Elevation,challenges and climate on the inca trail

inca trail elevation
inca trail elevation

The famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu stands out as one of the most renowned trekking routes in the world. However, it is also recognized for being one of the most demanding and challenging treks in Perú, with an average elevation of 1,000 meters and peaking at 4,215 meters above sea level. Hikers interested in this adventure should book in advance and prepare adequately to face this experience

The Inca Trail elevation

Elevation is an important factor to consider on the Inca Trail. When you reach 4,215 meters, its highest point, you face a considerable challenge, with an altitude almost double that of Cuzco. This elevation can cause breathing difficulties, fatigue, headaches and nausea due to the reduction in air density.

It is essential to acclimatize to these altitudes before starting the trek. It is recommended to spend a few days in Cuzco (located at 3,400 meters above sea level) to gradually adapt. During the trek, it is crucial to take the necessary time for the body to adjust, making frequent stops and being attentive to any symptoms of altitude sickness. Most people experience mild symptoms that disappear with time, but it is essential to seek medical help if unusual complications arise

Inca Trail camping spots and elevation:

  • Starting Point of the Inca Trail: Km 82, Altitude 2718 m/8924 ft
  • Wayllambamba Campsite: First Overnight Stop at 3000 m / 9842 ft
  • Ayapata Campsite: Ideal for Day 1, Altitude 3300 m/ 10826 ft
  • Lluluchapampa Rest Area: First Break on Day 2, Altitude 3800 m/10829 ft
  • Pacaymayo Alto Campsite: Second Overnight Halt at 3600 m/11811 ft
  • Chaquicocha Campsite: Perfect for Day 2, Altitude 3600 m/ 11811 ft
  • Phuyupatamarca Campsite: Third Overnight Spot, Altitude 3650 m/11975 ft
  • Wiñaywayna Campsite: Ideal for Day 3, Altitude 2600 m/8530 ft
  • Puente Ruinas Campsite: Final Stop on 5-Day Tours, Altitude 2000 m/6561 ft
  • Wiñaywayna, the preferred campsite on day 3, located at 2600 m/8530 ft
  • Puente Ruinas, the last campsite in 5-day tours, located at 2000 m/6561 ft

Mountains in the Inca Trail:

  • Dead Woman's Pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail at 4215 m/13828 ft.
  • Runkurakay Pass, the second highest mountain of the Inca Trail at 4000 m/13123ft
  • Veronica Mountain is the highest mountain in the Vilcanota Mountain range, at 5,893 m/19,334 ft.
  • Salkantay Mountain is the highest mountain in the Vilcabamba mountain range at 6,271 m /20,574 ft.
  • Pumasillo Mountain, visible from Machu Picchu, at 5,991 m /19,656 ft.
  • Machu Picchu Mountain, the area's highest mountain in Machu Picchu, at 3082 m/10111 ft.
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain, the most beautiful mountain, at 2693 m/8835 ft.

Inca Trail Challenge

Renowned as one of the most challenging hikes globally, the Inca Trail presents an exhilarating adventure. Spanning 26 miles (42 km) across Peru's Andes Mountains, this four-day journey offers unparalleled experiences. With altitudes soaring up to 13,828 feet (4,215m), various elements contribute to its formidable nature.

  • Altitude on the Inca Trail: Explorers should anticipate an average elevation of approximately 3000 meters/9842 feet along the Inca Trail.
  • The Inca Trail features steep inclines, with gradients occasionally exceeding 30%.
  • Weather conditions on the Inca Trail are variable, ranging from freezing temperatures to intense heat during daylight hours.
  • Therefore, if you intend to embark on the Inca Trail adventure, it is crucial to be adequately prepared. Here are some useful tips and tactics to assist you in doing so:
  • Preparing in Cusco (3,399 meters/11,152 feet) before commencing your trekking adventure.
  • While on the trail, ensure to maintain a steady pace and take regular breaks for rest when necessary.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by consuming ample fluids and enjoying light snacks.
  • Remember to pack suitable attire and equipment for your journey.
circuit 1 machu picchu - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
inca trail elevation

Inca Trail Climate

The Inca Trail winds through the majestic Andes Mountains, renowned for its diverse climate patterns. While generally temperate, weather conditions along this high-altitude route can shift swiftly, necessitating thorough preparation for all eventualities.

Protection from the sun with sunscreen and a hat is imperative during daylight hours, while the evenings often bring a sharp decrease in temperature, making it advisable to carry a jacket for added warmth.

