Hiking to Machu Picchu? How to Prepare

There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu and now that the National Park is open to tourists again, we wanted to answer a few common questions about hiking into this magical place. 

How long does it take to hike to Machu Picchu? There are several ways to hike to Machu Picchu and it can take anywhere from 2-11 days.  Currently, the famous Inca Trail pilgrimage is still closed to tourism due to the pandemic, but there are plenty of other trails to choose from.  We are specialists in off the beaten path trails, managing small groups right now for the safety of our staff and customers.  Most of our treks are 5days and 4 nights – understanding that you want to see and experience other parts of Peru while you’re in the area.

Do you have to carry your own equipment?  No, you don’t have to carry your own gear during the trek unless you really want to.  Our staff will handle everything from end to end including tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and all food/cooking equipment.  We also provide duffel bags so we can carry your non-essential items from campsite to campsite.  You only need to plan to carry a day pack.

How do I prepare for altitude sickness? Unfortunately, you can’t prepare for altitude sickness. Every single person is going to feel differently when they arrive in Cusco (11,300ft), and there’s no way to tell if and when your body will acclimate until you get here. The best things to do on arrival are to rest, drink plenty of water, gatorade, or tea, and take your time walking from place to place.

What do you carry in your day pack?  We highly recommend you bring a day pack no larger than 30 liters (not affiliated, but something similar to these would be great).  You will be carrying any personal items you may need between campsites (passport, wallet, snacks, water, and rain gear, for example). Bonus points if it comes with a hydration bladder for ease of use.

How much water do I need to carry for the trek?  It depends on how much water you normally drink in a day or during a hike to say for sure, but we recommend bringing a 2L water bottle with you for the trek.  You will be able to refill your water at the lunch spots and at all camp sites with purified water provided by our staff.

What if I am vegetarian or I have a food allergy?  Our sales manager will ask you about your diet prior to your trip.  Based on the information you provide, our professional chef will make your meals during the trek according to your preferences or needs.

Is there a toilet along the trek?  There are usually no toilets on the trails, but we will set up a biochemical toilet at the campsites and lunch spots every day.  Along the trail, you may have to use nature.  Please keep in mind, that after using nature’s toilet, you cannot leave toilet paper on the trail.  Please bring your own plastic bag to keep any trash you may produce during the trek.  You can leave it at the campsite with our staff for them to take it off the trail at the end of the trek.

How cold are the campsites?  Depending on the hike you choose, it can get quite chilly.  We highly recommend bringing your thermal leggings.  The weather tends to drop at night, and sometimes you will get temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius.  You will get an all-weather sleeping bag and liner from us if you choose to rent one (and a sleeping mat) which will keep you warm enough in your tent, but it will be a good idea to have extra layers including a winter hat and gloves.

How do I get back to Cusco?  The First Step team will manage everything from end to end.  We will ask you questions prior to your trip so your tour guide will know where to pick you up and where to drop you off after your expedition.  The only thing you need to worry about is enjoying your Peru experience with us!

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