Top 10 Trek to Machu Picchu
Are you planning a hiking trip to Machu Picchu? If you still can’t decide which tour you will take, you are in the right place; on this page, you will read the essential aspects of the most popular hiking tours to Machu Picchu. Find below the most popular tours to the great Inca citadel. Learn the most important facts about every tour and why you should choose one.
Classic Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail
This iconic Inca trek is considered among the best hikes in the world and the number one in Peru. The Inca Trails were built during the 14th and 15th centuries by the Inca Civilization, the largest empire in South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia); they created thousands of kilometers of paths to connect the most important cities with the great capital of Qosqo, or Cusco. The Incas came to oblivion suddenly in the 1530s with the Spanish invasion, and the tale of the lost cities started.
The classic Inca Trail is 4 days and 3 nights. This trail is just a tiny portion of this vast network of routes. However, it became so popular because it was lost hundreds of years ago along with Machu Picchu, and it was discovered in 1915 by the American scholar Hiram Bingham III. After being lost for so many years, the trails and sites are kept in excellent condition, and now travelers can thoroughly enjoy the fantastic views.
From March 1st, every year, 500 people will hike the Inca Trail daily. This number includes visitors, guides, and porters. You can only access the Inca Trail with a licensed tour operator like TreXperience, for hiking and camping. You must always have porters, chefs, and tour guides. To hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you must book the permits in advance, as they will sell out fast.
The Classic Inca Trail is part of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, a protected area located in the Machu Picchu District in the Urubamba Province, Cusco region. It covers an area of 32592 hectares. This sanctuary protects several archaeological sites, mountains, and snow-capped peaks, home to endemic wildlife such as the Spectacled bear (Tremarctos Ornatus) and the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus). The protected area is about 6,000 m and will reach the Urubamba River’s warm and wet areas at 2,000 m; this variation in altitude will offer a great experience to visitors, allowing them to enjoy different ecosystems every day.
Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911. In 1983, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and in 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
You can trek the Classic Inca Trail on different itineraries, but the route you follow will be the same. The only thing that changes is the location of the campsites. The best itineraries are:
- Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for 4 days.- You will hike to Machu Picchu on this fantastic trail in 3 days of camping in the mountains, and on the last day, you will arrive at Machu Picchu early in the morning through the Sungate to enjoy a unique view of the great Inca citadel.
- Slow Version Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 5 Days.- Hiking to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you want to spend more time at each archeological site, hike in smaller groups, and visit Inca sites at exclusive hours with fewer visitors, you definitely should choose the 5-day tour.
The Salkantay Trek
Salkantay is widely regarded as one of the best hikes to Machu Picchu; indeed, if the Inca Trail is fully booked, this trek is the best hike to Machu Picchu for a variety of reasons.
First, you don’t need to be worried about permits. Salkantay treks do not require permits in advance. However, we need to book Machu Picchu entrances in advance, but these tickets will sell out slower than Inca Trail Permits.
Second, during the Salkantay Trek, you will enjoy different landscapes: hiking in the mountains, visiting beautiful lakes, coffee tours, Pachamanca cooking, hiking in the warm Cloud Forest, and spending one night in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.
Third, in general, Salkantay treks are among the most challenging and most extended hikes to Machu Picchu. The perfect tour for those who love challenges and mountains. This does not mean that the Salkantay trek is arduous. This trek is ideal for anybody with a moderate fitness level.
The hike to Machu Picchu starts in the Andes, over 3000m, where the weather is cold, and it will finish at Machu Picchu, located in the wet mountainous warm weather of the cloud forest. The best itineraries are:
Salkantay Trek 5 days 4 nights.- You will visit Humantay Lake, Salkantay Mountain, a coffee tour, pachamanca cooking, camping in llaqtapata, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, and a panoramic train back to Cusco.
Salkantay trek 4 days and 3 nights.– You will visit Humantay Lake, Salkantay Mountain, a coffee tour, Pachmanca Cooking, Aguas Calientes, and Machu Picchu, and take panoramic trains back to Cusco.
