Check out our Top 10 Tips for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. We want to make sure that you have all of the information to make a safe and successful journey on this historic trail. Over the past 15 years we have developed our service along the Inca Trail, running 15+ trips per year. Here are 20 reasons to chose Ian Taylor Trekking for your Inca Trail trek.
Our Top Tips for your Inca Trail Trek
Don’t Follow the Hurds. We have been developing the best itinerary for trekking to Machu Picchu. HERE IT IS. After leading hundreds of Inca Trail Treks this is the best way to experience the trial to Machu Picchu. Also with new restrictions in Machu Picchu we have 2 visits offering you the best experience of the trail and magical city of Machu Picchu.
Top Tip on Picking the Best Itinerary
There is only 1 famous trail that hikes into Machu Picchu. We offer this trek on the Traditional 4 Day trek, the Classic 5 day trek and the 6 Day Salkantay trek. However, our favorite itinerary is the 5 day Classic Inca Trail trek. This itinerary allows more time in the sites along the trail and even gives you two visits to Machu Picchu. There are less people on the trail each day and you get to experience camping at some of the more beautiful sites on the trail.
1). Get Training
Show up in excellent physical conditioning for this trek. Start developing a training plan that is specific for this trail. You need to understand the elevation gains each day on the trail alongside the type of terrain you will be walking on. Everyone should aim to train 4/5 times a week in preparation for the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. However it is hard to give a one size fits all for your training plan, so best to work with us to develop a plan.
Get a Fitness Test
Everyone is starting in a different place and has different levels of access. So your training program will depend on a wide range of factors. We recommend getting a fitness test, before you start the training, so you know you max heart rate and training zones. Most of your training should be done in your endurance rate zone. You also need to start will less time and less weight in your back pack, and work your way up. Your goal should be to build endurance, leg strength, overall body strength, balance and lung capacity. Understand heart rate training zones for trekking.
Training for the Downhill
The most important factors for your trip will be to build strength and endurance for long days on your feet. The strength is needed to carry your body up and down steep stairs. Read more about training for the downhill. The endurance training is needed so that you can perform for 4 – 6 days in a row. The key training you can do is walking up and down hills and stairs, with a weighted back pack, building from 5kg/11lbs to 10kg/ 22lbs.
Hill and Stair Climbing
This activity will stress your legs and build strength prior to your trek. If you do not have access to hills/stairs for training, you must use a stair master, building up to 1 hour 30 minutes per day with a weighted backpack on. You will need to do weight training and long hikes with steep ascent and descent. Lunges and squats should also be key elements of your training. Contact us for further information.
2). Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Keep a close eye on your surroundings. There are lots of porters rushing past you on the trail, therefore you need to stay on the mountain side of trail so you do not get knocked off. If you see porters coming, do make your teammates aware so they can safely move to the mountain side of the trail as well. This is especially important on the way down the steep steps that the Inca trail presents. They are steeper than you think so you do need to manage your own safety on the trail. Your personal safety needs to be your main concern at all times on the trail.
3). Stay Away From any Drop-off Areas
Always stay on the mountain side of the trail. With high drops offs and risky uneven trails, you always need to be aware of your foot placement and stay away from the edge of the trail. There are a very few railings on the trail. Therefore, you need to stay on the mountain side of the trail. Stay well away from drop offs at all times. There are some very steep steps downhill sections and you need to stay well away from drops offs and manage each foot placement.
4). Treat all Cold Water on the Trail
Make sure you treat all cold water throughout the trek. On all Ian Taylor Trekking Inca Trail treks we boil all the water. However, you do not want to get sick from untreated water. If you get served cold water in your bottle on the trail, you MUST treat the water with water purification tablets before you drink it. Drinking dirty water will ruin your trip. You can not buy bottled water on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. If you are given hot water for tea, coffee or in your bottle, then it is fine to drink without tablets. Make sure you manage your personal hygiene each day on the trail. This can make or break your trek.
6). Acclimatize in Cusco
Exercise is an important part of the acclimatization process. Coming into Cusco early and walking around the town and surrounding hills is very important. Exercise is important but you do not want to fatigue your muscles by pushing high heart rates. Once you have come prepared and trained, this should not be a concern. We include two nights in the hotel in Cusco before each of our Inca Trail trips.
