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Facts and questions about the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an incredible once in a lifetime adventure. Understanding what the Inca Trail is all about and getting all your questions answered is really important. Whether you are hiking the entire Classic Inca Trail in 4 or 5 days, or choosing to do a short Inca Trail hike for 2 days – these FAQs will answer all your questions about the Inca Trail.

Machu Picchu and Inca Trail

Is Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail the same thing?

No. The Inca trail is part of the road network the Inca´s build to connect their vast empire. The Inca trail is historically important because of its intricate construction in unforgiving terrain and leads to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is an architectural marvel at the end of the Inca Trail that was the home to the deity of the Inca empire.

Is a tour of Machu Picchu included when hiking the Inca Trail?

This depends on the tour operator. SAM Corporations includes a 2 hour guided tour of the citadel with a knowledgeable guide that can speak English and Spanish. Trek with us and the answer to this question is always: Yes!

How many days does it take to reach Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail?

There are various routes to take on the Inca trail. The classic trail can be done over 4 or 5 days. Whereas, with the Short Inca hike it only takes one day and covers only 1/3 of the Inca Trail.

Is the Inca Trail the only way to hike to Machu Picchu?

No. There are numerous alternative treks you can do like Lares, Salkantay or Choquequirao. Also, if you hiking is not for you, then a 1-day tour on the expedition train or the more luxurious Vistadome Train is the perfect option for you.

What´s the weather like on the Inca Trail?

Dry season is from April to September, this is the tourist peak season. Temperatures range from 15°C/59°F to 20°C/68°F during day and a chilly 0°C/32°F to 5°C/41°F at night. Day 1 and Day 2 are a lot colder than day 3. On day 3 you reach lower altitudes and enter a subtropical zone. We recommend always wearing warmer clothes at night. On the other hand, the days provide for a very pleasant hike with the sun streaming down.

Rainy season from November to April has plenty rainy days, but night temperature is a little warmer. This is off peak season and there are fewer people on the trail. You are likely to experience tropical downpours at any given moment. However, rains don´t usually last long and will sometimes occur while you sleep.

What’s the best time to hike the Inca Trial?

Each season has its own pros and cons. Dry season is regarded by many as the best time to hike the Inca Trail. June, July and August being the busiest months on the trek. The weather is great for hiking and in June there are many festivals to enjoy in Cusco before or after your trek, expect big crowds, especially at Machu Picchu. Rainy season does present its own challenges because of the rains. Hiking in the rain can be challenging especially for an inexperienced hiker. But there are fewer people on the trail and at Machu Picchu, which makes for a more tranquil and peaceful visit.

Packing and Planning for the Inca Trail

What do I need to pack for the Inca Trail?

Click on the following link for a comprehensive list on what to pack for the Inca Trail:

Sam Travel Packing List

Do I need a tour operator or guide to do the Inca Trail?

Since 2002 everyone needs a guide and permit to hike this historical monument. The Peruvian government imposed a number of regulations and limitations on the number of people that can start the trek on any given day. They did this to ensure the continued preservation for future generations.

Can I book the Inca Trail on arrival in Peru?

During the high-season its not recommended. For classic Inca Trail you need to book at least 4-6 months in advance, and during the off-peak season than 2 to 3 months is okay.

How do I choose the best tour operation for my Inca Trail trek?

There are many questions to ask yourself and factors to consider before settling on a tour operator. We recommend choosing a local tour operator because only they can be licensed to do the Inca Trail and are less likely to hand you over to third party. Click the following link for more information: Choosing the best tour operator.

Sam Corporations

Sam Corporations is a 100% Peruvian family-owned company with no shareholders. We offer a highly exclusive personalized service of the highest quality. Our treks are operated by our regularly trained and highly experienced SAM CORPORATIONS staff and guides. We strive to be environmentally sustainable and a responsible tour operator by incorporating the most important universal principles of tourism. Our team has been trained within these principles.

We have put together packages that include locations that we have personally experienced. Traveling the great length of our country we have compiled the most compelling, must visit location in Peru. Sam Corporations will take you on an unparalleled journey in our modern vehicles, in small intermate groups, whilst upholding our reputation as an outstanding service provider.


Orange Nation Peru

This relatively new start-up company should be on your list of Inca Trail tour operators to consider. The company focuses on quality treks and tours for those that are budget conscious. The company tour guides, porters and cooks have shares in the company and earn a fair amount for their level of contributions. When you choose this company, you make a direct impact to all the lives of the people that make your adventure memorable. The company has also has plenty of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Definitely, one to consider.


