Hiking Machu Picchu On Your Period

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I’m gonna get really real here.

A couple of years ago, I hiked Machu Picchu. The experience was amazing: the sights, the flowers, the ruins, the breeze, the history. It was all perfect, until I started feeling the familiar ping of cramps on the third day. Damn!

As women, we know to prepare for this kind of thing. But somehow, it completely slipped my mind. The experience was interesting, and I’m here to share a few things, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

The Toilet Situation

… Well, there aren’t any. Aside from one squat toilet on the 6th hour of day 2, and one squat toilet at a resting point and campsite on day 3, there’s nothing. If you get caught off guard as I did, you’ve got to improvise. And for me, that meant getting pretty comfortable behind the bushes near my campsite. TMI?

The Shower Situation

… Again, nothing until the end of Day 3. Gross.

So What’s a Gal To Do?

  • Bring Toilet Paper: If you’re traveling through South America, you’ve probably already figured out there’s never any free TP in any bathroom. Toilet paper is a must, especially on very long hikes through the wilderness
  • Wet Wipes Are A Gal’s Best Friend: Screw diamonds. Wet wipes are ESSENTIAL.
  • Be Prepared: Even if you think you’re in the clear, throw a few extra tampons into your bag. You may not need it, but the poor American girl on your hike might. (…thanks to my hiking buddies, btw!)
  • Bring Advil: If you don’t use it to fight cramps, you’ll probably use it to ease those sore muscles after four days of hiking.
  • Cry: Okay I take that back. It’s probably just the hormones.
  • Get Comfortable: If you’re not at a campsite, you’ll have to duck into the bushes to take care of things. If you are a campsite, there are no trash cans and they’re all squat toilets. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Pack a Plastic Bag: … or dig a hole. There are no trash cans near or in the toilets at Machu Picchu until you’re actually at Machu Picchu. Along the Inka Trail, if you see one along the way, you’re lucky. Unfortunately as a woman that leaves you with two choices: dispose of your items in a plastic bag and carry it until you see a trash can, or get to digging.

It wasn’t all bad, it just required a bit of adjusting. I must say though, I have new respect for the women of the Inca Empire.

What about you? Any tips on how to cope that you want to share? Don’t be shy!

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.

18 Comments

    • CLR available at most harwdare stores should do the trick. Use it full strength and leave it sit for at lease 10 minutes them use sponge to clean it off.You may have to do this more than once.

  1. I was going to suggest bringing a Diva Cup so you didn’t have to deal with the disposal of tampons, but then I realized there really wouldn’t be any place to clean it…. so hmm. Bad plan. But I would recommend the tiny little tampons that don’t have applicators – easier to carry and less trash to deal with.

    • Hi, Thanks for sharing such a wreunofdl piece of information. I must say that while reading your post I found my thoughts in agreement with the topic that you have discussed, which happens very rare.

  2. I think things have changed in the last few years. I did the hike about 2 weeks ago I never had a problem finding a squat toilet when needed and if there was no trash, I just tossed it all down the hole (was I not supposed to? Oh well! It’s not like anything flushed anyway).

    The same thing happened to me and while I had no clue on days (plus throw in a new culture as I had just landed and the altitude) I tossed in enough supplies in my bag and I was fine. Though I did spend the whole 3rd day crying which was a mix of hormones and just general tiredness. Good times!!

    WET WIPES are the best, no matter what the situation. How they are not REQUIRED when you start the hike is beyond me.

    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one in that position:-).

  3. I too was on my period when I made the hike a few years ago. I feel your pain. 🙂

    I also recommend adding one item to your list – HAND SANITIZER! Especially when in this situation.

    I may or may not have cried during the hike too.

  4. LOVE IT! As I sit here in my little apartment in Minnesota, planning my trip to hike the Inca Trail I kept wondering what would happen if I get my period on the trail and lo and behold, I found your website! Divine intervention? I think so. 🙂

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  6. If you have ever been to China you may have noticed the little ones running around in split pants. Maybe it’s time that someone creates some feminine specific designer split pants specifically for the adventurous girl with Flo (AKA: Your period) in town!

  7. Hana The Devine on

    If my calculations are right and there is no miracle coming, I ll be in a same situation. Toilet visits are the easiest in my situation, it is more of the cramps management that Im not finding that funny. Last time I was taken to the hospital by first aid…. Exaggerated? It was not, unfortunately. So Im just imagining what the heck Im going to do in the trail on my own with heaps of other tourists :-).

    • I have to say… advil, advil, advil. I got pretty bad cramps while hiking but being constantly moving did kind of make it better. It’s not a pretty thing to have to deal with, but Machu Picchu is worth it!

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