Is The Inca Trail Dangerous? All Your Questions Answered

You’re asking: is the Inca Trail dangerous?

Fear no more. The Inca Trail is a safe trek. If you’re considering doing the Inca Trail, you’ll have some questions other than ‘is the Inca Trail dangerous?’. It is so worth to effort to get to Machu Picchu!

But all hikes and treks come with their own risks. In the case of the Inca Trail, there definitely are some things to keep in mind.

We did the Inca trail in June 2023, and despite it being a challenge, it’s one of the most amazing things we have ever done. The Inca Trail should be on every traveller’s Peru Itinerary!

A girl sat along the Inca Trail on the way to the top of Dead Woman's Pass

Is the Inca Trail Dangerous?

Like any trek of its kind, the Inca Trail does present some small dangers, but these risks can be managed by simply preparing for the trip.

The trail has a couple of tough parts. And without being prepared for them, you might get very uncomfortable.

The Inca Trail has high altitudes and unpredictable weather. But with a good guide, and some decent gear it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Dangerous Animals

Dangerous animals are not really a concern here. There is a small part of the trek where you might encounter snakes, but it’s very uncommon. If you see any, just go around them with plenty of space. They’re not aggressive, just scared and protective.

Altitude Sickness

This is quite a serious one. So be sure to be prepared! Small disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I’m just passing on the information I received from our guides, and doctor at home before making the trip.

Most people are not used to altitude. Yes, some people in the US live in town at an altitude of 10000 feet. But it’s very uncommon. This means you are unlikely to be used to being at altitude. And your body will not be sure what to do with the reduced oxygen and change in air pressure.

Don’t worry: you can get used to altitude relatively quickly. And there are things you can do to help yourself. The most important things are:

  • Travel slowly. You’ll need to start the Inca Trail from Cusco. And the best would be NOT to fly there, but to take a bus. Not everyone is able to do that though.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. It helps your body A LOT.
  • No coffee or alcohol, since this dehydrates the body.
  • Don’t exercise. You’ll be out of breath VERY quickly and will struggle to breathe if you exercise.
  • You MUST stay in Cusco for AT LEAST 2-3 days before starting the Inca Trail. No worries, there is plenty to do to fill that time.
  • Cusco is a great place to get some souvenirs to take home, so use your time acclimating to go shopping!

Altitude sickness usually goes away without treatment if you rest. But, if the symptoms are too much, you can treat it. Make sure to speak to a medical professional before going to Peru, or in Cusco.

Many people don’t get altitude sickness. But it’s always good to take precautions.

On the Inca Trail, you’re unlikely to get altitude sickness, if you’re hydrated and have spent some time in Cusco. But if there is any problem, your guides will be trained to help you. So again, don’t worry.

Is the Inca Trail Difficult?

Difficulty and danger are not the same thing. So let’s discuss this topic separately.

What Is The Most Difficult Part of The Inca Trail?

Easy. Dead Woman’s Pass is the most difficult. Not named after a dead woman luckily, but named after the shape you see after you pass it. It looks like a woman lying down.

This will be the highest point of your trek. And therefore the hardest climb you have to do.

How high does the Inca Trail get?

Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest point of the Inca Trail with an immense altitude of 13,800 feet (4200 meters).

Can you walk the Inca Trail without a guide?

No, you can’t. You HAVE to have a guide and permit. It’s not just a rule—it’s a way to respect and preserve this incredible piece of history.

Good To Know

Let’s go over some other things that you should know before you go.

Where you will sleep

Surprise: In tents! They’re carried by the amazing group of porters that will take anything you need up the mountains.

What to pack for the Inca Trail

Not that much. If I had to do it again, I’d take:

  • 2 pairs of trousers
  • Two t-shirts
  • A hoodie
  • A raincoat
  • A warm coat
  • Hiking boots
  • Thick socks
  • A 3-litre Camelbak or other reusable water containers
  • Head torch
  • Snacks
  • A camera
  • Toiletries

Do you need to carry your own stuff?

Only some of it. All the tents and food will be carried by the team of porters. You’ll need to carry your water, a snack, and whatever you need during the day. You’ll probably start while wearing layers, gloves, and a hat, but will need to take them off as it warms up.

Is The Inca Trail Dangerous: FAQs

Any other question I could think of that needs answering will be answered below!

How Long Does it Take to Hike to Machu Picchu?

It all depends on where your starting point is. The most popular is the 4-day Inca Trail. But you can do it in 5, or do a short, 2-day route. I highly recommend doing it in 4 days though!

What is the altitude of Dead Woman’s Pass?

The altitude of Dead Woman’s pass is 13,800 feet or 4,200 meters. You’ll definitely notice this going up! It’s a tough part of the Inca Trail.

Is the Inca Trail worth it?

Yes, yes, yes! Honestly, the Inca Trail is about the whole experience, and not just Machu Picchu.

