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Different trekking trails to go to Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and popular Inca archaeological ruins in the world. Situated inside the historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu in the Cusco region of Peru, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Over 1.2 million people visit every year to undertake a trek to the ancient city. The awe-inspiring mountain ranges, diverse flora and fauna, and the rich cultural and archaeological sites make it an unforgettable experience.

Here are the main treks to Machu Picchu along with information on the alternative treks.

Inca Trail

The Classic Inca Trail, which follows the original trails that the Incas would have taken from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, is the most popular trek. The scenery is stunning with a variety of Inca sites to be seen enroute. Due to its popularity  there is a concern over the impact of tourism on this Historic Sanctuary. The trail is therefore limited to 500 trekkers a day,[ 300 of which are porters and guides]. This means that it is critical to book early, especially during the busiest trekking season from May to September.

inca trail

The total trek distance from the starting point to Machu Picchu is 45 km and reaches an altitude of 4,200 m. It is a moderately challenging trek that can be completed by most people, provided they are fit and acclimatised (to the altitude).This is a 4D/3N Classic route.

Permits for the Classic Trail route are tightly restricted and nearly all dates each year sell out months in advance. This trail is closed for maintenance in February.

The Short Inca Trail is a two day hike for those who want a light trekking experience or do not have much time. This goes via Winay  Wayna  to Machu Picchu.  Like the Classic trail you will need to book with a registered trekking agency, and secure a date well in advance as permits sell out quickly. Since the highest altitude reached is 2,700 m, acclimatisation is less of an issue. You can also trek through the year as it is not closed in February.

Salkantay Trek : This is a 5 day/4 night trekking challenge and is the second most popular trek in the region. It has also been voted one of the Top 25 Treks in the World by National Geographic. The scenery is incredible and the highlight of the trek is Nevada Salkantay,  the 6,271m iconic Andean peak. The trail goes through formidable landscapes where lowland jungle gives way to highland alpine areas and glaciated mountains, the most impressive being the Nevada Salkantay  as mentioned earlier. This is relatively easy to access from Cusco and there are no permit restrictions. One can also do the trek without a guide or a tour operator.

Salkantay Trek

Lares Trek

This is a less strenuous trail that provides opportunities to interact with local Andean communities that have changed little over the centuries. As a cultural experience it is unrivalled and combines great scenery with culture.

lares trek

An off –the-beaten trail ,the Lares Trek begins near the town of Lares, 64 kms south of Cusco and 56 kms south east of Machu Picchu.

Though there are a number of variations on the Lares Trek, most end at Ollantaytambo town. From here trekkers can catch a train to Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu or return to Cusco.  You need to book your train tickets in advance to Aguas Calientes as well as the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. This trek which traverses part of the Sacred Valley, can be completed as a 2 or 3 day trail, or include a visit to Machu Picchu, extending the tour by 1or 2 days.

Permits are not required for the Lares Trek which is making it a popular option for trekkers.

Choquequirao Trek

This is the longest and also one of the toughest treks in the region. Choquequirao is an Inca site that is worth visiting for itself. Combined with Machu Picchu, this trek is fast becoming the ultimate archaeological trekking experience.

Choquequirao Trek

This Inca city ruin, located at 3,050m above sea level in the Cusco region of the Province La Convencion, though not as impressive as Machu Picchu, is still worth a visit. It has a very similar structure and architecture. Travellers have described
this as a challenging and fantastically beautiful adventure that is a good alternative to the busy Inca Trail.

Vilcabamba Trek

This is actually a less traversed trail not heavily impacted by tourism. Trekkers get to pass through snow covered
mountains on original and well-preserved Inca trails.

Vilcabamba Trek

It is remote, beautiful and wonderfully peaceful. The trek is usually a 5 day run though there are variations. There are a number of tough ascents and descents that require a good level of fitness, and the trekking days can be long and tiresome.

The Inca Jungle Trek

This trek is popular with the younger generation and backpackers. It is by far the most adventurous trekking option in the Cusco region. It is also the most varied in terms of activities. The “trek” includes massive downhill mountain biking, followed by river rafting, jungle trekking and optional zip-lining. This culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu. This is mostly a 4D/3N itinerary, but can be done on a 3D/2N itinerary too. Accommodation on the trek is in hostel or home-stays, with a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

The Inca Jungle Trek

This is an attempt to give a brief summary of the trekking options but travellers need to find out in detail about prevailing weather conditions so that they are suitably equipped,  about acclimatisation to altitude  and the importance of being fit.

How to reach Machu Picchu from India:

Indians can fly to Lima – the capital of Peru. From here there are various ways to go to Cusco – bus, train, private vehicle. Stay in Cusco for a couple of days before heading to one of the most beautiful places on earth – Machu Picchu!

Do Indians need visa for Peru?

Indians can enter Peru if they have a valid visa or residence permit for US, UK, Australia, Canada or US visa, or a multiple entry C or D type Schengen visa!  The visa should be valid for a minimum 6 months from your entry date into Peru, and then you can enter Peru for 180 days in that year. If you don’t have any of the above mentioned visas, you will have to apply for a Peruvian visa in the Peru embassy in New Delhi.

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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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