Deciding on what to pack for Machu Picchu can be a daunting experience, especially if you are unfamiliar with the geography, climate, and restrictions/regulations in Peru. Depending on your approach to visiting the famous Incan citadel, there will be varying degrees of clothing, equipment, and supplies that you will need for your journey, as well as some items that are prohibited along the trail.
Regardless of whether you are visiting for the day or are completing a multi-day trek up the mountain, you will want to make sure that you are travelling light enough to stay comfortable, but still have everything that you need to make your adventure a memorable one. We’ve put together a fantastic list below of 12 essentials that you will need when undertaking a trek to Machu Picchu:
Machu Picchu Packing List
First and foremost, bringing your passport to Machu Picchu is mandatory. Not only will you need this essential travel document to enter Peru, but each trekker and porter making their way up the mountain will be checked for documents and permits. Best to avoid getting turned away before your Machu Picchu adventure even begins!
2. Comfortable Hiking Boots
When it comes to hiking shoes for Machu Picchu, you will certainly need a sturdy pair of footwear that is both comfortable and offers a great level of support, as you will be trekking for multiple days up the mountainside. If you aren’t exactly sure of which type of shoe to choose, make sure to check out this guide on How to Choose a Pair of Hiking Boots.
3. Backpack/Day Pack
The type of backpack that you will bring on a trek to Machu Picchu will largely depend on the nature of your adventure. Most treks will utilize porters or pack animals, such as llamas, to carry the majority of your gear, allowing you to carry a smaller pack with only the essentials. If this is the case, you will want something in the 20-25L range, so that you can actually bring your pack into Machu Picchu itself.
If you will be carrying your own gear, a pack in the 40-50L range will be more suitable, although you will need to check your bag before entering the historical site. In either case, bringing a small day pack is advised when actually visiting Machu Picchu, as bag dimensions can be no larger than 40x35x20 cm. No matter which route you take, be sure to bring a backpack cover for protection from the rain.
4. Sun Protection
As can be expected, completing a trek like the Inca Trail will see you spending plenty of time outside. As such, protection from the sun will be a critical factor in ensuring comfort along the trail. Sun screen, a sun hat, sunglasses, and lightweight clothing to cover the skin are all great ideas to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun.
5. Waterproof Jacket/Poncho
Rain is a near inevitability at Machu Picchu, especially if you are visiting outside of the dry season, so you will need to make sure that you are protected enough to stay dry on your trek. Many people opt to pick up a cheap plastic poncho; however these can leave you feeling hot while hiking and can easily be damaged when taking off/putting on. If you are looking for a more sturdy, long-lasting option that is still lightweight, check out this article on the best hiking coats for rain.
6. Base Layers
Due to the range of temperatures, humidity, rainfall, and wind that can be experienced on a trek to Machu Picchu, you will want to make sure that you pack some base layers to help keep you comfortable. Thermal layers are excellent for protecting you from the cold nighttime temperatures, while moisture-wicking layers will help to keep your skin dry while hiking. These types of clothing also have the added bonus of being lightweight, helping you to pack lighter without sacrificing comfort.
7. Appropriate Clothing
As mentioned in the point above, a trek to Machu Picchu will see you experience a variety of weather conditions that will require appropriate clothing choices. Balance is key here, as you will want to be covered in all eventualities, but will still want to keep your pack lightweight. One quality pair of hiking pants can be used over several days of trekking and will save you some room in your pack, while you will need to pack several shirts to combat the humidity and sweating that will naturally occur. Additionally, if your journey takes you to Aguas Calientes, as the Lares Trek does, you might want to consider bringing a swimsuit along to enjoy the hot springs after your lengthy adventure.
8. Extra Socks
Undertaking a multi-day adventure like the Salkantay Trek will obviously see you cover a lot of ground on foot, as you work your way up through the mountainous terrain to reach Machu Picchu. In order to complete such an arduous journey, you will need to make sure that your feet are dry, comfortable, and protected, or else you could quickly find yourself running into problems and calling off your trek. Bring one pair of good quality wool hiking socks for each day that you will be on the trail, with one extra pair just in case.
