Treks to Machu Picchu
Rediscovered in 1911 and chosen ‘new world wonder’ in 2007. Machu Picchu is without any doubt the most famous and most stunning archaeological site of the Americas. This ‘citadel’ amazes every visitor. Despite all the stories and investigations about Machu Picchu, its construction date and purpose are still riddles. There are several treks to Machu Picchu. The most famous trek is the 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. You can also do the shorter version, which takes only 2 days. But there are other treks to Machu Picchu as well: the Salkantay Trek, the Lares Trek and the Inca Jungle Trail. All of these treks are four days.
Treks to Machu Picchu:
Which trek do I choose?
That depends on your own preferences. Let´s try to help you choose the right trek. Below we’ve written down the advantages and disadvantages of the classic Inca Trail and the alternative treks to Machu Picchu.
Please contact us for itineraries and more information.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail, is probably –and with a good reason – the world´s most famous trail. The Inca Trail leads over high mountains and through the high forest of Machu Picchu. This path was a part of an extensive network of trails, known as Qhapaq Ñan. The Inca Trail is a 43 kilometers adventure through the ancient trails of the Incas. Along the trek you will visit magnificent ruins. You will also pass a mountain of 4200 meters altitude. Furthermore you will have stunning views off snow-covered peaks and walk through the cloud forest. The Inca Trail ends at the impressive sight from Inti Punku, the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. Then you know that you are finally in Machu Picchu!
Advantages and disadvantages of the Inca Trail:
Advantage 1: it’s the only trek in which you hike until you actually reach Machu Picchu. All the other treks finish the day before in the tourist village of Aguas Calientes. And from there you take a bus to the ruins. This is a big advantage, because you’ll never forget the first view on Machu Picchu from the ruins of the Incas Sun Gate!
Advantage 2: along the route there are various Inca-ruins that you can visit.
Advantage 3: the diversity of the nature on the route is beautiful: from high Andes-passes (highest point is about 4200 meters above sea level) to the exuberant nature of the upper-jungle.
Disadvantage 1: many tourists. Per day 500 persons are allowed to enter the Inca Trail. About half of them are tourists and half of them are staff (guides, cooks, porters). Normally the Inca Trail is sold-out, so that means that you’re walking along with 500 other persons. It´s not crowded, but you won´t walk alone.
Disadvantage 2: as there is a daily maximum of people entering the trail, the Inca Trail is sold out well in advance. If you want to book for the high season, you´ll need to book about half a year in advance.
Disadvantage 3: you have to descend stairways made by the Incas on a large part of the Inca Trail, especially on the third day. The stairs are not easy and you have to make big steps, so you’ll get a lot of pressure on your upper legs and knees.
Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
The Salkantay Trek is in our view the best alternative to the Inca Trail. And many guidebooks agree with us on that. This trek is even better than the Inca Trail Trek if you love nature more than culture. Because the nature is absolutely incredible. You climb from the Andean highlands to an icy pass at 4600 meters and after this it goes down hill. There you will see banana trees, coffee plantations and a wild river. You can take your fleece sweaters off when you enter the high altitude cloud forest. You can say that there is a different world every few kilometers on this trek.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Salkantay trek:
Advantage 1: there are less tourists than on the Inca Trail, so it feels more adventurous.
Advantage 2: an (in our opinion) even more beautiful and more diverged route than the Inca Trail. The pass that you climb of more than 4600 meters, leads along impressive glaciers of over 6000 meters. Afterwards you descend into the beautiful upper-jungle: subtropical nature with banana, coffee and avocado trees, hot springs, etc.
Disadvantage 1: you don’t finish your hike in Machu Picchu, but you arrive the evening before in Aguas Calientes. There you stay in a hotel, and you’ll visit Machu Picchu the next day.
Disadvantage 2: there are no Inca-ruins to visit along this route. It is not a ´culture trek´.
Lares Trek to Machu Picchu
This four day trek through the Lares Valley is a good alternative option if you like to do a trek where only few travelers go. This trail is not so famous, but very interesting. It combines amazing mountain views and passes with azure lakes. And you will meet a lot of Quechua communities and get to know small Peruvian villages.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Lares trek:
Advantage 1: less tourists than on the other treks to Machu Picchu.
Advantage 2: you visit several real Andean communities. This way you can get a good impression of every day life of the people in this region.
Disadvantage 1: the route is less diverged than the other treks. It leads through the Andes Mountains but not through the upper-jungle.
Disadvantage 2: you don’t finish in Machu Picchu, not even in Aguas Calientes, but in the village of Ollantaytambo. There, you’ll take the tourist train to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll stay for the night in a hotel. The next morning you’ll go up to visit Machu Picchu.
Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu
An adventurous and sporty trek to Machu Picchu, that has some advantages over the other four day treks. You have a great range of variety: mountain biking, hiking and the option of rafting or a zip-line tour. And this trek is cheaper than the other treks.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Inca Jungle Trail:
Advantage 1: this trip is cheaper than the other treks to Machu Picchu.
Advantage 2: a lot of different landscapes and activities: the first day you will go down hill mountain biking. And optionally you can do a zip-line tour, rafting or visit the beautiful hot springs. The route is varied; from a high pass to the upper jungle.
Advantage 3: easier, the Inca Jungle Trail is physically less demanding than the other tours.
Disadvantage 1: this is a budget trip, for this reason many times the groups are larger.
Disadvantage 2: in our view, the Inca Jungle Trail is artificially designed. The down hill bike tour is on a main road and is not really challenging.
Disadvantage 3: the real hiking romance and the nature aspect is missing because it is a common route through the inhabited world. You don´t go ´off the trek´. You will also sleep in budget hotels so you don´t have the feeling that you are trekking in nature. So it is more an alternative (but a nice one!) to going by train to Machu Picchu than a real Trail.
We offer the four different treks to Machu Picchu. Check them out here:Inca Trail Inca Jungle Trail Salkantay Trek Lares Trek