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Camino Frances vs Inca trail?


New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
Hi all,

Has anyone who has walked the Frances also walked the Inca trail? How does it compare in terms of how hard the walking is? I'm walking the Inca trail in about 3 weeks and starting to get nervous! I finished SJPdP to Finisterre earlier this year (in Spring), but I took my time (55 days, including 2 rest days).

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

:-D Pixy


Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SdC (2005), Camino Norte-Fisterra (2010), SJPdP-Muxia-Fisterra (2012), Camino Norte w/Primitivo-Muxia-Fisterra (2014), Camino Portuguese (2016)
Have done both and loved each step of each one.

Fully understand the apprehension of walking the Inca Trail. How many days have you booked? I walked the trail in '04 and then did first Camino in '05. I was totally nervous about not being able to keep up with others. Two nights before I was set to go, I stumbled on a stair and nearly cracked my knee cap. No matter, the Inca Trail was awesome. There were all kinds of people of various skill levels who were part of my group being guided. We had a great guide and were well prepped beforehand. It was very good to arrive in Cuzco several days before (I think 4 for me) to get acclimated to change in altitude. There were seniors in our group, a woman who never really hiked at all, and several others who simply took their time. We all had such an amazing time. The company I went with was one of the best.

So 55 days on the Camino and 4 or 5 days on the Inca Trail comparison? Perhaps just the same. Take your time, relax, enjoy each day as it comes, be aware of your body. What an exciting adventure!

Keep a smile,
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I have also walked the Inca Trail, it was in 2006 or 2007, after I had already walked a number of Caminos. It is a totally different experience. For one thing, I'll agree with mralisn, you really should plan to arrive in Cusco at least four days before starting to walk. We used that to take short walks (for instance up to Sacsayhuaman, to other ruins within a 10-12 km radius), to visit Cusco, etc, all the while getting used to altitude change. We met several people about 4 hours in to the Inca Trail, who had to return because they were in terrible shape with altitude sickness. Though we carried our own packs (you can have someone carry them, of course), local men did all the cooking, did all the carrying of food and equipment, put up the tents, etc. This was not our choice, it's a rule, you can't just do it yourself on the Inca Trail because of the limited number of permits. It was a totally amazing experience, one I would highly recommend. But much tougher than any Camino I've ever walked.

And just to plug an "add on" if you have the time, we also did a four day hike to a place called Choquequirao. Totally amazing, more recently discovered, ruins being excavated, but absolutely no way to get there except on foot. That was a much harder hike, but much more amazing in many ways. Our attitude was, if we're going to go all the thousands of miles to Cusco, we might as well hang around a while, and that second hike was unreal.

You are of course able to go at your own pace, and I was in my mid 50s when I walked it, so it's not something for young-uns only! I would love to return to do some of the other walks available there. Buen camino, Laurie


New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
Thanks so much mralisn and Laurie!

The company I'm going with is doing it in 4 days. They require you to be in Cusco at least 2 days before the trek. I'm going a week before...I had altitude sickness in Nepal when I was 12...I definitely do not want to repeat that experience! Plus, as you suggest Laurie, I figure I can do some day trips/walks from Cusco and see more of the sacred valley/get in some training :-D

I have hired an extra porter to carry my heavy stuff/things I don't need on me during the day...just in case I do get any amount of altitude sickness.

A big part of my worry is more, as you said mralisn, about not keeping up with the group/holding them up, rather than not being able to do it. I guess they may just have to wait for me at times! :-D

Thank you both for allaying some of my fears!

And Laurie...that "add on" sounds great...sadly I won't have the time for it though.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014)
So, after almost pulling out of the hike 2 days before leaving, due to the fact I had been in Cusco 5 days and was still struggling with breathing at that altitude when simply walking 5 minutes around the city, or up a flight of stairs, I decided I had to at least give it a go. I figured if it came to the worst, and I was struggling on the first day, I could always turn around and catch the train from ollantaytambo to aguas Calientes.

It certainly wasn't an easy hike, although in all honesty I couldn't now say whether I found it harder than parts of the Camino?...it's amazing how quickly you forget the hard parts! But it was incredible! And the feeling of accomplishment after making it to the top of the first pass...dead woman's pass...was incredible!

I was very lucky, in that my group ended up being very small...six of us, plus our guide (and of course our support team of porters and cook). But the others were all fit looking, and slightly younger than me (I'm 30, they were mostly in their early/mid twenties, so not too much in it, but still!), and so I was a bit concerned with keeping up with them.

On the first day I lagged behind a little on the uphill sections, but not too much...they were always in sight. On the second day, when we had to go up about 1200m, to an elevation of 4200m, or thereabouts, we did it in 3 sections. I lost sight of them on the first two sections, but arrived within 10 minutes of them to the meeting/rest points. On the final section up I found myself in the middle of the group...lost sight of everyone...both ahead and behind...but again, only by about 10 minutes ahead, and the same for those who were behind me. It felt good to not be the last one up the summit, to know I wasn't holding everyone up. It was also great to discover we could all walk at our own pace, and that it was similar enough that we could all meet up at the important places. The rest of the uphills, once we were again at lower elevation, I was the slowest, but downhill I was faster, and so it evened out nicely.

The hardest part was the last morning, up to the sun gate...it was uphill, STEEP, up narrow rock stairs. We had a tight timeframe...couldn't start on the track until 5.30am (I presume because it is too dangerous to do in the dark), and we wanted to make the sun gate in time to see the sunlight come over Machu Picchu, at 6.30. The two fittest were ahead of me, the other three behind. I kept telling them to go ahead, so they wouldn't miss it, and I'd see them there. They refused, saying we were a team, and the pace was fine, and that I could do it...they were very sweet young women. I hated them a little bit in those moments, as I pushed myself in the last 20 minutes, well past my natural pace, tears running down my cheeks! They meant well, and I'm glad I arrived with them, and that they kept me from giving up, as I was determined not to let them miss it. And I'm glad we arrived when we did (6.32, the sun had already touched half of Machu Picchu, but we got to see the rest revealed). But if I were to ever do it again (which I don't think is likely, it's a pretty once in a lifetime experience!) I would walk that last morning at my own pace. I'm just glad it was only that one hour that I had to push past my natural pace, and even then, I could have taken it slower if I hadn't been so stubborn, and hadn't developed the friendships with my group that made me want to finish with them! But I had been concerned the whole 4 days was going to be like that...having to keep up with someone else's pace, and so it had been a big relief that that wasn't the case!

And now I have the incredible experience of having completed the Inca trail! All a bit strange, thinking back on it a few weeks later, as I sit at my hostel in South Beach, Miami!!!
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Camino(s) past & future
Effectively, it must be different experiences. Soon I will make the camino Frances , but the Inca Trail is an unforgettable experience that I did last year. It is not only the trek and the landscapes that surround the Inca Trail, but the spectacular arrival to Machu Picchu. It is an emotional mixture between having fulfilled the objective of concluding the walk and the spiritual recharge offered by the place.
Machu Picchu is a magical place definitely, the tiredness, the pain of muscles and bones disappear when you walk between its streets and historical places.
In addition to doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for 4 days, I stayed two more days in the town of Machu Picchu, the next day I was able to visit Machu Picchu again and go up to Huaynapicchu, a completely different view of Machu Picchu but from the heaven.
It is important to visit during the dry season, they told me that the views are different when there is rain and sometimes it is not so spectacular.
There are several options that I will do when I return to Peru, they spoke very well of the Salkantay Trek and I hope to do it soon, also to go to Santa Teresa where there are thermal baths and the same city of Cusco that I could not visit more than fleetingly.
I attached some photos of my trip.


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