Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trekking the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail has to be one of the best short treks in the world and is more popular with adventure travellers now than ever before. The Trek follows part of an ancient series of roads that connected the Inca Empire.

The ancient road network stretched over 16,000 kilometers but the Inca Trail that leads you to the lost city of the Inca's, Machu Piccu, is only 43km in distance.

With the help of G.A.P. Adventures we have compiled a f.a.q (frequently asked questions) list about trekking the Inca Trail

How long is the Inca Trail and how many hours do we hike per day?
The Inca Trail is 43 kms (27 miles) long and depending on which campsites are used the approximate hours hiked per day are: Day 1: 5 hours Day 2: 8 hours Day 3: 7 hours Day 4: 4 hours

How difficult is the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail is considered a moderate hike. It's not a technical hike but there are a lot of Inca staircases to walk up and down, and the altitude may affect some individuals. We recommend purchasing a wooden walking stick while in Peru as it will help with your balance and reduce the load on your knees. We ask that you not use a metal tipped walking stick as it can harm the fragile environment along the trail.

Is altitude sickness common? And how high is the Inca Trail?
It's impossible to predict who will be affected by altitude. Your ability to adapt to high altitude is determined by your genetic makeup and has little to do with fitness or health. Most people will have no problems as long as they take the time to acclimatize properly. A full day spent in Cuzco (3249m), taking it easy and drinking plenty of water, is usually enough for most people. The highest point you will reach while hiking the Inca Trail is 4200 meters. You will sleep at 3600 meters for one or two nights.

Is it possible to skip the Inca Trail even if the tour includes it?
Yes! If you do not wish to hike the Inca Trail please advise Travel Light at the time of booking (it is very difficult to make these arrangements once you have already confirmed). If you choose not to hike the trail you will spend two nights in Cuzco and then take the train to the town of Aguas Calientes for the third night. At sunrise you will rejoin your group at Machu Picchu. You may also choose to book a trip that includes the slightly higher and scenic Lares' Trail. This popular 3-day and 2 night trek, ends in Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night and catch the early buss to Machu Picchu.

When do we reach Machu Picchu and how much time do we spend there?
You will reach Machu Picchu at sunrise on Day 4 (the hike begins at approx. 3am). After viewing the sunrise you will be met by a local guide who will take you on an informative 3-hour tour of the ruins. After the tour you will have a few hours of free time to explore the area on your own before the group travels by bus to Aguas Calientes where we catch the train back to Cuzco.

Do porters carry our luggage while on the Inca Trail?
Yes! In Cuzco you will be provided with a large stuff sac in which you can place up to 7kg of personal items. These bags will be carried by our porters while you hike the Inca Trail (please note they will be weighed before we leave Cuzco). Items not required while on the trail can be stored safely at our hotel in Cuzco. All you will be required to carry is a daypack containing items you will need during the day (ie. Water, camera, sunscreen, rain poncho, etc..).

How cold does it get on the Inca Trail (will I need to bring hats and mitts)?
The altitude means it can get quite chilly, especially during the Andean winter (May - September) when the temperature can drop to below zero degrees (Celsius) at night. It can still be cool at other times of the year and so we recommend bringing thermal underwear and a warm sleeping bag. You can purchase warm, inexpensive and locally made hand-woven mitts and gloves in Cuzco.

What type of accommodation is used on the Inca Trail?
Three-person tents are used to accommodate two same-sex travellers. There are a few places where permanent but very basic toilet facilities exist and when they are not available our team will set up portable toilet tents. Trekkers are provided with a bowl of hot water (and a hot drink) every morning in their tent.

Is a sleeping bag and mat included?
Sleeping bags are not included and so we recommend bringing a compact three-season sleeping bag. A popular alternative is to rent a sleeping bag in Cuzco. They are clean, warm and cost approximately USD$10 (for all three nights). Some renters may choose to bring a sleeping bag liner or sheet. Foam mats are provided however some travelers also bring their own self-inflating mat (ie. a Thermarest).

Is purified water available on the trail?
Bottled water can be purchased on day 1 and on the evening of day 3 of the Inca Trail however we discourage trekkers from purchasing bottles as it increases the amount of garbage that must be packed out. Boiled water will be provided every evening after dinner so that you can refill your water bottle(s). If you wish to add water purification tablets you should bring these with you.

What type of food will we get on the Inca Trail?
Our cooks prepare excellent high-energy meals appropriate for a trek of this nature. The menu usually includes pasta, rice, chicken, fresh fruit and vegetables and a variety of oatmeal, eggs and other breakfast foods. Vegetarian alternatives are available upon request at the time of booking.

How much should I tip the guides and porters?
Tipping is at your discretion but always appreciated. A good rule of thumb is anywhere from $2-10 dollars per day for the porters.

What are the requirements to hike the Inca Trail?
To hike the Inca Trail with GAP Adventure you must be over 12 years of age, with moderate level of fitness, and hold a passport that is valid for up to 6 months after you return to your home country. We will require your passport at the time of booking, as this is essential to purchase the Inca Trail permits. Bookings should be made 3-4 months in advance to ensure a permit could be obtained. A limited amount of permits are available each day for hikers, in an effort to preserve the trail.

Travel Light offers a vast selection of Inca Trail adventures. If you have any other questions about the Inca Trail, Peru or travel please contact

Travel Light Reading

Lonely Planey Peru I have no preference of what guide book is best and usually go for what one is most up to date. This Lonely Planet guide to Peru was published in 2007.

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