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Your Questions on Machu Picchu Tours – ANSWERED!

by Meg · 19 comments


Check out the bottom of this post for my complete PACKING LIST for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 day / 3 night hike!

After our Inca Trail hike last March, I wrote a post on tips for hiking the Inca Trail… But little did I know that people had WAY more questions than I had answers.

Thus my reasoning for following up with an article to answer all the follow-up questions people had from my initial list of tips.

How far in advance should people book their Machu Picchu tours? Do you pay online and then contact their office once you’re in Cusco ?

The best time to visit Machu Picchu is outside of the rainy season. The peak season (with the best weather) is June to August and when booking during the peak season, you should book it 6 months in advance. Be advised that the trail closes for the entire month of February for cleaning. We actually booked our hike during the rainy season (late March), so we only had to book out 2 months in advance, since it was the low season for the treks.

Hiking During Rainy Season Not Advised - Best Time To Visit Machu Picchu

We booked our hike with Peru Treks (they are awesome!) and we paid in full online when we booked. When we got to Cusco, we had to go to their office for check-in and for an orientation meeting several days before our hike to discuss rules of the trail, last minute questions, and tips for what to pack, etc.

Prices between groups for Machu Picchu tours and Inca Trail treks can vary wildly. You can find trips for as cheap as $250-300 (in addition to the Inca Trail entrance fee), but we’ve heard VERY mixed reviews. Peru Treks was moderately priced compared to their competitors at $500 and it was an excellent value.

What made you choose Peru Treks over the other tour companies?

We had so many recommendations from other backpackers to try Peru Treks and after doing some research, we found that they were among the best tour companies and Peru Treks was incredibly reasonable with their price for the 4 day / 3 night trek. We had such a great experience with them. Excellent equipment, guides, food, and customer care…. They even brought you hot coffee and hot chocolate to your tents for your morning wake up call…. How can you top that?!

Picture of Campsite - Best Time To Visit Machu Picchu

How in shape do you need to be for the Inca Trail hike? Should us old folks worry?

As far as physical fitness, it isn’t extremely intense but you should definitely go on some day hikes beforehand to get in shape for the hike. Day 2 of the hike was the hardest for us. Day 2 is only a couple hours of hiking but it a steep hike… But the scenery is so stunning that you forget about the physical activity for much of it!

Day 2 Picture - Best Time To Visit Machu Picchu

There were 4 people on our trip that were in their 50′s and 60′s and they completed all 4 days just fine. People are advised to go at their own speed, so even if it means getting to the campsite later than most of the group, just go at your own pace and take it slow. The hiking guides will always hang back with people too, so do not worry about losing your way if you fall back from the main crowd.

Regardless of how in shape you are, I would HIGHLY recommend arriving in Cusco at least several days prior to the hike to get acclimated to the altitude in the region.

Should I hire a porter?

The Porter’s automatically carry tents, all of the cooking gear, and food & drink. An extra porter can be hired though to carry extra gear. So should you do it? It depends…

The prices to hire an extra porter vary depending on what company you are using. Porter’s are great because they can carry a bag for you, which will allow you to pack more and not have to carry much during the days. Tony and I actually carried all of our own stuff (along with the sleeping bags and mats) and were fine. I was able to fit all my clothing and gear in a 32L bag and it wasn’t that heavy (10 kilos). We didn’t really have access to any warm showers on the hike so you can forget bringing too many toiletries besides toothbrush/toothpaste/deodorant, which will save room in your pack!

Do Coca Leaves really help with the altitude sickness?

Coca leaves are helpful and most of the guides have bags of them available on the trail… and some guides are definite Coca pushers! My biggest piece of advice for fighting off altitude sickness is to drink lots of water… I think that helps more than anything!  I would also bring Advil / Ibuprofen just in case you get a bad headache, but this is something Tony and I never had to do. It is also mandatory to show up 2 days in advance to get acclimated to the altitude, but if you can swing the extra time, try for even longer. The people who were at altitude the longest before the hike started had the fewest problems.

What should I pack for my 4day / 3 night trek?

Here was my entire packing list (lady-specific) and it was more than enough for the evenings and the trek in general:

Hiking Shot - Best Time To Visit Machu Picchu

What are the evenings like on the Inca Trail hike (at the campsite)?

Very relaxing! Once people are done with the day’s hike, the guides usually give the hikers an hour or two to themselves to relax in the tents or drink tea and coca (which they provide) with some snacks.  Dinner is then served (and is surprisingly good!).

Group Dinner - Best Time To Visit Machu Picchu


After dinner, the guides usually give a 10 minute run-through with the hikers on what to expect for the next day and then everyone heads to bed!

How much toilet paper should I bring for the hike?

