Most people associate Machu Picchu with the iconic Inca Trail. As this was the original pilgrimage trail made by the Incas, it’s easy to see why. Whilst the Inca Trail is incredible and certainly well worth doing, there are other routes available to Machu Picchu. Whilst these other routes are not as iconic, they do offer up their own charms. Far less crowded, they do not require a permit and they also do not require you to be accompanied by a tour operator like the Inca Trail does.
Below we’ll have a look at all the route options available so you can choose what will suit you most.
There are three Inca Trail routes. Firstly, of course, is the ‘Classic’ Inca Trail which takes 4 days and covers a distance of 45km. This is the most popular and requires booking moths in advance .Be warned – there are a lot of steps!
Secondly is the ‘short’ Inca Trail. This is much shorter taking two days and covering a distance of 13km. This is a perfect option for the less energetic of hikers.
The third is called the ‘Salkantay’, also known as the ‘combo’ route. This is the longest route combining both trails together and takes 6 days with a distance of 65km.
Below are other Machu Picchu Routes you can consider. Read more about each here: http://www.machupicchutrek.net/hike-to-machu-picchu/
Choquequirao Trek: 9 days, 69km trek. The Choquequirao ruins are incredible and should be seen if possible! This is a rare trek as it can be shortened or lengthened depending on how you’re feeling. As this is the longest trek up to Machu Picchu it is wise to hike it in the dry season from May to September.
The Lares Trail: 4 days. 33. This easy going trek is a great way to get away from the crowds and interact with the locals!
The Junge Trail: 4 days. 60km (cycle) 15km (trek). As the only cycle option to Machu Picchu this a fantastic trail for the thrill seekers out there. The downhill section of the trek is very fast and there is also the option of rafting and taking a zip-wire!
The Salkantay Trail: 5 days. 55km. Similar to the Lares trail, the Salkantay trail is fairly crowd free. The trek is considered quite difficult as it hiked at high altitude. The reward for this difficult hike is getting to see Nevada Salkantay.
Huchuy Qosko: 3 days, 20km trek. Short and easy going, this trek is ideal for the less fit amongst us!Ideally should be hiked between May and September. The trail has beautiful scenery and the Huchuy Qosko ruins are a must see!
The Vilcabamba Trail: 5 days. 62km. The toughest trail to Machu Picchu, Vilcabamba is for experienced backpackers and offers up incredible scenery!
Click here for a recommended Machu Picchu Trek Operator.
The Inca Trail appears on many people’s bucket lists, featuring as it does breathtaking scenery and Inca ruins. It’s widely-regarded as one of the 10 best treks in all the world. It concludes at the lost city of Machu Picchu, whose image seems to grace every Peru-related brochure or travel book.
If you take the Inca Trail, central to your enjoyment will be your sleeping bag, in which you’ll be spending a large proportion of your time. Nights chill the bones, particularly in winter when the temperature can be below freezing and legend speaks of nights when it was below 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be cold at night, whatever the season. The coldest night is the second, which is spent at the greatest height.
A warm sleeping bag will be required, and it’s highly-advisable to bring your own, although it will be one more thing to carry. A down sleeping bag will last forever more, compensating for its higher price, but a synthetic one will absorb less moisture and offer more insulation even when damp. A water-resistant shell will prevent a down sleeping bag from becoming wet. Down possesses a better warmth-to-weight ratio.
If buying is not an option, so long as you have no objection to being the latest in a long line of occupants, a sleeping bag can be hired from the trek provider with ten days’ notice, or more cheaply – $10 – from a multitude of establishments in Cuzco, however its quality will then be in the lap of the gods. You should closely inspect any bag you are considering renting. Apart from anything else, it is not unknown for bags to go unwashed or, even worse, undried between uses. Since there is a weight limit to your accoutrements, a sleeping bag should never be bulky – and cheap ones often are. It is wise to bring a sleeping bag liner to provide extra warmth and stand between you and that rented sleeping bag. Silk is more compact than thermal.
A four-season bag is much preferable in winter, although if you’re on a budget, you may be able to make do with a three-season bag and liner plus warm clothes. Roll mats will be provided, but you’ll be spending at least two nights on the bare ground so your comfort would be enhanced by a Thermorest-style mattress which is a much superior insulator and can be hired locally for $10. It should be borne in mind that there are different types for men and women.
Evidently, the decisions as to whether to bring a sleeping bag on the Inca Trail and what type to use are not to be taken lightly.
For a complete Ica Trail packing list check out this article!
Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site, is the most popular tourist destination in Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site is thought to have been constructed in 1450 as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472), and was abandoned about a century later during the Spanish Conquest. The site never became known to the Spanish during the conquest and therefore one of the most intact Inca ruins.
Although known locally the site came to prominence when American historian Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins in 1911. Bingham erroneously thought he had discovered the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ and thus, the title, is still to this day mistakenly used by tourists and tour operators.
Bingham had actually discovered the Lost City, Vilcabamba, earlier in his expedition but had thought it unimportant due to its size and state of preservation.
Since 1911, tourist activity to Machu Picchu has grown exponentially, reaching a peak of 400,000 visitors in 2000. Concerns about threats that tourism pose to Machu Picchu’s conservation has in recent years led the Peruvian government to impose stricter regulations on tourist access and activities.
Today the site is only open to 2,500 tourists a day, and permits to climb Huayna Picchu (within the citadel) is limited to 400 people per day.
The most popular route to the ruins, the Classic Inca Trail, has a limit of 500 permits per day (half of which go to guides and porters employed by trekkers). This means that booking onto a tour needs to happen early, particularly during the poplar seasons – May through September. In February the classic trail is closed due to the onset of rain. In fact in January 2010, heavy rain caused bad flooding that trapped over 2,000 tourists and local, who had to be air rescued.
Permit restrictions on the Classic Trail have led to alternative routes like the Salkantay and the Vilcabamba growing in popularity – despite being longer and tougher than the Classic trail.
These less travelled routes offer tourists quieter trails with equally good opportunities to view Inca sites and enjoy the incredible mountainous landscapes that characterise the Urubamba Province.