There are some adventures where it is all about the destination, and some where it is all about the journey. When you decide to travel one of the most famous trails in the world, the Inca Trail, that is one of those times where you get both. If you plan on heading to Peru then you have got to include the hiking trail to Machu Picchu in your plans. But just how hard is the trail and what should you do to prepare, physically as well as practically? Here is a look.
What is so appealing?
There are a lot of reasons to take the trail. You do not have to be super into archaeology and history, or super into plant life, or super into hiking. You can have the time of your life still. Things that stand out among those who do it include;
- Amazing mountain scenery and cloud forests
- Mythical natural landscapes
- Hundreds of species of fauna and flora
- Jungle terrain with an awesome blend of ruins, Inca paving stones and more
- Friendly villages and townspeople along the way
- Bird watching like no other
- Exploring Machu Picchu (for more information click here)
How long is it to walk the trail?
Generally, it takes 4 to 5 days for most, but there is a two-day trek option for those who want to try it. A lot of people think it is impossible unless you are super fit and top hikers, but that is not the case. First of all, you can make the hike easier by using local guides and porters. It boosts the local economy and with female porters also being available now, it means you can feel more comfortable and focus on your hike rather than carrying the equipment. On average expect to be walking about 6 hours a day. But it is not across easy flat or gently sloping surface. This is up and down crumbling steps, across plains, up steep gorges. You do need some physical fitness.
What makes the hike harder is not so much its length, it is its elevation. That is why at the start of the Inca Trail there is often a period where you need to acclimatize. Of course, if you are fit, a non-smoker and you walk or hike a lot that will make it less physically hard. But as long as you are healthy it is still something you can do. Even marathon runners can be knocked back by altitude sickness. You move from 2,600 meters to 3,300 meters, then up to 4,200 meters. People get shortness of breath and that can lead to panic and some people are not able to carry on. Remember to relax, and try to breathe slowly. Other symptoms of altitude sickness are a loss of appetite and headaches and nose bleeds. The local guides have teas that ease the symptoms and can help.
Make sure you get a permit
The trail and the ruins are better managed now so that they are not overcrowded and full of litter. The best time of year to take the hike is from April to October as this is their dry season. November to March is the rainy season. Make sure you apply for a permit far enough ahead of time. If you go through a reputable tour company they will manage that part for you.
For some, the best part of the Inca trail is the trekking itself. For others, it is the views. For some, it is the history. For others, it is at the end when you see Machu Picchu for the first time. Whatever you find the most rewarding you will not regret hitting the trail.