While the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the most famous and popular trek in the region, there are several alternative treks to Machu Picchu that offer equally stunning scenery and cultural experiences. Here are some of the top options:
Salkantay Trek: The Salkantay Trek is a challenging but rewarding trek that takes you through stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, including snow-capped mountains, high-altitude plains, and tropical forests. Along the way, you’ll see traditional Andean villages and get a glimpse into the local way of life. The trek culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu, which is sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Lares Trek: The Lares Trek takes you through remote Andean villages where you’ll have the opportunity to meet indigenous people and learn about their way of life. The trek is less physically demanding than some of the other alternative treks, but it still offers plenty of stunning scenery and cultural experiences. The trek culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu, where you can explore the ruins and learn more about the history and culture of the Inca civilization.
Choquequirao Trek: The Choquequirao Trek is a challenging and remote trek that takes you to the ruins of Choquequirao, which are often referred to as the “sister city” of Machu Picchu. Along the way, you’ll hike through rugged terrain and get a glimpse into the traditional Andean way of life. The trek culminates with visits to both Choquequirao and Machu Picchu, offering a unique perspective on Inca history and culture.
Ausangate Trek: The Ausangate Trek is a challenging trek that takes you through the high-altitude Andean landscapes around the sacred mountain of Ausangate. The trek offers stunning views of glaciers, lakes, and Andean wildlife, as well as opportunities to interact with local people and learn about their culture. The trek culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu, where you can explore the ruins and soak in the history and beauty of the site.
Inca Jungle Trek: The Inca Jungle Trek is a more adventurous trek that combines hiking, biking, and ziplining. The trek takes you through lush cloud forests and small villages of the Andes, offering a unique perspective on the region’s culture and natural beauty. The trek culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu, where you can explore the ruins and marvel at the achievements of the Inca civilization.
These are just a few of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu that you can consider. Each trek offers a unique experience, so it’s worth doing some research to find the one that’s right for you. It’s important to note that some of these treks require permits and should be booked in advance.
The alternative treks to Machu Picchu have their own unique highlights, and here are some of the most notable ones:
Wildlife: Each of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu offers the opportunity to see a variety of Andean wildlife, including llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and possibly even condors.
Cultural Immersion: The alternative treks take you through remote Andean villages where you can interact with local people and learn about their traditional way of life. You may have the opportunity to try local foods and see traditional dances and ceremonies.
Andean Landscapes: The Andean landscapes you’ll see on the alternative treks are truly stunning, from towering snow-capped peaks to lush tropical forests to rugged high-altitude plains. You’ll also see beautiful lakes, rivers, and waterfalls.
Inca Ruins: While Machu Picchu is certainly the most famous Inca ruin in the region, the alternative treks offer the chance to see other fascinating Inca ruins, such as Llactapata on the Salkantay Trek and Choquequirao on the Choquequirao Trek.
Personal Accomplishment: Completing any of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu is a personal accomplishment that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. The physical challenge of the treks, combined with the stunning scenery and cultural experiences, makes for an unforgettable adventure.
There are regulations for the alternative treks to Machu Picchu, just as there are for the classic Inca Trail. These regulations are designed to protect the environment and the cultural heritage of the region and to ensure the safety of trekkers. Here are some of the most important regulations:
Tour Operators: It is highly recommended to trek with a reputable tour operator that will assign you a licensed guide, experienced staff, and gear. The guide is responsible for ensuring the safety of the group, and for following the regulations and guidelines set forth by the authorities.
Group Size: The maximum group size for the alternative treks is usually smaller than for the classic Inca Trail, typically no more than 10 people. This is to help reduce the impact on the environment and ensure a more personalized experience.
Waste Management: Trekkers are required to carry out all their own waste, including human waste, and dispose of it properly. The use of biodegradable products is encouraged to minimize environmental impact.
Cultural Respect: Trekkers are expected to respect the cultural heritage of the region, and to be respectful of local people and their traditions. This includes not removing or damaging any cultural artifacts or natural resources.
Trekking Gear: Trekkers are required to have appropriate gear, including warm clothing, rain gear, sturdy footwear, and a sleeping bag. It’s also recommended to bring a reusable water bottle to help reduce waste.
