Walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime, exhilarating experience. This is the hike you will never forget; the one you will compare the others to for a long time afterwards.
Also known as Camino Inca, the Inca Trail hike that lasts 4 full days and 3 nights. It is one of the most famous long-distance hikes in the world, and a very popular thing to do during a trip to South America. To be fair, it’d be even more popular were it not that expensive (more about this later in this post). I have done a great deal of multi-day hikes, but nothing beats the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The trail follows one of the many roads that the inhabitants of the empire of the Inca (which at its peak extended well beyond Peru to even include parts of southern Colombia and northern Chile and northwestern Argentina) would use walk to reach the most important place in the Incan Empire. In the course of those 4 days, it takes you all the way to Machu Picchu via the Inti Punku (the Sun Gate).
GOOD TO KNOW: Other than the “classic Inca Trail” to Machu Picchu, which is the one I will be focussing on in this post, there used to be many other routes that the ancient inhabitants of the Incan Empire would use to get to Machu Picchu – more about those at the end of the post.
One thing I have learned when walking the Inca Trail is that you are never really prepared for it – or at least, I was not. So I thought I’d write a guide to tell you everything there is to know about it, with plenty of tips to help you prepare for it.
But first – are you still uncertain whether or not the Machu Picchu hike is for you? Just keep reading…
Why You Should Walk The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
I have been to Machu Picchu twice. The first time I visited, in 2010, I got there by bus from Aguas Calientes. I truly enjoyed visiting the site, and wandered around for an entire day taking photos from the many viewpoints – except from the Inti Punku, AKA the Sun Gate, because I knew it’d make no sense to get there once the sun had risen already.
And that, right there, is the reason I insisted on walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu the second time I went to Peru, years later.
Yes: the Inca Trail hike is challenging. You will be uncomfortable. You will feel discouraged at times, wondering why on earth you decided to actually sign up for that hike. You will feel exhausted. But all of that will be forgotten the moment you get to the Inti Punku and see the sun rising over Machu Picchu.
The sense of achievement is enormous.
Let me be 100% clear: the only way you get to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu is if you walk the classic Inca Trail.
If this reason is not enough to have you sign up for the Inca Trail hike right now, I have more for you!
You see – during the hike, you get to experience some of the most breathtaking nature in Peru: Andean peaks vistas; gorgeous valleys; the lush vegetation of the cloud forest and the local wildlife. You will also visit a number of Incan ruins you’d never be able to access otherwise. But there’s more to it than just that. The challenge of walking at high altitude; the companionship you establish with those you are sharing the experience with; the emotions you feel throughout are other reasons that make the Machu Picchu hike that amazing.
Finally, continue reading to discover everything you need to know about the Inca Trail hike.
What You Must Know Before Your Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
General information about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The trail starts in Piscacucho, at km 82 – which is around 40 minutes away from Ollantaytambo, one of the prettiest cities in the Sacred Valley – and is about 40 km long. Anywhere else in the world, you could easily walk that distance in just 2 days. But you are in Peru here, and the high altitude (the starting point is at roughly 2800 meters above sea level) and the fact that on some days you will be walking a steep uphill means that it really does take you longer than that.
GOOD TO KNOW: There is a short version of the classic Inca Trail that only last 2 days and that starts in Chachabamba, at km 104. You need special permits for that one too.
Know before you go
Inca Trail permits
The one thing that some seem to ignore is that in order to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you need to get government permits. These are usually put on sale at the beginning of the year, and only sold to approved tour companies (any company running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu must have a license, which is renewed each year). This means that in order to do the Machu Picchu hike you need to join a guided group tour.
In case this is not clear, let me rephrase it: you can’t walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu independently.
Keep in mind that since 2002 only 500 people per day are granted access, of which only around 200 are tourists and the rest are guided and porters.
With so many people wanting to do the Inca Trail hike, and not enough permits to meet the request, these are sold in a matter of days. If you are keen on doing it, think of a suitable date and start making enquiries, and book your Inca Trail between December and January at the latest – no matter when you intend to do it in the year.
Keep in mind that once a permit is issued, no changed to it are allowed. Permits are personal and will include your name and passport number, as well as the dates, and they can’t be transferred. As you won’t be refunded and won’t be able to transfer your permit to a different date or another person, you must be absolutely sure that you can do the Inca Trail on the set dates.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you don’t mind walking the Inca Trail during the rainy season (more about that in a bit), you can allow yourself a little bit more flexibility. Having said that, definitely don’t expect to be able to show up at a tour company in Cuzco today, and depart for the hike tomorrow. Advanced bookings are always a good idea in this case.
