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Reviewed October 15, 2016 via mobile

We did a lot of research to find the right trip/provider

Some facts
- 2 day tour with overnight stay in Aguas Calientes
- Private tour (2 of us) with our own tour guide
- 12 km hike of Inca trail with finish at sun gate (Day 1)
- exploring Macchu Picchu with guide (Day 2)
- 420 USD per person
- booked it 3 weeks ahead (there were no permits for the long Inca Trail left)
- Tour Operator United Mice

12 km Inca Trail
It's a lovely walk and took us around 6 hrs in total including launch, photo sessions etc.
We visited the site Winay Wayna before we alles the last kilometers to Macchu Picchu. You have to climb some very steep stairs! The locals call it gringo killer which is very accurate! The trail ends at the sun gate and it's a great feeling to arrive there and finally see Macchu Picchu after the hike!

420 USD. We were shocked by the prices at the start but once you are at Macchu Picchu and Aguas Calientes you understand. Average hotels are 120 USD, train around 120USD and a return bus ticket up to the site is 24USD. So we started to understand why the tour was so dear.
Looking back it was ok.

Tour Operator- United Mice
Very organized. We got a detailed induction the day before so we knew what to expect. The guide Walter shared a lot of his knowledge with us during the hike and at the Inca sites.
The guys even gave us a free lift to the bus station on the day after we had come back from the tour! Great service

Date of experience: October 2016
3  Thank sandradK8421DE
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 13, 2016

I’ve compiled a list below of everything that I wish I knew at the start of planning the Inca trail, and things I found really useful, which will hopefully shortcut the time for others researching and answer some of the questions!

Tour operator
I went with Alpaca Expeditions and they were great but you can search on TA and find many others with equally good feedback. The most important thing is to book well ahead to get your permit as there are only 500 a day (of which under half that amount is left by the time you factor in guides, porters and cooks). I tried to book in February for May / June and they were sold out as people pre book well ahead before Christmas. In the end I went in September as that avoided the really busy months of July and August, but still had good weather.
Alpaca looked after us really well, and the most incredible thing is the food they serve which is simply amazing in terms of taste and variety and you will certainly not go hungry at meal times. Boiled water is provided every morning, lunch and dinner so no need to buy any or use water purification tablets. I also liked them as they kept ahead of the pack by extending day 1 and 2, so we camped a bit further ahead of most other groups and this resulted in seeing very few other groups on the trail, other than Inti Sun Trek and Llama Path as they also seemed to take this approach. Alpaca also provided a toilet tent which provided a degree of cleanliness and certainly better than having to use the trees!

MOST IMPORTANT - Journey or Destination?
Is the reason for doing the Inca Trail about the grand finale of Machu Picchu? If so book an extra night in Agues Calientes so you have the following day at Machu Picchu. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s highly likely that when you arrive after the Inca trial you really are too tired to fully appreciate it and you’ll be too rushed. You will probably only arrive into the citadel at Machu Picchu around 08:30 a.m. At this time there are already lots of people. Your guide will let you take some quick snaps and then you need to exit the site and check your backpack (if too large), grab a drink, visit the toilet, get your passport stamped (small stall right next to where you check your back packs), and then your guide will give you your tickets, and only then you enter formally through the turnstiles! This will be about 09:00 – 09:30 as there maybe queues to get in! By 09:30 - 10 the place really fills up from the tourists arriving by train. Your guide will probably give you a tour of the site and then most tour companies will have a group lunch in Agues Calientes before you catch your train at approx. 16:00. In reality you need to leave around 13.30, so you will never have time to do the site justice especially with the crowds (up to 2500 tickets a day). However, if you have an extra night, you then have lots of options. We climbed Huayna Picchu (more on that further down) and afterwards had lunch re-entering at 14:00. By 15:00 most people had left and the site was nice and quiet, so you could get great photos and soak up the atmosphere. This is the Machu Picchu that I remember. I would have felt short changed leaving that day only experiencing it with the hoards! The experience without the people is completely different. You can catch the bus down after 5 P.M. (with no queuing) and have a nice evening in Agues Calientes and an amazing shower J returning fresh into Machu Picchu the next day, clean, watered after a good night’s sleep. It also allows you to catch sunrise too if you catch the 05.30 a.m. bus up, as you arrive too late on the Inca trail to catch it. It also provides a bit of contingency on the weather as our first day was cloudy but the second day was bright sunshine! I can’t recommend this strongly enough.

