Machu Picchu’s Dirty Little Secret

Without a doubt Machu Picchu is an amazing place. A historic past. Amazing views. Llamas! It’s the number one tourist destination in Peru. More than a million people visit Machu Picchu each year. There are almost 200 licensed tour operators for Inca Trail hikers  to chose from. In fact, TripAdvisor ranks Machu Picchu as the number one landmark in the entire world.

So, with all the Machu Picchu love going on, what could possibly be the problem?

Toilet. Latrine. Biffy. Commode. WC. Lavatory. Porcelain throne. Baño. Call it what you will, but the bathroom situation isn’t pretty. Let me highlight some of the issues you will undoubtedly face as you hike the Inca Trail to one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.

You Might Need To Pay

Not a big deal.  The average cost as you go up the trail is about 1 sole. That’s less than fifty cents. Remember to always have some change on you or you’ll be going in the bushes.

peruvian_money (2)

There’s No Toilet Paper

….or paper towel, or hand sanitizer. Sometimes there aren’t even sinks or toilet seats. Be sure to a pack a few rolls of toilet paper into your suitcase when you pack for Peru. Grab a few travel sized bottles of hand sanitzer to carry with you. Bring some Wet Ones or a small pack of baby wipes. They can do double duty for hand washing and wiping.

Inca Trail Toilet (4)

You Don’t Flush It Down

In Peru you aren’t allowed to flush paper products, of any kind, down the toilet.  Instead you must throw your toilet paper into the bucket beside the toilet…if there is a bucket.  Chances are there will just be a big disgusting pile of used toilet paper. This isn’t just an Inca Trail rule either. It’s the whole country, even 5 star hotels. But at least they’ll give you a pretty bucket there.

machu picchu toilet #3 (2)


Squat Toilets

As you travel the Inca trail you will leave flush toilets behind and begin to see squat toilets. Trust me, it’s better to know ahead of time. Squat toilets can range from a fancy flushable model to a basic pit in the ground. Most squat toilets have footplates to stand on.

There is some technique involved in using them and you might want to start working your glutes before you go. There is nothing worse than having to use your hand to help push yourself up.

machu picchu toilet #1 (2)

There’s No Toilet At All

Occasionally, there won’t be any toilets at all.  That means you will have to do your business outside. However, with 500 other people hiking the Inca trail with you, don’t expect much in the way of privacy. Add to this the environmental impact of that many people doing their business year after a year.

So What To Do?

A few companies, like Llama Path, bring along their own portable toilets. They will still smell like an outhouse over time. However, the idea of sharing with ten people is more pleasant than sharing with hundreds.


Eco toilet used by Alpaca Expeditions


It’s All Worth It

So did my research change my mind about doing the Inca Trail? Nope, not a bit. There wasn’t a single person that I talked to who regretted their decision to hike the trail. The only thing that has changed is that I know what to expect now. And I will bring Wet Ones. Lots and lots of Wet Ones.

Our trip to Peru and to Machu Picchu is now booked. We begin our Inca Trail hike on November 16th. And when we see this amazing view after days of hiking, I have no doubt that it will all be worth it…especially if a llama photobombs my picture too!

This view will make it all worth it!

27 thoughts on “Machu Picchu’s Dirty Little Secret

  1. Hi Molly,

    I am positive that Bob and yourself will have an amazing time on this trip! I have just started to look at doing this next year, so I can’t wait to hear about your adventures.



    1. The bathrooms at the entrance to Machu Picchu are clean. They have modern toilets, toilet paper and soap. I don’t understand all the nasty pictures of the toilet situation you have on this site because they are not true. In fact, all the bathrooms we encountered while touring many places in Cusco and the surrounding region were clean with toilet paper and soap. All had flushing toilets and mirrors above the sinks. Why all the untrue negativity about such a beautiful place?


      1. Geri,
        I assume you only visited Machu Picchu and didn’t do the Inca Trail. I can assure you that these are real pictures from the Inca Trail. I did the hike this year and this is honestly what it was like.

        I don’t think my article is negative at all, I loved Machu Picchu. Our Inca Trail hike was the highlight of our trip despite the poor bathroom facilities. However, for those people doing the three day hike, this is what you will encounter. I truly believe it is better to be prepared.


  2. I think it’s going to be great experience. I can’t wait to see Peru and places through your eyes. Post lots of pictures I can hardly wait!


  3. Hey Ms. Swanson! Sounds like you’re having a great time. I just came back from China, so I totally understand the squat toilet life. Looking forward to reading about the next part of your adventure! 🙂


  4. I always wonder how the elderly deal with squat toilets. Either you’re flexible your whole life or you have tremendous hardship when you leave the house. We’re lucky we don’t have to pay for restrooms in the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the funny post. This is actually one of a few reasons I didn’t hike to MP but took the train. Having Crohn’s Disease, I have to go an average of 5 times a day. In Peru I increased to 10-15 times. Can’t imagine doing that in the mountains on such a hike. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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