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Overview about the Inca Trail

Experience one of the 10 most famous treks in the world; Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is considered one of the 10 world's most famous treks; the Inca Trail is easily the most famous trek in Peru and a must for any walker. Constructed as an ancient highway linking the Inca capital of Cusco with the lost city of Machu Picchu, it has been restored to its original glory.

The legendary Inca Trail takes you through the diverse wilderness of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, passing numerous Inca ruins on the magnificent stone highway before descending to the famed citadel of Machu Picchu.

Along the trail you will encounter many ancient archaeological sites as it winds you through stunning high passes between different climatic zones - ranging from Andean plain to cloud forests. As you ascend up the weather-beaten stairs, reaching higher and higher into the foggy abyss, the energy within you will truly come alive!

The Inca Trail is a world famous trek that brings hiking enthusiasts from all over to enjoy its splendor. Though the trail can be demanding at times, and you do pass through an impressive range of altitudes, it can be completed by anyone who leads a reasonably active life – you certainly don’t need to be an expert!

Difficulty Rating: Moderate/Challenging

IMPORTANT: Spaces for the Inca Trail are rapidly being booked up. If you are seriously considering the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu, you need to act ASAP in order to avoid disappointment. Check official Inca Trail Permit availability and book the trek now click to: INCA TRAIL FAQ's

Inca Trail Frequently Asked Questions

How far in advance should we reserve our space on the Inca Trail?

We recommend that you make a reservation for the Inca Trail as far in advance as possible. From trips from October to March, we suggest booking six weeks in advance and from May to September, eight weeks. In the high-season (July to August) we advise a minimum of eight to ten weeks. Government restrictions designed to protect the route limits the number of trekkers to 500 per day, including guides, porters and cooks.

If the trail is fully booked there are many alternative Inca trails that follow other Inca roads systems which can include an optional visit to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.

Do I need to buy a trail permit to hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Yes. All who use the hiking trails in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary are required to purchase a trail permit. Companies which claim to offer you a trek that does not require a permit are offering a trek which does not enter the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.

How do I buy the permit?

As part of confirming you on one of our treks, we purchase permits not only for you but for the porters and other trek crew who haul your gear and look after trek operations. In the following discussion, we use "permit" in both the singular sense ("you need a permit to trek in the park") and in the collective sense ("we purchase a permit for 8 passengers plus trek crew"). Before we can purchase your permit, we need: your full name as it appears on your valid passport (IMPORTANT: check the passport expiry date!), your passport number, your date of birth, and gender. This information appears in the official trail documents and is checked carefully against your passport at control gates on the trail. If the information does not match, you may be refused access to the park and lose your trek.

I need to renew my passport. How can I get a permit without a valid passport?

We can purchase the permit using your expired passport number. You then must bring both the expired passport and your new passport with you on the trail, and present both documents at the checkpoints. If your passport agency does not return your original passport, then it is essential that you keep a photocopy of the ID page of the original passport, and bring that with you to Peru. If you have no passport at all, then you cannot join a trek until you obtain a passport. If your name or passport number varies from what you supplied to us for the permit application, then the park authority may deny you access to the trail. Therefore, it is essential that you supply accurate passport data, and bring this passport with you to the trek.

I noticed that I gave you an incorrect passport number when I applied to join the trek. Can you fix that?

So long as permits are available for your trek date, we can purchase a new permit with the new passport number to allow you to participate in the trek. The cost of the original permit is non-refundable. At the trek orientation you will have to pay for both the old permit and the new permit. If no more permits are available, then park authorities may refuse to grant you access to the Inca Trail if your passport number does not match that listed on the permit.

I lost my passport which I gave you to purchase the permit. I’m applying for a new one. What happens now?

So long as permits are available for your trek date, we can purchase a new permit with the new passport number to allow you to participate in the trek. The cost of the original permit is non-refundable. At the trek orientation you will have to pay for both the old permit and the new permit. If no more permits are available, then park authorities may refuse to grant you access to the Inca Trail if your passport number does not match that listed on the permit.

Is it possible to join a trekking group close to the trek departure date?

For all dates but those very early and very late in the trekking season, the answer is a resounding NO. Trekking permits sell out typically three months ahead of the trek date. The park authorities allow only 500 people to enter the park for any given day. Each person who enters that day needs to be listed on a permit, including guides, cooks, porters, and trekkers. From the end of March through the end of October, if you’re not on a roster three months prior to your trek, you’ll likely find that no permits are left. When that happens, you have two options – change your holiday dates, or trek outside the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary. For an excellent alternate route, we suggest our Alternative Treks ending in Machu Picchu

Hike, Guides, Food, Drink, campsites and more

How difficult is the hike?

