Everyone that visits Cusco goes to see the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. There are two ways to do it (unless you have your own transportation): either take the train all the way to the ruins, or you can hike 2-4 days on the famous Inca Tail, ending in Machu Picchu.
Local regulations mean that travellers cannot trek to Machu Picchu independently. Instead, they must join an organised tour. But trust us, this is a good thing. On an organised tour you have porters to help carry your camping gear and experienced guides to bring the ancient Inca Empire to life as you trek through spectacular mountain scenery.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is undoubtedly the most famous trek in South America and one of the most famous treks in the world. Start your trek in Cusco and follow the Inca Trail on the 43-kilometre walk where you will experience mountain scenery, forests, subtropical jungles and, of course, fascinating Inca ruins. Your end station is nothing short of magnificent: the mysterious Machu Picchu. Permits for the Inca Trail sell out fast, so book at least 5-6 months in advance.
The best time to trek to Machu Picchu
You can trek to Machu Picchu almost all year, except for February. February is summer in Peru, which means a lot of rain in the mountains, so the paths to Machu Picchu are closed. If you are in Peru in February, it is better to experience the Pacific Coast, the beaches and the jungle around Iquitos. It is best to trek to Machu Picchu in the winter, from May to November, as temperatures do not fluctuate much from summer to winter, but you avoid rainwater.
Is it hard to trek to Machu Picchu?
It is not the world's toughest trek, but it is recommended that you are in good physical shape. As a starting point, it is good if you can run around 5 km or if you work out regularly. After a couple of days of hiking, the view of Machu Picchu through the sun gate at sunrise will be your ultimate reward. During the trek you will see several Inca ruins, each with its own history, making the hard times on the route into memorable moments.
Routes to Machu Picchu
The trip to Machu Picchu and the beautiful Inca ruins can take many different routes.
The typical Salkantay Trek takes five days and four nights and is quite challenging but with amazing views. The highlight of this route is Nevada Salkantay, which is iconic and the highest point in the Peruvian Andes Mountains at 6,271-metres above sea level. The Salkantay Trek is one of the most popular routes to Machu Picchu.
The Lares Trek is typically 3-4 days of trekking, where you will pass a number of local communities in the Andes Mountains. On this route you are guaranteed local and authentic experiences.
This trek is one of the longer ones, typically 11-12 days. It is one of the toughest, but coolest treks to venture on. Choquequirao is an Inca area that is so exciting that it requires its very own visit. Combined with Machu Picchu, this trek is the most archaeological and historically exciting for those who are ready for challenges and excitement.
Inca Jungle trek:
The Inca Jungle trek is for those who love adrenalin. On this route you get to experience zip-lining, river rafting and biking downhill at nearly 60 km. This trek is very popular among backpackers and other adventurous travellers.
Without a doubt, the least-used route to Machu Picchu. On this route you are guaranteed three things: silence, beautiful combinations of alpine and jungle landscapes, and sore legs. This route is ideal for the experienced trekker who's not afraid of long and heavy trekking tours.
Huchuy Qosco trek:
A short and cosy trek to Huchuy Qosco ('Little Cusco' in Quechua), located just north of Cusco in the Sacred Valley. Ideal for those who want to do a shorter trek or warm up before trekking to Machu Picchu.