The Inca Trail is one of the most popular and well-known hikes in South America, and for good reason. It takes several days to complete (roughly four, for the average hiker) but the vistas and experience of trekking along this ancient trail, to see a city that predates most ancient civilizations, is also what makes it one of the most famous hikes in the world. Before leaving on a flight to Peru, there are some things that hikers should be aware of from altitude sickness to the rough-and-tumble ways of the famed Inca Trail.
Most book a hike with a qualified tour guide or company, which takes much of the stress of the hikers themselves in terms of know-how, camping, and direction. In fact, it's advisable that one always books a trip with porters since they're practically Godsends when it comes to this four-day hike. Aside from that, here are some of the very basics that Inca Trail hikers should remember when it comes time to set off on their route.
Stay Hydrated, Not Just To Fight Dehydration
Being dehydrated is a dangerous game that no one wants to be caught playing especially when it comes to teetering on the edge of a steep mountain climb. In order to reach the summit of the Inca Trail, there are many points of incline - the trek might be a relatively short one, but the steep distance makes it feel like any other four-day hike.
Dehydration can happen quickly if a person underestimates how much effort they're exerting in order to climb but in a place like Peru, there's an additional danger surrounding dehydration: altitude sickness. While this is not always something that can be helped, staying hydrated will go a long way in fending off the symptoms that accompany such a high climb.
The Temperature Is Never Consistent So Dress Accordingly
Hikers who have experienced the Inca Trail first-hand will say that it's like experiencing all four seasons, according to Along Dusty Roads. Therefore, it's important to not only dress accordingly but to bring along extra layers.
The first day, it might feel warm and sunny while the next, it could be foggy, rainy, and frigid. There's no in-between or happy medium once a person is in the mountains, so being well-prepared is the first step to being comfortable. When camping, temperatures at night can drop so warm clothes should definitely be on the list of things to pack.
The Best Time To Hike The Trail
Since Peru is known for having only two seasons that mean anything for hikers, it's important to determine which season is the best for hiking the Inca Trail. The wet season - from November to April - is usually more affordable and the trails are not as crowded.
However, this does mean that weather could pose a bit of a threat to hikers, which can change the trail conditions as well as make for a soggy four-day hike. The dry season is from May to October and is a more popular time to hike, although the trails are likely to be more crowded and guided hikes must be booked months (about six) in advance.
Make Sure To Prepare Physically, As Well
This is not a walk through the park and any hikers who have hiked the Inca Trail will say the same. It's not necessary to be in professional hiking condition in order to complete four days of physical exertion but it is important to be in fairly good physical shape in order to complete it.
A great way to do this is by starting a cardio routine before the planned trip to increase both endurance and lung capacity since the altitude is a large part of this hike. Furthermore, practicing on shorter trails while carrying a fully-loaded backpack is another great way to get a feel for what Peru's hiking will be like.
Respect Your Porters
Porters are the people who will be scouting out the trail ahead of you, waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare, and will ultimately be leading hikers back down to safety. They're the experienced party for the inexperienced and deserve the same amount of respect that sherpas do when leading groups on Everest. It's important to tip them as well since they're putting in twice the effort to ensure that each hiker arrives at the summit and back safely.
What's The Bathroom Situation Like?
In short, there aren't many options. Just as any hiking trail, the best that can be done is a hole in the ground... better work on those squats! In all seriousness, it's either that or the bush around most campgrounds. Packing toilet paper and hand sanitizer are definitely must-have items. For an extra cost, hikers can invest in a portable bathroom-type of situation, but that's up to the hiker. Showers are also fairly scant - with the high altitude, it's usually a cold shower at campsites, or no shower for four days.