A visit to Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the world is a dream for many. Machu Picchu was a dream for me as well and it took me a year to fulfill that dream. You would think that with a year’s worth of planning I will be fully prepared. That was far from the reality. Reading more guides and checklists for Machu Picchu would have helped me avoid making some mistakes. Visiting Machu Picchu will be one of the toughest and priceless experiences of your life and I want you to be fully ready for it. With that being said, I present to you an extensive guide for the Machu Picchu hike.
Pre-Machu Picchu Hike: Check List
Depending on what country you are coming from, you might need to take some vaccines when visiting Peru. This is especially important if you plan to go through the Amazon rainforest. The general vaccinations required for Peru are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Rabies vaccines. The Yellow Fever vaccine is quite expensive in the U.S. I personally didn’t take it as I didn’t plan on going through the Amazon forest. For more information on Vaccines for Peru, check out this page.
Machu Picchu (7,972 ft) and the surrounding areas are thousands of feet high. Depending on what hiking route you take you can hike as high as 15,000 ft. It is important to take precaution to avoid altitude sickness. Diamox, although a strong pill, is recommended for travelers. Make sure to see your doctor for a prescription. Another remedy is a natural way, from the Coca plant. Coca is the plant from Cocaine. Don’t fret! You wouldn’t get high from this plant. It is common in Peru and used to cure Altitude sickness. You wouldn’t have any difficulty searching for Coca plant as it is in abundance in Peru. You digest Coca plant in the form of a tea, candy, chewing the leaves raw (I don’t fully recommend this), inhalant etc. Whatever way you injest Coca, don’t bring it back to the airport! (Esp. in the U.S.) Except you want to be caught for smuggling an illegal substance.
Due to the constant change in elevation, you might experience a headache. Bring a painkiller (Midol, Ibuprofen, Advil, Paracetamol etc) along with you.
I learned a hard lesson on this one. You must bring sunscreen when hiking to Machu Picchu. Because the elevation is higher, you will be closer to the sun rays and its effects. Buy an SPF 50 sunscreen and above. Nothing less. You don’t want the skin of your whole face to peel like mine did when I was hiking. It was a total mess. One more thing, please get a sunscreen that matches your skin tone or at least get a spray sunscreen.
Two long pants
It is usually chilly while hiking through the mountains and at night. I advise you to get two comfortable pants to wear for a 4-day hike. Preferably waterproof pants.
Scarves are very essential on this trip. At least for me, they were. I used my thick scarf to wrap around my neck and over my nose when it got bitterly cold.
You’ll need thick and comfortable hiking boots like the ones showcased above. What I love about these boots are that they are waterproof.
Hiking boots can be heavy. You can change it up a bit especially once you start hiking through warmer climates with less snowy terrains. A light sandal that is equally good for hiking will make your trek feel far easier or comfier.
Get 3 – 4 long-thick socks for your hike. Also, bring along lighter ankle socks for the warmer climate.
The weather while hiking to Machu Picchu is unpredictable. It doesn’t hurt to get a raincoat even during the dry season.
This is one of THE most important items to get. Hiking for days is no joke. It is important to have something that can support your back and help you hike through tough terrains.
Get a medium to large sized backpack with back support features. Features such as straps, you can tie around your waist for weight balance makes a big difference in terms avoiding back pain or strain. The Osprey backpack is a great example. A nice to have feature is a backpack with a tube connected to a water pack for drinking while hiking. Just like the CamelBak.
It is isn’t advisable for travelers/visitors to drink tap water in Peru or water from any source. However, sometimes this is unavoidable. Get a water purifier that can cleanse your drink no matter what source it comes from. An example of such a product will be the LifeStraw personal water filter. The straw has perforated holes at the bottom acting as a filter from bacteria and parasites. This filter is durable and can filter up to 1000 gallons of water. It has been tested by the US EPA, NSF, ASTM. What’s great about this product is how light and portable it is.
Another essential item to bring is toilet papers. In Cusco, Peru, you pay for a toilet paper. It’s rare to find them in bathrooms. Furthermore, when hiking, you are more likely to have you use the natural toilet. Your toilet paper would definitely be useful then.
Did you “even” visit Peru or hike to Machu Picchu if there is no evidence to show that you did? There is a high chance that you’d like to take a picture or record a video of this memorable experience. Definitely bring your camera or video recorder along. Don’t forget to take a portable charger as well. Very few places you’d sleep in will have electricity. Of course, get an adapter converter. Peru uses Type A and Type C sockets. The standard voltage in Peru is 220 V with a frequency of 60 Hz.
My bug spray was a life saver for me. You will need this especially as you walk past the forest. Make sure your bug spray has DEET in it. DEET is the active ingredient used to repel mosquitos and other bugs. I used this very bug spray during my trip and it was highly effective.
1 fleece or Hoodie
To keep your head warm. What more can I say?
Keep your body warm with thermals. You can also wear leggings under your hiking pants.
Bring two light tops for a warmer climate.
