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Reviewed February 23, 2013

The Inca Trail is a really great way to go to Machu Picchu. It's a 4 day trek starting from the Sacred Valley! The first day you trek around 6 hours, but it's not that hard you go up and down and up and down, but it's simple (specially compared to the next two days). On day two you trek going up, up, up, up, up for around 6 hours... The views are amazing, and you do get tired specially after you go up to 4200 meters! Then you walk around 2 more hours and you arrive to the campsite. We traveled with Bamba Experience and it was really great, as they organize the tents for you, they cook really amazing meals, and their guide was really knowledgable and very nice person! Every day they woke us up with a cup of coca tea (so, a great way to wake up) On day three for us it was the hardest, as you have to walk down most of the time, and if your knees are not great then it will hurt a lot! You walk for around 7 - 8 hours. On day 4 it's an easy hike but very early in the morning and you reach Machu Picchu through the sun gate. We where not lucky and could not see Machu Picchu from there as it was very foggy (as we went on January 2013 and it's rainy season). But we then walked down to Machu Picchu and the fog disappeared and we had some great views of Machu Picchu.

We highly recommend doing the Inca Trail if you feel up for it and we recommend Bamba Experience as your local operator.

Date of experience: January 2013
5  Thank Wilfred H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 18, 2013

We did not have a great Inca Trail experience. I will try to be objective and as fair as possible in my review. Bottom line up front: this hike is not for everyone. Machu Picchu can be for everyone and there is no shame in taking the train into Aguas Calientes to catch the tour bus up the mountain for the day. I wish very much that we had.

A little background on us: my fiance and I are both 32 years old and in reasonably good shape. Between us we have run two marathons and about a dozen half-marathons, hiked a portion of the Camino in Spain, and are otherwise fairly active. We are travelers but not mountain climbers or campers. I was in the Army and spent two years in the Middle East in fairly austere environments.

Our trip began with two days in Cusco allowing our bodies to adjust to the altitude. We both took Diamox and had no issues with sickness. Get a prescription before you go, it will help. We booked our hike through SAS. They picked us up at our hotel very early on the first day. We stopped briefly to pick up other members of the group, then stopped on the edge of town where all of the porters got on the bus. There were no more seats left so they all crammed in and sat on the floor for two hours as we made our way toward the trail head. Not a fantastic or comfortable ride for anyone or a good start to the trip.

The terrain between Cusco and the trail is mountainous with many hills and switchbacks. Our small minibus stopped on the side of the road so a girl could get off and vomit. By the time we arrived at the trail two members of the group were sick, one from altitude and one from motion sickness.

To say the hike is challenging may be misleading. Some people will think it's a walk in the park, while others will say it's nearly impossible. Here's the deal for the average person: it's hard. Very hard. The terrain is uneven and you are walking up and down mountains for several days carrying a load. Our guide, while kind and helpful, talked a lot. We seemed to always be running behind his schedule (but he continued to stop and lecture) and we arrived at camp late with little time to get situated before dark. Campers will have no problem with spending the night on the trail. Non-campers will find it difficult. The ground is hard, even with a small mattress, and it's cold. Getting up in the night to go to the bathroom is extra fun. It's not like regular camping where you can wander twenty yards away from your tent. You have to get dressed, locate a bathroom (more on those later) and find your way back in the sea of tents that all look alike. It is a twenty minute process and it sucks.

The views on the hike are really amazing. We passed through several different ecosystems along the way and enjoyed the panoramic scenes after climbing the steepest parts of the trail.

Unfortunately during the course of the next three days about half of our group was sick. We all ate the same food and drank the same water so it is very unlikely there was food poisoning. The sanitary conditions on the trail were abysmal. I just read a review and someone mentioned the 'clean' bathrooms. Nope. Not on the Inca Trail. They were beyond disgusting and would have benefited from a couple gallons of bleach being sprayed everywhere. I stayed out of them as much as possible and firmly believe they had something to do with everyone becoming sick. I used hand sanitizer as liberally as possible all the time. My fiance was not so lucky. Around dinner time on the last night on the trail she became sick. It seemed everyone was sick on the last night. As she was vomiting outside our tent in the middle of the night another member of the group emerged from her tented and got sick. I was up trying to help and noticed the sounds of people getting sick all around us. It was terrible.

