Trekking Machu Picchu through the G Adventures Inca Trail tour is amazing. Hard. So hard, but amazing.
If you’re thinking about doing the Inca Trek to Machu Picchu, I can only urge you to be a ‘do-er’ and book it. You won’t regret it.
However, this wonder of the world will make you work for your reward. Read on to find out just how hard the Inca Trek is and why it is worth the challenge, regardless of your age or fitness. You won’t be disappointed.
The G Adventures Inca Trail
Day 1 of Trekking to Machu Picchu
The four-day trek will start with groups of beaming smiles, bundles of energy and sheer excitement to actually be living out one of many travel dreams.
Any altitude sickness induced fuzzy heads and dizzy bodies will be momentarily forgotten.
The G Adventures Inca Trail begins on a wooden bridge crossing and the narrow pathway soon sweeps up into the steep hillsides. Browns and greys, sit comfortably alongside a whole colour palette of greens.
Donkeys laden with supplies, and porters laden with even more (ovens, tents and tables), power past you.
Poles of fellow walkers poke out from all angles, and chatter is intertwined with ever-increasing breathy pauses. Every corner you turn leads to another incline, yet the thrill of adventure keeps you going.
By the time you reach the campsite on the first afternoon (yep, that’s right, you finish in the afternoon), you’ll be lured into thinking the Inca Trek is not as hard as it is rumoured to be.
Cute kittens purr and pad their way over, and the tent restaurant is in full operation. Everyone is in high spirits, particularly upon seeing the culinary delights the porters have worked up. From pasta to popcorn snacks, you’ll be impressed that you’re not just living on cuppa soups for the entire journey. And better yet, you feel really full.
Recommended Reading: The Best Tips to Beat Machu Picchu Altitude Sickness
Day 2 of Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Sickness can strike at any time, and if you’re unlucky like I was, it will be timed for your first night of camping.
A toilet (a hole in the ground) some twenty metres from your tent, no lighting, signs warning of wild (deadly) animals and a mountain edge do not bode well for such experiences.
Keep any medicines in a front pocket of your bag for easy access in similar emergencies. A lack of sleep because of illness will not be of much help for day two of your trek. It is said to be the hardest of all four days due to the length of the climb, the never-ending incline, and the effects of the altitude.
The cobbled and uneven steps test your coordination and really ensure that you feel the burn. The altitude that you forgot about on the morning of day one, may rear its ugly head again.
Every step you take will feel like two, and those polite paused breaths now become short, heavy gulps. However, the views and scenery are second to none.
You will defeat Dead Women’s Pass (you will, I promise) as your fellow trekkers applaud you and cheer you to the top.
Camping in Cloud Forest will feel like a priceless moment that you won’t be able to wipe from your treasured memory bank. You’ll feel deliriously happy as you gaze out at the rolling clouds. This is the stuff dreams are made of and it only gets better from here.
Recommended Reading: Where to Stay in Cusco
Day 3 of the Machu Picchu 4 Day Hike
It’s the final countdown…well, almost. The first prize is within reach at this point.
You’ll start to see a few other groups, and everyone will nod knowingly at you. You’ll spy flowers and unusual shrubs as you continue on your walk. Beautiful heart-shaped pools of water, rocky caved tunnels and mind-blowing views from the three days will blend into one amazing montage.
As you sit in the tent restaurant, you’ll want to saviour each and every ache, conversation and smile.
You’ll gasp when you see the porters creation of a birthday cake (it’s always someone’s birthday on the trek); a fully iced and sponged cake that they’ve lovingly made at the top of a mountain.
As you lay in your little domed tent for the last night of the famous Inca Trek, you’ll struggle to rest your weary eyes as the anticipation and unknown of the final day approaches.
Recommended Reading: The Best Shopping Spots in Cusco
Day 4 of Backpacking Machu Picchu
A splash of warm water from the bucket kindly provided by the porter will wake you up. It’s 4am and you soon remember that it’s the day you’ve dreamed about for so long.
Despite the darkness, you’ll help pack your tent and belongings in record time, and rush to join the queue for the main site.
Not realising you’d still have to trek quite a bit to get to the Sun Gate, you’ll find yourself having to pick up the pace to make it there in time for sunrise. Legs dangling on the stony edge, you’ll nervously wait for the rumoured Machu Picchu to reveal itself.
Be prepared, you have to be extremely lucky to avoid the foggy cloud that ruins the surprise of the Sun Gate. I was absolutely devastated and in near tears that I was one of the unlucky ones. I whimpered that I wouldn’t have the money to visit again. A sulky two-minute walk round the rocky edge, and the sun broke through the clouds. There sitting pretty was Machu Picchu.
Arriving at Machu Picchu
Standing some 2,430 feet above sea level, your eyes fixated on the Inca ruins that you’ve dreamed about for so long, the air glistens like a thousand diamonds shimmering in the light.
I’d never seen the air twinkle like this before and to be honest, I didn’t even know it was capable of such an amazing show (at least in the daytime anyway).
Playful swallows dart at lightning speed in every direction, yet with such composed grace and certainty. They have chosen their playground wisely and celebrate like it is NYE every day of the year.
You won’t be able to wipe the grin from your face. After the journey you’ve had, gazing around you won’t be able to believe that you made it to the iconic Machu Picchu; a bubble of awe-inspiring beauty.
Trekking to Machu Picchu is a memory that will be treasured forever. Enjoy it (and make sure you strike a pose).
Inca Trail Preparation
1. No Training Needed
Ahead of your trip you may want to go on a few walks, particularly if you’re not fit. However, I think if you have the determination to make it to Machu Picchu then I think it’s mind over matter. Sure, you may not be first at camp each day, but so long as you make it who cares?
I did two or three biggish walks in preparation, but I certainly didn’t train. The Inca Trail is suitable for beginners in my opinion. It’s just a case of following the path that goes up and down, and sometimes includes ancient steps.
2. Travel Light
You’ll be carrying your own day bag, so pick something comfortable and lightweight and don’t overpack it. Usually you leave your main bag in Cusco and just travel with what you’ll need for the trek, so use travel cubes and travel lightly.
3. Vlog It
Even if you’re not a vlogger or blogger I’d highly recommend videoing yourself on the trek – just a few minutes each day or something. It’s such a special trek and the days easily blur into one, so it’d be nice to watch it back.
4. Feast Up
In Cusco head to Jack’s Cafe for some real comfort, filling food. There’s often a line for the burgers, nachos and toasties, but it’s worth the wait. I found it really helpful when I was suffering badly with altitude sickness.
Machu Picchu With Kids
I trekked to Machu Picchu before I had my children. In fact, it was our unofficial second honeymoon.
However, there are plenty of adventurous parents who have made it to Machu Picchu with kids. There are three options and you’ll find links to relevant posts below each:
Get the train straight to Machu Picchu (avoiding the trek all together)
Machu Picchu With Kids – A detailed guide from Travel Mad Mum
Machu Picchu With Kids – Another good guide, this time from Wandering Wagars
A Journey to Machu Picchu With Kids – A guide from Far-Flung Lands
Bus to Machu Picchu (again, avoiding the trek)
How to Plan an Adventure to Machu Picchu With Kids – A guide by Globetotting
Trek to Machu Picchu with the kids
Should Kids Hike the Inca Trail – A post by Adios Adventure Trail
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P.S. I’ve purposefully not edited or filtered any of the images (save for the Pinterest ones) so that you can see what it really looks like. All of these pics were taken on a cheap (less than £120) camera and I travelled at the start of May in 2013.