Elevation of the Inca Trail – Tips for this trip
Are you looking for an amazing and unrepeatable experience in the mystical elevation of the Inca trail? Then join us on this trip that will immerse you through the exuberant and thick Peruvian jungle, in which you will be able to admire for yourself the greatness and spirit of a people who managed to leave indelible traces in the highest mountains.
Step by step you will see how history merges between the ancestral paths, full of magic and mystery. So come, challenge your limits with the altitude of the Inca Trail, and experience a special moment that will remain engraved in your DNA. The elevation of the Inca trail awaits you, are you ready to accept the challenge?
What is the Inca Trail and why is it so popular among travelers?
Also known as the Inca Trail or Qhapaq Ñan (Quechua), it is an ancient network of roads that linked and communicated various territories in South America, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and mainly Peru; covering at least 30,000 kilometers.
It is known that this vast network existed since the pre-Inca era, however, each of these roads was expanded, integrated, and perfected, during the rise and expansion of the Inca civilization in the fifteenth century, being used as a commercial, military route. , administrative and religious pilgrimage.
However, at present, the term <Inca Trail> refers specifically to the famous hiking route that leads to the Inca citadel Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco.
This is the most popular and attractive section for visitors, since, among its approximate 42 kilometers, which begins in the town of Piskacucho, (km 82 of the railway), it is possible to enjoy the incomparable beauty of the Peruvian Andes, crossing the ancestral roads, flanked by the ancient ruins that remain settled between valleys, mountains and cloud forests.
What is the elevation of the Inca Trail and how does it affect hikers?
In itself, the height of the Inca trail ranges from 2,400 to 4,200 meters above sea level; so it may seem like a big challenge to some people. In fact, the highest point of the Inca trail is located at about 4,215 meters, in what is known as Abra Warmihuañusca, or <Paso de la Mujer Muerta>, while the lowest area is in the town of Aguas Calientes, at about 2,040 meters above sea level.
What are the physical and mental challenges of walking the Inca Trail at different altitudes?
As we indicated before, the Inca trail implies the challenge of taking long walks and reaching certain altitudes, for which most are not prepared.
Therefore, it is important that before starting the tour you try to have both an excellent mental attitude and a good physical condition, this includes eating a healthy diet, avoiding excesses of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, as well as sleeping and hydrating well.
However, if you are overweight, have a joint problem such as hips, ankles, or knees, and/or lead a totally sedentary life; the Inca trail will undoubtedly become more difficult.
But beyond that, during the tour you can meet people of any condition, from children, the elderly and some who are overweight, who have managed to reach Machu Picchu, so you just have to listen to your body and know how to guide it at your own pace. until the end.
Tips to prepare physically for the challenge of elevation on the Inca Trail
- Maintain a diet that is as healthy as possible and low in fat.
- Excludes alcoholic beverages and excess caffeine prior to the trip.
- Perform physical activities such as walks (running) and in many cases that include climbing steps, rough paths, or steep trails.
- Acclimate your body to the altitude, spending the night in Cusco 2 days before.
- Drink enough water to avoid dehydration in hot weather.
- Avoid the use of strong drugs such as sleeping pills, as well as drugs (legal or illegal).
- Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for the walk (stick, trekking shoes, clothing for variable climates such as a waterproof jacket, layers, light pants, as well as a hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, headlamp, and a sturdy backpack).
What are the symptoms of altitude sickness and how can they be mitigated during the hike?
As is known, at higher altitudes the air is much lighter, so some people who are at an altitude of approximately 2,300 meters may experience fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, and, in extreme cases, confusion or loss of consciousness.
These symptoms lead to what is known as altitude sickness; And although each person reacts differently to altitude, it is impossible to know precisely your tolerance level, even if you are physically prepared.
For this reason, it is important to dedicate reasonable time to acclimatize the body before starting the Inca trail. The best way to do it is by staying a few days in the Sacred Valley or in Cusco, the largest city in the region, located at an altitude of 3,400 meters above sea level.
Likewise, avoid tobacco, alcohol, and sleeping pills and hydrate well during the ascent. If your tour operator or the hotel offers you coca tea before starting, don’t hesitate to drink it! It will help you better withstand the altitude.
On the other hand, given the geographical characteristics of the Inca Trail, the symptoms of altitude sickness are usually intense in the first two days, and may decrease in the last days; so go at a pace you can handle, remember this is not a race!
What are the impressive landscapes that can be enjoyed at different altitudes along the Inca Trail?
During the Inca Trail trek, you will be able to observe an endless number of beautiful landscapes along the way, which include spectacular archaeological sites, until you reach the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu.
Among them, at the beginning of the tour, you will have the opportunity to pass through the archaeological zone of Chachabamba adorned with beautiful agricultural terraces, with impressive views of the valley and its temple dedicated to the cult of water.
Further on will be the circular ruins of Runkurakay, the Sayacmarca sanctuary, the town of Phuyupatamarca or <town of the clouds>, thanks to the fact that it is constantly covered in mist; continuing like this until you reach Wiñay Wayna, an important Inca citadel with an impressive and picturesque location.
For the final stretch, we have Intipunku known as the <Puerta del Sol>, a ceremonial place that offers the most exciting view of the captivating Machu Picchu.
What are the best times of the year to hike the Inca Trail and how can the elevation of the Inca Trail affect the different seasons?
In general, the entire southern area of Peru (including Cusco) is influenced by two climatic periods: the rainy season, which runs from November to March, and the dry season, from April to October.
Therefore, the best time for the walk is during the dry season, because the climate is more stable and offers low chances of heavy rains; thus allowing a safer and more pleasant experience thanks to the fact that at this time, it is possible to explore and camp without setbacks and at the same time, the vegetation will become greener and more exuberant, adding greater beauty to the landscape.
However, the high season runs from May to September, so if you want to avoid the volume of tourists, book in the months of April, October or the first days of November.
And if what you are looking for is to defy the weather, in the rainy season it will be less crowded, only you will be exposed to various risks such as landslides and landslides on the slope of the Inca trail, as well as blocked access, among others.
Also, something that should be taken into account is that the Inca Trail is not available throughout the year, since in the month of February it is closed for maintenance.
In summary, the elevation of the Inca trail is one of those experiences that should be at the top of the list of <things to do in life>. If you allow it, it is a trip that will transform the way you see the world and the things around you.
So don’t miss this opportunity, follow these tips and experience the Inca Trail in the most unexpected way. If you want to know how to book to do this fantastic trip and the options we offer, contact us! and we will give you the advice you need.