What It’s Really Like to Hike the Inca Trail: What We Regret, What We Packed, & Why You Have To Do It

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After I came back from my trip to Peru, I’ve been asked probably 100 times, “how was the Inca Trail?” I think most people probably expected me to say something along the lines of “it was the worst part of the trip” or “it was really hard”. After recovering from the hike, I am SUPER stoked to be able to answer that question along with “what did you pack?” and “what would you do differently?” since there seems to be a lack of REAL answers to these…at least from relatable sources. Now you can have the unadulterated truth about the Inca Trail not only from Lydiva herself, but from the other Peruvian Princesses. (PS – Keep scrollin’ for the best pics!)

“So…how was the hike?”
Rachel

How to describe the hike? Basically these thoughts were on repeat those 4 days:

  • “I am a badass mountain Wonder Woman!”
  • “I can’t believe I paid money to do this.”
  • “Wow this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”
  • “No man will ever see me in this state until he is 100% committed to me…”
  • “At least I’m not sh*tting myself right now.”
  • “One step closer to a pisco sour.”

Truly an experience of a lifetime. ❤️

Caroline
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The Inca Trail was challenging. I won’t sugar coat that. Mainly because of the endurance required to go uphill, and the cold at night. But it’s one-of-a-kind bonding experience, and the views are unreal. When you get to Sun Gate and see Machu Picchu in the distance, you realize it was 100000000% worth it.

Molly

The Inca Trail is the best, and in my opinion, the only way to fully experience and appreciate Machu Picchu. It was gorgeous and terrifying and amazing and challenging and an experience I will not soon forget.

Lydia

I confidently said, “I will NEVER hike again,” after finishing each and every day on the trail. Two weeks later on a flight for work, I looked down over Yosemite and my heart was yelling, “THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING AND I MUST GO.” While I am a self proclaimed diva, there was something about the hike that was so incredible that my words will never do it justice. Yes, I slept in a tent in 30 degree weather, peed in the nastiest places, hiked uphill for 2 hours in pouring rain, thought I was about to be a dead woman before I reached the summit of Dead Woman’s Pass because I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe…but I also jogged down rocky stairs (thankful for my strong knees more than ever), woke up to the most incredible sunrises, summited two freaking mountains in one day, pet some llamas, laid & laughed with my friends in the middle of multiple Inca ruins, realized pictures would never even do the Andes justice, and will always remember it as one of the best experiences of my life. I will tell anyone they have to do it, and will share the bond that comes with that hike with my girls forever.


“Would you do anything differently?”

As far as the experience goes, absolutely not. We went with  the BEST group on the mountain (and seriously, we are not biased….it’s a fact). Every night we had the best campsite, were consistently served the best food, and evidently had the best guides & porters on the trail.

However, if we did it again (which we probably never will…LOL) here is what we would do differently…

  • Actually Acclimate: Everyone else we were hiking with had been in Cusco for 2-3 days…so when we started hiking they were all fully prepared for the altitude. We landed the day before the hike and were still at the point where we were out of breath from a few stairs (FUN TIMES). If you live at sea level, please take at least a couple days to acclimate (and don’t be prideful like us and tell yourselves you don’t need that amount of time). 🙂
  • Taking Diamox: Nearly every blog tells you to go ahead and get Diamox, which is the prescription used to treat altitude sickness. I was the only one out of the four of us to not take it (I took Cellfood instead), and I was the only one to not get sick. TBH – we’ll never know if Diamox was the correlation, but it’s the only thing I wasn’t consuming that everyone else was. That being said, I did struggle going up the mountain more than the other 3. The more we talked to our group about Diamox, the more we heard about the side effects people had that you don’t read about on the internet (headaches, stomach issues, cold-like symptoms, and trembling extremities to name a few). While I am not a doctor, I recommend acclimating, drinking coca tea, and just using Diamox if you are having a severe reaction to altitude.
  • Packing Too Small of a Backpack: I really thought the smaller the better, but that isn’t necessarily the case. While I had the smallest pack to carry (my 26L Patagonia), I also didn’t have a hip strap which made it REALLY hard on my chest/shoulders. My guide told me this was probably the biggest reason I had trouble breathing while going up the mountain since the weight of my pack wasn’t distributed. I’m not saying to pack a 50 pound backpack, but I am saying to make sure your pack’s weight is distributed and that you have enough room to fit your gear without being stuffed to the brim.

“What did you pack?”

While I consider myself to be a packing professional, this was one of the harder trips I had to pack for. For the hike itself, layers are freakin’ KEY. It’s pretty damn cold at night, but after about 20 minutes of hiking you’ll be wishing you were in shorts. All of that being said…here’s what I actually packed:

  • 2 pairs of athletic leggings
  • 2 pairs of Patagonia shorts
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks (our faves!)
  • 1 pair of hiking boots (I recommend going into REI and getting fitted for them)
  • 1 pair of Birkenstocks
  • 2 short sleeve dri-fit tees
  • 2 workout tanks
  • 1 long sleeve dri-fit jacket
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 Patagonia down jacket
  • 1 comfy shirt, 1 pair of leggings, and 1 pair of wool socks for sleeping
  • Sports bras & undies (duh)
  • Camelbak bladder
  • BUG SPRAY (seriously, the mosquitoes are no joke)
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen
  • Dry Shampoo (well, I wish…it got taken from me in the Bogota airport)
  • Beanie (I bought a cute llama one in Ollantaytambo!)
  • Band-aids (for blisters…you’ll thank me later)
  • Wet Wipes
  • Toilet paper (there’s none provided in the “bathrooms” on the trail…:))
  • RXBARs (#notsponsored…but these are my favorite)
  • Headbands (brought my Buff and a LuluLemon)
  • Plastic Poncho (buy one there that can go over you & your pack!)

And genuinely, I didn’t feel like I could live without any of this. But seriously, don’t pack more than you need.


Now…I’m gonna leave y’all with some #memz from the trail. Pics will never do it justice, but they’re too good not to share.

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xo

2 thoughts on “What It’s Really Like to Hike the Inca Trail: What We Regret, What We Packed, & Why You Have To Do It

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