Many of us enjoy a good trek and have done so all over the world, but you may be surprised to know that the high Andean country of Peru on the continent of South America has some of the most beautiful treks in the world. Thousands of tourists flock to Peru every year to do trekking. Without a doubt the most popular of the treks in the Inca Trail. This four-day hike is world-famous and includes some impressive Inca ruins and cloud forests to pass and explore. Due to the popularity of the trek, the entrance tickets sell out months in advance and Inca Trail availability can be hard to come by so if you plan to do the hike, keep that in mind. That’s why together with Machu Travel Peru we have prepared a small article about the most important Inca Trail Alternatives.
All around the Cusco area, there are Inca Trail alternatives to explore the Andes and to arrive at Machu Picchu. But first of all, is the Inca Trail the same as Machu Picchu? Not really, the Inca Trail is a hiking trail that goes to Machu Picchu. The last day consists of a guided tour of the citadel. And what they have in common with the alternatives is their final destination.
Most important alternatives to the Inca Trail
- Lares Trek
- Salkantay Trek
- Choquequirao Trek
- Inca Jungle Trek
- Ausangate Trek
- Vilcabamba Trek
- Ancascocha Trek
- Huchuy Qosqo Trek
Let us look at some of the alternatives to the Inca Trail tours that are just as spectacular and a lot less crowded. The Lares Trek, a four-day trail that starts in the Sacred Valley at Huaran. Unlike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Lares Trek is a little-known option that can give you great privacy and more time to enjoy the landscapes at your own pace.
- On the first day, you will walk uphill for a few hours to the first campsite at the farming community of Cancha Chanca. Be amazed at the scenery and how the farmers live.
- On the second day the hike gets a little harder climbing to a pass of over four thousand meters so your stamina will be tested, on this day you will pass glaciers, lakes, and valleys that make the hike easier on the eyes but not on the legs. After lunch, the going is a little easier as you will descend to the Quiswarani community and the Queunocha Lagoon, where you will camp for the night.
- On the third day, you will reach a pass of over four thousand five hundred meters. The pass features some amazing views of the Pitusiray and Colquecruz mountains. The Trek has many lakes and is covered with wildflowers and after a few hours, you will arrive in Lares. Lares is where you can enjoy the hot thermal springs. In the afternoon, you will be taken to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes where you will spend the night.
- On the morning of the fourth day, you will catch the bus up to Machu Picchu for a private tour of this incredible Inca City. Then you will have time to enjoy some of the different tours in Peru.
The Lares Trek is a moderate hike. It’s not a technical hike per se, but the altitude can affect some people. The use of a wooden cane is recommended as it will help with your balance. The Lares Trek could be considered one of the lesser-known alternatives to the Inca Trail. If you were worried about how long is the Inca Trail, don’t be. It is worth mentioning that there is also another 5-day Lares Trek alternative that exceeds the classic Inca Trail route in duration.
Another great hike in the Cusco area is the Salkantay trek, which also ends at Machu Picchu. If you have not obtained Inca Trail permits due to the great demand for these, the Salkantay is one of the best alternatives. You can have some equally surprising landscapes and also, visit the renowned Inca citadel.
- The first day begins with a walk to Soroycocha, where the first camp is located. From here, you can appreciate uninterrupted views of Mount Salkantay.
- On the second day, a long walk awaits you towards the Salkantay Pass, the highest point of the trek. From here you will find views that will take your breath away, with glaciers and the magnificent Cordillera de Vilcabamba. Then in the afternoon, you will descend to the cloud forest and the Salcantay river.
- On the third day, the weather will change, as you will enter the jungle, following the Cochora River, the landscape will also be greener. This day the camp will be installed in Lucmabamba.
- On the fourth day, you see that the trail goes to the Q`ekki Qasa viewpoint, where you will see an excellent view of Machu Picchu and have a picnic in the open air. In the afternoon you will walk to the train station at the hydroelectric plant to take the train to Aguas Calientes.
- On the last day of this five-day trek, you will have a guided tour of the Machu Picchu citadel.
Take a look at a four-day hike called Choquequirao (pronounced Chocky-key-Rao). This hike doesn’t end at Machu Picchu like the Inca Trail route and doesn’t have the high passes that the other hikes have. The hike takes you to the ruins of Choquequirao, incredible Inca ruins with architecture similar to that of Machu Picchu. The trek begins in Cachora and continues along a zigzagging path to Playa Rosalina. Then once in Choquequirao, you will return by the way you arrived at the beginning. On this hike, you will see the most impressive landscapes and mountains that easily rival those that surround Machu Picchu. Without a doubt one of the best and main alternatives to the Inca Trail trek.
INCA JUNGLE TREK
The last hike we should mention is the Inca Jungle Trail. This trail is a mix of biking, rafting, trekking, and zip-lining. The first day starts early with cycling in the morning and ends early on the last day with a hike to Machu Picchu. This trek is four fun days for those who like hiking and adventure. But, can you hike the Inca Trail if you are afraid of heights? Yes, you can. You will only find yourself on high ground but you will not be crossing narrow cliff routes. You will be able to enjoy unparalleled views in a safe and controlled environment.
These are some of the Inca Trail alternatives, which you may want to investigate when planning your trekking adventure in Peru. If you wonder about when is the best time to walk the Inca Trail, you can do it all year round except for February. So if you plan to travel during February, you can take advantage of some of these incredible alternatives. All the hikes have special attractions and most have spectacular views of the Inca mountains and ruins.
