Alternative Treks instead of the Classic Inca Trail
Reaching Machu Picchu is a satisfying experience for the mind, body, and soul. There is nothing quite like knowing that your own two feet are guiding you to a majestically veiled landmark nestled in the clouds. This is one of the big reasons why the classic Inca Trail hike is such a popular option. Of course, a journey with such a great reward at the end isn’t something that just happens by accident.
It takes weeks or months of careful planning to ensure you can gain the privilege of exploring the famous trail for yourself. It cannot be stressed enough that simply showing up in Cusco and setting up a hike a day, week or month in advance simply is not an option. The Peruvian government limits access to the trail to a mere 500 people per day. As you might expect, permits for entrance during the peak summer season tend to sell out months in advance. What is an eager traveler to do when a permit for the main trail is far out of reach? The good news is that you don’t have to despair if you have your heart set on exploring the classic Inca Trail.
Treks to Machu Picchu
There are many other charming and exciting alternative treks to Machu Picchu. You may even find that these alternatives offer beautiful gems that not all visitors who follow the main trail get to experience. The Incas were master road builders. They blazed trails throughout the lush and majestic terrain of the Andes Mountains. A good number of these trails now serve as alternative gateways to Machu Picchu. Many will either take you to the foot of the landmark or bring you to a town that is only a short train ride away from its entrance.
There are eight main alternatives that most tourists choose to use. The big perk about these eight options is that most of them don’t have any permit requirements. In addition, guided hikes can be arranged rather quickly. You’ll also be happy to discover that most of these hikes can be explored with quite a bit of variation. This is fantastic news if you’re looking for a hike that’s tailored to meet a particular fitness level. Are you ready to hike into the clouds to see a man-made wonder with celestial implications? Take a look at the top eight alternative treks to Machu Picchu.
The One-Day Inca Trail
The standard Inca Trail trip takes four to five days to complete. If this is too much of a time commitment for you, you can opt for a truncated version that brings you to the major highlights of the long journey. This one-day tour begins at the 104-kilometer mark of the Machu Picchu train line. From there, a three-hour uphill hike leads to the spectacular stone ruins and curved agricultural terraces of Wiñay Wayna. This winding journey will treat you to views of the Urubamba River. Hikers have the choice to continue walking ahead to reach Machu Picchu or spend a night camping outdoors.
Many people prefer to delay entrance to Machu Picchu until morning because they wish to make a dramatic entrance into the lost city using the Sun Gate at dawn. One detail that is important to keep in mind when selecting the one-day trail option is that a daily permit is required for this journey. Booking as far in advance as possible is highly recommended.
Huchuy Qosqo Trek
The Huchuy Qosqo trek is a short and sweet alternative that will bring you to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Measuring in at 17 kilometers in distance, this is the shortest of all the Peruvian treks. It is a great choice if you have limited time to do some trekking in the Andes. This hike will take you on the lowest possible trails in terms of altitude. However, you will still get to enjoy stunning examples of Inca stairs and other ruins during your journey.
This tour can be enjoyed in a single day or stretched out over a two-day schedule. The two-day option includes an overnight stay with a local family and an extra night in Aguas Calientes. This trek is a great option if you want to escape from the pack and get to experience the natural beauty of the Andes. You will see areas that are rarely enjoyed by tourists. The magnificent views of the valley and the Cordillera de Vilcanota range from Huchuy Qosqo are certainly worth the time and effort.
The Salkantay Route
As far as Peruvian treks go, the Salkantay Route is hard to top. This trek has become a popular alternative to the classic four-day Inca Trail trek during the high season. It offers a wonderful way to enjoy the sights and textures of the Andes when spaces on the Inca Trail are fully booked. The first three days of this journey involve what can be described as a difficult trek to Santa Teresa. The fourth day involves a shorter trek and train ride to the popular stopping point of Aguas Calientes. This trek concludes with a day in Machu Picchu before hikers return to Cusco. While many people celebrate the classic Inca Trail for the diversity of its topography and ecosystems, the impressive beauty of the Salkantay Route is often overlooked.
Mount Salkantay was one of the sacred peaks in the Inca religion. Practitioners of the traditional Andean religion still honor this spot today. Visitors can take in beautiful views on a mule-assisted hike that passes Salkantay at an altitude above 15,000 feet. The journey also cuts through the beautiful Mollepata Valley. The trek becomes especially thrilling once it descends from those chilly heights into a trail portion that is surrounded by a subtropical cloud forest. At this point, the trail links with an ancient Inca highway that is part of the original Capac Ñan network that connected the far ends of the empire.
