No. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February each year. During this time trail maintenance occurs and natural restoration of the terrain and camping facilities allows the vegetation to grow back. February is also the height of the wet season. The ruins of Machu Picchu will remain open as normal as are train and bus transportation services between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Because the numbers of persons permitted to begin the trek in a single day are limited to 500, we must obtain a permit in your name to trek the Inca Trail. You must plan ahead: during peak season periods from May through October they often sell out 6 months in advance and are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis for the year beginning in February of each year. We purchase your permits when you submit your deposit for the trip at which time we need complete passport details to confirm your permit. (If you plan to obtain a new passport, give us the old number and you will need to take your old and your new passport with you.) All trekkers must use the services of a licensed outfitter and professional trekking guide. We provide a lead guide, assistant guide, porters, a cook, all community camping equipment and meals. Sleeping pads are included and sleeping bags can be rented, although recommend you bring your own, or otherwise bring a liner. You carry a day pack with camera, warm clothes and rain gear, camera, and lunch. You main luggage will be carried by a porter and is limited to no more than 17.64 lbs.
The dry season from April to October is the most comfortable period as far as the weather is concerned, though you can still get a little rain. We consider May the best month because there is little rain but the vegetation is green, flowers are blooming, the skies are washed clear with billowy clouds, and it is before the peak summer travel season begins in earnest. June, July and August are the three busiest months when permits sell out well in advance. Although the weather is often sunny and warm during the day in these months the temperatures drop precipitously at night, falling below freezing so be prepared to sleep in long underwear and your down jacket! The months of November and December can still be very enjoyable with fewer trekkers, but plan at least one day of rain during this period. January and March can be wet - very wet at times. However most of the rain falls late in the afternoon and at night. These months also correspond to summer in Peru (below the equator) so the sun can be very strong and the nights generally mild. The Inca Trail is closed for the month of February.
Today, with strict government management and so many trekkers robberies are unheard of and theft is very uncommon on the trail provided that you take basic precautions. Don't carry any valuables with you that you don't need for the trek. Leave jewelry and large sums of money in your hotel safe (however do bring your passport on the trek). Carry your valuables in a money belt or neck pouch and keep items such as cameras and passport with you at all times especially at meal times.
What do we do for drinking water and what are meals like?
Camp crew will provided treated water in the morning and at every meal. If you need more your guide can also provide it. Meals are diverse, tasty and hearty including delicious hot soups, pasta, chicken and beef dishes, quinoa, rice and beans with potatoes, fruits and other vegetables. Special diets are easily accommodated. Hot tea and coffee is served in your tent at wake-up call and breakfasts include hot cereal, granola, jam, eggs and pancakes. Snacks are provided to carry in your day packs, and hot lunches are prepared ahead of you each day at selected spots.
Outhouse toilets are constructed along the trail at lunch spots and larger campsites (where we do not camp) some with flush toilets and running water. There are no shower facilities during the 4 day/3 night trek but each morning or in the afternoon a warm bowl of water is provided to wash your face and hands or for a sponge bath in your tent. At our campsites, a latrine tent is erected each evening.
Yes you do. It is a common misconception that because many people do the Inca Trail then it must be easy ... it isn't. The trail is 45km (26 miles) long and involves great physical exertion to complete. On the second day you climb nearly 1200m (about 4000 ft). The trail then descends into a deep valley and up over another pass before descending the rest of the way to Machu Picchu including Inca stairways and rocky pathways. Hiking downhill can create pressure on knees and the lower back. Trekking poles with rubber tips are recommended. Combined with high altitude and variable weather (sun exposure or hail during the day) and very cold conditions with temperatures below freezing at night the trek can be very challenging. We help you be prepared with the right clothing and your guides provide assistance and encouragement which makes the challenge worth it when you arrive at Machu Picchu as the Incas did 500 years ago. In general if you exercise regularly, like to hike, enjoy camping and you don’t have problems with your knees or lower back you should be ready for the challenge. Allowing time to acclimatize before ascending the first pass is most important and we build in sufficient time in Cusco and the Urubamba Valley for acclimatization.
How much should I tip?
After seeing how hard the porters, cooks and guides work, and the kind of personal assistance they give to anyone who needs it, you will want to reward them with a generous gratuity. We provide guidelines in our pre-departure dossier sent to you after you have signed up for the trip, but a round estimate is $20-$25 per trekker per day to be distributed amongst the guide, porters and camp staff.