Latin America

Which Machu Picchu Trek should I do?

The Inca Trail is an iconic trek through a spectacular landscape ending at one of the most beautiful historical sights in the world; in short it’s popular for a reason. This acclaim has led to the Peruvian government taking extra measures to protect the ancient route and there is a limit of 500 people a day allowed on the trail (including trekkers, porters and guides) and in February it’s closed all together.
Though this is great for the local environment it can mean that the permits for the trail are like gold dust during busy months and many people are unable to secure them for their visit. The fame of the route and the ensuing crowds have also led to some visitors seeking out alternative routes (we call them Inca hipsters). But which trek should you choose? Here’s our run-down of the 4 most popular to help you decide:

Inca Trail routes

The routes

Which Machu Picchu trek should I do?

 

Machu Picchu Jungle Adventure – Bike & Trek

What’s the deal?
The Machu Picchu Jungle Adventure is probably the most epic bike ride you’ll ever do! It’s a 4 day mix of biking and trekking through the jungle mountains surrounding Cusco. You’ll be among some of the first tourists into Machu Picchu ready to watch the dawn break over the sacred site.
Best bits?
The Jungle Adventure takes you past Huamanmarka archaeological site, white water rafting along the Urubamba River and (if you dare) ziplining through the treetops on South America’s highest zipline! You can also soak off in Aguas Calientes hot springs after a hard days cycling.
Any drawbacks?
You won’t pass some of the ancient Inca ruins along the way but hey, you will have just been white water rafting! You win some you lose some.
How tough we talkin’?
This one is definitely an adrenaline junkies dream, you’ll be mountain biking across dirt tracks and taking part in a lot of heart-pumping physical activities. If you’d rather take things a bit slower maybe this isn’t the route for you, but for all you adventure-seekers out there, GO FOR IT!
Machu Picchu

Llamabomb!

The Lares Trek

What’s the deal?
The Lares Trek is a three day long trek in the mountains around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. It does not actually end in Machu Picchu but instead at Ollantaytambo (great name) from which you take the train to Aguas Calientes (another great name) ready for the bus trip to Machu Picchu the next morning.
Best bits?
The route of the Lares passes though ancient ruins, high terrace farms and communities mostly untouched by the boom in Peru’s tourism trade. It is a unique opportunity to explore a rarely visited region and still have the satisfaction of doing so on foot.
Any draw backs?
This is not a trek TO Machu Picchu and if that’s what you’ve got your heart set on it’s not for you.
How tough we talkin’?
The Lares is shorter than the Inca Trail (yay) but much higher (boo) with mountain passes as high as 4600m. You do get to stay in the hot spring capital of Peru (Aguas Calientes means hot water) on the third night though so plenty of time to soak away those aches and pains.

Inca Trail

Get a glimpse of traditional culture on the Lares Trek

The Salcantay Trek

What’s the deal?
Often listed among the best hikes in the world, the Salcantay trek lasts for 5 days with 4 days actual trekking and the 5th reserved for a Machu Picchu tour. The route winds up through high mountain passes and past the glacier capped peak of Salcantay mountain before descending down through lush countryside and ending in Aguas Calientes. There are some options that join the Inca Trail for the last couple of days of this trek and so end at Machu Picchu itself but these are subject to the same permit issues as the Inca Trail.
Best bits?
The view from the remote (and only recently “re-discovered”) ruins of Llactapata is simply stunning and the second day of trekking which takes you from high grass lands, over the glacial mountain pass and then down through cloud forest is something truly special.

Salcantay

Salcantay mountain

Any draw backs?
Again, in most cases this trek does not finish at Machu Picchu itself. It’s also longer than the first two options at just under 40 miles and just as high as the Lares.
How tough we talkin’?
Though this hike would definitely be described as “difficult”, mules or alpacas are available to carry most of your gear and your guide will help you through the difficult times. Even so this is one for hiking enthusiasts.

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trekking

Choquequirao

The view from Choquequirao

What’s the deal?
The least well known of the Machu Picchu treks as well as the longest at around 62 miles…not for the faint hearted! Again there are various routes but the most common includes 8 days of trekking through the mountainous Choquequirao area finishing at Santa Teresa and Aguas Calientes with day 9 at Machu Picchu.
Best bits?
Choquequirao itself is second only to Machu Picchu in its grandeur and remoteness and is actually far more historically significant. The route between Choquequirao and Santa Teresa is pretty much as remote as it gets for a traveller in Peru.
Any draw backs?
You won’t hit some of the most famous ruins on this route and the untouched nature of the surrounds can be a little intimidating if you’re not a confident hiker.
How tough we talkin’?
This is definitely not a walk in the park, but if that’s what you wanted you probably wouldn’t be here.

Take the train

Trekking isn’t for everyone. There we said it. For some the prospect of slogging along miles of ancient pathways before coming to the place you’ve already travelled half way around the world to see just isn’t fun. If that’s you then don’t force yourself just because “everyone else” is trekking – you can take the train from Aguas Calientes and spend the extra time exploring the ruins in the sacred valley itself.

If Peru is calling we can guarantee your permit for the classic Inca Trail if you book with enough notice. We can also help you organise the Salcantay, The Lares Trek and Machu Picchu jungle adventure as well as cheap flights to get you there.