SAM Travel Peru

SAM Travel Peru is a highly professional tour & trekking company that caters for travelers of all age groups, making sure everyone makes it to their intended destination. A key feature offered by SAM Travel is small group sizes. They never exceed eight trekkers per group, unlike many operators who will happily reach the maximum group limit of 16 people. What’s more, the company’s Peruvian owner, Saul Alvarez, has been working along the Inca Trail since the age of 18, as a porter and later as a guide.


Glamping Peru Treks

Glamping Peru Treks creates treks and tours that offer unsurpassed luxury and comfort while hiking off the beaten track. All accommodations, food, and services are of the highest quality and standard. If you are looking for something upscale and luxurious while trekking or touring, this is the absolute best option for you. Do not be afraid to work with their service operators to create your dream personalized luxury trek or tour. The company group size averages 2 to 4 people, not exceeding 8 people. If you love your privacy, be sure to ask for a private tour. This company is the birth child of the well established and experienced Sam Travel Peru.


Spider Travel Perú

Spider Travel is a new & innovative local tour operator in Cusco, covering the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Lares Trek, Tour Packages to Machu Picchu, Luxury glamping treks, Rainbow Mountain and the Choquequirao trek.


Apple Travel Peru

APPLE TRAVEL was established in 2021 , by a group of experienced tour guides from around the Cusco region. Their main feature is their competitive pricing. They work to ensure that they don´t comprimize on quality, while saving you a buck. Striving to provide simplified quality service. Experience, small group sizes and reasonable prizes, what more do you need?


Are there any age restrictions on the Inca Trail?

No. The Inca Trail is suitable for all ages.

Where can I store my luggage while hiking?

You can store your luggage at your hotel or with us at our office for free.

What´s the quality of camping equipment offered on Inca Trail?

SAM Corporations offers the highest quality camping equipment. Our 4 person tents are spacious and only sleep 2 people and a comfortable foam mattress. We also bring our own portable toilet along the trek which is much cleaner than the facilities provided by the government. We also have rentable walking sticks and Therma rest mattress should you need it.

Fitness and Altitude Sickness on the Inca Trail:

Is the Inca Trail difficult?

The Inca Trail is considered to be moderate hike. However, its not to be underestimated. There are over 7,000 steps on the trail which is taxing on the knees and legs. Some sections require a steep climb at very high altitudes. Day 2 is notably the most challenging day of all with alltitudes of 4,267m/14,00ft. All in all, the Inca steps and high elevation are the biggest challenges on this trek, but you can enjoy a few sections where the hike is on flat terrain.

Do I need to be fit to do the Inca Trail?

Simply put. The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy it. You do not have to be a pro athlete to do the Inca Trail, but you do need to be moderately fit. Age or gender is not really a factor, as long as you prepare beforehand you can finish this once on a lifetime trail. We recommend you establishing a regular exercise routine which could include walking 15km/9miles a day or doing an hour or two a day on stair master. Finally, it´s important to spend 2 or 3 days in Cusco or the Sacred Valley acclimatizing to the altitude.

How many hours do hike per day on the Inca Trail?

Each day is different. Day 1 is an easy to moderate 6-hour hike. Whereas, Day 2 is challenging day with 9 hours of hiking. Day 3 on the other hand, is just 5 hours, with time to rest and relax after lunch. On Day 4 there is not much hiking, just time to explore and gape at the magnificent archeological site of Machu Picchu. Note: All times are estimates, time is dependent on the individuals hiking speed.

What´s the elevation like on the Inca Trail?

The trail begins at Km 82 at an elevation of 2,680m/8,792ft. Days 1 and 3 are easy to moderate, gaining less than 500m/1,640ft in altitude on each day. However, the second day can be extremely challenging, with an elevation gain of 1,180m/3,871ft, you will embark on a steep hike towards the highest point of the trail called Dead Women´s pass at (4,200m/ 13,779ft). The last day is a relaxing short hike, mostly on flat terrain toward the highlight of your trip the mysterious Machu Picchu.

Will I get altitude sickness on the Inca Trail?