The Lares Trek
Although Salkantay Trek is one of the most beautiful hikes to Machu Picchu, besides its natural beauty, archeological sites, and a small original Inca Trail stretch, Salkantay Trek is a challenging hike to Machu Picchu compared with other tours.
The Lares Trek is another beautiful hike to Machu Picchu, opposite Salkantay. Lares is a more cultural trip and perfect for those who would like to visit Andean villages, local schools, and pristine lakes, hike with llamas and alpacas, and enjoy the mountains’ solitude.
Lares Treks will take you far from the Inca Trail and Salkantay trek crowds to explore the remote mountains with almost no other trekkers unless you consider llamas and alpacas. There are many tours and different itineraries on the Lares Route. We have designed the best itinerary for beginning the trek in Lakes and ending in Machu Picchu. Other itineraries might take you back and forth.
Short Inca Trail
It is also known as the Royal Inca Trail, Inca Trail Short, Inca Trail 2 Days, or the One-day Inca Trail. This fantastic hike is so popular because it’s shorter than the classic 4-day hike to Machu Picchu and more comfortable.
The Short Inca Trail for 2 days starts at Chachabamba, also known as KM 104. You can arrive at this place only by train from Ollantaytambo. It’s called the “one-day Inca Trail” because it’s only one day of hiking, and you will visit Machu Picchu the next day. We have seen on many websites that they sell a one-day Inca Trail + Machu Picchu; this option is not allowed by Machu Picchu’s authorities. You must always book a 2-day tour to experience this spectacular place.
The Short Incas Trail begins at 4:00 a.m. in Cusco, with a pick-up from your hotel. However, if you stay in the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo, you will save time because the train station is located in Ollantaytambo, nearly 2 hours from Cusco. If Cusco is fine, staying in Ollantaytambo gives you more time in the morning to sleep or eat breakfast.
Hiking to Machu Picchu through the Short Inca Trail will allow you to visit several archaeological sites such as Chachabamba, Wiñaywayna, Intipunku, and finally, Machu Picchu. You will have a fantastic view of the Inca sites of Choquesuusuy, Intipatata, and the hydroelectric center of Machu Picchu that provide energy to 3 regions in southern Peru, including Cusco.
This hike to Machu Picchu can be done with a hotel and camping, although we do not recommend camping since the campsite is near the town. We offer an exclusive tour with a 3-star hotel and dinner at Indio Feliz Restaurant, the town’s best restaurant.
New Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu
The Quarry Trek is the newest trek that is becoming popular very fast. It is less known than other treks but offers stunning landscapes, Inca sites, and cultural interactions.
This new hiking tour to Machu Picchu includes visits to the fantastic Inca Shrines of Ñaupá Iglesia, the waterfalls of Perloniyoq, the Inca Site of Korimarka, the Andean Lake of Chancachuco, the mysterious Sungate or Intipunku, the Inca Site of Choquetacarpo, the Cachiccata Quarry, the Route of the Stone to Ollantaytambo, and finally, you will end up in the great citadel of Machu Picchu.
The landscapes during the Quarry trek are amazing; visiting the local villages, the Maras plateau’s views, and the Sacred Valley’s views from the highest mountains make this trip a unique experience that you will remember forever.
Huchuy Qosqo Trek
The hidden treasure of the Incas is located only a day’s hike from Cusco city. One of the few hikes to Machu Picchu allows you to hike from Cusco City into the Sacred Valley and then take the train to Machu Picchu along the Urubamba River.
During this hike to Machu Picchu, you can visit the archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo, a fantastic Inca site located right on top of the Sacred Valley with incredible views. You will also enjoy the views of Cusco, Tambomachay, and Andean lakes; hike with llamas and alpacas, and enjoy the fantastic views on the train ride to Machu Picchu.
Inca Jungle Hiking to Machu Picchu is the only active multisport tour we offer at TreXperience. This fantastic tour includes mountain biking in Maras Moray, river rafting on the Urubamba River, and hiking through the lost Inca Trails in the Jungle area. It’s important to note that the Inca trail on this tour is found in a few short locations, as most of them were destroyed by nature.
