Machu Picchu is one of the New7Wonders and home to the most famous Inca ruins in the world. Located in the Cusco region of Peru, this ancient citadel is known for its otherworldly beauty and unique scenery. It attracts more than 2500 tourists every day, but sitting 7,970ft (2,430 meters) above sea level, Machu Picchu is no casual tourist destination.
There are several way to reach Machu Picchu, and each one offers a difference experience of this sacred place. For those looking to expend less energy or save some money, you can easily reach Machu Picchu by bus or by train. But that is not our objective — We’re looking for an unforgettable experience. If you are keen on adventure and want to embark on a memorable journey, the best way to discover Machu Picchu is through one of these breathtaking treks. Though the price of these journeys are relatively high, they offer a unique perspective on this ancient world. You can pick your hike based on what type of experience you wants, whether it’s mythical, spiritual, sporty, or cultural.
The Inca Trail
This trail is the most famous in South America and is considered to be in the top 5 treks in the world. So if you opt for the Inca Trail, which is particularly crowded from May to September, plan to book it months in advance. This is the only trail that goes directly to the ruins of Machu Picchu. If you choose a personal guide for two people, you have to count around $1600 per person. The most accessible price is $560 if you choose to make your journey with a group of 13 people. It usually takes 4 days to do the Inca Trail, and each package includes lodging in tents or modest hotels. The Inca Trail passes through several types of Andean environments including cloud forests and alpine tundra. This trek is perfect for people who are looking for a unique adventure, beautiful sceneries and incredible memories.
The Salkantay Trek
This 5 or 7 day trek is ideal for people who want to challenge themselves. Indeed, the Salkantay is one of the most physically challenging on our list. Crossing the Salkantay pass at 4600m above sea level, during your journey you will see some incredible landscapes, like the cloud forests and the Llactapata Inca ruins. Not as popular as the Inca trail, the Salkantay is still just as beautiful. You should book this trek with an agency at least 2 months before the beginning of your trip to be sure to get a spot on this incredible experience. Unlike the Inca Trail, the other treks do not end their path directly at Machu Picchu. You will have to take a bus from the picturesque city of Aguas Calientes that run directly to the ruins. Salkantay trek is not as expensive as the Inca Trail, with prices ranging between $500 to $900, all inclusive.
The Lares Trek
The Lares Trek is the one you might choose if you are looking for a more cultural experience. Less sporty than the Salkantay but still challenging, Lares is a perfect alternative to the Inca Trail. Here’s what you’re in for if you choose this 4-day trek: Experience the local Peruvian life, pass through untouched Andean villages, and even swim in natural a thermal bath. The price of the trek is approximately the same as the Salkantay and may vary depending on your choice of agency. With most of them, you will spend two nights in tents and the last one in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, where Lares ends, before taking the bus directly to your destination: Machu Picchu.
The Choquequirao Trek
The Choquequirao Trek does not go to Machu Picchu. The 4-day trek ends its path in the Inca ruin of Choquequirao, known as Machu Picchu’s little sister. This Inca ruin welcomes only 5 people per day on average, leaving it beautifully preserved. With an agency, you will have to shell out between $500 for a group of eight people to $800 for a private guide for two. The Choquequirao Trek is perfect for people who want to travel off the beaten path and experience Peru without the crowds. For those who want both experiences, you can also combine the Choquequirao trek with a traditional Machu Picchu trip for an eight days trek.
The Vilcabamba Trek
This 5 to 13 day trek, depending on where you start your journey, is a highlt difficulty trail that requires some training and good physical condition. If you choose this physically demanding trek, you’ll be rewarded with rich, hidden treasures of the land. Cross the mile-deep Apurimac River, explore the ruins of Choquequirao, and meet the Cordillera Vilcabamba population. For an 8 days trek the price approximately varies between $900 to $1000. Still relatively unknown from the tourist crowd, the Vilcabamba is the perfect journey for people used to intense hiking and who are looking to immerse themselves in diverse natural sceneries as well as the Inca ruins.
The Chaski Trail
Also known as the Cachicata Trek, the Chaski is one of the newest trekking routes in the Cusco region. This 3 to 5 days trek is easier than most of the others. During your hike you will pass through the stunning waterfalls of Perolniyoc, the Huarocondo terraces, and of course some Inca ruins. The average price varies between $600 to $900 and the trail ends at Ollantaytambo where you will take the train to reach Machu Picchu. Like the Vilcabamba Trek, the Chaski is quite unknown from the travelers and thus few agencies offer this journey. So if you are looking for a more relaxed hike and want to avoid the crowd, the Chaski Trail is perfect for you.