Choose Your Trail
The most popular trek on the Inca Trail is a four-day hike known as the Classic Inca Trail. On this trek, hikers reach the gates of Machu Picchu the morning of the fourth day. They then can spend the day exploring the ancient city ruins before heading back on train to Cusco. While this is the most popular trek, the Inca trail offers numerous trails of varying lengths and levels. The shortest trek to Machu Picchu is two days. Not all trails will end in Machu Picchu. When choosing your trail, decide if you want to end your trek in Machu Picchu and how many days you want to be on the trail.
Schedule Your Trip in Advance
Once you know that you want to hike the Inca Trail and you've decided on a trail, you need to decide the time of year you will travel. Be sure you are planning well ahead of time. The number of people on the Inca Trail each day is limited and it books up quickly. Plan your trip almost a year in advance (at least allow 8 to 9 months). The trekking season is from April/May to October. It is best to plan a trip early in their season. By hitting the trail before summer, you will encounter less crowds on the trail. The Classic Inca Trail is closed the month of February.
Choose a Guide or Travel Company
When hiking on the Inca Trail, most trekkers go with a group through a travel company or guide service. These services vary greatly in levels of service. A basic guide service company will provide a group of hikers with porters to carry heavy items (so that hikers only carry a day pack) and prepare meals on the trail. Small groups can hire a guide only but are then responsible for carrying all their own equipment and preparing their own meals. Make sure you are booking with a reputable company. Instead of choosing a company online, ask friends if they know anyone else who has made the trek and find out who they booked with.
Prepare Yourself for the Hike
Know how strenuous your hike will be and be sure you are in the right physical shape before you travel. Remember that Cusco and the Inca trail are at higher elevation than most of us are accustomed to. Be prepared to treat altitude sickness while on the trail. Also, arrive ahead of time in Cusco. By allowing yourself a couple days to get used to the elevation, you will be less likely to have serious problems on the trail.
The key to packing for your hike on the Inca Trail is to pack light. Even if you have porters to carry your equipment, you will have a limit to how much you can give them to carry for you. Don't take on more weight than you need to either. Hiking the trail can be quite strenuous and the elevation makes it even harder. Also, remember to pack rubber tips for your trekking poles. You will not be allowed to use your trekking poles on the trail with out them.
Article Written By Jessica Linnell
Jessica Linnell is a published author, blogger and freelance writer in the Atlanta area. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and has been writing for 10 years. She has been published in Atlanta magazine, Cherokee Living, and North Fulton Living, as well as on numerous websites.