When I did the Inca Trail, I started making enquiries in September, settled for a tour company in November and confirmed the dates in December. I did the Inca Trail hike in April, and I remember that when I arrived in Cuzco a week before the starting day I met various people who were enquiring about it and they all said that the earliest available date would be September. They all had to settle for alternative hikes.
When to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
There really is no straightforward answer to this question – sorry! There are two seasons in Peru – the dry season and the rain (or wet) season. You can do the Inca Trail in either one, but the experience – which will remain incredible – may vary depending on when you decide to do it.
Rainy Season (November to April)
I hiked my Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in early April, at the end of the rainy season, and not a day went by without rain. Luckily it was never that bad and it never lasted for the entire day – it was mostly just a shower that started after lunch and lasted for a couple of hours at most. And since it was the last tail of the rainy season, the vegetation on the hike was absolutely lush and everything was in bloom.
However, other months get significantly more rain.
The main perk of walking the Machu Picchu hike in the rainy season is that there are less people on the trail, and less people in Machu Picchu. Because of that, you may also be able to find a better deal and a spot even if you don’t book months in advance – but remember, I did my hike in April and by then everything was sold out all the way until October!
Another good thing about walking the trail in the rainy season is that it’s not nearly as cold as it is during the dry season.
On the other hand, rain means mud and slippery terrain, and hiking is overall harder. Besides, when it is overcast, you may get all the way to the Inti Punku and be unable to see the sunrise.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance purposes.
Dry Season (May to October)
The chances of rain during the dry season are much less. While days can be nice and warm, the temperatures drop significantly at night (and trust me, it’s already cold enough at night during the rainy season!).
The dry season brings a lot more visitors to Peru, with the peak between June and August – so you can expect more people on the trail and on the site once you get there. Needless to say, as this is peak season, it’s of the utmost importance to book your Machu Picchu hike well in advance – again, I’d recommend to do so by the end of December in the previous year, or January at the latest.
If you’re reading the above and thinking that neither sounds appealing now, then please don’t be too despondent – the Inca Trail can be hiked year-round and we’ve just outlined the worst cons of each season so that you don’t have any nasty surprises!
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu costs
The prices of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu vary depending on the company that runs the trek and on what’s included in the package. The least you can expect to pay is around $700 USD – anything cheaper than that, you probably want to avoid the company. You can expect to pay up to $2000 for a truly inclusive package – (more on the inclusions below), but I don’t recommend paying anything more.
GOOD TO KNOW: You will have to pay a deposit to secure your Inca Trail permit.
GOOD TO KNOW: Some tour operators rely on a number of local companies to run the Inca Trail and will simply book you on whatever is available. So, occasionally paying more doesn’t necessarily mean getting better quality.
While the quality of tents and food during the tour varies little, what really makes the difference during the Inca Trail hike is the guide. You really want to book your trek with a company that has a reputation for having good guides. Bonus points if you also book with a tour operator that is known to be sustainable and to give back to the local communities.
As I have said before, the final price of your Inca Trail hike depends on what you decide to include in the package. The basic one includes your Inca Trail permit; transportation to the starting point; accommodation in tents for the duration of the hike; all meals and some snacks; drinking water; the services a team of guides, porters and chefs; admission ticket to Machu Picchu as well as a guided tour of the site; and a train / bus ride back to Cuzco.
Extras that will increase the final price are:
- The extra service of a porter to carry your bag – bags can’t be more than 7 kg; each porter can carry up to 25 kg of weight;
- Sleeping bag rental;
- Camping mattress rental;
- Walking poles;
- Extra ticket to climb Huayna Picchu (at the time of writing, the combined ticket to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu is $62 USD);
- Accommodation before or after the actual Inca Trail;
- Additional tour of the Sacred Valley.
G Adventures runs some of the best Inca Trails hikes. Here is a list of tours you can easily book online:
- THE INCA TRAIL – A 7-days tour departing from Cuzco and taking you back there; it’s one of the most inclusive options available as it also takes you on a tour of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo. Prices start at $1090 USD.
- TREKKING THE INCA TRAIL: 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS – The most classic version of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, without any added perks. Prices start at $775 USD.
- TREKKING THE INCA TRAIL: 5 DAYS / 4 NIGHTS – Similar to the one above, but it includes a night’s accommodation in Cuzco at the beginning. Prices start at $835 USD.