The porters needed to catch a train back to Cusco very early (we were told), so we had to get up at 4am on the last day of the hike. We were also told everyone wants to reach the sungate by sunrise to see Machu Picchu at dawn. Sunrises are overrated. I've slept at the top of Mount Sinai in Egypt to see the sunrise. While beautiful there is too much emphasis placed upon them and most experiences would be the same whether taking place at sunrise or mid-morning. It didn't matter in this instance because it started to rain at 3am. The walk on the last day was tough. My fiance was very sick and weakened. It was raining and we had very little visibility. There were several parts of the trail with steep cliffs and only a narrow path. We moved slowly and I'm glad we didn't die. Our group moved on and we trudged through the rain for several hours before arriving at the sun gate. Our guide met us there and told us to head below to Machu Picchu for a morning of lectures. I was contemplating taking my fiance straight to a hospital and the only thing on my agenda was getting off of the mountain. It took us another hour and a half to reach the buses and we bypassed Machu Picchu altogether. It didn't really matter though because it was rainy and foggy and there were no "sights" to be seen.

We spent the night at the Inkaterra and were never happier to see a real bathroom. I can't say enough great things about this hotel and their staff.

We tried to head up the mountain the next day to see Machu Picchu. As soon as the bus reached the top the floodgates opened up again. We entered the gates as rain poured down and a man was being carried out with his leg bent in an unnatural manner and a look of agony on his face. We only stayed for about fifteen minutes and then waited in the rain for about 45 minutes trying to get off the mountain once again.

We caught an afternoon train back to Cusco. They played the same 3 techno songs on a continuous loop at a very loud volume the whole trip. Half-way through a man dressed like a clown with a devil mask appeared in our car and started dancing. I'm serious. You can't make this stuff up. All we wanted to do was sleep but that was not on their agenda. After the clown departed the train attendants put on a "fashion show" for another 20 minutes and we were given the opportunity to buy alpaca sweaters and scarves. No thanks.

As you can see we had some bad luck on this trip and hopefully others have had much more positive experiences on the Inca Trail. We certainly enjoyed the professionalism of our two guides. The porters were some of the hardest working folks I've ever encountered. They carried loads far exceeding anything we carried, some only wore sandals as shoes, and they all maintained a killer pace in front of us in order to reach camp and have it set up as we arrived each evening. This speaks very well about SAS as a company and I'm sure they do the Inca Trail tour as good if not better than anyone else. The negative comments about our trip have more to do with the sanitary conditions on the trail and the nature of hiking and camping rather than our tour company. If hiking the Inca Trail is something you've always wanted to do, you should certainly do it. Manage your expectations and understand it is an austere environment and things may not go your way in the mountains.

Date of experience: September 2012
45  Thank Michael J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 10, 2013 via mobile

My wife and I just returned from our trip. We did it for my 50th. So to bring her on board, I arranged a high end experience thru Perivian Soul travel. Diego arranged an amazing itinerary which started with a few days in the Sacred Valley before the 4 day, 3 night hike. Good way to acclimate.
The trip was amazing. Our guide Walther was very good, the cuisine was superb and the scenery was sublime. It is a challenging hike but if you are someone who exercises regularly, it is not too hard. Machu Pichu is all the more amazing when you see it after hiking the Inca trail- it all makes more sense. If it is on your bucket list, go do it!

5  Thank umandr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 9, 2013

Our group of four went on a private trek to Machu Picchu with peru path in september 2012. We chose to do a longer version of the trek, the first three days on the Salkantay trek and joining the Inca Trail on the fourth. This took us to some beautiful valleys and over a nearly 5000 metre pass with close-up views of the Salkantay mountain, and we were almost the only people there walking. We then joined the Inca Trail proper for days four to seven, and were a half day ahead of the 500 people who set out from Cusco, so we had really peaceful walking, quiet campsites and clean bathrooms for almost the entire hike. If you have the time, this is a great way to do it, and if you are in Peru, and you are fit, you really should do it, it is unforgettable. The scenery is spectacular and Machu Picchu itself is incomparable. Don't go into it without preparation though- there are long, steep climbs, high steps and the air is thin. We got the best service from peru path, they were always on time to meet us in Cusco with a modern vehicle and a good driver and their representative fredy was very friendly. On our trek we had a very knowledgeable guide, pavel, and a great cook, Marcelino, the gear was all modern and the atmosphere in the group was always happy and cheerful. We highly recommend these guys.

thanks for a wonderfull hike into the andes of peru

Date of experience: September 2012
3  Thank kardif j
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 1, 2013

I did the Inca trail as part of a GAdaventures tour, there were about 13 of us walking with an amazing guide Rosa, 2 assistant guides and a large support group of cooks and porters

I'm reasonably fit and have done some hiking before though nothing at that these kinds of altitudes. I knew it was going to be tough but I couldn't have imagined just how hard some parts would be, especially recovering from a severe stomach bug I'd had just two days before. But even so I'd do it again and definitely recommend doing it anyone!