Packing List & Weight
Passport (which must be the same as on your booking – they check), daypack, water bottles / camelback for 2 -3L, waterproof hiking shoes / boots (see later), sleeping bag (and liner if hiring one), headlamp, 3-4 t-shirts, 1-2 longs sleeve layers, 2 hiking trousers, undergarments for every day, fleece, warm jacket, comfortable shoes for wearing around camp, rain jacket & trousers, waterproof gloves, sun hat and warm hat, sunglasses, small quick dry towel (as there is an opportunity for a shower on day 3), toiletries including toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes, hand sanitiser, sunblock, mosquito repellent, lip balm, plasters / compede, ibuprofen, medications, ear plugs (a necessity as you will most likely have a snorer), menthol nose cream to clear airways (as altitude tends to bung up your passageways) and finally a camera! As you can see you will need to be prepared for all weather conditions as it will change depending on the time of day and what part of the trail. Day 2 up to Dead Womans pass was the coldest.
However, beware of how much this weighs. Although you can choose to have 7Kg porter allowance, 3-4 Kg is taken up by the sleeping bag and air matt (if you rent them), so it’s wise to weigh your kit before going otherwise you will be carrying more in your day pack than you would want! You may need to prioritise!

I pondered over the question of shoes vs boots. Some of the advise included that 1 lb on your feet is equal to 5 lb’s on your back, so the first consideration is to go with the lightest footwear you can get. I went with boots and they gave me good ankle support (especially for downhill) and saved my toes. But they were significantly heavier than my shoes. Others in the group went with shoes and were fine. Perhaps if you are wary of your ankles go with boots but otherwise go with shoes. Also key is breaking in any new footwear, so make sure you have had several days walking so they are comfortable on the hike. The extra walking will also help with preparing for the long days walking that you will do on the trail. The more preparation you do the more likely you will enjoy the whole experience.

Altitude Sickness
This is the unknown and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness. Even previously being at altitude is no indicator. The best advise is to spend time at altitude before starting. At least 2 -3 days in Cusco will help and there is loads to see and do anyway. Making sure you stay well hydrated is also key. All the tour operators will carry an oxygen cylinder for emergencies. The most likely affects will be lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping and headaches. Once you get through dead womans pass on day 2 that's the highest point, and so any symptoms should ease after that. Just take it at your own pace, breath through your nose (tip from the guide and does work) and drink lots of water and the odd Cocoa tea!

Machu Picchu day & Sungate (Intipunku)
On day 4 be warned you will probably have to wake up at 3.30 a.m. and leave camp by 4:00 a.m. However, you then have to wait for up to 1.5 hours to start the final stretch of the hike at the final entrance gate as this does not open until 5:30a.m. once light. The reason for being up so early is to allow the porters to pack up the tents and kit and then do the hike back to the train station to catch the "locals" train. From the entrance it takes about 1.5 – 2 hours to the Sungate (Intipunku) and you will have to tackle the “gringo killer section” which comprises a final steep stretch of stairs. However, by the time of reaching the sungate the sun is already up, so be warned you don’t get to see sunrise over Machu Picchu! Another reason to do an extra night in Agues Calientes! However, seeing sunrise or getting good views from the sungate is very much at the mercy of the weather. When we arrived at the Sungate around 7:00 a.m. it was very cloudy and we could just about make out Machu Picchu. Although the cloud cover often clears by later in the day.

Our team of porters and chef were simply incredible. When you see how much they carry and that they will pack up camp, pass you enroute and then have everything ready again when you arrive into camp brings it home. On the last night you tip the porters and chef as they leave early the next morning. Your guide will give you advise on how much to tip, but its then down to you as a group to decide. Our group collectively made sure that each porter got 80 Soles each, and the chef 150 Soles. The guide was then tipped on an individual basis. So make sure you have money on the trail for tips and also buying the odd drink / snack from the locals.

