The main highlight of any trip to Peru is a visit to the ruins of Machu Picchu outside of Cusco. While this ancient city is a stunning sight to visit all on its own, there are a variety of treks that make the experience even more amazing.
Machu Picchu – Tours and Treks
There are several ways to visit Machu Picchu, the most rewarding being a several day hike through the Andes. There are loads of tour operators in Cusco, which can be a bit overwhelming. When exploring the options, it is important to find what is included in the price. The following vary between companies:
- Experienced guide
- Number of meals provided
- Sleeping bag included (tents and mats are usually provided)
- Porter to carry personal belongings and sleeping bags
- Train ticket from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Lares and Salkantay)
- Accommodation in Aguas Calientes
- Bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (Lares and Salkantay)
- Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
- Train ticket from Aguas Calientes back to Cusco
- Hotel pick-up / drop-off
SAS and Llama Path are both well-known tour companies often recommended by travelers for the quality of their services.
The most popular trek is the Inca Trail, which passes several Incan ruins along the way. Those who take this trek will enter Machu Picchu on foot through the Sun Gate, while many other treks reach Machu Picchu from the small town of Aguas Calientes.
The challenge of the Inca trail is its popularity. It is important to reserve a spot weeks or months in advance, as the trail is limited to 500 people per day (including guides, porters, etc.). To avoid a crowded trail, some travelers choose an alternative trek, such as the Lares or Salkantay.
The Lares trek typically involves 3 days of hiking, reaching Machu Picchu on the 4th day. Hikers are led through the mountains and have opportunities to meet local people and see what life is like in the Andes. Travelers who choose this trek often do so for the cultural component. The biggest challenge of this trek is the high altitude. The trek starts at a higher altitude than the Inca trail and has a higher peak height. (The exact altitude depends on the route used by the specific tour company).
The Salkantay trek is another alternative, that usually involves 4 days of hiking, arriving at Machu Picchu on day 5. This trek has a higher difficulty level than the others and reaches higher altitudes. However, it offers stunning mountain views.