Everything You Need to Know Before a Machu Picchu Hike
Are you preparing for a Machu Picchu hike? It will be a breathtaking experience, made even better by having some background info before you go. Read on!
Looking for a place filled with mystery, beauty, and challenge as well as cultural and spiritual significance? Machu Picchu is this kind of place. Hiking in Machu Picchu is a life experience you’ll never forget. And because you may only get one opportunity to be there, you should make the most of it.
Proper planning will help you see everything you want to see and experience all that this majestic place has to offer. Let’s lace up our hiking boots and explore what you need to know before a Machu Picchu hike.
1. It’s Exclusive
Machu Picchu may seem out in the open and available to all. But this hike is very exclusive and in demand. You’ll want to book your tour at least 6 months in advance to get a coveted spot on a Machu Picchu hike.
This may seem restrictive. But the 500 people per day rule is strictly enforced to ensure that you get the most amazing experience. As hikers, we’ve all been on an over-crowded trail that makes us feel like we might as well have hiked at a strip mall.
The exclusivity allows you to feel a sense of isolation. At the same time, it protects the site from rowdy tourists who might not respect the area and in turn cause it harm.
2. You’ll Need a Permit
You’ll obtain a permit through a travel company, from Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura Cusco. If you go through the official site, yes, the site is in Spanish. Just hit the image of the British flag to swap it over to English if needed. But you might as well take this time to practice your Spanish before you go. On this website you can view dates currently available and how many slots are open.
3. Choose Your Day Wisely
This all depends on what you want and prefer. High season is June through August so during this time you’ll likely have larger crowds. If you like seclusion, you may choose to schedule during the low season September -January and March – May.
4. The trails are closed during February for trail maintenance
Only more seasoned hikers should attempt a low season hike. This is rainy season in Peru so trails will be slick and unsteady. And you may endure bouts of heavy downpours and flooding.
Wear your water-proof boots, water wicking wool socks and a rain poncho for optimal comfort.
5. Stay Healthy
Some people won’t feel a thing. Others may feel miserable. Even if you’re an avid hiker, you’re likely not commonly hiking at these elevations. You may get elevation sickness.
Elevation sickness can really take the spring out of your step. It includes:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Dizziness/Fainting … not good on steep trails
Those symptoms don’t make for a pleasant hike.
Fortunately, it’s totally preventable if you take these steps.
- Plan to stay at least 2 days in Cusco before attempting the Inca Trail. This will allow your body to properly acclimate to thinner air.
- Get plenty of sleep before your hike. The night before isn’t the time for an all-nighter. It’s 100% not a waste of your time and money to go for an extra couple hours sleep each night leading up to the Machu Picchu hike. You’ll get more out of the experience if you’re well-rested.
- Bring medication. Water pills, anti-nausea and coca tea (legal in Peru and not addictive) will help prevent and reduce symptoms.
- Drink lots of water both before and during the hike. Drink even if you’re not thirsty.
- Get a massage. It sounds a little weird, but works. Get a massage before your Machu Picchu hike. It loosens your muscles and improves circulation so that your body can do more with less oxygen.
- Eat Carbs and minimize protein/fat. If you never eat donuts, you can eat them guilt-free on this hike. Because your body has limited oxygen, it has fewer resources to put toward digestion. That’s why you may feel sick. Simple sugars take less effort to digest.
- Don’t push it. Hiking at this altitude is different. Regardless of your experience, you will need to take breaks and slow down.
6. Pack Smart
Like all major hikes, packing smart for a Machu Picchu hike is important to getting the most out of the experience. Here’s a quick checklist for smart packing:
- Extra batteries for devices – Don’t miss out on breathtaking images and candid shots of your hiking companions.
- A device with ample room for photos – Clean up your iPhone or camera before you go. You may take over 1000 pictures and videos on a Machu Picchu hike. You’ll need room for them. If this means bringing an extra camera of GoPro, do it.
- The right clothes for every occasion – In one day, you’ll likely encounter day, night, hot, cold, windy and rainy. Be ready for anything and all of it. You may even want to bring two sets of boots. Don’t forget a rain jacket, base layers, sunglasses and a hat.
- Peruvian Soles – There will likely be vendors selling food and drinks.
- Hiking food – You know what works best for you.
- First aid – altitude medicine, knee brace, compression stalkings, blister pads, band-aids
- Insect repellant
- Tent, sleeping bag, etc. if staying overnight
But pack light. Don’t take anything that you really don’t need.
7. Hire a Porter
You’ll find that most hikers hire a porter. Given how much you need to carry, having someone else carry it can really enhance the experience. Not only are you taking the weight off of yourself. You’re investing extra money in their local community by providing jobs. That’s great for you and great for people. But the choice is up to you. Many feel that part of the experience is “pulling your own weight”. If that’s you, and you’re able, then go for it.
Plan Your Perfect Machu Picchu Hike. Now that you know everything you need for your Machu Picchu hike, it’s time to book a spot on this coveted tour.
Reservations for Inca Trail 2018 are for sale as You read this piece. And they’ll sell out fast. We’re here to help you have the most amazing Machu Picchu hike experience. Book your tour today.
Miguel Angel Gongora, April 18, 2018