The entire 4-day trail hike is 25 miles so the distances traveled each day are not terribly long. Although it is generally accepted that anyone who is accustomed to hiking and camping (i.e. walking for several hours and sleeping in tents) can hike the Inca Trail, the altitude can make hiking these distances feel about twice as difficult as hiking the same distance at sea level. For a detailed description of the hike itself, check out hiking the Classic Inca Trail.

What are the guides like?

Our Tour guides are among the very best and most experienced guides anywhere. They are from the surrounding Cusco/ Sacred Valley area and speak fluent English, in addition to Spanish and the native language of Quechua. Most have 5-10 years of experience leading Inca trail hikes and all have training in the history, spirituality, culture, and ecology of the area. We receive rave reviews on our guides. For more information, check out our Testimonials at: Our Testimonials

What is the food like on the Inca trail?

A cook accompanies every group on the Inca trail. Almost invariably, travelers comment on the delicious menu. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and hearty snacks are provided for your hike. Meals are a mix of local specialties and international favorites. Check out our Inca Trail menu. Vegetarian meals are also available upon request. Other special dietary requests can usually be accommodated as well with sufficient notice.

How is drinking water supplied?

Although there are places to purchase bottled water occasionally along the trail, we recommend that travelers bring their own refillable bottles to limit plastic waste. Water is boiled, treated with iodine, and then filtered with one of our portable filters (Katadyn and PUR commonly used). It is available in the morning to fill your bottles and at every meal.

Which campsites do you use?

Campsites are subject to change depending upon the crowds and the season. We generally try to camp in less trafficked areas so that travelers can enjoy the natural beauty of the Inca trail and minimize environmental impacts. Our typical campsite choices are Wayllabamba, Pacaymayo and Wiñay Wayna or Phuyupatamarca.

What equipment is supplied by the company?

We supply the sleeping tents (4 season tents, 2 people in each 3-people-capacity ten), dining tents, tables, chairs, toilet tents, cooking equipment, water purifiers, air mattresses, and other camping equipment. Our outfitter purchases the highest quality equipment in Peru and older equipment is evaluated and replaced on a regular basis.

What do I need to bring for the hike?

travelers only need to bring their own personal supplies and a sleeping bag + mattress (the mattre is provided by our company). If you do not have a sleeping bag, these can be rented in Cusco for a reasonable rate. Medium-standar backpack to carry sun gear, comfortable trekking clothes, mosquito repellant, hiking shoes, a flashlight, a camera, and 1-2 refillable water bottles are recommended. Rain gear is also recommended during the wet season (December- March) and cold weather gear (warm jacket, thermals, hat and gloves) is recommended for the dry season (especially June- August).

What do I need to carry?

We recommend that travelers carry the items that they will need each day while hiking such as water, snacks, camera and film. Porters will carry all of your other supplies including camping equipment, clothes, sleeping bags, etc. We generally ask travelers to bring only the belongings that they will need for the trail and leave any unneeded luggage at the hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley. To prevent porters from becoming overloaded, we ask all travelers to limit their personal belongings to 15 lbs for the hike.

What if I have a medical emergency while hiking the trail?

Guides carry a first aid kit for basic medical problems (traveler's diarrhea, cuts/ scrapes, etc.). They receive Red Cross First Aid and other emergency training every year. Our guides lead over 300 travelers along the Inca trail each year and we have rarely had a traveler unable to complete the hike. In these rare instances when someone has not felt well enough to finish the hike, he/ she has been escorted back to Cusco and generally felt well enough to re-join the group in Machu Picchu via train a few days later. Cusco has the nearest modern medical facilities so travelers with a serious medical emergency would need to be evacuated there. Guides and porters have pre-established evacuation strategies in place should this need occur.

How concerned should I be about the altitude on the hike?

Altitude affects each traveler differently and until you have visited an area with high altitude, it is impossible to predict how your body will react. For this reason, all of our hiking tours include at least 3 days at high altitude with mild activities before travelers begin hiking. This time allows your body to begin acclimatizing (though full acclimatization would take several months) and provides travelers a good indication of how they will feel on the Inca trail (as altitude symptoms are generally the worst on the first day or two at elevation). Commonly, our travelers report mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, or light-headedness during their first day or two at elevation. Hotels and our porters on the Inca trail have oxygen available for travelers feeling the effects of the elevation.