Other useful things to know
Age restrictions may be applied when signing up for the Machu Picchu hike, and they vary by company. I have seen elderlies walking it (there was one on my group, and she was the fittest of all!) as well as children – which however were mostly dragging their feet and forced their parents to walk back to the starting point after the first few hours. In general, I don’t recommend the Inca Trail hike to kids younger than 14 or 15. I am under the impression they won’t be motivated!
Having a good travel insurance when traveling is one of my mantra. I have written a full blog post explaining why this is an investment you want to make for each and every trip you take – you can read it here.
You will need to have a good insurance for your Inca Trail hike. All companies running the tour require it. However, keep in mind that not all insurance companies will cover you for extreme adventure sports such as high altitude hikes. Safety Wing is a very affordable travel insurance that – provided you select the right options – will cover you for high altitude hikes up to 4500 meters altitude (the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu reaches a maximum altitude of 4200 meters above sea level). You can sign up for it here.
Preparing for the Inca Trail hike
Now that you are all settled and signed up to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you are probably wondering what else is left to do to prepare for your hike. Let me take you through the various steps.
Arriving in Cuzco
In preparation for your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you need to arrive in Cuzco at least three days before you depart for your hike. This is actually vital, and done to make sure that you get accustomed to the altitude. Besides, the city is the typical starting point of any Machu Picchu hike and it’s where your bus transport to the beginning of the trail will depart from.
Cuzco is perched at 3339 meters above sea level and one of the best tourist destinations in Peru, with plenty of beautiful sights either in the city or in its immediate surroundings, so it won’t be hard to fill your time there with activities. The city is easily reached from other places in Peru.
Flights to Cuzco airport are relatively cheap – you can catch one of the many daily direct flights from Lima, the Peruvian capital; and there also are flights from Arequipa, known as the White City; and Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Cuzco is also well connected to the rest of the country by bus. There are overnight buses from Arequipa (10 hours); daytime buses from Puno (around 7 hours); and even long-distance buses from Lima – but keep in mind that it takes 24 hours.
Packing for your Machu Picchu hike
Smart packing is key when preparing for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what to take and what to leave in your hotel storage room.
First of all, you really want to keep your packing list essential. The long distance walks and the altitude will make carrying any sort of weight a burden. You will have the option of adding the services of a porter – who will drop your bag in your tent each evening – for an extra fee, but even then you will not be allowed more than 7 kg. All bags given to porters are weighted daily as porters can’t carry more than 25 kg each (some companies actually stick to no more than 20 kg per porter).
Secondly, keep in mind that temperatures vary a lot between day and night, where nights are generally quite cold. In addition to this, if you are doing the Inca Trail hike in the rainy season, you will want appropriate rain gear: you need a good poncho or rain jacket, a daypack with a rain cover, and rain-proof and / or quick dry hiking pants.
Finally, consider that you really won’t have a chance to shower for the duration of your Machu Picchu hike. Freezing cold showers are only available on the second night but by the time you make it to the base camp, you will be so cold that you will be reluctant to hop in a shower. Most people walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu quickly resolve to not washing and accept the fact that by the last day they will stink proper – but given everyone does, nobody really cares!
With all of this in mind, keep what you pack to the bare essentials. Stay tuned as I will be writing a more specific Inca Trail packing list.
GOOD TO KNOW: Some will tell you that hiking poles are an essential item when doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I didn’t use them, and never felt the need for them – personally, I find that having to hold them distracts me from walking and messes up my balance. If you are accustomed to them or feel that you may need a little extra support, definitely bring a pair!
Other important things to know
You need to carry your own medication
There are no medical facilities along the Inca Trail, and unless someone in your group is a doctor, there won’t be anybody with medical training in sight. For this reason, you absolutely need to bring with you any prescription drug you may be needing, and to stick to your schedule in taking it.
Keep in mind that once you are on the trail, there is no easy evacuation route (there is no helicopter landing) and should you require medical attention, you need to go all the way to either Ollantaytambo or Aguas Calientes. Depending on your conditions porters may have to carry you on a stretcher. If they need to do so, they will have to abandon the group and drop their load of work on other porters, making it harder for all of them. In case you are wondering, this happened to someone in my group, because he forgot to take his prescription medications!
Watch out for your valuables
All hotels in Cuzco have a storage room where you can leave your bags when doing the Machu Picchu hike, but none of them have actual lockers – which means that anyone getting in the storage room (staff or other hotel guests) may go through your stuff when you are away. This is hardly an issue if you are just dropping clothes.