I get this question from SO many people! One roll of TP per person is probably enough for the 4 day / 3 night trek. Just remember to roll your pant legs up or tuck them into your socks before entering the stalls… They are NASTY! And hand sanitizer is a LIFESAVER – Pack it.

What are some other insider tips I should know before my hike?

There really is no electricity in the bathrooms along the Inca Trail, so make sure to pack flashlights for evening bathroom runs (clip on flashlights or headlamps work best so you can be hands free!).  Also, plan on not taking showers on the trail for the 3 nights… if you do stop at a campground with showers, the water is typically ICE cold, which is never pleasant when it is already chilly out.  Mireno wool should help out with this though. I would recommend packing baby wipes as well to help with general cleanliness!

Final Thoughts

I hope you found these helpful and please do not hesitate to ask me more questions – We had an absolute blast on our hike and I am happy to help you create an equally as amazing experience as ours.

Your Turn: Have you hiked the Inca Trail? When do you think is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? What tips do you have worth sharing with our audience? Please share below in the Comments section!

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Gillian @GlobalBookshelf July 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

You nailed it. The only thing I would add is that you can rent all you need in Cusco; sleeping bags, mats, backpacks etc. We even hiked with a guy who rented his jacket and boots!

Meg July 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Great tip – We didn’t rent anything in Cusco (besides sleeping bags directly from our tour operator) but I know it was really cheap to do so. Thanks for commenting!

JR July 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

You got me hooked. The Inca Trail and Mt. Kilamanjaro are in the bucket list.

Meg July 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Mt. Kilamanjaro would be awesome! I’m IN!

Sean August 1, 2013 at 8:47 am

Gotta admit, the biggest takeaway I got from this post is Tony’s amazing facial hair.

Meg August 1, 2013 at 1:36 pm

He won’t grow it back despite my MANY requests #forshame

Jasmin August 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for your detailed information about the Machu Picchu trek! I am planning on going to South America (Ecuador and Peru) next summer. Can you tell me if there were any solo travelers on the trek with your tour company? I will mostly likely travel solo and hope that works but I couldn’t find any information on their website.
Thanks for your feedback :) Jasmin

Meg August 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

You’re welcome Jasmine! I think there were a couple of solo travelers on our trek. You definitely become close with the other people in your trekking group, so traveling solo is perfectly fine for the hike – You will make friends FAST!

Morgan September 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Fantastic tips!! Curious, where did you leave the rest of your belongings while you were hiking? Or was everything you owned on your back?

Meg September 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Hi Morgan! Great question. Cusco is the “launch city” for the Inca Trail treks and most all of the hotels and hostels in the city will let you store your extra belongings (that you are not bringing on the hike) at their properties – and you do not need to book nights with them while you are hiking in order for them to let you store your stuff with them. Having said this, I would recommend booking a place in Cusco that has good reviews and looks safe/reputable, so you feel comfortable leaving your stuff with them. We stayed at Net House leading up to our hike and had a great experience with their property: http://www.landingstanding.com/living-slow-life-cusco-peru/

Doug July 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Meg and all for the great questions and tips. I’m 67 and looking forward to the Inca Trail trek(early September). A lot of my friends think I’m crazy but before I get to old I want to experience all that I can. I’m also looking at an expedition cruise to Antartica and the comments on Kilamanjaro have given me something else to dream about. Will update everyone on my solo trip in late September.

Meg July 9, 2014 at 7:11 am

That is such great news Doug! You are a true inspiration. I cannot wait to hear how your Inca Trail trek goes…. please keep me posted!

Lauren February 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Hi there,

Im looking to go in August and wanted to know if you hiked Huayna Picchu as well? Just wondering about if it was included, did the tour wait for you if you decided to do it independent of them… you know all those details…

Loved the post. Amazingly helpful!

Gosia February 28, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Hi Meg,

we are doing our MP hike in August with g adventure .
We’ve been told that we are allowed only 6kg backpack for the hike(this includes the sleeping bag) is that right?
all your tips are great :-)
thank you

Mirya June 28, 2015 at 4:54 am

We were thinking to go late March, was there any rain at all when you went?

Rose January 21, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Hi Meg, I’m thinking of going in early March. I know you wrote you were there in late March — did you get the sense that a few weeks would make a difference? Were the views still good? When it rained on you in March, was it more like a drizzle all day or like a quick rain that is over in an hour? Many thanks! Rose

Meg January 25, 2016 at 11:35 am

Hi Rose,

When we went in late March and it was a risky time being on the shoulder of rainy season. However, we lucked out and it was nice all three days of the hike, with the exception that it rained on the final day when we got into MP. It was pretty hard rain for 2 or so hours and then cleared up. If you go in early March, you should be fine!

ABROADIO September 7, 2016 at 8:23 am

Hi Meg, Great you can share your Inca trail trekking experience with us. Good suggestion on planning it in advance, especially if we are thinking of travelling during high season.

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