Hiking the Inca Trail – What to Bring, What to Expect & Altitude Strategies Posted on April 22, 2016

Hiking the Inca Trail - An Apple a Day, Alyse Cocliff
As a little girl, my Grandma would tell me stories about the Incas and Spanish invasion. She had a giant A3 picture book under her coffee table and whenever I’d stay, I’d pull it out and flip through the pages, always stopping on the double page photo of Machu Picchu. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I would one day visit the lost city and visit, we did.

Last December, Andrew and I embarked on our first trip to South America and trekking the Inca Trail was on the top of our list. 

The Trek

The Inca trail itself is 47km. The highest point is approximately 4,200m above sea-level. The rest meanders up and down throughout the mountains at on average, 2,800m. We arrived in Cusco and acclimatised to the altitude before starting our trek – something I highly recommend. You can read all about this here.

The trek itself takes 3.5 days. For us, the first and last days were short and sweet, day 2 was definitely the hardest as you approach the summit, and day 3, somewhere in between. The trek itself isn’t taxing, it’s the lack of oxygen that takes it out of you. It really is the case of the slow and steady wins the race, take your time and reap the rewards.


From what we’re told, the best time of year to do the Inca trek, is anywhere between April – September. Due to work and university constraints, we had no choice but to trek early December. We accepted it was going to be wet and prepared accordingly. It rained (especially on the last day), but it meant we really took some time to process our own thoughts and feelings before we entered the sun gate. I guess you could call it forced meditation, I loved every minute.  

Our Team

We booked a private tour with View Peru. We honestly, could not have asked for a better experience. Our equipment was top quality, the food was amazing and our team of strong men or “hombre forte” were incredibly accommodating and the best fun. I would highly recommend this company.

Our Guide

Our guide, Luis, hands down made our trip. He was incredible and knew everything about well, everything. He was so passionate about protecting Peru, the mountains and the history (and magic) behind this ancient culture. He tailored our trip to our needs and made it everything it was and more. Other groups on the trail commented about how lucky we were to have him, we agreed. If you book a tour, ask for Luis Jussyf Velarde Mora, he is an incredible guide and so passionate about his job.

What was Included

They cooked (food was amazing), cleaned, set up camp, packed it away, breakfast lunch and dinner. They set up the porta-loo and heated water for our hot shower at the end of the day. They even carried 7kg of our luggage each day. Pretty amazing hey??!

At the end of the trek, it’s customary to tip the team. So please don’t accidentally leave the bulk of your cash in your stored luggage back at your hotel like we did… lucky we found an ATM in town before the trek and on completion. 

What We Took

  • Clothing – It gets COLD at night, even in the summer so pack warm. When we arrived in Cusco, we opted to buy snow down jackets as we were incredibly underprepared. Take some clothes to get changed into at night, and fresh clothes for the second half of the trek. Also water-proof wear is highly recommended. 
  • Water Bottles – 2 x 1L of which you refill along the way. Clipping them to the outside of your pack is the most effective way to carry them.  
  • Extra Hiking Boots + Shoes – for when it’s wet and something to change into at night
  • Extra Socks – I took one for each day. 
  • Snacks – We took some Paleo Bars, they were so handy. 
  • Foam Roller (yes, yes, I took a roller and it was a THE BEST THING I DID)
  • Toiletries – self explanatory really
  • Water Purifier – just because I like to go the extra mile. I use Citronella drops from health food store. 
  • Rain Poncho – don’t even consider trekking without one
  • Hat – You’re closer to the sun, so I highly recommend protection. 
  • Camera and spare battery
  • Peppermint Oil (see below)
  • Sleeping bag liner – Depending on your package, this may or may not be taken care of. We opted to bring an insulated one, it was heaven. 
  • Passport – You have to bring your passport, photocopies aren’t acceptable. 
  • Torch – so important! 
  • Antiseptic hand gel and mosquito repellant. We used a natural repellant by Burt’s Bees and it worked just fine. 

The Altitude

Everyone always asks me about altitude sickness. The truth is, we didn’t fare too badly. Andrew experienced a little insomnia, light headaches and fatigue. Myself, I skipped the headaches, but lost my appetite so much that I got a little light headed on the way to the summit.. Quickly fixed with some chocolate but easily avoided, eat when you’re not hungry AKA listen to your guide. We also chewed cocoa leaves, I swear they helped, you can read about them here.

What to Expect

It’s stunning. Absolutely stunning, mind-blowing, breath taking and more. Instead of raving on and on about how incredible it is, I thought I’d share a quick (and very rough) video compilation of our experience. Click the link below. A huge thank you to my husband who filmed most of this footage.  

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – An Apple a Day from Alyse Cocliff on Vimeo.

Written by Alyse Co-cliff

Alyse Co-cliff

Founder of An Apple a Day, Holistic health coach, Speaker and Passionate Whole-Foodie committed to helping others nourish their body from the inside out.
"It's all about simple, effective nutritional advice and real time solutions for the busy individual. Good health doesn't have to be hard work" Alyse x

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