The Inca Trail is one of the world’s greatest hikes for exploring ancient paths, cloud forests, and Incan ruins hidden high into the Andean mountains.
The end-point of the hike is also among the most spectacular endpoints of any multi-day trek – the iconic site of Machu Picchu.
As you trek to the captivating Inca site, you’ll experience a number of different landscapes and altitudes, so being well-prepared is essential for having a successful and unforgettable adventure. Here’s everything you need to know – and pack – before doing the Inca Trail hike.
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Machu Picchu Weather
Whether you’re trekking to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail or via one of the alternative trails, you are bound to witness a combination of dazzling mountain ranges, diverse flora and fauna, and awe-inspiring cultural and archeological sites.
At an altitude of 2,400m (7,874 ft) above sea level, though, the Machu Picchu weather can often be unpredictable.
Overall, the region has two main seasons – sunny winters (dry season) and rainy summers (wet season). The dry season runs from April to September. During that time, the chance of experiencing heavy rainfalls is significantly reduced.
The wet season starts in October/November and lasts until March. The rainy months are a less popular time to hike and there are generally fewer crowds along the way.
The view of Huayna Picchu is always a very spectacular one.
Best Time of the Year to Hike the Inca Trail
While you can certainly hike to Machu Picchu year-round (with the expectation of February when the trails are closed for maintenance), there are some things to consider before embarking on your journey.
It’s always good to keep in mind that the chances of rain and dense mist are higher during the wet season. This is why it’s often recommended to do the trek during the dryer months.
Although there might be more hikers on the trail, the favorable weather conditions of the dry winter make it easier to walk along the steep and narrow paths and enjoy the spectacular nature without obstructions such as clouds or fog.
The months of May and October are perhaps the best time to do the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu. During these months, you can enjoy good weather and green landscapes while escaping the crowds of the high season.
Inca Trail Packing Logistics
Before you start packing, there are a few key things to know before visiting Machu Picchu, including the logistics and limits on luggage.
One of the main things to remember is that your main luggage will be left in a secure storage room at the hotel in Cusco. Before heading off to the Inca Trail, you should make sure that you have all your travel documents and tickets with you.
Make sure to use a backpack that fits all of your personal belongings. However, no need to overpack because the porters will carry the rest of your luggage.
You will also need a small daypack that you can use to carry daily necessities such as water, sunscreen, and a jacket. Note that you can take snacks with you on the hike, but food is strictly forbidden inside Machu Picchu.
Your bigger bag (usually weighing up to 5 kg/11 lbs and including your clothes and toiletries) is typically carried by your tour group’s porters for you.
Inca Trail Packing List
Whether you plan on hiking the Inca Trail in high or low season, there are some essentials that you definitely need to pack. Let’s take a closer look.
Make sure to have your documents ready when you get to the respective checkpoints.
The first item you absolutely have to pack is your passport. Before entering the Inca Trail, your passport details will be checked at the km 82 checkpoint.
Your passport is also a must for entering Machu Picchu.
Photocopies are generally not accepted and you need to be able to present the same passport you used to book your tour.
Basic First Aid Kit, Personal Medications, and Toiletries
All tour operators will be carrying an emergency first-aid kit and oxygen, but it’s still sensible to bring some of the essentials with you. Recommended items include headache and diarrhea medication, as well as (blister) bandages.
If you need any personal medication, don’t forget to pack it in your daypack.
In terms of toiletries, consider packing a toothbrush, sunscreen, lip balm, toilet paper/tissues, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and (if needed) feminine products.
Without a doubt, visiting Machu Picchu will be the highlight of your time in Peru.
When it comes to choosing and packing the right clothing items for your Inca Trail trek, you should pay extra attention to layering and functional clothes.
It is often cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon, so make sure you have several layers that you can easily take on and off as you need.
Some clothing staples to include are exercise tanks, hiking pants, leggings, shorts, and (hiking) socks. You may also want to bring a cap or a warm hat. If you’re trekking during the colder months, or are using hiking poles, you should pack a pair of gloves, as well.
Your underwear is your first layer. For a comfortable hike, opt for 2-5 pairs of breathable underwear. It is recommended to choose sports underwear that is specially designed for high-intensity activities.
The base layer, or the next-to-skin layer, is an extremely important clothing item, especially at higher altitudes.
Get ready for a lot of beautiful views on the Inca Trail.
Consider packing 1-2 top and bottom base layers that fit snugly to the skin to avoid airflow. Opt for materials that do not absorb moisture such as polyester or wool.
Depending on whether you’re doing the shorter or longer Inca Trail hike, you will need to pack 2-4 trekking shirts. Be sure to choose pieces that are breathable and lightweights. Avoid fabrics such as cotton as they cannot facilitate moisture transfer.
Jackets and Wind Breakers
A high-quality waterproof jacket and a wind breaker are a must-have.
The weather in the Peruvian mountains can be inconsistent, which means that even if you’re hiking during the dry season, you can still experience some rain showers. Having a good outer core (third) layer is important for ensuring you’re warm and comfortable during your adventure.
Good trekking shoes are very important, especially when you’ll be touring for a couple of days.
While the weather on the Inca Trail can vary, it’s a good idea to pack good quality, waterproof hiking boots regardless of the season. To avoid unnecessary discomfort and blisters, you should wear-in your boots before going on the hike.
You can also bring flip-flops or sandals to change in after the hikes and wear around the camp or in the tent.
Ready to Follow the Path of the Incas?
Heading out for the Inca Trail is a wonderful way to uncover the mesmerizing beauty of the Peruvian Andes and follow the route that the ancient Incas took over 600 years ago.
If you’re short on time, but don’t want to miss out on the hiking experience, you can book a 2-day Inca Trail hike. If you have some more time, though, the classic 4-day trek is a perfect opportunity to explore breathtaking nature and immerse into the life of local communities.
Feeling inspired? Check out our Inca Trail tours and find the right one for you!