Machu Picchu Hiking Tours
Top 5 Machu Picchu Hiking Tours
The most famous Machu Picchu hiking tours are the Classic Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek and Choquequirao Trek. The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is Peru’s most popular attraction and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hiking to Machu Picchu is highly recommended and features on many bucket-lists. For those who’d prefer not walk, the Inca citadel can also be reached by comfortable train. Machu Picchu hiking tours include day hikes as well as multi-day treks, either camping or staying in lodges. Read on for more details on the different options. All our travel packages are customizable according to your travel style, pace and schedule.
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|Updated Nov 17, 2020|
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Inca TrailThe most famous of all the Machu Picchu hiking tours, the Inca Trail is world renowned. Winding past fertile river valleys, ancient Inca ruins and steep terraces amidst stunning mountains, this trek is hard to beat. The Inca Road system was highly developed and was one of the keys to the Incas’ success in managing a large empire. The finale of the trek is arriving at Machu Picchu on foot through the Sun Gate, the way the Incas would have done!
4 day Inca Trail - campingThis is the classic Inca Trail. Three full days of walking (the final day is short) and three nights camping. Key sights along the way include the Inca city of Llactapata, views to Mount Veronica, Dead Woman’s Pass, Abra Runkurakay complex and the Sun Gate - Intipunku. The route covers high passes, cloud forest along ancient paths.
2 day Inca Trail - no campingThis is in fact a one day trek followed by a night in the town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and a visit to Machu Picchu the following day. The day of trekking follows the final part of the 4 day Inca Trail. This allows you to arrive at Machu Picchu in on foot without the need for camping. You could combine this hike into a longer trekking itinerary with the Lares Trek, Choquequirao, the Salkantay or any other trek for that matter.
Inca Trail PermitsBoth the 4 day Inca Trail and the 2 day Inca Trail require permits which must be booked in advance and have limited availability. For the 4 day Inca Trail there are 500 places each day. This may sound like a lot, but it includes porters, guides and other support staff, so in reality the number of tourists who can start the trek each day is more like 200. For the 2 day Inca Trail, considerably more permits are available each day. For both treks it is important to book early. Usually permits go on sale in January and February each year. For peak months they can sell out very quickly indeed. All our Machu Picchu hiking tours include the necessary permits as part of the price.
Inca Trail difficultyThis distance covered each day is quite modest, with the longest day being 16 kilometers (10 miles). The trail itself is 40 km (25 miles) long. However it is important to factor in the altitude and the amount of ascent and descent. You need to be reasonably fit to hike the Inca Trail. The trek can’t be cut short once started. The longest day of trekking is about eight hours. The shortest is the final day which is just a couple of hours. Porters, cooks, and guides are on hand to carry much of the equipment, so you will only be responsible for carrying your personal belongings; not tents or food.If looking for a slightly easier trek, consider the Lares Trek. The two-day Inca Trail is also easier than the full trek. The highest point is the Sun Gate at 2,730 meters. The trek is 13 km (eight miles) taking six to seven hours with 600 meters of ascent.
Inca Trail altitudeThe highest point of the 4 day Inca Trail is Abra Warmihuañusca or Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,200 meters (13,776 feet). The highest campsite is at 3,500 metres (11,480 feet). It is important to acclimatize before starting the Inca Trail. At an absolute minimum you should spend two nights somewhere at high altitude before starting the trek. This would usually be Cusco or the Sacred Valley before starting the trek.
Inca Trail AlternativesThe Inca Trail is just one of many excellent treks that exist throughout Peru. There are three alternative treks to Machu Picchu and a number of other treks in the Cusco area.
Lares TrekThe Lares Trek is a three day trek from Calca in the Sacred Valley through the Lares Valley passing various communities, camping on the way and ending near Ollantaytambo. Along the trek you’ll see Inca burial tombs, farms, wild llamas, high alpine lakes with Andean geese and other birds, plus views to snow-capped Mount Veronica. The longest day of walking is about eight hours and the maximum altitude reached is 4,550 meters (14,900 feet). This is a highly recommended Inca Trail alternative.
Lares Trek vs Inca TrailThe Lares Trek passes through several weaving communities and villages. If you’re interested in seeing local life, this is something the Lares Trek offers which the Inca Trail does not. In contrast, the Inca Trail passes several small archaeological sites along the way, the Lares Trek does not. A key difference is that on the Inca Trail you’ll arrive on foot through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. The Lares Trek ends in the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo and from there you reach Machu Picchu by train. However, it is possible to combine the Lares Trek with the 2 day Inca Trail if you particularly want to arrive on foot at Machu Picchu. In terms of difficulty, the Lares Trek is considered to be a bit easier than the Inca Trail and it is also shorter, with two nights camping vs three nights on the Inca Trail. Another difference is thatthe Inca Trail follows an entirely fixed route and is often busy. In contrast, there are variations possible to the Lares Trek and it tends to be less busy. Overall this is a great option and shouldn’t just be seen as the trek to do if the 4 day Inca Trail permits are sold out.
Salkantay TrekThe Salkantay Trek is an excellent alternative to the classic Inca Trail. This 88 km (55 miles) 5-day trek leads you through challenging terrain in the Andes to Machu Picchu. Start the trail in the Apurimac Valley, at Sayllapata at 3200 meters. Passing quiet villages, you’ll reach Soyrococha at 4200 meters. The highest part of the trek is the Salkantay Pass at 4600 meters. Here, you can appreciate the stunning snow-capped peak of Salkantay Mountain, small lakes, and moraines. You will also encounter a lush cloud forest, called “Ceja de la Selva” or Eyebrow of the Jungle. Passing coffee, cocoa, and fruit plantations, you can cool off in a refreshing waterfall. Perhaps you’ll spot the Peruvian national bird, the Gallito de las Rocas. You’ll take local transportation from La Playa to Lucmabamba, then climb to the Llactapata ruins. Descend to the Hidroelectrica Station and then to Aguas Calientes, and spend the night in a hostel. Then get an early bus ride to the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Salkantay Lodge to Lodge TrekThis is essentially a luxury version of the Salkantay Trek staying at comfortable lodges rather than camping. If you’re a keen trekker, but like your creature comforts then this is a great option
Choquequirao TrekMore challenging and less well known than the other treks we’ve outlined here, the Choquequirao trek is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who like to take the path less traveled. Nestled amongst the Quriwayrachina Mountains, Choquequirao Ruins can only be reached by foot. A good level of fitness is needed as the terrain is challenging and the trek typically takes four to five days to complete. This Machu Picchu hiking tour rewards with a serene and authentic Andean hiking experience. Trekkers will enjoy sweeping vistas of the lush mountainous terrain with possible sightings of the Andean Condor. Choquequirao is about 98km west of Cuzco, some historians believe it was the last refuge of the Inca empire as it crumbled. Choquequirao means “cradle of gold” in the local language Quechua. Architecturally similar to Machu Picchu, it is possible that these ruins are even more historically significant.
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Machu Picchu Hiking Tours FAQs
Thinking about trekking to Machu Picchu? Here’s a list of frequently asked questions we often hear from our guests.
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