Travelers then encounter the recently rediscovered ruins of Llactapata. These ruins provide an ideal area to look out across the valley and take in rare views of the full Machu Picchu complex. The next stop is a small station that offers frequent shuttle runs along the Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes.
The Lares Route
Hundreds of thousands of train-riding visitors pass the Sacred Valley while traveling from Cusco to Machu Picchu. While beautiful, the area is a bit crowded at times. However, a private paradise can be found just beyond the snow-capped peaks that mark the Sacred Valley’s northern edge. This is where the beautiful Lares Valley stands. The Lares Route sometimes called “The Weaver’s Way” is a moderate trek that offers plenty of adventure and beauty. This route will expose you to small communities that live much the same way they did hundreds of years ago. Their local traditions and farming practices are on display for curious visitors to see.
You will also have the opportunity to observe how locals produce highly desirable handmade textiles. You’ll also walk among people who raise herds of llamas and alpacas. Local farmers and artisans may be the only people you see for days during this peaceful trek. You will encounter a famous hot spring as you pass through the villages near Lares. Anticipate amazing views of Mount Veronica and several high-altitude lakes along the way. The Lares treks come to a close near the historic ruins of Ollantaytambo. Machu Picchu can then be reached by train in less than 90 minutes.
Vilcabamba Traverse Route
This Vilcabamba trek is destined to become the new classic trek to Machu Picchu. This fantastic walk covers miles and miles of magical terrain in a whirlwind two-day trek. It will expose you to incredible treasures that can only be found off the beaten path. This hike begins in Cachora and leads to the Apurimac River canyon and the secluded ruins of Choquequirao. The route then continues through the sparsely populated Cordillera Vilcabamba. Anyone lucky enough to partake in this trek will cross a mountain range, rivers, valleys, grassland, and tropical forest. The trek comes to a satisfying conclusion just a short distance away from Machu Picchu.
You’ll have nothing short of a spiritual experience when you see the mysterious Choquequirao ruins and admire condors soaring over the Apurimac Canyon at sunset. This is one of the great lost cities of the Incas. However, it remains largely ignored by tourists looking for Inca Trail tours. It is predicted that this trail will become far more popular now that new regulations are being applied to reduce congestion on the Inca Trail. Choquequirao is a “cradle of gold” that lives up to its name. It is perched high above the glacier-fed Apurimac River. You will see towering snow-capped peaks when you look around on this journey. This is one of the easiest alternative treks to Machu Picchu to plan because it does not require a permit. It can be paired with a visit to Machu Picchu or enjoyed as a standalone hike.
Discover the snowy, majestic Vilcanota Mountain range and circle the peak of sacred Ausangate during this unforgettable trek. This Ausangate trek can be described as moderate to difficult. This stunning route is typically completed with a combination of hiking and horseback riding. You will travel through tiny Andean villages and past emerald-colored lakes. The journey can be enjoyed over five days, six days, or seven days. It is a curricular trek that starts and finishes in the small Andean village of Tinqui. During this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you will explore three high passes that seem to rise into the sky. It is essential to be properly acclimatized before beginning this hike. It is advised that you spend at least three days in Cusco or a place with equivalent altitude before the start of the journey.
This Sibinacocha trek is perfect for people who love to leave the world behind and get their hands dirty in raw nature. This journey will take you through secluded terrain beneath the spectacular and secluded snow-capped peak of Mount Ausangate. At 20,900 feet, this mountain is no joke. It is easily one of the most beautiful mountains in the Cusco area. The locals consider its peak to be a sacred spot. The area around Ausangate features turquoise lakes, hot springs, and traditional Andean villages. One of the highlights of this tour is a visit to Lake Sibinacocha. This route is fairly challenging. It requires that you be properly acclimatized before beginning the hike.
This can be achieved by staying in the Cusco region for two days before the start of the trek. This hike is truly an unforgettable journey that will bring you to undiscovered gems in the Andes. It is ideal if you love mountain trekking in search of intense experiences and remote wonders. In addition, it is one of the only Inca Trail tours in existence that provides opportunities to spot wild vicuñas in their natural habitat. Facebook.