Trip Logistics: Tips for Planning a Trek on the Inca Trail

There comes a point in all trip plans where the daydreams of someday come down from the clouds and start asking, “How Do I Get There?” For many people that starts with flights. In this case, not so fast! The Inca Trail requires a little more leg work. In this post we’ll discuss Inca Trail permits, when to go, how to get there and what to budget for in addition to your trek.  

1. DECIDING WHEN TO TRAVEL:

The highland region of Peru that includes Machu Picchu and Cusco has 2 distinct seasons. The dry season starts in mid April and ends mid November. Rainy season takes full hold December – March. For obvious reasons, the dry season is the ideal time of year for trekking the Inca Trail, and the Inca Trail is actually closed in February to avoid damaging the trails during its wettest month. 

December to April: The rainy season starts in December, and continues to March. January and February are the rainiest months. In fact, the Inca Trail is closed for February. December and March have rain nearly every day, but usually not a ton of rain all at once. April can go either way. It can have rain or beautiful weather.

May to June: These months are usually warm and dry. As the rainy season isn’t too distant, the landscape is still lush and green.  July to November: These months are dry and cool. The landscape starts to brown. You might start getting a bit of rain in November. 

NOTE: Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu are high in elevation, and the weather can change at any time. While these descriptions of the weather are the general trend, you should always be prepared for hot sunshine and cold rain, and everything in between. 

 

2. CHOOSE YOUR TREKKING OUTFITTER & SECURE YOUR INCA TRAIL PERMITS:

The Inca Trail requires that you have a guide. It also requires that you have a permit. The days of showing up and planning on the ground are long gone; now you have to plan ahead. While there is an extensive network of Inca trails all over southern Peru, the trek that’s dubbed THE Inca Trail is the only one that ends at Machu Picchu. This has become quite popular. Permits are limited to 500 people per day and they sell out 6-8 months in advance for dry & high season trek dates (May – October). 

Even if you plan to do more with your time in Peru than just trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, secure the Inca Trail portion of your trip first. This ensures you have your permits and gives you solid dates to work around.

A quick Google search will inundate you with people selling Inca Trail trips with an equally diverse price range. It can be challenging to know who to go with. At Detour we partner with local Peru outfitters and have vetted them to be sustainably-operated, quality tour operators. Hands down our favorite Inca Trail outfitter is Amazonas Explorer. You can learn more about them here. They operate The Ultimate Inca Trail – a fantastic trip that includes a unique 5-day Inca Trail itinerary that gets you away from the crowds, includes acclimatization days to explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley and uses some of the best guides in Peru.


3. WHERE TO FLY TO?

Arriving to Peru: Almost all international flights to Peru will arrive into Lima. The way flight schedules are set up, most travelers have to spend the night in Lima before continuing on to Cusco. Cusco is here all Inca Trail treks will depart from. Cusco is high in the mountains, where weather is variable, so there are no evening or night flights into or out of Cusco. While The Ultimate Inca Trail includes your accimatization days, not all Ina Trail trips do. You want to make sure that you give yourself at least 2 nights in Cusco. A typical Inca Trail itinerary will look as follows,

DAY 1: Fly Home – Lima. Overnight
DAY 2: Fly Lima – Cusco in the morning
DAY 3: Acclimatization Day(s) – If you can afford the time, an extra day acclimatizing is ideal.
DAYS 4 – 7 or 8: HIKE INCA TRAIL (4 and 5 day options out there)
DAY 7 or 8: Return from Machu Picchu to Cusco by Train
DAY 9: Fly Cusco – Lima – Home

 * Notice that you need depart home several days prior to your Inca Trail start date.

Departing Peru: Most international flights will depart Lima late at night. This makes your connection from Cusco to Lima straightforward. You can depart Cusco at some point during the day, and then catch your flight home that night, arriving home or your next destination the next day. Most people do not need to spend the night in Lima when they depart Peru.

 

4. WHAT ELSE TO BUDGET FOR

  • International flights from your home to Lima, Peru and return. Prices vary.
  • Roundtrip flights between Lima and Cusco, Peru: Approximately $325 per person 
  • Travel insurance. This is highly recommended.  Prices vary.
  • Medical insurance. This is required by our trip operators in Peru
  • Tips for your guides: Suggested at $10-$20 per traveler per day. 
  • Meals not included in your itinerary: $5 to $20 per person per meal 
  • Additional nights hotel in Lima or Cusco before and after trek. Prices vary

The Ultimate Inca Trail includes all entrance fees, necessary transportation and gear (aside from your sleeping bag). Not all treks do, though so it’s important to ask your operator to see what is included in the trek price. Additional costs tend to be,

  • Inca Trail permit fee: $250 per person, non-refundable
  • Machu Picchu entrance fee: $44 per person
  • Bus Down from Machu Picchu (after your hike): approx $20 per person
  • Train from Machu Picchu Pueblo: Prices vary ($120 – $450 pp)

We hope this helps in your trip planning. For expert advice and help planning your itinerary email info@detourdestinations.com or call 1-720-246-8884.

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