Inca Trail Frequently Asked Questions
TERRA QUECHUA : Is the trek difficult, do I need to be fit?
The Inca Trail is a 43km (26 mile) hike through mountainous regions. The maximum altitude reached is 4200m above sea level. On the second day of the trek we climb 1200m. Make no mistake, the Inca Trail is a fairly difficult trek and you should be well prepared and healthy prior to starting it. You have to be moderately fit and take regular exercise. Try walking 15km in a day or go to the gym in the months leading up to the trek. It is also important to be well acclimatized to the altitude. Try to spend 2 or 3 days in Cusco (3400m) prior to starting the trek. This time can be put to good use visiting the city of Cusco, nearby Inca ruins and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The good news is that virtually everyone in the last few years who started the trek finished it Only a handful had to turn back. (see tips on staying healthy on the trail below).
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: How far in advance do I need to make a trek reservation?
As far in advance as possible. The government has strictly limited the number of people permitted on the Inca Trail (permits are issued to about 200 trekkers per day plus 300 porters). We therefore recommend that you try to make your Inca trail reservation as far in advance as possible as soon as you know the dates of your international flights.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: What do I need to bring for the hike?
Travelers only need to bring their own personal supplies and a sleeping bag. If you do not have a sleeping bag, these can be rented in Cusco for a reasonable rate ($15 per all trips). A duffle bag will be provided for your belongings on the Inca trail so travelers do not need to bring a large backpack unless desired. Proper sungear, 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).
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: 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 Huayllabamba, Pacaymayo and Wiñay Wayna or chaquicocha.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: What are the guides like?
Our Adventure,Tour guide 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 10 years of experience leading Inca trail hikes and all have training in the history, spirituality, culture, and ecology of the area.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: Can I have vegetarian meals?
Our cooks can provide vegetarian meals no problem. Just let us know your dietary requirements when you book your trek.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: I have a food allergy, can this be catered for?
A6: We have plenty of clients who have allergies to nuts, wheat, etc. Please give us details of your allergy at the time of booking. Please indicate the severity of the reaction and what type of medicines you have to take in an emergency. If your allergy is severe you must be accompanied by a friend on the trek who is aware of your allergy and the location of any required medicines. Due to the nature of the remote geographical location of the trail and the lack of suitable nearby medical facilities Peru Treks will not accept any responsibility, either directly or indirectly, for any problems due to your special medical/dietary requirements. We suggest that you to check with your doctor before booking the trek.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: I have asthma / diabetes / another medical condition. Can I still do the trek?
You must disclose at the time of booking any medical condition that you may have that could affect your ability to do the Inca Trail trek. Terra Quechua hikers reserves the right not to accept a trek booking if we feel that a medical condition may put your life or the lives of any of our trekking staff or other clients at risk on the trek. People with heart conditions, knee problems, severe asthma or are more than 18 weeks pregnant should not participate in the trek. People with mild asthma / diabetes / pregnant less than 18 weeks will have to bring a medical note from their doctor stating that they are fit to undertake the trek. They will also be required to be accompanied by a trekking companion on the trek at all times who will trek at their sides and be familiar with any medicines required in case of an emergency. Peru Treks reserved the right to cancel the trek booking of a client if the client has not fully disclosed at the time of making a booking a medical condition that may pose a risk to the health of the client and/or other trekkers. No refunds will be given in this instance.
Due to the nature of the remote geographical location of the trail and the lack of suitable nearby medical facilities along the trail Peru Treks will not accept any responsibility, either directly or indirectly, for any problems due to your special dietary requirements / medical condition. We suggest that you check with your doctor before booking the trek.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: 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.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: What do I need to bring on the trek?
