunscreen +30spf, lip balm, sun glasses, gloves, one pair long pants (zip off), one pair shorts, two t-shirts, one long-sleeved t-shirt, underwear and socks, thermal underpants and shirt, fleece jacket, warm jacket, swimsuit for Aguas Calientes (bring a towel from your local hotel), plastic poncho (can be purchased in Cuzco), Swiss army knife, plastic bags (sealable, to keep your possessions dry), personal medicinals (biodegradable soap and dish, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, shaving gear, deodorant, towel), contact lens fluids/glasses, basic first aid kit (aspirin or acetaminophen, Lomotil or Imodium for diarrhea, bandages and Band-Aids, Benadryl or other antihistamine, Calamine lotion), sanitary hand wipes, snacks (chocolates, dried fruit, energy bars), refillable water bottle (1.5 liters), water purification tablets (Micropur), insect repellent (containing DEET), toilet paper (important), optional: flip flops (for the shower), sleeping bag (3 season, which can be rented in Cuzco for $12), playing cards, wooden walking stick.

What do I need to carry?

You will need to carry all of the items on the packing checklist, unless you hire a personal porter. If you hire a personal porter, he will carry up to 11 lbs., which will cover your sleeping bag, extra clothing, and other items. You should be able to fit everything else into a day pack.

If I bring my own sleeping bag, what kind should I bring?

Down-filled bags are lighter, and mummy-style bags insulate most effectively and are your best choice for colder, high-elevation conditions. Most sleeping bags have a temperature or comfort rating, which indicates the lowest temperature that the bag is designed to accommodate. For the Inca Trail, we recommend a 3-season bag, which has a temperature rating of 10-35° Fahrenheit. If you don’t want to bring your own sleeping bag, you can rent a 3-season sleeping bag in Cusco for +/- $12.

What equipment does South American Vacations supply?

We supply single and double occupancy sleeping tents (wind and water-proof), a bathroom tent, a kitchen tent, a dining tent, tables, chairs, and comfortable mattresses. Our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hikes typically include the cost of personal porters.

Are bathrooms and shower facilities available on the Inca Trail?

All of the larger campsites have toilet blocks with flush toilets and running water. We provide you with a bathroom tent as well. If you need to defecate between campsites, the only option is to go outdoors. (Since we cannot assure you that toilet paper will be available, we strongly suggest that you bring your own). There are hot shower facilities at Winay Wayna on Day 3, for a small fee, but most of the people take showers upon their arrival in Aguas Calientes.

How is drinking water supplied?

You can buy bottled water in Cusco or at the start of the hike at km 82/88. Boiled/treated water will be available during the hike. You can also refill your water bottle in the mountain springs that you will pass during the hike, but you will need to use your water purification tablets and wait 40 minutes before drinking.

What kind of food is served during the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu?

The day-by-day menu varies, but usually includes eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, soups, chicken, beef, and/or fish with rice and other vegetables, milk, coffee, tea, and other refreshments, and snacks consisting of fresh fruit, cookies, and chocolate. A vegetarian menu is also available, and we can accommodate other special dietary requirements upon request.

Where do I leave the rest of my luggage and other items that I am not taking on the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu?

You will leave the items that you are not taking on the hike at your hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley, depending upon your itinerary.

Should I tip the porters, cooks, and guides?

The porters, cook, and guides expect to be tipped at the end of the trip. The rules of thumb are as follows: $6 per porter, $10 for the cook, $20 for the guide, and $15 for the assistant guide. You will need to do some basic math in order to compute the amount that each person in the group should contribute, since the size of the group and the number of porters can vary. If you hired a personal porter, you will need to pay him a tip yourself.

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