Machu Picchu is one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world. It is one of the most amazing things, in my opinion, that you can experience, and hiking makes it even better. Machu Picchu is a temple on top of a mountain, surrounded by mountains, in the middle of the Andes. It’s literally a temple in the sky, and it is breathtaking. However, a few things can easily ruin this magical trip for you. Here are my best tips for hiking Machu Picchu so that you can have the best possible experience and enjoy the hike there too!
1. Don’t Pack Too Much
I brought a zoom lens that I carried for 36 miles on my back and never used once. The first day, my bag was HEAVY, and my mom’s bag was heavier. My dad, being the almost-psycho prepper that he is, had my mom carrying an entire emergency medical bag which added significantly to her bag’s weight. I carried two diet cokes in my bag (both necessary but heavy nonetheless). Needless to say, at the end of the first day, we both emptied our bags for day two.
PS: I drank both diet cokes on the trek, and they were lifesavers.
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2. Bring an Extra Battery
Even if you don’t think that you will take that many pictures, bring an extra camera battery. With most of the hikes to Machu Picchu lasting 3-5 days, you want to make sure that your camera is alive for all of it. The worst feeling in the world would getting to the top of the mountain or to Machu Picchu itself and realizing that your camera is dead and taking pictures is impossible.
3. Make An Awesome Playlist for Hiking
Honestly, one of the best moments in my life was doing this hike with my headphones in, just me and the mountain. There is nothing like it. Hiking with an inspiring playlist just reminds you of your place in the world and that the mountain is yours to conquer. I’m a big fan.
Read More about my playlist here: The Perfect Travel Playlist
4. Bring a Bathing Suit for the Hot Springs
Whether your hike stops at hot springs mid-hike or you plan to spend some time in Aguas Calientes before heading the Machu Picchu, a bathing suit is a MUST for this trip. There is nothing like taking a dip in the hot springs after 1, 2, even 5 days of hiking. It is the most amazing feeling, and you will regret not being able to jump in because you forgot to bring this key item.
5. My Favorite Tip for Hiking to Machu Picchu: Eat Coca Leaves
Cocaine. I’m telling you to chew the base for cocaine. Great, now that we have gotten that out of the way, while the coca leave is used (in VERY large quantities) to make cocaine, it was always used by the Incans to assuage altitude sickness, headaches, and dizziness. Before you go on your hike, be sure to pick up a bag of coca leaves in Cusco to chew on your trip. It is both a unique experience and helpful for the headaches that may come as you ascend to Machu Picchu.
6. Don’t Drink Too Much
Alcohol. Don’t drink too much alcohol. At some of the hot springs along the hikes there will be access to alcohol. My hiking group took gross advantage of that, and the next day they left more food on the mountain that they kept in their stomachs. The mix of altitude and alcohol can be intense, and it doesn’t make for nice hiking vibes the next day.
Just don’t do it.
You can never drink too much water. Drink that.
7. Bring Blister Protection
The constant incline and decline of the Andes mountains TORE up my heels. As someone whose feet don’t always fit perfectly in shoes every day, this became a huge problem for me on the mountain. I triple wrapped my feet with sports tape to avoid my blisters getting worse. I would HIGHLY advise bringing something like this just in case!
8. Use Tried and True Shoes
See above. You will regret not having thoroughly tested your shoes ahead of time.
8. Bring Headache Medicine
The altitude will make your head throb. Bring headache medicine so that you can enjoy your time. Coca leaves will help, but you want to make sure that you are able to enjoy the trip instead of spending it rubbing your temples.
10. Plan to Layer Your Clothing
Being high up in the Andes will bring a multitude of different temperatures that you will need to be prepared for. In the jungle it is warm, at the top of the mountains it is freezing, at night it is extra cold, while hiking you will warm up, and while at camp you may just be fine. Either way, the best way to deal with the changing temperatures is to layer your clothes. Doing this will allow you to strip off or add clothing easily to adjust to the changing temperatures.
11. Bring or Rent Hiking Poles
One extremely important tip for hiking to Machu Picchu is to bring or rent hiking poles. The inclines are bad enough with poles, I can’t imagine having to balance without! Although many of the well-seasoned guides will go pole-less, no SANE person would tell you not to bring them. Many places in Cusco will actually have hiking poles for you to rent if you don’t want to buy your own or bring them on the plane. However, if you are into hiking, they are a great investment to make. These are my hiking poles of choice.
12. Arrive in Cusco Many Days Before Hiking to Machu Picchu
One of the most important tips for hiking to Machu Picchu is to arrive in Cusco at least a few days before your hike. Machu Picchu is situated at 12,000 feet above sea-level, and Cusco is at 10,000. This isn’t an easy altitude to adjust to, and if you don’t properly acclimate to the altitude before your hike, it can ruin your trip completely. Arriving a few days early will give your body time to properly adjust to the altitude and for your lungs to get used to breathing in different air. As someone who lives at 0ft. above sea level, arriving early was the only way I made it through the hike without my lungs dying on me. If you have extra time in Cusco, make sure to check out these day trips from Cusco as well!
I hope these 12 tips for hiking Machu Picchu help you have the most amazing experience in Peru! It really is a life-changing place.
Comment below on tips you’ve used before or are going to use in the future!