7 Alternative Treks To Machu Picchu

When planning your trek to Machu Picchu, you will likely first think of taking the Classic Inca Trail. While this route is popular for good reason, it is not without its challenges. There can be large crowds on the route and permits for your ideal dates can sell out fast.
Before you finalise your plans, you should know about the alternative treks to Machu Picchu so that you can be sure that you are choosing the best route for you! You may find that other treks offer experiences you would prefer.
Salkantay

Popular Alternative Treks to Machu Picchu

1. Salkantay Trek: For the Mountain Lovers

The Salkantay Trek includes four days of hiking through diverse Andean terrains and exploration of Machu Picchu on day five.
This trail is a part of the Qhapaq Ñan, an ancient network of paths constructed by the Incas. It is said that religious leaders of the Incas preferred this path as the higher elevations were thought to offer a more spiritual journey, bringing them closer to the heavens.
The joys of this route include visiting the beautiful Humantay Lake and spectacular views of the snow-capped Salkantay Mountain: a sacred peak in Incan mythology, symbolising the powerful mountain spirits or "Apus”. You also access unique accommodations like glass cabañas and Hobbit-inspired houses.
Keep in mind that this trek is considered the most difficult of all the trails to Machu Picchu, due to its terrain and altitude. On day two, you reach the journey's highest point on the Salkantay Pass, at 4,600 metres. It’s recommended that you spend one or two days in Cusco acclimatising before beginning the journey.
Unlike the Inca Trail, no advance permit is required for the Salkantay Trek, so you get greater flexibility in planning your adventure (but you do still need to buy a Machu Picchu ticket).
machu picchu locals

2. Lares Trek: For A Cultural Experience

Unlike the Inca trail and other more frequented routes to Machu Picchu, the Lares Trek weaves through remote Andean communities, lush valleys, and thermal springs. This trek is one of the easier options but the physical demands are not to be underestimated!
Your four-day Lares Trek starts in the small village of Pumahuanca in the Sacred Valley and takes you on a gentle ascent towards Puyoc (4,100 metres). You have the chance to visit the Inca site of Pumahuanca and learn about the native flora and fauna.
With fewer crowds, you have a good chance of spotting wildlife like Viscachas and possibly Andean Foxes.
You'll pass by snow-capped peaks, serene mountain lakes like Yanacocha (Black Water), and interact with locals dressed in traditional bright red clothing. Engage with Quechua-speaking communities, learn a few phrases, and even purchase handmade alpaca products!
The experience is rounded off with a relaxing dip in the hot springs of Lares before heading to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
machu picchu on a sunny day

3. Choquequirao Trek: For the Introverts

The Choquequirao Trek is a relatively challenging and less-travelled hiking route in Peru that leads to the well-preserved archaeological site of Choquequirao, often referred to as the "sister city" of Machu Picchu. From this beautiful site, you continue to Machu Picchu for about three to four days.
Situated in the Salkantay mountain range, Choquequirao is comparable in size and uniqueness to Machu Picchu. The trek to Choquequirao goes through the Rio Blanco Valley and ascends into the sacred mountain passes. You will pass through diverse ecosystems, from high-elevation tundras to sub-tropical cloud forests, with waterfalls, thermal baths, and a vast array of flora and fauna.
You'll finally find the expansive and less excavated Choquequirao site that offers an intimate exploration of Incan architecture and culture. The Choquequirao trail is considered one of the most challenging treks in the region due to its long distances, high elevations, and rugged terrain.
However, it offers unparalleled rewards: solitude, natural beauty, and a deep connection to Peru's ancient past.
ziplining on inca jungle trek

4. Inca Jungle Trek: For the Adrenaline Junkies

The Inca Jungle Trek is an exhilarating four-day adventure that combines hiking with extreme sports on your way to Machu Picchu.
The trail starts with an early morning drive to the Malaga Pass (4,350 metres), where you can start a 3-hour bike ride through picturesque villages, orchards, and along rivers. Following the bike ride, you'll take on a two-hour rafting trip on Class III and IV rapids, before spending the first night in a hostel in Santa Maria.
The next day, you'll hike towards Santa Teresa, including a segment of the historic Inca Trail that once connected Machu Picchu with Vilcabamba. The trail is a mix of uphill challenges and rewarding downhill walks, with stops to learn about the area's rich flora and fauna.
You'll continue the trek with a visit to the thermal baths of Cocalmayo for some relaxation and an overnight stay in Santa Teresa. On the following day, you'll zipline on 12 platforms and five cables suspended 250 metres above the valley and enjoy breathtaking views and a unique perspective of the jungle canopy.
The journey towards Aguas Calientes includes a walk along the train tracks, where you'll enjoy lunch and explore waterfalls and an Incan astronomical sundial. The final day begins early with a bus ride to Machu Picchu.
Considering the additional activities, the physical demands are still fairly challenging.
pexels-kenny-alexis-sánchez-villalobos-llama-machu-picchu
Kind weather offers a beautiful view of Machu Picchu

5. Vilcabamba Trek

Need a quieter alternative trek to Machu Picchu? Vilcabamba Trek is your best option! It is a scenic route that takes you through a magnificent blend of highlands adorned with snow-capped peaks and lush rainforests.
Ideal for the experienced and resilient trekker, this trail offers a rewarding adventure through some of Peru’s most breathtaking landscapes, finally culminating in Machu Picchu.

6. Huchuy Qosqo Trek

The Huchuy Qosqo Trek is the shortest multi-day journey to Machu Picchu, making it a great option if you have limited time. The two-day trek generally begins at Tauqaq, a quaint village on the edge of Piuray Lagoon.
It's also an easy climb that suits a wide range of fitness levels while still offering a unique combination of natural beauty, from the serene lagoon at the start to the sweeping panoramas of the Andean highlands.
The journey finally brings you to Huchuy Qosqo, which is an impressive Incan complex perched on a plateau with stunning views over the Cusco Sacred Valley and the Urubamba River below.

7. Ausangate Trek

The Ausangate Trek is a journey through the Cordillera Vilcanota with stunning vistas of snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and vibrant local villages. This trek often extends over 6 days, and can also include a visit to the renowned Rainbow Mountains of Vinicunca.
The trail is about 100 km (62 miles) when taken to Machu Picchu making it a test of endurance while being a feast for the eyes.
5 day salkantay trek (machu picchu)

Conclusion

Those are our seven best alternatives to the Machu Picchu Inca trail. As you can see, there is something for everyone, and often one of these alternative routes is a better fit for the kind of experience you are looking for.
If the Salkantay, Lares or Jungle treks tickled your fancy, or if the Classic Inca Trail is still your first choice, you can book a trip along any of those routes with Skyhook!

Treks to Machu Picchu with Skyhook

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