But what if you have valuables? First of all, you really want to have a good travel insurance to keep your valuables safe on occasions like this. Once again, Safety Wing is a very affordable travel insurance. In general, however, I suggest taking any expensive gear (camera, lenses, laptop) with you to avoid bad surprises. By all means, don’t leave things such as credit cards behind!
Getting in shape for your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
In case it isn’t clear, the Inca Trail hike isn’t your every day hike. It’s a challenging trek at what – for most of us – is higher altitude than what we are accustomed to. With this in mind, being in good shape is probably a good idea if you want to enjoy your experience. You don’t really need to do that much to prepare for it – exercise regularly (I train at a pool, and that really works wonders!), which is something you should be doing on a regular basis anyways; go hiking as often as possible; eat healthy food and try to loose a bit of weight if needed.
TIP: Another useful tip is to break in your boots before the hike. If they are brand new, you definitely want to wear them before you get started, to make sure you don’t get any annoying blisters!
During the hike
The Inca Trail route
The classic Inca Trail follows a set itinerary and all group tours will be following it. The following is a rough outline for each day of the Machu Micchu hike.
From either Cuzco or Ollantaytambo, you will travel to Piscacucho, at km 82, where the trail starts. You will be walking a total of 11 km all the way to Wayllabamba, where the campsite is located, and gain 350 meters in elevation. The hike is easy for the most part, but moderate towards the end when you are about to reach the campsite.
After a 5:30 am wake up call, you will be walking through the cloud forest all the way to Dead Woman’s Pass (at 4200 meters above sea level) and then descend to the campsite in Pacaymayo (at 3600 meters above sea level), for a total of 12 km most of which are uphill. There is a 1115 meters elevation gain. This is by far the toughest day of the Machu Picchu hike, followed by the coldest night.
Another 5:30 am wake up call. This is the prettiest day on the trail, during which you will be visiting many beautiful sites. You will be walking on what locals refer to as “the Inca plain” – but in fact, the trail isn’t plain at all and you will be going up and down for most of the day, with some steep ascents. You will gain 1000 meters in elevation in the course of around 16 km. The campsite is located in Winaywayna.
After a very early rise you will get to the checkpoint and then walk around 2 hours to get to the Inti Punku, from where you will be admiring the sunrise over Machu Picchu. You will be walking for a total of 5 km, and most of them will be downhill as you approach the site. Once at the site, you will be taken on a guided tour and after that will
be free to make your way to Aguas Calientes whenever you want.
The daily schedule during the Inca Trail hike
On each day of your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you can expect to wake up nice and early, pack your meager belongings before heading to breakfast, and then leave soon after you’ve eaten.
GOOD TO KNOW: Different companies start at different time during the first day of the Inca Trail hike, but usually never later than 11:00 am.
You will be walking most of the day, typically in a line and with a guide at the front of the group, one at the center and one at the back, to linger with those who walk a bit slower – depending on how large the group is. You can definitely expect to have at least two guides (a main guide and an assistant guide) per each group.
You will have several breaks during the day – to take photos, to have a snack, to visit one of the many points of interest along the trail. Depending on the day, you will be reaching your base camp by early afternoon and have lunch there and be able to take it easy for the rest of the day, or just in time for dinner.
On the very last day, the wake up call is at 3:00 am, so that you can get to the Inti Punku in time for sunrise.
The main challenges of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail hike isn’t the most difficult one in the world – or at least, it was not to be. But that really depends on how fit you are; on whether you are an experienced hiker; on your spirits; on the weather; and even on your guides, porters and your group – and many other things!
My experience was incredible. It rained every day of the hike; we were cold at night; but the group was incredible, we enjoyed each others’ company while walking, at meal times and at any chance we had, and we helped each other overcome the difficulties. The friendships established last to date.
I won’t deny that the second day of the hike was physically hard – most in the group went to nap right after lunch! But for the rest, it was perfectly doable. In fact, the trail is easy to follow and in excellent conditions (if only a bit slippery when it rains).
By the time you get to the Inti Punku, you will be fully charged with the stunning sights. Funny enough, you will only feel the exhaustion once you are in Machu Picchu – by then, the only thing you will want is a hot shower and a drink!
Remember that the Inca Trail is about living the moment. It is not a race, and you don’t need to rush to get to the camp!
