My flight to Peru was booked, and my dream of hiking the Inca Trail and walking through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu was finally becoming a reality! But then the reality hit me: I had never done an overnight hike before! What did I pack? How did I get in shape? Was it safe? Should I go alone or with a group?
As excited as I was, I realized I had a lot of planning ahead of me—but every moment of preparation (and, sometimes, extreme anxiety) was all worth it. Here are a few tips and tricks that helped me not only survive the Inca Trail but have the trip of a lifetime!
Before booking my trip, I wasn’t sure how I felt about going with a tour group. I was worried that traveling with a group of strangers would take away from the trip. However, after plenty of research, I decided to go with Active Adventures on the Ultimate Peru Adventure.
Along the trek, our trip leader was incredibly helpful, offering plenty of local tips, and he told us tons of interesting information about the surrounding area. He made us all feel comfortable and safe, even those of us who weren’t used to trekking. I became close friends with my small tour group of ten people and still keep in touch with them.
Picking a quality tour group not only helped take the stress out of planning the travel logistics, but is truly what made my trip such a fabulous experience. (And for all the foodies out there, our chefs along the trek were incredible!)
On the Inca Trail, we had people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels. However, I highly recommend preparing your body a little and familiarizing yourself with how your body reacts to high altitude. But don’t worry; you don’t need to do an extreme amount of training. To prepare, I went on one or two hikes a week and did plenty of dog walking. My hikes (on average) ranged from 3 to 7 miles.
But no matter how fit you are back home, it’s important to remember that everybody reacts differently to altitude! If you can, try to find a hike in your area that has somewhat of a higher altitude. I only had the opportunity to do one higher altitude hike, and although it wasn’t as high as the Inca Trail, it still gave me an idea of how my body would feel in high altitude.
But don’t stress too much; your guide has helped many people hike the trail and will be there to help you if you start to feel sick (or even if you simply need a little extra motivation!).
I am a firm believer in digital detoxing when traveling, but when hiking in the wilderness, it’s comforting to know that I have a few helpful resources at my fingertips if I ever need them. When hiking (or traveling in general), there are always a few resources and apps I like to have on my smartphone to stay safe.
For my Inca Trail trek, I downloaded the MotionX GPS app, which allows GPS navigation minus the need for cell service. Thankfully our guides kept us on track, but it was comforting to know that if anything happened, I had my phone for backup navigation.
Whenever you’re traveling anywhere, it’s important to check in with your doctor first. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to get certain vaccinations or medication. Before visiting your doctor, it’s helpful to do a little bit of your own research, since your doctor may not always be aware of what medications or vaccinations are required for the places you plan to visit. You should definitely make sure to mention to your doctor if you plan to visit the Peruvian Amazon or anywhere at high altitude.
The hardest part of my trip (aside from trekking up the stairs of the Inca Trail) was packing! There are several limitations on how much you pack on the Inca Trail, including both size and weight limitations.
Each porter is limited to carrying 20kg, which includes all blankets, clothes and personal belongings. Talk to your tour company and/or guide before your trip to get up-to-date information about what you’re allowed to pack.
Last but not least, be ready to have spectacular experiences and create memories that will last a lifetime. When I booked my trip to Peru and the Inca Trail, I had certain expectations and ideas of what the trip would be like. I was really looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu, but I found that the journey and all of its unexpected surprises was also an incredibly special part!