Backpack, sleeping bag, thermarest mattress (we will provide you with this but you have to carry it), rain jacket, strong footwear, one complete change of clothing, sweater, jacket (something warm), water bottle (metal or nalgene type) and sterilizing tablets (Micropur are recommended and can be bought in local pharmacies in Cusco), flashlight and batteries, broad-brim or peaked cap, sunblock, insect repellent, toiletries and toilet paper, selection of small snacks, chocolate, dried fruit, biscuits etc, camera and spare batteries (nowhere to charge your camera during the trek). For your own personal hygiene we also recommend that you bring a small bottle of antiseptic/anti-bacterial hand gel to clean your hands each time after using the camp toilets and before eating any snacks / meals. You also have to bring your original passport with you on the trek, with the same passport number you originally made your reservation with, otherwise you will be unable to go on the trek. Photocopies are no longer acceptable.
We will buy your Inca Trail trek permit using the names & passport numbers that you send us with your trek booking application. You must bring these same passports with you to Cusco and take them on the Inca Trail. If the name or number in your passport is different from the name and number on the trek permit, the government authorities will not allow you to start the trek and you will not be entitled to a refund. If you plan to renew your passport between making the trek booking and actually starting the trek please see the section below about Frequently Asked Questions relating to passport numbers. If you make a trek booking at the student price you must send us a copy of your ISIC card at the time you pay the trek deposit. If you fail to bring your ISIC card on the trek the government authorities will not allow you to start the trek. You will not be given the opportunity to pay the extra difference in price and you will not be entitled to a refund. These are government regulations and apply to ALL licensed Inca Trail tour operators.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: What do I need to carry?
Unless you hire an extra ‘third of a porter’ you will need to carry all of the above personal items. We include porters to carry all the other items such as tents, food and cooking equipment.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: Do I need to bring walking boots?
Walking boots are recommended as they provide support to the ankle which reduces the risk of injury especially when trekking in the wet season (December – March). However it is important that your boots are comfortable and well worn-in and not brand new. Many people prefer to trek in tennis shoes but extra care should be taken. We do not recommend trekking in sandals or using new boots or hiring boots prior to the trek. Make sure the shoes are sturdy enough for the duration of the trek and will not fall apart.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: What equipment is supplied by Adventure Life?
We supply the sleeping tents, dining tents, tables, chairs, toilet tents, cooking equipment, water purifiers, sleeping mattress (the thermarest), and other camping equipment. Our outfitter purchases the highest quality equipment in Peru and older equipment is evaluated and replaced on a regular basis.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: Can I use trekking poles / walking sticks on the Inca Trail?
Many people like to hike with trekking poles or walking sticks. This is fine as long as the poles will not cause damage to the stone paving along the Inca Trail. If the trekking poles have metal spikes then these must be protected by rubber tips. We recommend bringing some spare rubber tips with you. Rubber protectors can also be bought in several shops in Cusco. Wooden walking sticks are obviously fine as long as you bring them with you from home. Recently government authorities have stopped trekkers using wooden sticks that could have come from local forests (to prevent deforestation of protected Andean forests). Metal trekking poles can also be hired in our office.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: Where can I store the bags that I do not need to take on the Inca Trail?
Any bags that you don’t need to take on the Inca trail can be left at your hotel in Cusco. Nearly all hotels have a luggage deposit and rarely charge for this service as long as you are returning to the hotel after the trek. You can also leave valuables in the hotel safe, but remember to bring your passport and some emergency money. We do not store clients luggage or valuables in our office.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: How many porters and trekking staff are in the group?
Terra Quechua Peru is committed to looking after our porters and our trekking weights are carefully calculated so that our porters are not overloaded. The group sizes given below show the absolute minimum number of porters that we will provide for each group. As a professional company we will guarantee these numbers. Obviously we will use extra porters if any of our clients decide to hire the services of an extra third of a porter up until the maximum number of porters per group permitted by the government. This is why we limit each client to a maximum of just a third of a porter i.e. maximum 6kg.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: 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 500 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.
TERRA QUECHUA INFO: 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. For a sample menu, check out our Inca Trail Menu below. Vegetarian meals are also available upon request. Other special dietary requests can usually be accommodated as well with sufficient notice.