Huayna Picchu
This is the tall peaked mountain that you will see in the background of all the famous pictures of Machu Picchu. You will need to book your tickets well ahead of time as there are only 400 tickets a day, with 2 timed slots to go up either at 07:00- 08:00 and 10 -11:00. We did the second timed slot and started at 10:50 and were one of the last people to enter (as you need to sign in/out). Only when you get there do you realise how steep it is at around 400 Metres above the Machu Picchu citadel. At first it seemed quite daunting but we saw a lady coming back down slowly who was in her 60's who told us she had taken a couple of hours each way as she had been on the first slot. And that's the key thing, it is possible for all abilities, just do it in your own speed, it may just take you a bit longer, and if so better to book the first slot. There are multiple sections that are very steep and you have to crawl up using hands, using ropes and some sheer drops. You are rewarded when you reach the top as the views are fantastic as you are looking down on Machu Picchu and have panoramic views of the valley. Unless you suffer from vertigo, I'd truly recommend doing this, as when looking back at your photos standing in the classic Machu Picchu view, seeing Huayna Picchu in the background and knowing that you've climbed it always makes me smile! ​

Train back
I booked on the standard expedition train at 4.22 back to Ollantaytambo and I was pleasantly surprised that it was very comfortable, even with glass viewing panels in the ceiling allowing nice views. So in my opinion it would not be worth upgrading your ticket which some operators offer.

Often in life its how you experience something. Machu Picchu is truly amazing, and going through the 4 days on the Inca trail really makes it that more special. A true wonder of the world. Enjoy!

Date of experience: September 2016
36  Thank JohnP72
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 12, 2016

if you have the time, hiking the inca trail is basically like a long hike in to machu picchu. if you are on limited time or are already an experienced and seasoned hiker (like us, we live in the mountains, so its not so big a deal), then you can skip the inca trail and get right to the Aguas Caliente instead. For those who are urbanites, the inca trail is a great way to go.

Date of experience: November 2015
3  Thank robnkim
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 7, 2016

Did a week ago and certainly glad I trained for it. The second day is very difficult and you do have to dig deep. The altitude does take affect. Make sure you do the second day especially at your own pace, dont be afraid to lag behind and take appropriate rest breaks. The last 3 hours up to Dead womens pass on 2nd day, it was a matter of 25 steps, stop, rest, 25 steps stop rest but still got into camp an hour ahead of schedule. The rest breaks give yuo chance to appreciate the views anyway.