Day 1 starts off relatively easily with gentle climbs, some mild Inca steps and beautiful scenery including your first set of Inca ruins.

Day 2 is known as the hardest day for a reason....you're essentially walking uphill at increasing altitude for about 5 hours until you reach the highest part of the trek - Dead Woman's Pass - at 4,200m. But of course, what goes up must come down and you get to tackle lots of lovely uneven Inca steps on your wobbly legs to get to your camp. I'm not going to lie there were tears, lots and lots of stops to 'admire the scenery' (or just catch your breath) but we all managed it!

Day 3 - from where we camped you could see the uphill path for the start of our third day, however once we'd completed this climb the views were amazing and the walk through the cloud forest was brilliant - easily my favourite part of the trail. We stopped for lunch and watched the clouds roll in and then prepared ourselves for the afternoon downhill - 2,500 Inca steps known as the 'Gringo Killers' for their uneven, slippy and steep nature - I've never been so happy to have walking poles in my life! (Watch out for the giant stone guinea pig). The final set of ruins you get to before camp are amazing and I think our whole group was slightly giddy at being so close to our end goal.

Day 4 starts super early as you wait with all the other trekkers until the check point opens, you then walk faster than you've walked throughout the trek, through the cloud forest and up the monkey steps (prepare to scramble) to reach the sun gate. Seeing Machu Picchu for the first time is amazing and you do feel incredibly elated and proud that you've completed it. You'll sit and take in the view for a while and then head down hill to explore Machu Picchu itself - made even more magical if you have a knowledgeable guide who can bring it all to life.

The tour experience:
The trek was made so much easier by the amazing support we had from our guides and porters. You're woken by the porters with a bowl of hot water to wash and a cup of cocoa leaf tea. They set up and take down camp every day, leaving after you, speeding past you up the path and getting the lunch tent and camp ready for you by the time you arrive. They carry 6kg of your kit including your thermarest and sleeping bag which you'll find ready for you in your tent by the time you get to camp on a night. At lunch and dinner you're always greeted with a round of applause (no matter how long it takes you), a cup of squash and a bowl of water to wash in. There was always enough water ready for us all to refill our bottles each morning. They were all just brilliant.

The food was always good, normally porridge or pancakes for breakfast with 3 courses for lunch and dinner, normally including soup, chicken or fish, rice or potato, with a cake or jelly for dessert. You'll also get a snack for while your trekking - fruit, sweets, granola type bar and chocolate - and then afternoon tea back in camp with popcorn, crackers and hot chocolate. We even had a birthday cake on the last night for one of our girls. I think we all agreed it was some of the best food we had on our whole trip!

Things to take:
- Cocoa leaves and sucky sweets to help with any altitude sickness
- Gateraid and re-hydration sachets - especially useful if the altitude effects your appetite
- Hydration pack - I used water bottles but had serious envy of those who'd taken their hydration packs as it was just so much easier!
- Sun cream - put it on, reapply and don't forget your hands and your heads!
- Ipod - music really helped me get through the hardest parts
- a travel pillow - might seem like a bit of a luxury item but if it helps you sleep each night all the better
- thermals to sleep in and change into on a night in camp
- Chocolate or sweet treats as a pick you up
- Easily removable layers for when you're walking
- Sunglasses and a sunhat
- Camera - I wish I taken a photo every time I'd stopped as on reflection I hardly took any

Prepare yourself for....
- camping - get ready to rough it although you do feel quite spoiled by the porters,
- the bathrooms - not great, prepare for the worst when you go in and you'll be fine!
- Inca flat - we soon learnt when our guides referred sections as Inca flat they basically meant just not as steep incline decline as before!
- Machu Picchu non trekkers - you might feel slightly cheated that even though its only 8am there's already loads of tourists wandering around clean and fresh having caught the bus up first thing that morning. I think most of our group scowled at a few as they looked at our dishevelled, sweaty selves passing them on the path :)

I really hope if you walk the Inca trail you enjoy as much as I did. It's an amazing experience so enjoy the views and if at any point you don't know if you can do it just stop, have a drink, catch your breath and then keep going - trust me it's worth it! :)

Date of experience: June 2012
21  Thank Lizbeth26
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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