By following these regulations and guidelines, trekkers can help preserve the environment and cultural heritage of the region, while also ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.
The treks are available all year round, but we recommend hiking in the dry season which starts from Mid-April until October, it’s when the weather is pretty good for hiking. December to March is the rainy season so big showers are very often.
The weather on the alternative treks to Machu Picchu varies depending on the season and the altitude of the trek. Generally, the best time to trek in the region is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. During this time, the days are sunny and dry, and the nights can be cold. However, even during the dry season, there can be occasional rain showers, so it’s important to come prepared with rain gear.
The shoulder seasons, from March to April and from October to November, can also be good times to trek, as there are fewer crowds and the landscapes are lush and green. However, there may be more rain during these months, especially in the afternoons.
During the wet season, from December to February, the trails can be muddy and slippery, and there is a higher chance of rain and even snow at higher elevations. Some treks may be closed during this time due to safety concerns.
In terms of temperature, the temperature during the day can range from cool to warm, depending on the altitude and the time of year. At higher elevations, the temperature can drop below freezing at night. It’s important to bring appropriate layers of clothing to stay comfortable in a range of temperatures.
The campsites on the Treks vary depending on the tour operator and itinerary. However, most tours include camping in designated campsites along the route.
The campsites are typically located in scenic areas with beautiful views of the Andean mountains and valleys. The campsites are equipped with basic facilities, including tents, sleeping mats, and portable toilets. Some campsites also have cooking areas and dining tents where meals are served.
It’s important to note that the campsites on the Treks are basic and do not have amenities such as electricity or running water. You should be prepared to bring your own toiletries, including hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
Additionally, the campsites can be cold at night, especially at higher elevations, so it’s important to bring warm sleeping bags and clothing.
While the campsites on the Treks are basic, they provide a comfortable and scenic place to rest after a day of trekking.
Preparing for an alternative trek to Machu Picchu requires a combination of physical and logistical preparation. Here are some tips to help you get ready:
Physical Fitness: The alternative treks to Machu Picchu can be challenging, so it’s important to be in good physical shape. You’ll be hiking for several days in a row, often at high altitudes, so it’s recommended to do some training beforehand to build up your endurance. Cardio exercises like hiking, running, or cycling are ideal, as well as strength training exercises like squats and lunges to help build up leg strength.
Altitude Acclimatization: The high altitude of the Andes can be a challenge for many people. It’s recommended to arrive in Cusco a few days before your trek to allow your body to acclimate to the altitude. You can also consider taking medication like Diamox to help prevent altitude sickness.
Packing: It’s important to pack appropriately for your trek, including warm clothing, rain gear, a sturdy pair of hiking boots, a sleeping bag, and a daypack to carry your essentials. You should also bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout the trek.
Permits and Logistics: Make sure you have obtained all the necessary permits and have made arrangements for transportation, accommodations, and meals during your trek. Many trekking companies can assist with these logistics and provide a licensed guide to accompany you on the trek.
Cultural Awareness: It’s important to be respectful of the local culture and traditions during your trek. Learn about the local customs and dress appropriately to show respect. It’s also important to follow regulations like carrying out all your waste and not damaging any cultural artifacts or natural resources.
By following these tips, you can prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure on your alternative trek to Machu Picchu.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your alternative trek to Machu Picchu:
Train for the Trek: The alternative treks to Machu Picchu can be physically demanding, so it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time. Try to get in shape with regular cardio and strength training exercises. Also, try to do some hiking in the months leading up to your trip, so you can get used to the terrain and elevation.
Pack Smart: Make sure to pack light and bring only what you need for the trek. Pack clothes for layering, including a waterproof jacket and a warm hat, as temperatures can vary. Bring a comfortable, sturdy pair of hiking boots and break them in before your trip. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a refillable water bottle.
Take Your Time: Trekking to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so take your time and enjoy the journey. Walk at a comfortable pace, take breaks as needed, and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.
Stay Hydrated: It’s important to stay hydrated during your trek, especially at high altitudes. Bring a refillable water bottle and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Consider adding electrolyte supplements to your water to help replenish lost nutrients.
Respect the Environment: The region around Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s important to treat it with respect. Don’t litter or leave any trash behind. Use biodegradable soap and carry out all of your waste. Be respectful of the local culture and traditions, and don’t remove or damage any cultural artifacts or natural resources.