On the trail, you will be walking 8 hours back to back, with 30% to 40% less oxygen than your body would be used to having at sea level. This will put your muscles, heart and body under a lot of pressure. You do not want to be moving fast up the trail each day. Our pace will be slow and steady, with plenty of breaks, especially on the longer hills. You need to regulate your heart rate, as you hit every uphill along the Inca Trail.
7). Hydration, hydration, hydration
The dry climate and low oxygen level require you to be drinking 4 – 5 liters of water each day. There is NO exception to this rule! Hydration is critical for body to function correctly at altitude. The International Society for mountain medicine defines high altitude as between 1,524m/ 5,000 feet and 3,500m/ 11,500 feet, very high altitude as between 3,500m/ 11,500 feet and 5,486m/ 18,000 feet, and extreme altitude as any height above that. The higher you go, the greater the effects are on your body and the more important it is to stay hydrated.
We dehydrate much faster at high altitude. When you fail to stay hydrated, you run the risk of altitude sickness and ultimately ruining your trek. You may not realize how much water you are losing through exertion, but the lower oxygen levels make you breathe in and out faster and more deeply, consequently, losing more water through respiration. According to the wilderness medical society, you lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly as you do at sea level. High altitude can also make you need to urinate more often and can blunt your thirst response, putting you at even greater risk of dehydration.
8). Do not Ignore the Signs of AMS
Do not ignore the signs of AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness. Our Inca Trail Treks have quality acclimatization in Cusco. It is extremely important to sleep at 3,400m/ 11,152 feet, for two nights before the trek. You need to be able to manage your ascent safely and never be afraid to let your guide know how you feel. Altitude sickness can kill, so respect the mountains and respect the decisions our guides make. Our guides are trained to deal with altitude sickness so let them help. We carry oxygen on all our treks. Once you get sick it will only get better by going to lower altitude as quickly as possible.
9). Stay Together at all Times
You are trekking as a team, not individuals. You need to look out for yourself and other people around you on your trek. Team work is essential for safe group travel. Look out for each other, and you will enjoy the journey a lot more. If people cannot keep our minimum pace they should be turned around before they become a risk to themselves and the team. Please let the guides know if a team member is feeling unwell.
Pacing, heart rates and attention to breathing are all super important as you come up hill over the 3 passes. This is especially important on the Dead Women’s Pass, up to 4,215m/ 13,829 feet. In the more challenging areas and days, you will walking up and down steep steps, so holding a slow, controlled pace will be critical to your recovery and your ability to complete this journey in a safe manor. We want you to enjoy and experience all the Inca sites along the trail. Focus on deep breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Your goal should be to keep your heart rate as low as possible at all times on the trail.
10). Have the Right Gear
Have the right clothing, gear and equipment. There are too many people on the trail with cotton clothing, poor quality trekking boots, small insufficient day packs, and the wrong clothing with minimal water. Do not compromise on trekking boots, back packs, water proof gear, air mattress or sleeping bags. Check out our PACKING VIDEO. If you are signed up to an Ian Taylor Trekking trip, we will provide you with an itemized kit list in our 35 page dossier.
Even if you are trekking in the best months to trek the Inca Trail, you still need good gear, as it can rain on any day on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. You need to make sure you have a proper light weight day pack, that is at least 25 liters. It will need to hold 2 – 3 liters of water, waterproof rain gear, down jacket, poles, sun cream, personal medication, liner gloves, your personal first aid kit and other personal kit you may need. On any given day you could experience any weather, so make sure you have the right gear each day as you walk this magical trail to Machu Picchu.
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Think about Additional Acclimatization Before the Trek
You need to consider having more nights acclimatization in Cusco and along the trek. You need to carefully select the right itinerary for your adventure. Our team in the office have all trekked on the Inca Trail numerous times, and we have all of the information you need! Feel free to GET IN TOUCH today, and schedule a time to call with us!
Top 10 Tips for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu
Having additional nights acclimatization will give you the best chance at being successful, safer and getting the most of your experience along this famous trail. You get one shot, so you need to pick the right itinerary for you. Having a more flexible itinerary might make a big difference in the experience you have. I hope our top tips were useful and look forward to helping you trek this magical trail to Machu Picchu.
Contact the Experts
I hope our top 10 tips for your Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu was helpful. Get in contact with us today and we can help you come fully prepared for your Inca trail trek.