This trek does not end in Machu Picchu like some other alternatives to the Inca Trail. But if you are a lover of trekking, this route is worth it. This impressive hike goes through the beautiful Andean mountains and is truly an off-the-beaten-path. The Ausangate trek surrounds the mountain of the same name located about 60 miles east of Machu Picchu. This hike is one of the most beautiful and sacred in Peru, so it sees very little traffic.
The hike offers some spectacular views of the surrounding mountain range. But views are not all it has to offer, as the locals celebrate this hike with more religious aspects. The hike is most famous for the Qoryllur Riti pilgrimage, held every year in June to honor the harvest season. The Ausangate Trek can be a much cheaper alternative and just as surprising. Being a more popular option, the Inca Trail cost is obviously more exclusive. And does the Inca Trail ends at Machu Picchu? Yes, like all Inca Trail alternatives, the Inca trail has Machu Picchu as its final destination.
The Vilcabamba trail is another of the Inca Trail alternatives that you should know on your visit to Peru. If you can’t manage to get some kind of Inca Trail permits, the Vilcabamba Trek offers some wonderful opportunities to enjoy quite similar views. The Vilcabamba route is one of the quietest routes to Machu Picchu. Just keep in mind that the walk has a duration of 5 days and 4 nights. However, it is a moderately difficult hike, where you will be walking for 10 to 12 hours per day. The route goes through different cloud forests that are just north of the Inca citadel. Besides, the Vilcabamba trek is one of the best Machu Picchu tours to enjoy.
- On the first day, the trail begins in the town of Huancalle. There you will find some Inca ruins that are not very visited. One of the most popular sites is Yuraq Rumi, known as the White Rock.
- During the second day, everyone will continue along an ancient Inca trail where they can admire both the extensive subtropical vegetation and the different coca and coffee crops. These crops support and help the different local families that live in the surrounding villages.
- Then on the third day, you will find yourself in a wonderful scenic landscape surrounded by snow peaks. This is the day where you can best appreciate the natural landscapes. From impressive cloud forests to towering snow-capped mountains.
- Once the fourth day has arrived, they will find themselves arriving at the town of Aguas Calientes. From there they can choose to relax in the thermal baths or rest in the comfort of their hotel.
- And finally, the fifth day will start with a short bus trip to the entrance of Machu Picchu. This day consists of a wonderful guided tour of the Wonder of the World.
Another of the Inca Trail alternatives that usually goes unnoticed is the Ancascocha Trek. Considered by NatGeo as one of the best treks in the world that goes to Machu Picchu. On this hike, you will be lucky enough to admire the Ancascocha lagoon and other not-so-well-known Inca ruins. Ancascocha Trek leads through a series of unimaginable trails where you can travel through the Peruvian Andes.
If you love challenges, then this is one of the Inca Trail alternatives to consider. Ancascocha Trek is a real challenge for trekking fans. The walk presents landscapes in the heights, valleys between imposing mountains, and finally the citadel of Machu Picchu. The hiking route lasts 5 days and 4 nights and has a distance of approximately 53 kilometers. The maximum height that the route crosses is about 4959 meters high.
- During the first day, you will be picked up from your hotel to the starting point in Mollepata. There you will walk for several hours until you reach Pampa Japonesa where you will enjoy a break and lunch. After this, it will continue to Yanaq’aya where they will camp.
- The second day will start with breakfast to gain energy. During the day you can travel an original Inca Trail to the Yahuarmaqui camp.
- The third day will be a long day with a lot of ground to cover. You will walk for several hours to reach the Ancascocha camp.
- The fourth day will be a little easier than the previous days. Unlike the previous days, you will not travel very high ground. They will enjoy different traditional Andean villages and admire the great native vegetation. The day will end in Aguas Calientes where you can rest.
- And finally, on the fifth day, you will enjoy a wonderful guided tour of Machu Picchu.
HUCHUY QOSQO TREK
The Huchyuy Qosqo trek is one of the Inca Trail alternatives that you should not miss. It is an ideal hiking route for those who have limited time. It’s quite a short route and is about 17 kilometers long. Considered a route of relatively easy difficulty so you can take it with the whole family. Also, if you are looking for a hike that does not cause severe cramps or pain in your feet, then this route is perfect for you.
Huchuy Qosqo is located in the middle of a plateau surrounded by different Inca terraces. This route offers some of the best views available of both the Vilcabamba River and the different mountains around it. Also, one day is more than enough to get a little glimpse of this Inca Trail. The route consists of 6 hours of hiking, although this can depend on your physical state. But which is harder, Inca Trail or Kilimanjaro? We believe the Inca Trail, due to the heights that you will encounter.
“TO AWAKEN ALONE IN A STRANGE TOWN IS ONE OF THE PLEASANTEST SENSATIONS IN THE WORLD.”
As you will see, Peru has quite a few hiking trails. Even these are small examples of everything you can enjoy in magical Peru. It is a great idea to look at your Inca Trail Map and other trek maps to know what to expect on your trek and learn a little about the trek that you are about to take. We hope together with the experts at Machu Travel Peru to have been helpful. Peru is an excellent country to enjoy the many hiking trails. Inside you will find a great variety of landscapes, settings and hidden Inca ruins among other things. If you are looking to enjoy the many trekking possibilities, we recommend starting to organize your tour from now on. You can consult with our qualified advisors to help you with everything you need.