9. Bug Spray
Mosquitoes, midges, and a wide variety of other insects can be encountered on a trek to Machu Picchu, and while they aren’t dangerous, they will be sure to let you know that they are in the area. In order to protect yourself from countless bug bites that will leave you feeling uncomfortable for the remainder of your trek, be sure to bring bug spray along.
10. Refillable Water Bottle
A refillable water bottle is an essential item to add to your Machu Picchu packing list, as single-use plastic water bottles are prohibited at Machu Picchu in an effort to reduce the amount of waste on the mountain. When trekking up the mountain, you can expect to drink at the very least 1L of water per day, so make sure that you come prepared with a vessel large enough to hold water for prolonged periods of time.
11. Hiking Poles
While they aren’t really needed if you are taking the train into Machu Picchu, hiking poles will certainly be a welcome addition to your Machu Picchu packing list if you are planning on completing either the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, or Lares Trek. Lengthy inclines along steep terrain can put pressure on your joints – especially the knees – and hiking poles can really help to reduce the wear and tear. Be sure to only bring hiking poles with rubber tips, as those with metal are prohibited.
When thinking of what to pack for Machu Picchu, it should come as no surprise that a camera is an essential piece of gear to bring along, as the surrounding landscape of the Andes Mountains and the fascinating historical sites truly are a sight to behold. Depending on which season you will be trekking in, you might want to opt for a waterproof camera, as heavy rains outside of the dry season can quickly ruin any unprotected electronics. Be sure to leave any additional equipment like tripods at home, as they are prohibited at Machu Picchu.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you not bring to Machu Picchu?
Visitors to Machu Picchu are prohibited from bringing a variety of items on site, including alcohol, tobacco/vapes, tripods/selfie sticks for cameras, metal-tipped hiking poles, instruments, strollers, drones, and single-use plastics. For the full list of prohibited items and activities be sure to visit the Peru Ministry of Culture website.
Do I need hiking boots for Machu Picchu?
Hiking shoes are absolutely necessary if you are planning a trek up to Machu Picchu, as the terrain can be steep and rugged, requiring solid footing with good ankle support. If you are taking transit to visit the site for the day, you will be able to get away with comfortable walking shoes or trainers.
Can I bring a backpack to Machu Picchu?
Yes you can bring a backpack into Machu Picchu, although there are size restrictions in place to stop visitors from bringing their luggage on site. Whether you are visiting for the day or are taking a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu (in which case you will almost certainly have a porter to carry a larger bag), you will need a day pack no larger than 40x35x20 centimetres.
Are there mosquitoes at Machu Picchu?
While Machu Picchu sits at an elevation that is above the threshold for mosquitoes, there is still a good chance that you will encounter them, or even worse, that you will encounter midges along the trail. In order to avoid getting bitten by insects at Machu Picchu, be sure to wear proper clothing and bring insect repellent.
Can you bring water bottles into Machu Picchu?
Bringing a water bottle on a trek to Machu Picchu is a necessity, as you will need a fair amount of water to stay hydrated on the long journey up the mountain – just make sure that it isn’t a single-use plastic water bottle, as they have been banned in an effort to reduce waste at the site.
Plan Your Machu Picchu Trek
Planning a trek to Machu Picchu is an exciting experience that involves a lot of moving parts, such as deciding the best time of year to visit and getting answers to frequently asked questions about visiting the Incan citadel; so it should come as no surprise that trying to decide what to wear or bring to Machu Picchu is no exception. Armed with the above information, you will be able to confidently plan the adventure of a lifetime, knowing that you have the proper gear and essentials to stay safe, comfortable, and happy while out on the spectacular trail of Peru. Armed with the above information and our concise guide on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will be able to confidently plan the adventure of a lifetime, knowing that you have the proper gear and essentials to stay safe, comfortable, and happy while out on the most spectacular trail in Peru.