Choosing an alternative trek to Machu Picchu

For one reason or another, you’re not hiking THE Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; maybe the permits sold out, your travel dates aren’t flexible enough, or you want to do something a little more interesting. While the good news is that there are a lot of options for alternative treks in the area, that’s also the bad news because it can be so tough to make a decision on the right trek. Here are four choices that should help you figure out which trip is best designed for you.


The Apu Salkantay trek is the most popular alternative trek to the Inca Trail trek. Mt. Salkantay was one of the most sacred mountains to the Incas and this trek takes you up close to the celebrated peak. Great for getting into the heart of the Andes, witnessing dramatic landscapes, and reaching the highest altitude of all the Machu Picchu treks. This is a moderately difficult trek in which you’ll hike for three to six hours a day. Most treks will include a one-day visit to Machu Picchu after the hiking.

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This is a slightly more “upscale” operator for the same trek.


Perched on a saddle between stunning Andean peaks, Choquequirao (or “Machu Picchu’s Sacred Sister”) is the type of trip your guides really want to do. The ruins are accessible only by foot which limits traffic and enhances the mystique of this amazing site. You’ll most likely find yourself the only tourists exploring the vast complex of ruins and camping beside the site. It’s very easy, and recommended, to add a one or two-day visit to Machu Picchu after the Choquequirao trek. This is a fairly difficult trek mostly due to the elevation gain and stairs (much like the traditional Inca Trail) and you’ll be hiking about 7 hours each trekking day:

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LARES VALLEY TREK (or the “Weaver’s Way” trek)

The Lares Valley joins up with the Sacred Valley, but is not overrun with tourists rushing through on one-day trips by bus. Any trek in the Lares Valley will take you through a number of small, traditional weaving communities whose textiles are reknowned for their quality and beauty. The trek also features sweeping views of the Vilcanota mountain range, a dip in the Lares hotsprings and a visit to the well-preserved Inca ruins of Pumamarca. Most treks in the area are moderately difficult with the tougher ones considered on par with the traditional Inca Trail (the trek even follows an ancient Inca Trail for much of the hiking). One of the best options is one that combines a one-day visit to Machu Picchu after the trek.

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This is a fairly easy trek that takes you through the most popular villages and ruins in the Sacred Valley. Some of these stops include Ollantaytambo, Pisaq, and Chinceros. This combination of trekking, Sacred Valley highlights, and a visit to Machu Picchu makes for a classic Peru experience. Staying in local lodges ensures a more comfortable trip than a typical camping trek in the area. If you choose a private departure, your guide can customize a bit of the hiking for you to make it more challenging if you wish. Hikes last for a couple hours at a time on fairly unchallenging terrain:

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