Severe altitude sickness is rare. In this case, the best treatment is to go down in elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated to low altitude. Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. It is important to ask your doctor whether or not travel to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about prescription Diamox, a diuretic that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude more readily. On the Inca trail, you will be hiking in altitudes ranging from

9,000-14,500 ft. The highest camping spot is 12,000 ft.

What about my luggage which I don’t need on the trek?

We suggest you to leave your entire luggage, which you don’t need during the trekking, behind in your hotel. Almost every hotel in Cusco has a safety deposit where you can store your luggage and do not charge for this service when you’ll return to the same hotel after your trek.

how much does the sleeping mat and sleeping bag weigh?

Sleep mat weight = 1 kg

Sleeping bag weight = 2-2.5 kg

I am on my own, will I have someone to share a tent with?

Yes another person of the same sex or if you prefer you can pay a single supplement for a tent just for you. This is US$ 20 (For the entire trek)

Should I hire an extra porter?

If you have not trekked in altitude before we would suggest your organize the extra porter. Unless you have hired an extra porter you will need to carry your own back pack, sleeping bag and the mattress and water for the day. 75% of our travelers hire the extra porter for 8 kilos. If you would like to have a porter carry your things, one can be hired for US$ 50 for every 8 kilos (shared porter, each porter carries 15 Kg plus his gear) You should bring only what you absolutely need/want on the trek, and store the rest of your belongings in Cusco (see the information on our Free Luggage Storage).

Even though if you do hire a porter you will still need a day pack with you so that you can carry such items as your camera, water bottle, snacks (energy bars, dried fruits, nuts, sweets, remember glucose is a big help and imperative in the highs), sunscreen, sun-glasses, a fleece or something warm and a poncho (during the rainy season or cloudy days) and anything else you will need before lunch as the porters do not walk alongside you. You will meet up with your bag at lunch and then it will be waiting for you in your tent at the campsite.

It is best to put everything up to 15 kgs in one bag if you are a couple or 2 for the porter so that you don’t have 2 large backpacks in your tent. Try to under-pack rather than over-pack—if it is overweight at the weigh station, items will have to be removed to reduce the weight.

Extra Porter Includes:

- Entrance to the Inca Trail 41 soles

- Bus Ticket Cusco to Km 82 (20 soles)

- Food while on the Trek (30 soles)

- Salary of the Porter for the Entire 4 days (45 soles a day)180 soles total.

What about late cancellations?

Current regulations do not allow us to replace cancelled passengers with new passengers. Trek permits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

If I give you my deposit now, do you buy my permit immediately?

Not necessarily immediately, but we customarily purchase the permits within a few days of receiving your deposit.

Can I enter Machu Picchu ruins at night on my trek permit?

No. Night-time entry to the Machu Picchu ruins is currently prohibited by the INC.

If I change trek dates can I transfer my permit?

Both your trail permit and your trek deposit are non-refundable and non-transferable. To join a new trek date, we have to start the permit process all over again.

Can I make a reservation for the Inca Trail without a Passport Number?

No. We can only accept reservation with a passport-number. When you’re applying for a new passport, at the moment of making a reservation for the Inca Trail, you can send us your old passport-number and take this passport with you to Peru. If you’re old passport is not returned to you or you forget to bring your old passport with you on the trek you will not be allowed to start the Inca Trail and you will not be entitled to a refund. A photocopy of your old passport is NOT permissible; you have to bring your original old passport.

INCA TRAIL ALTITUDE SICKNESS

* Altitude Sickness (Soroche) Recommendations

The best way to prevent "soroche" is to make a gradual ascension. If the visitor has the time and is able to spend the first nights in the Sacred Valley, he (or she) will be less prone to suffer from altitude sickness.
It is very important that those that arrive in Cusco carry out their activities gradually. We recommend that you rest the first day, eat little and only light food, and enjoy the delicious coca leaf tea.

Part I: Prepare yourself for travelling to high elevations

Basic Concepts

At high elevations, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, percentage-wise, is the same as at sea level. But when barometric pressures diminish, so does the pressure of oxygen present in tissues (thereby causing Hypoxia).

