Machu Picchu is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world, providing unique insights into the Inca civilization, which was one of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies in the Americas. A hiking tour to Machu Picchu can enrich the exploration of Peru's natural and cultural heritage.
Hiking to Machu Picchu
Hiking to Machu Picchu is an incredible adventure that takes you through the heart of the Peruvian Andes, with its breathtaking landscapes and rich history. On this page, you will find the most popular hikes, the benefits of hiking, and the best times of the year to travel.
Best Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu
Inca Trail Tours:
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the world's most popular treks, known for its stunning Andean scenery, varied ecosystems, and fascinating Inca ruins. You will,k able to choose between the Classic Inca 4 days, starting at either the KM 82 or the Inca Trail 2 days, starting from KM 104 marker (also known as the "Short Inca Trail"). You'll pass numerous archaeological sites, and you'll get to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate (Intipunku).
Salkantay Trek Tours:
The Salkantay Trek is a popular alternative to the Inca Trail, offering equally breathtaking scenery and a more rugged experience. It's named after Mount Salkantay, the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range. The trek usually takes about five days, ending with a visit to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek does not require permits like the Inca Trail, but booking in advance is still recommended, especially during the peak season. Also, ensure you are physically prepared for the trek and allow time to acclimate to the altitude before you start hiking.
Lares Trek Tours:
The Lares Trek is a less-trafficked alternative to the classic Inca Trail, known for its scenic beauty and cultural interactions. It goes through traditional Andean communities where you can experience local culture and way of life.
Benefits of Hiking to Machu Picchu
- Physical Health: Hiking is an excellent form of physical exercise. It can help improve cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, boost bone density, and build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs.
- Mental Health: Spending time in nature can be a form of stress relief. It's been found that being outdoors can reduce anxiety and depression. Hiking can also be a meditative experience that helps clear the mind and enhance mood.
- Vitamin D: If you're hiking on a sunny day, you'll get a dose of vitamin D, which is important for bone health and immune system function.
- Connection with Nature: Hiking allows you to connect with nature in a way that few other activities can. You'll see plants and animals and witness the beauty and tranquility of natural landscapes during the Inca Trail.
- Personal Challenge: Hiking in the Andes is definitely a personal challenge. Reaching the top of a hill or the end of a trail can bring a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem.
- Social Interaction: You will join our small groups of travelers form all over the world; it can be a social activity that strengthens bonds with friends or family.
- Learning Experience: You will learn a lot from Peru's history, nature, and culture. Many people also find that the experience of overcoming obstacles and challenges on the trail gives them a new perspective on problems in other parts of their lives.
- Affordability: Hiking can be a fairly low-cost way to arrive at Machu Picchu. All you really need to get started is a good pair of shoes and a sense of adventure.
Inca Trail Tours to Machu Picchu
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 Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an iconic trek that offers breathtaking views, challenging terrain, and a deep connection to the history and culture of the Inca civilization.
The Classic Inca Trail 4 days
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 of 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. You must book the permits in advance to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, 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 altitude variation will offer visitors a great experience, 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:
Short Inca Trail 2 days
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, staying in the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo, saves 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, which 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.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 5 Days
If you prefer a slower pace or want to spend more time exploring along the way, there is also a 5-day version of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This extended itinerary allows for more leisurely hiking and additional time to appreciate the stunning scenery and archaeological sites.
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 Tours
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, Salkantay treks are among the most challenging and 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 to Machu Picchu
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.
Hiking to Machu Picchu: The new options
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 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 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, Vilcabamba's exact location and name were forgotten, and it 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 arrived at Choquequirao in 1909, discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, and eventually arrived 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.