Take Time to Rest: Trekking can be tiring, so make sure to take time to rest and recover each day. Stretch your muscles and take advantage of any downtime to relax and recharge.
By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable alternative trek to Machu Picchu, and create unforgettable memories along the way.
Food on the Trail
With Peru Summit Adventures on this trek, food is awesome and well balanced, you will have enough food from varieties of vegetables, pasta, chicken, beef, quinoa, local potatoes, trout, porridge for breakfast, coffee, milk, and much more things, all this prepared by an experienced cook, which will be served in comfortable tents with tables, chairs, lamps. You will also have options for vegetarians, vegans, or gluten-free. When going with other companies make sure to ask if the food will be enough and fresh.
What to see
The alternative treks to Machu Picchu offer a variety of stunning landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and unique cultural experiences. Here are some of the highlights you can expect to see along the way:
Inca Ruins: Like the classic Inca Trail, many of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu offer opportunities to visit Inca ruins along the way. The Salkantay Trek, for example, passes through Llactapata, a stunning Inca ruin that offers views of Machu Picchu in the distance.
High-Altitude Passes: Several of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu cross high-altitude mountain passes, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and peaks. The Ausangate Trek, for example, reaches an altitude of over 5,000 meters/ 16,400 ft and offers views of the snow-capped Ausangate mountain.
Natural Wonders: The alternative treks to Machu Picchu offer plenty of opportunities to witness the natural beauty of the Andes. The Lares Trek, for example, passes through the beautiful Lares Valley, with its tranquil lakes and alpine forests. The Choquequirao Trek takes you through the Apurimac Canyon, a spectacular gorge with stunning views and unique flora and fauna.
Local Villages and Culture: Many of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu take you through traditional Andean villages, where you can witness the daily life and customs of the local people. The community-based tourism initiatives along the Ausangate Trek offer opportunities to learn about the Andean culture and participate in traditional activities like weaving and farming.
Diverse Flora and Fauna: The Andes are home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, and the alternative treks to Machu Picchu offer plenty of opportunities to witness it firsthand. You may see llamas and alpacas grazing in the high-altitude pastures, or spot exotic birds like the Andean condor or the brightly colored Inca wren.
By embarking on an alternative trek to Machu Picchu, you can experience the Andes in a unique and unforgettable way, with a variety of natural and cultural highlights along the way.
Alternative Trekking Tours to Machu Picchu
See below our list of alternative treks to Machu Picchu, click on each option to see further information.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the alternative treks to Machu Picchu:
How difficult are the alternative treks to Machu Picchu?
The difficulty level of the alternative treks varies depending on the specific trek you choose. Some treks, like the Lares Trek, are considered to be moderate in difficulty, while others, like the Ausangate Trek, are more challenging. It’s important to research the specific trek you’re interested in and make sure you’re physically prepared for the level of difficulty.
What is the altitude like on the alternative treks to Machu Picchu?
The altitude on the alternative treks can vary, but many of the treks reach elevations over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level. It’s important to acclimate yourself to the altitude before your trek and stay hydrated throughout the trip.
When is the best time to do an alternative trek to Machu Picchu?
The best time to do an alternative trek to Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to September. However, some treks, like the Ausangate Trek, are better done during the shoulder seasons (April or October) to avoid the crowds.
Do I need a permit to do an alternative trek to Machu Picchu?
Unlike the classic Inca Trail, the alternative treks to Machu Picchu do not require any permits in advance, just need to make sure to have your Machu Picchu tickets in advance (3 months at least) further details talk to your tour operator.
Do I need a guide for the alternative treks to Machu Picchu?
Yes, all of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu require a licensed guide. This is to ensure your safety and to protect the environment and cultural heritage of the region. You can get a support staff and gear from your tour operator, for this read reviews, and get a reputable company.
What kind of accommodations are available on the alternative treks to Machu Picchu?
Accommodations on the alternative treks can vary depending on the specific trek you choose. Some treks offer camping or homestays with local families, while others offer basic lodges or luxury campsites. It’s important to research the accommodations available on your specific trek and choose one that fits your needs and budget.
By knowing the answers to these frequently asked questions, you can better prepare for your alternative trek to Machu Picchu and ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe experience.