Independent Inca Trail information for visitors to Peru. This is a non-commercial site.
Inca Trail - Trek Preparations
On reaching heights above 3000m, heart pounding and shortness of breath are a normal response to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors these symptoms can deteriorate into a conditions known as Soroche (or acute mountain sickness) when you can start to experience headaches, loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, sleeplessness and often nausea. Symptoms usually develop within the first day or two at altitude. To prevent Soroche, try to take things easy as soon as you arrive. Once settled in your hotel room have a lie down for a while and drink plenty of fluids. Don't plan any strenuous treks until you've acclimatized for a few days. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy food. Drinking mate de coca (an infusion of coca leaves - and perfectly legal in Peru) may help. If symptoms become more severe and prolonged it is best to quickly seek medical attention and make arrangements to descend to a lower altitude. On recovery one can re-ascend slowly or in stages. The drug Diamox is often used by many visitors to speed the acclimatization process and counter the symptoms of Soroche.
Cusco is located 3400m above sea level so it is important that you have a healthy respect for the altitude. If arriving from sea-level (Lima) try to spend at least 2 days in Cusco prior to starting the Inca Trail (3 days is recommended). This period will allow you to acclimatize and also give you time to enjoy the city of Cusco, the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Pucacpucara and Tambomachay, as well as taking a day trip out to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to visit the traditional Quechua market at Pisac and the stunning Inca village and ruins at Ollantaytambo.
What to bring
The key to packing for a trip to Peru is to pack for a variety of conditions while keeping the weight to a minimum. Easier said than done when you have to deal with the intense heat of the equatorial sun and the cold mountain nights spent camping on the Inca Trail. The best way to deal with these extremes is to dress using several layers rather than one thick jumper. If you forget something, don't despair since most things can be bought in most Peruvian cities frequently visited by tourists including excellent and cheap alpaca jumpers.
Suggested Inca Trail packing list:
01. Backpack (65 litres should be quite sufficient).
02. Comfortable walking boots with good ankle support.
03. Sleeping bag (can be rented in Cusco)
2 pairs long trousers (lightweight)
1 short-sleeved shirt
1 long-sleeved shirt
1 pair shorts
Underwear and socks (thermal underwear is highly recommended, being light, warm and makes good nightwear on cold nights).
05. Fleece jacket
06. Rain jacket or poncho
07. Hat or cap to protect from the sun.
08. Toiletries: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste & toilet paper etc.
09. Sun cream, lip salve, sun glasses.
11. Basic first aid kit.
12. Insect repellent.
13. Money belt + passport + emergency money
14. Camera + film (film can easily be bought in Peru and is of excellent quality).
15. Water bottle (mineral water can be bought throughout Peru)
16. Water purification tablets (Micropur tablets can be bought in Cusco and are very efficient).
Optional extras include:-
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This is a non-commercial website. Copyright Andean Travel Web 2000-2010. All material used within this web site is original work and is subject to international copyright law. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited without prior permission from the editor. This web page was last updated in August 2010.