Visiting Machu Picchu
Visiting Machu Picchu is the cherry on the cake of the Inca Trail hike. This stunning UNESCO World Heritage site is truly out-of-this-world. I cried the first time I saw it, from the Guardian’s House; and I cried even when the I saw it getting slowly illuminated by the sun from the Inti Punku. That’s how powerful a place it is.
Anyways, back to the useful bits.
As I have said before, you will be walking to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate once the sun has fully risen. Considering that the site opens at 6:00 am and that sunrise is between 6:00 and 7:00 am, by the time you get to the actual site there will already be some tourists.
Your admission ticket to Machu Picchu is included in the overall package of the Inca Trail. You will also get a ticket for the bus ride back down to Aguas Calientes – which costs $12 USD.
Tickets to Huayna Picchu are usually not included in the Inca Trail package, but you can ask the tour company to purchase them for you. Keep in mind that you really can’t climb Huayna Picchu on the same day you arrive to Machu Picchu, unless you want to skip the guided tour of the site. You will have to go back for it the day after.
GOOD TO KNOW: There are two time slots to climb Huayna Picchu, one at 7:00 am and one at 10:00 am. Each time slot allows no more than 200 visitors.
The amount of time you get to spend in Machu Picchu varies from one company to another – plus keep in mind that now a system of time slots has been put in place to limit the number of visitors on the site at the same time. When I visited, I spent an entire morning there and left shortly before lunch time – by then I was eager to get to my hostel for a hot shower and a much needed drink.
Stay tuned as I will be writing a full post on how to visit Machu Picchu independently.
Other useful things to know
Altitude sickness and other health issues
One of the biggest worries when doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is altitude sickness, and you should definitely not underestimate it as it can be a bugger and on occasions also quite dangerous.
The Inca Trail starts at 2800 meters above sea level, reaches peaks of 4200 and gets down to 2300 when in Machu Picchu. The best way to make sure you don’t get sick because of the altitude during the hike is to give yourself plenty of time in Cuzco to acclimatize. The minimum recommended is usually 3 days, during which you are advised to eat lots of carbohydrates, avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
Mate de coca – Peru’s famous coca tea – and coca leaves which you can chew definitely help you fight the symptoms, but keep in mind they are high in caffeine too!
Camping during the Inca Trail
Throughout your Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you will be sleeping in tents. These are spacious and comfortable – or at least, as comfortable as they can be given the circumstances. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about setting up your own tent: the lovely porters will do that for you every day, and drop your duffel bag with your belongings inside.
This is as far as it goes with the good news, I’m afraid. Now, back to reality…
One thing you need to keep in mind is that nights are cold during the Inca Trail, so you really want to wear appropriate gear and bring a good sleeping bag and thin mattress to feel at least some comfort. The thing with good sleeping bags though is that they can weigh anything between 1 kg (for the best ones such as this) and even 2 kg (for the classic ones you’ll be able to rent) – so they will inevitably take up some of the weight you can give to the porters.
Facilities during the Inca Trail
Or perhaps I should say the lack thereof!
The one truly horrible thing about hiking the Inca Trail is the complete lack of decent toilets. Don’t get me wrong: there are toilets in all campsites, but they usually are squat toilets – which is actually ok, given how dirty they are. Remember to bring your own toilet paper and hand-sanitizer!
GOOD TO KNOW: On the first two days of the Inca Trail, you may come across locals who have set up toilets which you can use for a few cents. Other than that, it’ll have to be either the nasty toilets at the campsite, or the bushes.
As I have stated previously, the only showers available during the Inca Trail are on day two of the hike – incidentally, when you stay at the highest altitude. And they are cold. By which I mean really cold. Considering how cold it is outside, and how cold the water in the shower is, nobody will frown at you for not wanting to wash during the hike.
Just so you know, I am a bit of a neat-freak and I could hardly bring myself to wash my face in the morning! I carried a set of wet wipes and those kept me sparkling clean (well, sort of) during the hike.
Meals during the Inca Trail
Meals during the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are all included in the price and – to many travelers – they make up for the complete lack of other comforts. What the chefs manage to achieve cooking on those camping stoves is absolutely incredible.
Three main hot meals (usually including soup, a main course and a small dessert) are served every day – breakfast, lunch and dinner; as well as a snack – it can be popcorn, cookies, fruits – and a hot drink once or twice a day, depending on the day.
GOOD TO KNOW: Dietary requirements are accommodated for so whatever your food preferences, allergies or intolerances make sure to communicate them to the tour company before the beginning of the trip.
