The classic Inca Trail is the number one trek in South America and one of the best known and most popular in the world. Offering 4 days of walking along the original paved Inca trails, a variety of fascinating Inca complexes and the beautiful landscape of Machu Picchu National Park, the Inca Trail is one of those things that everyone should do once in a lifetime. The official Inca Trail is closed every year during the month of February to give the trail time to recover and carry out maintenance.
It is highly recommended to book the Inca Trail at least 5 months in advance as places can quickly run out. Prices range from $550 to $1550.
The trek to Salkantay is a true Andean crusade, this 4 day hike through the spectacular Vilcabamba mountain range is a wonderful alternative for those who want to take a less traveled and exceptionally beautiful route to Machu Picchu. Salkantay is the second largest mountain in the entire Cusco area (second only to Ausangate) and is said to be the “guardian” that stands between the highlands and the jungle. Crossing a pass between the peaks of the immense mountains, Salkantay (6270m) and Humantay (6070m), you get to see some spectacular views of the glacier and the extensive valleys that stand out above it. National Geographic magazine has frequently included it as one of the 10 best hikes in the world. Prices range from $250 to $450.
The Inka Jungle Tour is a four-day trek to Machu Picchu for the ultimate adventurer. This action-packed trip allows you to enjoy the breathtaking views of Machu Picchu after a three-day adventure of hiking and biking through the mountains, jungle and a section of the ancient Inca Trail; canoeing on the Vilcanota River; and flying through the air in zip lines in the Santa Teresa canyons. One of the most popular excursions to Machu Picchu with daily departures and usually plenty of availability throughout the year. Prices range from $200 to $350.
The trek to Lares is an excellent alternative to the Inca Trail. It will take you out of the ordinary with visits to authentic Andean communities, while surrounded by breathtaking mountains, lakes and valleys. This trip combines an incredible mountain scenery, glacial lagoons, cloud forest valleys and authentic Quechua textile communities, as well as a visit to the thermal baths of Lares. Departures are frequent but not every day, as it does not have as much demand as the other hikes. Prices range from $ 200 to $ 400.
For those who don’t have much time or who just don’t want to walk to Machu Picchu there are some alternatives that may be the best option.
The fastest way to get to Machu Picchu
2 Days by Train – Take the train to Aguas Calientes and spend the night there before starting early the next day – walk up the mountain to the ruins or get on the bus that leaves every two minutes. Take one of the trains back to Ollantaytambo before being dropped off back to Cusco in a mini-bus is a very popular option among visitors. Prices range from $200 to $350.
This can also be reduced to a 1 day train option, forgetting a night in Aguas Calientes and leaving Cusco at 3/4 am to catch the first train to the city that is located at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain. Take the bus to the entrance and spend a few hours exploring the complex before returning to Cusco in the same way. Prices range from $200 to $300.
The cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu
2 Days Bus/Walk – Take a bus from Cusco to the Hydroelectric (the last train stop before Aguas Calientes) through Santa Maria on the paved and unpaved road. From the Hydroelectric is a 3 hour flat walk along the train tracks and the river to Aguas Calientes. Spend the night there before starting early the next day – walk up the mountain to the ruins or get on the bus that leaves every two minutes. After visiting Machu Picchu go down the mountain and walk back along the train lines to Hidroeléctrica before the long return trip to Cusco. This is the economical option with daily departures. Prices range from $100 to $200.