As nights can turn chilly, it's recommended to bring along a high-quality sleeping bag. Given the likelihood of rain, packing waterproof gear is essential. Furthermore, sturdy waterproof boots are essential to navigate occasional muddy trails and the possibility of snowfall.

circuit 1 machu picchu - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
inca trail climate

Hiking the Inca Trail in the Wet Season

Cusco encounters its rainy period from December through March, leading to the closure of the Inca Trail in February for upkeep and due to heavy rainfall. Embarking on the Inca Trail during this time presents both advantages and disadvantages.

  • On the positive side, trekking the trail amidst rain showers often results in solitude, as few others are daring enough to venture out.
  • However, on the flip side, paths may become slippery, and there's a high likelihood of getting soaked and chilled rapidly.

For those considering hiking the Inca Trail during the rainy season, it's vital to come equipped with suitable attire – including raincoats, pants, and waterproof boots – to ensure a comfortable journey.

Hiking the Inca Trail in the Dry Season

The dry season on the Inca Trail spans from May to September. While the weather typically tends to be more favorable during this time, occasional showers can still occur unexpectedly, so it's important to pack rain gear.

The dry season marks the peak period for Inca Trail trekking, making it essential to secure permits well in advance. With limited spaces available on the trail each day, early booking is crucial

Expect some crowds when hiking the Inca Trail, as it is one of the world's most popular routes, especially during the dry season when it can get quite crowded. If you prefer a more secluded experience, consider exploring one of Peru's less frequented paths instead.

  • The advantages of trekking during the dry season encompass decreased likelihood of rain and clear starry nights.
  • On the flip side, drawbacks involve crowded conditions at Machu Picchu and Inca sites, leading to lengthy queues for transportation by buses and trains. Additionally, be prepared for potentially freezing temperatures at night.

Inca Trail during the shoulder seasons.

The shoulder seasons, which include April-May and September-October, are ideal for trekking the Inca Trail. These periods offer milder weather conditions compared to the extremes of the wet season from December to March. While there may still be some rain, it tends to be less intense, providing more comfortable hiking experiences.

What to anticipate on the Inca Trail Adventure

Embarking on the Inca Trail promises an epic and exhilarating journey, renowned for its challenging terrain with steep ascents and rapid altitude changes. Proper preparation is paramount for trekkers venturing into this terrain. Despite its demanding nature, the Inca Trail offers an unforgettable experience suitable for most moderate and experienced hikers. However, meticulous preparation is essential before setting foot on this iconic trail.

circuit 1 machu picchu - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
What to anticipate on the Inca Trail

What to do before the IncaTrail Hike?

  • Prepare your body: The Inca Trail is a serious endeavor, spanning 26 miles with over 4000 steps! To conquer it over four days, ensure you're in optimal physical shape.
  • Plan Ahead: To enhance your hiking experience, procure comfortable hiking footwear, rain attire, a daypack, and other essentials well in advance to allow for proper breaking-in time.
  • Secure Your Reservation:As a top-tier trekking destination, the Inca Trail tends to fill up rapidly. To secure your spot on this extraordinary trail, make your reservations early as availability is limited.
  • Obtain Permits Early: Permits are essential for hiking the Inca Trail. Initiate the permit acquisition process early to avoid disappointment.
  • Learn Basic Spanish: Being proficient in some fundamental Spanish phrases can enrich your journey along the Inca Trail, facilitating communication with locals and ensuring a smoother travel experience.

Optimizing Your Inca Trail Experience:

  • Adhere to your tour guide's directives consistently.
  • Travel with minimal baggage while ensuring you have vital items like sunscreen, hats, water, and snacks.
  • Immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery while hiking at a comfortable pace.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking ample water throughout your journey.
  • Make use of restroom facilities before commencing your hike.
  • Stick to the designated trail and refrain from straying off course.

Upon reaching Machu Picchu, take pleasure in unwinding and exploring one of the globe's most renowned archaeological marvels.

What to do after the IncaTrail Hike?

After completing the challenging trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it's crucial to prioritize rest and recuperation. Here are some recommendations for activities you should consider:

  • Take a minimum of one day to recuperate after completing the Inca Trail.
  • Keep your body hydrated by consuming ample fluids.
  • Opt for nutritious meals to facilitate your recovery from the trek.
  • Engage in stretching and gentle exercises to help your muscles recover from the hike.
  • If you experience any discomfort or pain, seek appropriate medical attention.

After allowing yourself a day or two of rest, you can venture out to explore additional destinations such as the Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley Tour.