Just imagine standing at the foot of an ancient path, carved by the Inca civilization centuries ago. You’re surrounded by the Peruvian Andes, with the promise of Machu Picchu waiting at the end of your trek.

This is a journey steeped in history, a trek that takes you through stunning landscapes and ancient ruins.

If you’re used to solo hiking, the idea of trekking in a group may seem a little off-putting. But trust me, it’s a great experience. Your guide isn’t just there to lead the way; they’re your personal storyteller, your historian.

Are there toilets on the trail?

The Inca Trail has some toilets along the way, but not many. The camps have toilets, and a few stops do as well. They won’t be very clean, though.

For the rest, you can expect the famous Inca toilets. The way the Incas used to do it. In a bush.

How cold does it get on the Inca Trail?

Very. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get some very low temperatures. But usually, it doesn’t get freezing cold. Make sure you have some layers ready to wear in the evenings and mornings.

Is Machu Picchu a hard hike?

It’s somewhat hard, yes. But if you’re not too unfit, you’ll be fine. You hike at your own pace, no matter how fast – or slow that is. There will be a guide in front and behind the group, so nobody will fall behind.

But let’s be honest. It’s challenging. But it’ll be an experience. So it will be something you won’t ever forget. Don’t let the difficulty stop you, unless you’ve got some health problems.

Why is it called Dead Woman’s Pass?

It sounds a bit eerie. But other than the altitude, it really isn’t. It’s got nothing to do with anyone dying. The mountain pass, once you’re over it, looks like a woman lying on her back. And since she never moves, surely she must be dead? It does sound a bit better than “Woman Laying on her Back’s Pass”.

Preparing For The Inca Trail

I hope you’ve now decided to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Let’s discuss the preparations.

What do I need to take in my day pack?

Anything you want to use during the day. This will be water, your camera, toilet paper, and all the layers you take off during the day. The porters will carry the rest. So your daypack won’t be heavy at all!

Do I need technical Trekking skills for the Inca Trail Trek?

No. Some people prefer using hiking poles though. The Inca Trail is paved all the way, and although it’s a bit wobbly sometimes, it’s very doable. The porters and guides will carry your stuff, so no other skills than a bit of hiking are required.

Is Physical Condition an Important Factor On The Inca Trail?

It is, but not as much as people think. Unless you’ve got medical problems, physical problems, or are REALLY unfit (think: out of breath after walking for a few minutes), you’ll be fine. You decide your own pace!

Inca Trail Tips

Tips are always welcome, am I right? These are the tips for making the Inca Trail less dangerous.

Travel in the dry season

Deciding when to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu is a little difficult. But for the safest trek, travel in the dry season.

The paths can get slightly slippery when wet. So doing the Inca Trail between April and October will make it easier and safer. And on top of that, no rain to ruin the amazing views!

Make sure you are in adequate physical condition

The word “adequate” is key here. You don’t really have to train for the Inca Trail. If you occasionally hike, cycle, walk instead of drive, or do any kind of sport, it’s adequate.

If you don’t, you’ll most likely still make it. But tiredness can waste the experience a little bit.

Acclimatise your body to the altitude

As mentioned before, you have to stay in Cusco for 2-3 days before starting the trail. If you don’t, it’s possible to get altitude sickness which will make doing the Inca Trail dangerous.

The tour companies won’t even let you start if you’re not acclimatised to the altitude.

Take the time you need

This is a bit of common sense really. Don’t feel rushed, take your time, and hike at your own pace.

Picture time? Break time!

Don’t walk and photo shoot at the same time. The path is paved, but come on. The Incas built it hundreds of years ago. It’s not smooth.

Bring appropriate footwear and clothing

The title says it all. The better your gear, the more comfortable and safe you are. Quick dry clothing works great, and you absolutely should have hiking boots, not sneakers.

Take waterproof bags

Store your clothes in plastic bags. And have some for your electronics. This is for rain, but also because the porters who carry your bags can sweat on your bag.

Wear layers

Layers are easy to take off. You don’t want to take too much off at once and get cold, so layers are the way to go. They’re also warmer because the air in between them acts as a form of insulation as well.

Use sun protection

It’s not that hot on the Inca trail, but you’re so close to the equator, that you easily burn. And that’s uncomfortable and dangerous!

Use an experienced Tour Operator

I know that doing the Inca Trail is expensive. But it’s worth it. Using a good operator is safer, more comfortable, and will make your overall experience a lot better.

The guides will be better trained, happier, and more knowledgeable. We used Alpaca Expeditions, and HIGHLY recommend them.

Final Thoughts – Is The Inca Trail Dangerous?

The Inca Trail will be an experience of a lifetime. It’s worth every penny, and every drop of sweat. It is incredible. But is it dangerous? Luckily, the answer is no. The Inca Trail is not dangerous. But precautions are necessary!

Good luck and enjoy your hike!