It is possible. Most people suffer from altitude attitude sickness, but its severity differs from one person to the next. There are ways to help reduce altitude sickness. Most importantly, acclimatizing is essential, also stay hydrated and breath slow deep breath to compensate for the low oxygen. Altitude sickness is not directly linked to fitness, every person reacts differently to the thin oxygen. Click the following link for more information on altitude sickness and remedies: Altitude Sickness.

How long is the Inca Trail?

The Classic Inca Trail is 43km/26m. The short Inca Trail is a third of that, at 14.5km/9m from Km84.

Meals, hygiene and support staff on the Inca Trail:

What kind of food can I expect on the Inca Trail?

With SAM Corporations expect a first-class dining experience. The chef uses freshly sourced ingredients. Every meal is unique, abundant and well prepared. Meals generally include breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The only exceptions being day 1 and day 4. You will indulge and be spoilt with our fine dining in a large dining tent.

Are the cooking facilities clean?

Hygiene is of the most important, all utensils and cutlery are cleaned with boiled water. In general, the highest standards of cleanliness are upheld.

Is there access to clean drinking water along the trail?

Every morning after breakfast, your guide will pride you with boiled water to fill your reusable water bottle for the day ahead. On the first day, its important to bring sufficient water because you will only get boiled water at your first lunch sport.

Can I shower on the trail?

There are campsites that have cold showers, but you need to be aware the mornings are freezing cold in the mountains. We recommend bringing a pack of baby wipes and taking advantage of the small basin provided every morning with warm water.

Are the toilet facilities clean on the Inca Trail?

The government provides restroom facilities at some of the campsites. These are not always clean. So, SAM Corporation provides its own portable toilet, that is clean and reserved for use by only our trekkers.

What are porters?

Porters are the ladies and gentlemen that have been employed to carry your luggage and set up camp. Most porters come from disadvantaged communities and appreciate the work. Outside of the Inca trail, the majority of porters are farmers from the mountain side villages that are isolated from towns and cities.

Is it possible to book an extra personal porter?

Yes. You can request an extra personal porter at booking for an extra fee.

Do I need to tip the guide, porters and cooking team?

Tipping is not a compulsory service. Even if it’s not customary in your country, it’s an entrenched part of the culture here especially on the Inca Trail. It’s of great significance to the people who will take care of you during the trek. It inspires them to give excellent service. Of course, you are free to tip what you feel is appropriate. Depending on your perception of the quality of service and the length of your trip.

What is the procedure in the unlikely event of an emergency or I can´t finish the Inca Trail?

In the event that you are unable to finish the track due to health reasons than your tour operator will assist you to the nearest town. Its absolutely essential to have travel insurance before embarking on the Inca Trail. If needed, a helicopter pick up can be arranged. It is important to note however, any costs will be for your account and travel insurance comes in very handy. Licensed tour guides carry a first aid kit, but they are not medical personal and they cannot administer or offer advice on any medication.

Sam Corporations


Local Peruvian Company

Our company is 100% locally owned. We directly contribute to economic development and environmental sustainability in Peru.

Service Quality

The quality of our service is one of our most important values which demands all our effort, determination, and courage to be successful in what we are doing and the services we provide

Responsible travel

We aim to have a positive impact in all the areas that we visit. Through our training sessions and social projects, we empower women, indigenous communities and children

Small Personalized Groups

Our groups never exceed 10 people, giving you a personalized tour in our small comfortable vans

100% Customised Itinerary

Interested in visiting only specific destinations? No problem, all our packages can be fully customized to suit your budget and schedule. Contact our travel advisors to plan the most comprehensive trip of a lifetime.

Community and Environment

We commit socially and culturally to the community and adapt our business strategies to the preservation of the environment

  • 100% Locally owned and operated.
  • Best Tour guides & trip leaders.
  • Quality-Touch & Personalized service
  • Highest quality, name brand equipment.
  • All Inclusive Tours with no hidden fees.
  • Sustainable Prctice and responsible travel.
  • Safety conscious with first aid training annually.
  • Unique Tours & Trekking routes
  • Customized Tours & Packages forFair and kind travel.
  • Personalized Attention with the Most Dedicated Team
  • Giving back to our local communities



100% Customised itinerary

Contact our travel advisors to plan the most complete trip of your life.

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Professional and experienced

Our guides are local and have vast knowledge in Peruvian culture and history.

Local peruvian company

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Small personalized groups

Our groups never exceed 10 people, giving you an unforgettable experience

Memorable trips

Discover an exceptional journey where perfection meets adventure.