Inca Trail Private Journey

Trek to Machu Picchu

Trip Level

This trip is Level 5, Moderate to Strenuous. Most hiking is between 8,000 and 12,000 feet, the maximum elevation reached is 13,800 feet, and the total miles hiked is about 25. Trails can be rough, not the well-maintained switchbacks you may be accustomed to in the United States, and the altitudes are high. In addition, the Inca Trail has quite a few long portions of steep “staircases.” For the most part, you can hike at your own speed. The group will spread out along the trail to cover about 6 to 8 miles per day (6-7 hours of hiking each day). Trail conditions can be primitive, and there is a good bit of up-and-down (often 2,000 to 3,000 feet of elevation gain and subsequent loss per day). Everyone should be prepared for five days of hardy outdoor living. We expect each participant to be in excellent health and physical condition. We recommend you make a special effort to get in top physical condition for the trip.

Getting in Shape
You must make a concerted effort to get in top physical condition for the trip by engaging in regular exercise well beyond your normal routine. We recommend you do aerobic exercise that causes you to break a sweat for at least 30 minutes, at least three times a week, over the course of a couple of months prior to the trip.

To accelerate your conditioning, try walking faster than 1.5 miles per hour, walking on steeper inclines, and using your gym’s stair-climbing machines. As you progress, practice these walks with your loaded daypack (full water bottle, camera gear, jacket). Walks are also a great way to break in your hiking boots. The object is to improve your overall level of fitness and aerobic capacity and get your legs and lungs in shape for the Andes.

A Typical Trekking Day With Wilderness Travel
Hiking distances on trek are normally measured in hours, not miles, since maps aren’t really accurate enough to assess how far we walk up and down winding mountain trails. An average day’s walk is seven or eight hours. With rest stops and photo stops, few people walk faster than one mile an hour in a mountainous region. Some hiking days are shorter than others, and some days are more difficult than others due to altitude gain and loss.


On a typical trek day, wake-up is around 7 am, when a cup of hot tea or coffee and a basin of warm washing water are brought to your tent by one of the camp crew. After packing up our duffels and having breakfast (often pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, or something similar), we set off on the trail while the crew strikes camp and the porters shoulder their loads. The crew passes us by midmorning to get ahead and prepare our lunch.

Most groups tend to spread out over the trail, taking photos, stopping to rest, and enjoying the scenery. We ask you not to hike ahead of the leader because trails are often not well-marked. If you feel breathless during a long ascent or wobbly during a long descent, by all means stop until you feel restored.

You will typically hike for three or four hours in the morning, then stop for a leisurely lunch of an hour or more at a scenic spot on the trail. Lunch is a picnic, perhaps chicken salad, potato salad, guacamole salad, or macaroni salad, along with fruit, cheese, bread, and chocolate bars for extra energy. After lunch, you will hike for another three hours or so until you reach the next night’s camp. The porters and crew pass you in mid-afternoon and usually have camp set up by the time we arrive. At camp, there is late afternoon tea (or coffee or cocoa) and a snack such as popcorn, cookies, or crackers, which hit the spot after a long day on the trail. Before dinner, there’s free time to read or relax. Temperatures drop quickly as the sun drops behind the peaks, and it’s easy to get chilled after exerting yourself for several hours, so have a few extra layers of clothing ready. It gets dark fairly early (around 6:30 pm). Dinner, served in a dining tent with table and chairs, is delicious hot soup followed by a substantial main course and a dessert. After dinner, you can chat away the evening in the dining tent or read by flashlight until bedtime.

When is the Best Time to Go?
The Inca Trail can be hiked all year except from late January to February, the rainy months, when the trail is closed for repairs. The high season for the Inca Trail begins in May and extends through September, Peru's winter and the dry season. The shoulder season is March and April, and again from October and November to December. The rains begin in earnest in late December, but this is also the time with fewer hikers on the trail. The rain does not usually affect the trail itself since it is mostly stone-paved.

Why Do You Need to Book So Early?
To protect the Inca Trail’s monuments and environment, Peruvian authorities issue a very limited number of permits for hikers on the Inca Trail. Only 500 permits are issued for each day, with 200 permits going to hikers and 300 permits going to the licensed porters who carry your gear on the trail. As you can imagine, permits sell out extremely fast! We strongly recommend you book your trip at least six months in advance, especially if you are considering going between May and September. When you sign up, please be prepared to give us your passport number and your name as it appears on your passport so that we can request a permit for you.

Weather

This journey can best be enjoyed from March through December. Being so close to the equator, Peru has only two climate seasons: a dry season from April to October, and a wet season from December to March. Altitude is the main factor controlling the climate. In the mountains, you’ll encounter sunny days with daytime temperatures ranging between 65F and 70F degrees, dropping to the 40s and lower at night. The sun is very strong at high altitude and it can often be warm enough to hike in shorts and a t-shirt. However, it can also get extremely cold; if you’re familiar with mountain weather, you know how suddenly it can get cold even in the daytime if the sun slips behind a cloud. Nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing. Rain should not be a problem on our treks, but always keep in mind that mountain weather is unpredictable and sudden storms can occur, especially on high mountain passes.

Lima lies in a coastal desert where rainfall is rare and temperatures are usually warm (70s and 80s). Days are overcast most of the year due to the Humboldt current that comes up from Antarctica and meets the warm, tropical El Nino current from the north to create the garua, or coastal fog/mist.

The climate in the Amazon Basin is generally warm and humid throughout the year but can also be unexpectedly cool (usually 60s) due to the breezes that blow down from the Andes.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.