TOP FIVE TIPS: The Inca Trail with Natalia
Friend of VALA Natalia @n.talia_marie shares her top tips for hiking the Inca Trail, which has been on my dream hiking list for many years. If you have similar aspirations, you too can live vicariously through Natalia as she gives us an insight into the highs, lows and must-knows of the Inca Trail below. These spill over into the comments because there was too much helpful and interesting advice to edit out. Enjoy!
The Inca Trail is a popular hike that requires a permit. These get booked up months in advance, so plan ahead! The hike is 26 miles and ends at the famous Machu Picchu citadel. It's always worth considering booking through a Peruvian company to help support the local economy.
CAMPING HIGHS AND LOWS
There is no built accommodation on the Inca Trail, which means it's camping all the way. Most trekking companies have incredibly hard-working porters who run ahead and set up camp before your arrival each evening. This means you don't have to carry equipment, such as a tent and sleeping bag, on the hike. Just take your day pack with anything you'll need during the walk. Facilities and campsites on the trail get more basic the further along you go, so strengthening your quads beforehand isn't a bad idea!
Head torch: you won't want to risk touching or putting anything down when it comes to using the facilities.
Power bank: there is no electricity available during the trek for recharging devices.
Insect repellent: especially useful for humid spots lower in the valley.
WHAT TO WEAR
The Inca Trail hosts a variety of climates, which is what makes it such a beautiful trek. You could be at sub-zero temperatures surrounded by snow capped mountains in the morning and hiking through humid cloud forest by lunchtime. A layered upper body - including thermals during nighttime - are a good idea. On your bottom half, sweat wicking leggings are your friend! As for your feet, you'll be walking up and down stone Inca paths and steps for up to 10 hours a day, so a comfortable pair of hiking boots with good ankle support is a must. Don’t forget some flip flops or trainers for relaxing during the evenings!
DEALING WITH ALTITUDE
Take sometime to acclimatise before starting the trek. Although the miles covered each day don't sound like very much, your body is under more stress due to lower oxygen levels. Dead Woman’s Pass is the hardest ascent of the Inca Trail, which usually takes place on day 2 of 4. Here you will reach 4200m above sea-level! Sugary snacks and fruit, as well as taking it slow can help ease feelings of nausea.
The city of Cusco, the base for many people starting the trek, has some great Inca sights such as Sacsayhuaman (some say it’s pronounced 'Sexy Women') within walking distance, which are great to explore whilst you acclimatise.