The activities found during the Inca Jungle are biking, rafting, trekking, and coffee tours. A plus in our tours is the hiking on the 3rd day through Llaqtapata, an amazing Inca Site located on a mountain tip right in front of Machu Picchu. It was probably a checkpoint controlling the Amazonian access to Machu Picchu.
Alternative Inca Trail
All the treks listed above are original and one-of-a-kind in Peru; whichever tour you choose, you will have a fantastic time exploring our country’s natural and cultural beauty.
We have combined tours like the Salkantay Trek + Inca Trail, the Lares Trek + Inca Trail, and many others that can be combined or customized to your preferences. As a result, we wanted to create the best alternative tour to the classic Inca Trail, one that can provide the most authentic Inca Trail experience, as the Salkantay Trek is more of an adventure and the Lares Trek is more of a cultural trip.
The Alternative Inca Trek combines the Huchuy Qosqo Trek and the Inca Trail. This amazing tour will allow you to hike to Machu Picchu from Cusco into the Sacred Valley, then continue along the Original Inca Trail from Chachabamba to Wiñaywayna. Arrive in Machu Picchu through the Sungate as on the Classic Inca Trail for 4 days.
This trek follows Manco Inca II’s footsteps, the rebel king who moved his army from Cusco into Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and Vilcambamca in 1536.
Hiking Tours that do not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao was nicknamed “the twin sister of Machu Picchu” for a good reason. This great site has twice the size of the ruins of Machu Picchu, and most of them are still buried by vegetation. Choquequirao is another Machu Picchu, a citadel full of mysteries and history symbolizing the Inca resistance against the Hispanic conquistadors.
After the Hispanic arrival in Cusco in 1533, the newly crowned king, Manco Inca II, organized a vast army to seize Cusco city but failed to overthrow the Spaniards. He and his army fled into the Sacred Valley, from where they fought against the royal army and defeated the conquistadors in the battle of Ollantaytambo. For unknown reasons, Manco’s army will retrieve further into the mountains like Machu Picchu and Choquequirao; as they moved with the people, they destroyed all trails and bridges and burned the towns in between, so the Spaniards could not follow them or find shelter. Eventually, the Incas would move even deeper into the jungles of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold where they spent their last days until 1572, when the last Inca king, Tupac Amaru, was captured.
Tupac Amaru was executed in the main square of Cusco; he was the Inca Nation’s last hope of freedom. After his death, the Spaniards wanted to erase the Incas’ memory, religion, and traditions. To erase the Incas’ pást, they needed to erase Vilcabamba from all books and records, so they moved all people who lived in the area back to cities like Cusco and Sacred Valley to work and pay taxes. After a few generations, the exact location and name of Vilcabamba were forgotten and became a legend. The legend of the last capital of the Incas, the last bastion of the Inca resistance, a city built of gold, el dorado.
In the early 1900s, Hiram Bingham was down in Peru searching for the last capital of the Incas. First, he arrives at Choquequirao in 1909, discovers Machu Picchu in 1911, and eventually arrives at Vilcabamba in the same year. However, he realizes that Machu Picchu is the most fantastic city he has found and believes that the last capital of the Incas was Machu Picchu, not Vilcabamba.
Choquequirao hides many enigmas like Machu Picchu; we don’t know who built this fantastic fortress-like citadel in such an inaccessible place, why they built it, and most importantly, why they abandoned it so suddenly.
Join our tours to this great Lost City of the Incas, following the Last King, Manco Inca II’s footsteps.
Choquequirao Trek 4 days.– This trip does not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao Trek 5 Days.– This trip does not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu 7 days.– An expedition that connects the 2 most important Inca citadels in the region
Ausangate is the highest mountain and is considered one of the holiest peaks in the Vilcanota Mountain range. The Incas and locals still consider mountains as Apus, or deities, that monitor and protect nearby residents and animals.
During the Ausangate Trek, you will be hiking through the most remote villages and mountains. These high mountain areas are home to alpacas and llama shepherds, and due to the altitude, mainly potatoes are possible to grow. You will find domestic llamas and alpacas, and if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the wild vicuñas.
The treks conclude in the colorful hills of Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley. Join us to discover the magic of this remote mountain trek and breathe in the thin air of Peru’s most beautiful hiking terrain.