Unforeseeable events are bound to happen while in Peru. Like the time I realized that I could no longer hike up the Salkantay pass, so I paid to ride on a mule instead. You could get injured and need a ride back or want to eat out at a restaurant etc. You just never know. In addition, most of the restrooms you’ll find while hiking requires you to pay for using them. Take at least $150 in cash with you.
5 pairs of underwear
You wouldn’t have time to do laundry while hiking. I advise you to get as many underwears as you can for this trip.
Hiking groups often target to go out during the day but there will be times when it gets dark while hiking. A flashlight could be useful in this scenario. I also found a flashlight handy while camping out in the wilderness.
One item I wish I brought on my trip was a sports hijab that’s versatile. Muslim owned company Asiya Sport offers sports hijab that allow you to do intense sports and outdoor activities in comfort. In addition to Asiya’s Sports Hijab being versatile, these hijabs are ultra light-weight and breathable. Some of the customers’ favorite features of the Hijabs are the pull-on design, so you don’t need pins, and the mesh fabric details that allow for neck comfort. Asiya Sport Hijab comes in many colors: Black, Maroon, Gold, Royal blue to name a few. Click here to find out more
Portable prayer mat
These portable travel prayer mats are waterproof and come with a compass for Qiblah directions. Portable prayer mats were helpful to spread out and fold back in my backpack while hiking.
You’ll need a duffel bag to put your sleeping apparels and other non-essential hiking materials.
Get a sleeping bag that is suitable for extreme cold weather. You can also add a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth.
Being out in the wilderness means that you wouldn’t have the luxury to take a shower every day. Wet wipes come in handy in such a situation. I might add to get a hand sanitizer to clean your hands before eating.
These are always useful.
These are great after long days of hiking. They were a life saver for my sister who got blisters. It served as a cushion, covering the exposed blister while continuing her hike.
Besides needing your passport to get into Peru, it is also required to get into Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu Hike: Fitness
Everyone’s fitness and stamina level vary. There is no sure-fire rule on how often or intense you should work out before visiting Machu Picchu. However, on a general note, I will suggest that you do some cardio exercises at least twice a week, a month or two before your trip. It also helps to work out with the stair-climber. Besides it building your lower body muscles, it also improves your stamina for climbing higher elevation. Being fit is a good start to getting through the Machu Picchu Trek.
With that being said, the success of this adventurous hike is 90% mental stamina and 10% physical fitness. Even the fittest person can struggle on this hike. It’s important to know your body and what it can handle.
Machu Picchu Hike: When to visit
The best time to do a Machu Picchu hike is during the dry season. This is from April – September. Machu Picchu’s Wet season is between October – March. You will want to avoid hiking Machu Picchu in December, January, and especially February. The trail routes are usually wet and slippery on those months. Check here for more information.
Machu Picchu is busiest from late May and Early september. Anytime in between will be best to hike.
Machu Picchu Hike: How to get there
There are many routes to trek to Machu Picchu. Here are some of the common treks.
Inca Trail (Most Popular)
Difficulty Level: Very Easy – Slightly difficult
This is the most common, expensive and popular route to Machu Picchu. It is like this for a good reason. The Inca Trail is the trail used by the Incas to escape the Spanish when they took their lands. It was an arduous and unpredictable pilgrimage that took days before they settled in Machu Picchu. Hiking through the Inca Trail is a symbolic experience. For this reason, many opt for the Inca Trail route. Due to its popularity, I advise you to book at least 5 months in advance for an Inca Trail pass. The government places a daily limit for hikers on this trail. In addition, you must go along with a local tour guide/company to hike the Inca trail.
You can do the Classic Inca Trail (4 days 3 nights). This is for those who want to take the original route of the Incas or the Short Inca Trail (2 days 1 night). The short route is for beginners to hiking. Either route leads you to the impressive Inti Punku (Sun Gate) entrance. The classic Inca Trail is the most crowded.
Difficulty Level: Difficult
An alternative route to the popular Inca Trail. Although it is a difficult hike, the Salkantay Trek is my personal favorite. I love this trek because of the diversity of terrains, landscapes, and climate you experience as you hike through the Salkantay path. And the views are impressive. My favorite view was The Humantay Lake. The picture below should convince you to go through this route.
There are two main types of Salkantay Treks- (1) The Salkantay/Inka Trail (6 days 5 nights): A combination of both Salkantay and Inca routes. (2) The Salkantay Trail (5 days 4 nights): This was the route I took, however, mine was for 4 days and 3-night. The duration varies depending on the tour company. Both treks allow you to see tall mountains as high as 20,574 ft and a bit of the Amazon jungle. It is a priceless experience.
Inca Jungle Trek
Difficulty Level: Average
The Inca Jungle Trek is great for adventure seekers. It isn’t very difficult as the hike is mostly downhill. You have the opportunity to enjoy some fun activities such as river rafting, zip lining etc. The Inca Jungle Trek is a 4 day and 3-night affair.