Recently back from Peru having successfully completed the Salkantay Trek (read the day by day account here), Graham has a few tips for those planning on trekking in Peru.
Reaching the famous Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, on foot is high up on many travellers’ bucket-lists. Whilst the accomplishment brings a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction it is an extremely challenging endeavour. Here are some tips to help you prepare for one of the most famous trekking expeditions in the world.
1. Pack clothing for all weather conditions
During the course of your trek you will experience a multitude of environments and it is necessary to have the correct clothing for each. You will experience hot humid days, freezing nights and possibly a sporadic shower or two. Layering is the key. A lightweight rain jacket that can be tightly packed is a good investment as are a pair of zip-off trousers. Long-sleeved tops are a good idea in the more humid areas where insects are rife. Be sure to pack a warm hat, a sun hat, a pair of gloves and a scarf too. A headlamp is also vital.
2. Invest in a good pair of hiking boots
A decent pair of sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support is essential for any trek to Machu Picchu. You will be on your feet for up to 8 hours a day, walking through a myriad of differing terrain. Ensure that your boots are well worn-in before you travel to Peru to avoid any unwanted blisters or discomfort.
3. Pack light
On the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trail each person is limited to a total of 7kg (carried by the mules and porters), 2kg of which will be taken up by camping equipment. It is therefore vital to pack light. You can also bring a small day-pack for personal items such as snacks, water, a rain jacket, jumper, sunblock, insect repellent and camera.
4. Bring snacks
All meals are provided on the trail, however snacks are important to give an extra energy boost when you need it. You can buy snacks along the trail, however, prices will be higher than in Cusco due to the remoteness.
5. Carry some cash in the local currency (Nuevo Sol)– notes and coins
Passing through local communities along the route, you may wish to purchase drinks and snacks, or use the toilets. There are also local attractions along the routes, such as the hot springs in Santa Teresa, which require an entrance fee. Snacks will cost between 10/s and 20/s and a trip to the loo will set you back approximately 1/s. Any tipping will also need to be done in local currency.
6. Be prepared for rustic facilities
All camping equipment will be modern and well maintained, however toilet facilities are rather basic. It is advisable to bring a roll of toilet paper per person and hand sanitizer. The toilet facilities rarely have electricity so a head-torch is invaluable and when there is running water, it will be cold, although lukewarm water will be prepared in the mornings and evenings for a quick wash. Wet wipes are handy too.
Consider indulging in one of the superior hotels in Aguas Calientes at the end of your trek. After days of tough walking, your body will appreciate a bit of pampering. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo offers a tranquil setting with a natural water jacuzzi, swimming pool and spa, including a traditional Andean sauna built with eucalyptus and bamboo and warmed with hot stones. The hotel also offers several complimentary excursions for all guests including guided orchid trails and birding walks.
8. Invest in a good camera and pack spare batteries
If you have been considering splashing out on a camera this is a great excuse to do so. For most people this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and in order to really capture the essence of the highland scenery, a good quality camera is really worth it. Remember that batteries tend to drain far quicker at altitude and in colder temperatures, so a spare set of batteries is a good idea. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to charge batteries until you reach your hotel in Aguas Calientes.
9. Acclimatise before you set off & drink plenty of water en route
The maximum altitude reached on the Inca Trail is 4,200m above sea level and during the Salkantay this will be 4600m. It is therefore advisable to spend a minimum of three nights in Cusco to acclimatise properly before beginning any trek. Being the centre of the ancient Inca Empire, there are many important Inca sites in and around the city to explore. I would also definitely recommend spending some time acclimatising in the Sacred Valley just outside of Cusco, visiting the unique sites of Maras and Moray. Finally, remember that dehydration makes altitude sickness worse so you need to drink much more water than normal when trekking. Coca tea will be provided at hotels in Cusco and during breaks on the trek itself.
10. Prepare before you go
At 26 miles and 37 miles respectively, the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trail are serious endeavours and it is crucial to fully prepare yourself both mentally and physically before you start. This is a great opportunity to wear-in any new walking boots and familiarise yourself with walking poles if you are choosing to use these. Poles can be rented in Cusco for a small amount.
If you would like to trek in Peru, you can see our Inca Trail holidays here, Salkantay Trail holidays here, or fill in the online enquiry form here.