What I wish I knew before I went to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience. (So ​​much so that I have written about my experience visited it as a solo woman for Intrepid once before.)

But I didn’t soar up to the beautiful place I wandered there and it was a bit painful at times. Like most painful things, the memories fade with time and I only remember the good bits. However, there are a few things I wish I had known that would have made the difficult moments more manageable.

I’ve listed them below (you’re welcome) so you’ll be able to concentrate on the beautiful view of the blisters and your new friends over your sore muscles:

1. Stay hydrated and well-nourished

Drink plenty. So drink more. And take bags of hydration salts just in case. When you walk, you sweat and you have to replace those losses. Staying hydrated is also a great way to reduce your chance of experiencing altitude sickness. So make sure you have a good (reusable!) bottle or hydration pack to put in your daypack (Plastic and Camelbak are both good brands for hydration packs).

PeruNow, food. Altitude actually slows down your digestion, which can lead to a lack of appetite. If you acclimatize well, this won’t last long, but even if it does, it’s worth eating more than you think you need.

So don’t forget to pack snacks in your bag – if you’ve got a delicious Snickers or Mars bar stashed away, you’ll probably munch on it even if you don’t feel particularly hungry. This is not always a good thing in life, but it is when hiking Machu Picchu!

CHECK OUT INTREPID TRAVELS RANGE OF TREKKS TO MACHU PICCHU

2. Get your passport stamped

This is a good insider tip – you can get your passport stamped in Machu Picchu! Remember to ask at the gate.

3. Be ready for all four seasons

As you gain altitude, the temperatures become more extreme. In one day, you can experience everything from freezing cold when you wake up to boiling hot sunshine as you walk. Even without sunshine, the steep climbs will make you sweat. The answer to this? Layer.

For the cold night time take thermal base layers and pick up some Alpaca gloves and a hat in Cusco – stalls line the streets so they won’t be hard to find. Pack t-shirts that fit over your base layers when you get going in the morning, a fleece and rain jacket for wind and rain. As the day progresses and you emerge from the shadows into the sunshine, you will peel everything off. Remember at this time sunscreen and a sun hat. The sun is stronger up high, so make sure it’s a high SPF. You don’t want to be red and peeling in your photos at Machu Picchu (or in your photos posing with llamas!).

INSPIRATIONAL READING: THE ROAD TO MACHU PICCHU STARTS AT 385 LBS

A final tip on what to wear relates to shoes. Of course, you’ll need well-broken-in hiking boots to support you through today’s hike (and I do mean well-broken-in – a friend of mine lost four toenails due to wearing boots she hadn’t worn in enough before the hike).

But something I wish I knew was how good it feels to take those boots off when the walk is done to let your feet breathe. Pack flip flops or lightweight sandals for evening – something you can wear over socks (yep, sandals with socks, I said it).

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Also on the tip of socks – take lots. Don’t think you can wear the same pair more than once because they will be stinky and starting your day with fresh socks is way better than starting stinky. And on the subject of smelly – take plastic bags, because not only your socks, but your clothes in general will be wet and smelly from sweat and possibly from rain, and you’ll want to separate these from your lovely fresh clothes.

Machu Picchu Peru

Sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s definitely not

4. Porters are the meanest people you will ever meet. Period.

You’ll huff and puff your way along the trail, congratulating yourself for making it to the lunch spot without collapsing. All the while, the porters will have woken up before you, made you a killer breakfast, taken down your tents, carried all the tents/food/chairs/etc. and reached the lunch spot Before you AND made you a delicious lunch in time for your over-hyped arrival. They are superhumans.

Remember to bring cash to tip your porters at the end of your tour. Trust me, any pre-trip trepidation you may have about shelling out extra dollars will be dispelled when you see how hard they work.

READ MORE: 7 THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT THE INCA TIME

5. Remedies for altitude sickness

Hiking in the Inca Trail

Happy hikers

“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…” No, this isn’t about love or Christmas. A tingling sensation in your fingers and toes is a side effect of Diamox (also known as Acetazolamide), the medicine prescribed for sorry (altitude sickness). Be sure to seek advice from your doctor as these must be prescribed. If you use Diamox, you will also need to urinate much more often than usual – so prepare for some midnight streaks.

Speaking of medication, also consider taking anti-diarrhea tablets (Loperamide) with you, as this is a common side effect of altitude (and being in a foreign country, for some).

READ MORE: WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE TO BE AT MACHU PICCHU AS A SOLO ADVENTURER

Alternatively, locals swear by coca leaves to alleviate the effects of the altitude, and in more rural areas you’ll see Peruvians chewing away with blackened teeth. On the path you may be offered coca mate (coca leaf tea). It doesn’t taste great, so add some honey and you’ve got yourself a natural remedy.

Machu Picchu Peru

The heights are pretty epic!

6. You know what really bothers me…

…forgetting to take insect repellent to Machu Picchu. There are SO MANY mozzies up there. Don’t make the mistake I did of assuming that because you’re so high up there won’t be anyone. There is.

7. In the words of Scar, “Be prepared…”

Do some exercise walks. You don’t have to be an Olympian to do the Inca Trail, but you do need to be fitter than your average couch potato.

Inca Trail Guide

Feared leaders are there to help you

In addition to exercising physically, you must be prepared by booking early. For conservation purposes, the Incas are limited by how many people can be on it at a time. This means that it is booked about six months in advance. But if you miss the Inca Trail, remember that you can get onto it too The quarry path to Machu Picchu with Intrepid. It offers the same magnificent Andean scenery, but without the crowds, lesser-known archaeological sites and no permits required!

READ MORE: ADVANTAGES OF TAKING THE STRUNE TO MACHU PICCHU

8. Expect the view to be indescribable

This requires little explanation. And that’s not really advice. But get ready to be so awestruck at the top that you’ll be lost for words. There really is no sight as breathtaking as Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Peru trek

What is the difficulty level of the Machu Picchu hike?

The difficulty level of the Classic Inca Trail is considered to be a moderate level hike. The classic Inca Trail route is 43 km (26 mi) long and often steep, you will hike over four days at an elevation approaching 13,828 feet (4,215 meters). Although rated moderate, the relentless uphill (and downhill) hike is tough. Rule of thumb: The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy it.

Ready to book the trip of a lifetime? See our wide selection of Machu Picchu tours and tours.

(Image credits from top to bottom: Jen Welch, Intrepid Travel, Jen Welch, Intrepid Travel, iStock, Jen Welch)

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