TIP: Make sure to bring some snacks with you – things like energy or chocolate bars, raisins or peanuts. You can buy it in either Cuzco or Ollantaytambo, and you will occasionally find locals selling snacks on the first two days of the hike.
Throughout your Machu Picchu hike you will be provided with safe-to-drink water every night and every morning, and numerous cups of tea or coffee.
Make sure to bring a bottle that you can refill. I am a fan of flasks such as this one as they keep water at just the perfect temperature. Alternatively, you could consider investing in a bottle with a filter to remove harmful bacteria, such as Lifestraw, which will come in handy for any other trip.
Well sorry, mentioning internet access in a post about the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can be misleading. Alas, this was just to say that you should not expect Wi-Fi during your hike.
One thing many travelers forget to take with them during their Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is cash. Most of them think that they will have no way to spend it anyways – because all meals, drinks and services are included and by the time you get back down to Aguas Calientes, you will find plenty of ATMs to withdraw cash.
I recommend bringing some small change in Peruvian Soles for things such as the odd drink you may buy along the way, or for toilets.
In addition to that, keep in mind that at the end of the hike – usually on the very last night before you go to bed – it is good custom that the group as a whole gives a tip to the guides, the porters and the chefs who helped make the experience memorable, who carried the bags, set up the tents and prepared the meals – and always with a smile on their face. This is by no means mandatory, but it is certainly recommended.
So, how much should you tip the team? Different companies have different guidelines for that, and we don’t all come from a tipping culture – I know that, being from Italy, I don’t (to find out more, check out this post on tipping in Italy). Having said so, I like to show my gratitude for a good service, and I am ready to tip for that!
So, if you are looking for guidelines, this may be helpful: each hiker should tip up to $50 USD (or the equivalent in Peruvian Soles) for the group of porters and cooks; and up to $25 USD for each guide. The custom is to place all the cumulative tips in separate envelopes – one for the porters and the cook, who will be splitting the total evenly; and one for each guide.
Final Considerations On The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
As I have said at the very beginning of this post, walking the Inca Trail is a once in a lifetime experience – the kind you will never forget. Going prepared is key to make sure you make the most of it, and I truly hope this post – which is based on my experience (and also my mistakes) helps you doing so.
If you have any questions, concerns and doubts definitely get in touch and I will do my best to address them. If not – have fun during your hike, and let me know how it went when you get back!
Alternative Hikes To The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
Are you too late in the game and can’t find a good tour package for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Worry not!
There are several Machu Picchu hikes. I walked the classic one, which is also known as the “official Inca Trail.” This is the only one that allows you to visit the Inca sites and to see the sunrise from the Inti Punku. The alternative hikes are meant to be great, and in certain cases very challenging, but you will be missing pretty much the main thing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is famous for.
The good thing about these alternative treks is that they don’t require so much advanced bookings, and that’s because you don’t need a government permit for them.
Here is a short overlook of the alternative hikes to Machu Picchu:
SALKANTAY TREK – This 5 to 8 days hike goes all the way to Mount Salkantay, one of the most sacred ones to the Inca. It’s a very challenging hike as you reach a pass that’s at more than 4500 meters above sea level. It ends at a train station near the Urubamba River from where you can ride the train to Aguas Calientes. For more information, click here or here.
LARES TREK – This 3 to 5 days trek starts in the lesser known small town of Lares and affords you stunning views of Mount Veronica and a multitude of other high-altitude lakes. It ends in Ollantaytambo. For more information, click here or here.
JUNGLE TREK – This 4 days trek is one of the most adventurous options as it includes activities such as rafting and biking. It ends in Aguast Calientes, from where you have to take the shuttle (or walk the trail) all the way to the entrance of Machu Picchu. For more information, click here.
CHASKI TREK – This 3 to 5 days hike follows the route used by chaski messangers, who ran through the Inca Empire to deliver messages and goods. It stops at Perolniyoc waterfall and ruins and ends in Ollantaytambo.
VILCABAMBA TREK – This is the longest trek, as it lasts up to 14 days, during which you will walk a total of 97 km. The hike starts in Cachora and goes through the Apurimac River Canyon, from where you can access the Inca ruins of Choquequirao. It then goes through the Cordillera Vilcabamba and finishes at the train station from where you can catch a ride to Aguas Calientes.
THE LODGE TREK – This 7 to 11 days hike is the best option for those who do want to walk, but would much rather sleep in a cozy, comfortable and warm bed at night. It’s the latest addition to the already available options.
Traveling to Peru? Make sure to read my other posts: