Top 10 hiking tours to Machu Picchu
Planning a hiking trip to Machu Picchu? If you still don’t decide which tour you will take, you are in the right place; on this page, you will read the most important aspect of the most popular hiking tours to Machu Picchu. Find below the most famous tours to the great Inca citadel. Learn the most important facts of every tour and the reason why you should choose a specific one.
Classic Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail
This iconic trek is considered among the best hikes in the world and the number 1 in Peru. 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 4 days and 3 nights Inca Trail is just a small portion of this vast network of routes. However, it became so popular because it was lost hundreds of years together with Machu Picchu, and it was discovered in 1915 by the American scholar Hiram Bingham III. Being lost so many years, the trails and sites were kept in excellent conditions, and now travelers can fully enjoy the amazing views.
From March 1st, every year, 500 people will hike the Inca Trail per day. This number includes visitors, guides, and porters. You can only access the Inca Trail with a Licensed Tour Operator like TreXperience, hiking, and camping only. You must always have porters, chefs, and tour guides. To hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you need to book the permits far 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 goes from 6,000m and will reach the Urubamba River’s warm and wet areas at 2,000 m.s.n.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 was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
The Classic Inca Trail can be made in different itineraries, but the route you will follow will be the same. The only thing that changes is the location of the campsites. The best itineraries are:
1.- Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 days.- You will hike to Machu Picchu, this amazing 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.
2.- Slow Version Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 5 Days.- Hiking to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you would like to spend more time at each archeological site, hike in smaller groups, and visit Inca sites at exclusive hours with fewer visitors, you should definitely choose the 5-day tour.
The Salkantay Trek
Salkantay is arguably one of the best hikes to Machu Picchu; indeed, if Inca Trail is sold out, this trek is the best hike to Machu Picchu for many reasons.
First, you dont 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 from hiking in the mountains, visiting beautiful lakes, coffee tours, Pachamanca cooking, hiking in the warm Cloud Forest, and spend one night in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.
Third, In general, Salkantay treks are among the most difficult and longer hikes to Machu Picchu. Perfect trek for those who love challenge and mountains. This does not mean that the Salkantay trek is tough. This trek is a perfect tour 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, Coffee tour, pachamanca Cooking, Camping in llaqtapata, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, and Panoramic Train back to Cusco
Salkantay trek 4 days and 3 nights.- You will visit Humantay Lake, Salkantay Mountain, Coffee tour, Pachmanca Cooking, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, and Panoramic Train back to Cusco
The Lares Trek
Although Salkantay Trek is one of the most beautiful hikes to Machu Picchu Picchu, besides its natural beauty, archeological sites, and a small Original Inca Trail stretch, Salkantay Trek is a difficult hike to Machu Picchu comparing with other tours.
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, pristine lakes, hike along with llamas and alpacas, and enjoy the mountains’ solitude.
Lares Treks will take far from the Inca Trail and Salkantay trek crowds to explore the remote mountains with almost no other hikers unless they consider llamas and alpacas.
There are many tours and different itineraries on the Lares Route. We have created the best itinerary to start the trek at lares and finish 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 amazing hike is so popular because it is shorter than the Classic 4-days hike to Machu Picchu, and it’s more comfortable.
The Short Inca Trail for 2 days starts at Chachabamba or also know as KM 104. You can arrive at this place only by train from Ollantaytambo. It’s called one day Inca Trail because it actually is only one-day hiking, and the next day, you will visit Machu Picchu. We have seen on many websites that they sell one-day Inca Trail + Machu Picchu; this option is not allowed by Machu Picchu’s authorities. You must always book a 2 days tour to experience this spectacular place.
The Short Incas Trail starts early, around 4:00 am in Cusco, with pick up from your hotel; however, if you stay in the Sacred Valley like Ollantaytambo, you will be saving time since the Train station is located in Ollantaytambo, almost 2 hours from Cusco. Staying in Cusco is fine but staying in Ollantaytambo is better to have more time in the morning to sleep longer or have 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 an amazing 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. Lesser-known than other treks, but with stunning landscapes, Inca sites, and cultural interactions.
This new hiking tour to Machu Picchu includes visiting the amazing 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 view from the highest mountains around make this trip a unique experience that you will remember for a lifetime.
Huchuy Qosqo Trek
The hidden treasure of the Incas, located at only a day hiking from the very Cusco city, is one of the few hikes to Machu Picchu that allow you to hike from Cusco City into the Sacred Valley and continue by train along the Urubamba river until you arrive at Machu Picchu.
During this hike to Machu Picchu, you will be able to visit the Archeological site of Huchuy Qosqo, an amazing Inca site located right on top of the Sacred Valley with incredible views. You will also enjoy the views of Cusco, Tambomachay, Andean lakes, birds, hike with Llamas and Alpacas, and enjoy the amazing 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 incredible tour includes Mountain biking in Maras Moray, River Rafting Urubamba River, and hiking through the lost Inca Trails in the Jungle area. It’s Important to note that the Inca trail in this tour is found in short locations as most of them were destroyed by nature.
The activities to be found during the Inca Jungle are biking, rafting, trekking, coffee tour, and a plus in our tours is the hiking on the 3rd day through Llaqtapata, an amazing Inca Site located in 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 trek above are original and unique treks in Peru; whichever trek you chose, you will have an amazing experience enjoying the natural and cultural beauty of our country.
We have combined tours like the Salkantay Trek + Inca Trail, the Lares Trek + Inca Trail, and many other tours that can be combined or customized to your preferences. For this reason, we wanted to create the best alternative tour to the Classic Inca Trail, a tour that can offer the closest experience to the Inca Trail since Salkantay Trek is more adventure, and Lares trek is more of a cultural trip.
The Alternative Inca Trek is a combination of the Huchuy Qosqo Trek + 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 in the Classic Inca Trail for 4 days.
This trek follows the Manco Inca II’s footsteps, the rebel king who moved his army from Cusco into Ollantaytambo, then to Machu Picchu, and finally to Vilcambamca in 1536.
Hiking Tours that do not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao was nicknamed “the twin sister of Machu Picchu,” and is for a good reason, this incredible site has twice the size of Machu Picchu, and most of them are still buried by the vegetation. Choquequirao is another Machu Picchu, a citadel full of mysteries, history, and a symbol of the Inca resistance against the Hispanic conquistadors.
After the Hispanic arrival to Cusco in 1533, the newly crowned king, Manco Inca II, organized a huge army to seize Cusco city but failed to overthrow the Spaniards out of the country. 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. After this victory, for unknown reasons, Manco’s army will retrieve further in the mountain like Machu Picchu and Choquequirao; as they move with the people, they destroyed all trails, bridges and burnt the towns in between so the Spaniard can not follow them or find shelter. Eventually, the Incas will move even deeper in the Jungles of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold where they spend 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 last hope of the Inca Nation, the 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 from all books and records Vilcabamba, so they moved all people who lived in the area back to cities like Cusco and Sacred Valley to work and pay taxes. After few generations, the exact location and name of Vilcabamba was 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 this last capital of the Incas. First, he arrives at Choquequirao in 1909, then Discovers Machu Picchu in 1911, and eventually arrives at Vilcabamba in the same year; however, he realizes that Machu Picchu is the most amazing city he found and believes that the last capital of The Incas is Machu Picchu and not Vilcabamba.
Choquequirao hides many enigmas like Machu Picchu; we don’t know who built this amazing 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 footsteps.
Choquequirao Trek 4 days.- This trips does not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao Trek 5 Days.- This trips does not arrive at Machu Picchu
Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu 7 days.– An expedition that connect 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. 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 alpaca, llama shepherds, and due to the altitude, mainly potato is possible to grow. You will find domestic llamas, alpacas, and if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the wild vicuñas.
The Treks ends in the spectacular colored hills of the Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley. Join us to discover the magic of this remote mountain trek and breathe in the thin air of the most beautiful hiking terrains in Peru.