This physical phenomenon explains why the quantity of oxygen molecules per breath inhaled is lower at higher elevations than it is at sea level. Faced with this type of challenge, individuals evolve acclimatization procedures that engage most of their systems: respiratory, blood & circulatory, renal, and nervous. The evolved physiological mechanisms tend to normalize the amount of oxygen in their tissues.

These pathologies can manifest themselves in people intolerant to high elevations - mainly the first week - but can be avoided by being aware of what their initial symptoms are, and stopping them from fully developing.

For there to be normal activity, an adequate supply of oxygen must first be secured. Peripheral chemoreceptors, or nerve endings, serve as sensors of the amount of oxygen that enters into the bloodstream.

Nerve endings swiftly react to changes of oxygen pressure in arterial blood, and inform the nervous centers that control breathing and cardiac cycles. This information brings about a progressive increase in pulmonary ventilation, which can be observed during the first few days at high elevations (3 to 5 days). This process is called “Ventilatory Acclimatization.” Concentrations of Nor-adrenaline and Adrenaline in the blood increase. This brings about a rise in cardiac frequency, regardless of whether the individual is in repose or working out.

If the exposure to high altitudes is long enough, the first adaptation strategies - respiratory and cardiovascular adjustments - give way to less strenuous mechanisms - mainly an increased production of red blood cells - that improve the transport of oxygen from the environment into the tissues. Adaptive reactions to high elevations may cause certain disorders, however, either by the over-functioning or under-functioning of the mechanisms involved in the acclimatization to high elevations.

These disorders can and should be avoided, by following the recommendations set forth in the second part of this brochure. The time and quality of the acclimatization process varies from person to person. It has nothing to do with previous physical training, or the number of times a person has been in high elevations. If you have to travel to elevations higher than 3,500 meters (11,480 feet) above sea level and have to stay there, it’s very important to prevent the onset of two distinctive pathologies produced by high elevations: pulmonary edema or brain edema.

Medication

  • Acetazolamide (NC. Diamox) - 1 tablet every 12 hours, 24 hours before the trip - Half a tablet every 12 hours until the third day in high elevations
  • Paracetamol - 1 tablet every 8 hours, in case of headache.
  • Ibuprofen 1 400 mg pill before the trip and in case of headaches that don’t lessen with Paracetamol, take one Ibuprofen every 12 hours after meals (it may produce stomach ache).

In case of continued altitude sickness, seek medical help. You must receive oxygen or be promptly removed to a lower elevation.

Part II: General recommendations for people traveling to high elevations

The day before your travel:

  • Sleep well.
  • Don’t eat foods that are hard to digest.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages

The day you arrive:

  • Refrain from strenuous physical activity.
  • Drink at least one liter of water a day.
  • Eat small quantities of food, preferably carbohydrates.
  • Wear appropriate clothing to stay warm.
  • Complete rest is recommended for people with altitude sickness scores higher than six points (see below).
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or tranquilizers.

The second to the fourth day after your arrival

  • Refrain from strenuous physical activity.
  • Drink plenty of liquids, commensurate to your physical activity.
  • Don’t eat foods that are hard to digest.
  • Wear appropriate clothing to stay warm.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or tranquilizers.

During your first four days in high elevations refrain from any strenuous physical activity.

If you feel like you are choking or are breathing noisily, your lips and/or ears turn purple or blue (cyanosis), you have a persistent cough and your sputum is foamy or pinkish in color, you may be developing a serious pulmonary edema caused by the high altitude. If that is the case, immediately seek medical help

You need oxygen or to be promptly removed to lower elevations.

If you feel fatigue or acute weakness, feel nauseous (sometimes vomiting explosively), and have a severe headache that pain relievers won’t ease, you are probably developing a brain edema. If you don’t have a headache, but feel extremely tired and have difficulty keeping your balance, you may also be developing a brain edema. Immediately seek medical help. You need oxygen or to be promptly removed to lower elevations.

SYMPTOMS AND INDICATIONS OF ALTITUDE SICKNESS (SOROCHE)

  • Headache 1 point
  • Nausea or lack of appetite 1 point
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping 1 point
  • Dizziness–vertigo 1 point
  • Headache that pain relievers won’t ease 2 points
  • Vomiting 2 points
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down 3 points
  • Extreme fatigue 3 points
  • Lessening volume of urine 3 points
  • Score Intensity of Altitude Sickness
  • 1 to 3 Light
  • 4 to 6 Moderate
  • More than 6 Severe (complete rest is recommended)
  • Source: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
  • Inca Trail appropriate clothing