Observations & tips

In late september it was cold in evenings and u need good cold weather gear but it was not freezing.
Have quality light gear such as merino and puffer jacket. The marino wear is light warm , provides a warm mid layer when cold and frankly does not smell as much after multiple uses without washing. Have a set of thermals for night/evenings
I wore the same pants the whole 4 days and two long sleeve hiking shirts.
Its probably better to bring extra underwear so at least they are fresh instead of too many back up hiking clothes. One back up set of hiking clothes in case of rain would be most I would take.
U dont get a lot of time in mornings to prep, do as much as possible the night before to reduce mucking around in the morning.
U will smell as will every else and get used to wearing clothes beyond the time you normally would ( though remember the spare undies)
Normally get a bowl of hot water to wash in the morning but note you dont have a lot of time, normally 1 hour from wake up to leaving, which includes eating breakfast. I would use this water to wash face with a face washer not a full wash down. Get a washer with a cloth hook on it and hang it off you back pack during day to dry off.
I used used large body wipes which I used to the clean whole body when I arrived in camp each afternoon. It refreshes you and wipes all the lotion etc off from the hike. You can then get dressed in warmer evening gear and feel a bit cleaner.
There are lots of little bugs especially below 3500 meters. I used a sun lotion that has an insect repellant in which worked most of the time and saved time having to rub two lots of lotions over me. When the bugs got thicker I use some higher deet insect lotion. I also had a hat and the hiking shirts with built in insect retardant in which hiking shops now sell, with these 3 things I had minimal problem with bugs. A guy who wore shorts had bites all over his legs, so if wearing shorts or short sleeved tops use plenty of lotion.
Luckily it did not rain a lot , but if I trekked again I would take a reasonable quality poncho (not a cheap disposable festival type one) instead of a rain jacket. When your tired its much easier to use. Also it means you dont have to use a rain cover over you pack which can be a pain as it stops all access to you pack and is another thing to do when your tired and in a hurry to cover up from the rain and its a lot easier to take off when the rain stops. I would also pack rain pants (light) for additional cover for extending period of rain. It didnt rain much on my hike but it would be miserable if your gear got wet, due to cold, limited space in tents and very limited chances of drying your gear.
I wore goretex trail runners not hiking boots, as I didnt want to wear hiking boots everywhere in the week prior to and post the hike touring around Peru. They were fine, though twisted ankles are common apparantly so be care full and take a conforming bandage regardless of what you wear just in case. For camp wear and also to wear around hotels etc a pair of sketchers are good, as light , easy to pack and easier to dry. Whatever shoes you wear hiking, break in well before going.
If porters provided for you gear , the limit generally appears to be 5kg ( about 12 pounds) and they weigh it. So precheck carefully prior to going as last minute rushing will see u probably forget stuff.
I used a a camelbak for water, our tour they filled for you each morning with cooler water they boiled the night before. If using bottles consider ones with hooks you can hook onto your backpack.
Forget about beauty routines and products, keep it basic as you need to keep weight down and reduce things to do. Face wipes are easy and perhaps a small moisteriser and something for your lips
With back pack use one with waist support to reduce weight carried on shoulders. Even with the porters carrying stuff you will end up with at least 5 to 7 kg on your back, (water, snacks, rain gear etc) and over 4 days your shoulders will feel it.
The toilets are ordinary and the squat type. A small atomiser with eucalyptus oil or similar will void most smell. Squating is not easy if your not used to it, so have your toilet paper and/or wet wipes get ready BEFORE you squat as digging around in packets or unwrapping toilet paper after you have done your business and still squatting is fraught with danger.....
Most people phones last the 4 days, on airplane mode, mine didnt, so ensure your phone will last that long or take a spare battery or recharge pack. Switch off all roaming, location search wifi search etc.
Take good sunglasses and lotions, it can get hot and glary.
There are a hundred packing lists if you google inca trail packing lists, pick the basic one and get good gear and that should do you.
Spend 2 , 3 if possible days aclimatizing to altitude, it will help and drink plenty of water, it does help.
Take paracetamol and stronger pain relief, some people suffered, I managed with a few paracetamol on the second day. Other meds for diarrhea, constipation and a broad spectrum antibiotic also appropriate , cause if you need them, their aint no pharmacies/drug stores on the trail.
Have a few 1 soles coins , you may need them for toilets though most camp site toilets dont charge. Some 5 soles coins or 10 soles notes also for water/drinks sold on the trail for the first couple of days
That seems to cover most issues I saw. If you have good gear, dont over pack, keep it simple, pre plan, then you will can focus on enjoying the spectacular views and experiences of the hike...enjoy

Date of experience: September 2016
18  Thank Craig C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 4, 2016

Nothing quite compares to the level of fulfillment like reaching Machu Picchu after trekking the Inca Trail for 4 days. We booked our trek through Uncover Latin America, who were brilliant. Very easy booking process. Our guide Oswaldo was excellent and kept our group entertained. The food was the standout for us, and the buffet lunch there at the end at Machu Picchu was a great way to finish things off. The Inca Trail was a good challenge. Both my wife and I were pretty sore afterwards. The trek was incredible, amazing scenery the whole way through, Dead Woman´s pass was a challenge, and many interesting ruins along the way. Some quick tips that might help you, we booked a private toilet tent, which we are glad we did, and we took the Vistadome train back all the way to Cusco so we could enjoy that amazing scenic train ride. We booked with Uncover Latin America and I can highly recommend their services.

Date of experience: October 2016
1  Thank Jakeclayton8686
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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