The 7 Best Hikes to Machu Picchu

The 7 Best Hikes to Machu Picchu

In Peru, there is a network of ancient trails that have been used throughout history for different purposes. Some were meticulously built of stone, displaying engineering and manual labor skills, while others are simple dirt roads worn by centuries of daily use. All of these trails are surrounded by stunning landscapes, making Peru an ideal destination for hiking lovers.

Among the most notable hikes are those that lead to Machu Picchu, internationally recognized as one of the Wonders of the World and repeatedly awarded as the Best Tourist Attraction in the World by the World Travel Awards . For physically fit visitors, walking to this Inca citadel is the best way to experience its majesty. The trails leading to Machu Picchu offer various options, each providing an enriching experience and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and landscapes of the mountains that were central to the Incas.

The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is a 700-year-old ancient trail that connected the Inca Empire through 6 South American countries. It was vital for military mobilization and communication through the chaskis , messengers who traveled these roads. The most famous route links the Sacred Valley of the Incas with the original entrance to Machu Picchu at Puerta del Sol. Recognized worldwide, this historic trail is the only way to access Machu Picchu from this point. It offers stunning views of the cloud forest and exclusive access to archaeological sites on foot. Due to its popularity, permits and careful planning are required for this unique adventure.

The Salkantay trek

The Salkantay hike, recommended by National Geographic as one of the top six alternative trails to Machu Picchu and one of the top 25 in the world, offers a unique and diverse experience. It is less expensive, less crowded and more flexible than the Inca Trail, with an exceptional mix of landscapes ranging from snow-capped Andes peaks and glacial lakes to tropical jungle and cloud forest. Highlights such as the Humantay Lagoon in Cusco are part of the tour. This trail promises impressive views and the possibility of enjoying exclusive glamping , completely transforming the adventure experience. To get the most out of this hike, proper preparation is essential.

The Lares Trek

The hike to Lares, cited by National Geographic as one of the six best alternative trails to Machu Picchu, is less frequented than the Salkantay route. Its main attraction lies in offering an authentic glimpse of rural life in the Andes. Along the way, hikers can interact with local farmers and artisans, who continue to practice ancient traditions such as herding and weaving.

The natural setting is impressive, with snow-capped Mount Veronica, glacial lakes, waterfalls, rivers and valleys full of native trees and vibrant colors. Before starting the walk, in the community of Lares, there are medicinal hot springs ideal for relaxing.

Opting for the Lares hike to Machu Picchu means enjoying a less crowded environment and a more genuine experience. It offers panoramic views of mountains, lagoons and valleys, allowing visitors to explore one of the most remote and least explored areas of the Andes.

The Ancascocha hike

The Ancascocha hike, also known as the Hidden Inca Trail or Super Inca Trail, is a special route that crosses the majestic Andes following the ancient path of the Incas. It was highlighted as one of the “20 Dream Trails for Hikers” by National Geographic and is considered one of the best alternatives to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu due to its remote location and extremely picturesque landscapes. It is a true hidden treasure in Peru, with spectacular views of the Andes practically untouched by human hands.

During the hike, hikers enjoy a stunning waterfall, follow the course of a serene river through open valleys, and face the challenge of crossing snowy mountain passes before descending into the cloud forest. The stunning Ancascocha lagoon, which gives the trail its name, is another highlight. This trail offers an amazing and unique experience, where visitors can encounter llamas, alpacas, condors and interact with locals, all while exploring a less traveled route to Machu Picchu and immersing themselves in nature in its purest state.

Huchuy Qosqo Trek

The Huchuy Qosqo hike, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas near Cusco, is a quiet and less crowded option. With a typical duration of 3 days and moderate difficulty, it leads to an impressive Inca military and administrative center, accessible only on foot. This archaeological site is located on a wide plateau with panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. The road there offers picturesque scenes of the Andes and follows the ancient Inca Trail, providing a direct connection to Peru’s historic past. This is the only trek to Machu Picchu that begins in Cusco, specifically at the archaeological site of Tambomachay.

Choquequirao Trek

Choquequirao, a hike lasting approximately 7 days and considered challenging, has been highlighted by National Geographic as one of the most impressive routes in the world and one of the main alternatives to reach Machu Picchu. During this expedition, visitors have the opportunity to explore the archaeological complex of Choquequirao, whose Quechua name means “cradle of gold.” This site is notable for its size and structures, rivaling those of Machu Picchu, although only partially excavated to this day.

It is important to note that the difficulty of this trek is compared to the climb to Mount Everest Base Camp. Choquequirao has deep historical significance, serving as one of the last refuges of the Incas against the Spanish conquerors. Only adventurers willing to walk for several days can fully experience this place. After visiting the resort on the second day, the trail continues deep into the cloud forest through the mountains, following in the footsteps of the region’s ancient inhabitants.

Inca Quarry trek

The Inca Quarry hike, also known as Camino Cachicata or Inca Quarry, typically lasts 4 days and is considered moderate to challenging in difficulty. It is one of the top six alternative routes to Machu Picchu according to National Geographic and an excellent option for those who prefer to avoid the crowds.

This trek is unique because it allows hikers to visit lesser-known Inca archaeological sites, along with the Cachicata quarry where the famous stones used in Inca construction projects were extracted. The hike begins with a visit to a high waterfall and the mountaintop site of Racaypata , before traversing valleys and mountains near Ollantaytambo.

Along the way, hikers have the opportunity to interact with locals and experience life in the Andes up close. One of the highlights is walking through one of the Inca Gates of the Sun, with stunning views of snow-capped Mount Veronica. In short, the Inca Quarry hike offers an adventure that combines spectacular landscapes, exploration of Inca ruins and the charm of getting to know the local culture.

OUR ADVICE

Whichever experience you choose, each of these adventures will be incredibly impressive and exciting. There is no comparable feeling in the world with trusting your own feet to reach a place like the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu after crossing sublime landscapes that few have the opportunity to see. Whichever trek you choose to Machu Picchu, you will feel enormous pride with every step you take on these incredible adventures, and the lasting impact of this experience will stay with you for years.

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