Machu Picchu is the top of everyone’s list of things to do in Peru. Rumors are floating around that they may be shutting off access to Machu Picchu in the next few years and plan on building observation decks around it so you can see it but not actually walk through it! So if it’s something on your bucket list make sure you take action and get over there ASAP!! You have the option to take the train to the base of Machu Picchu and then take a bus up to the top… but if you have wandered over to my blog I hope that by now you know that I would NEVER recommend doing that. This is one of those situations where the cheesy phrase “its about the journey, not the destination” is somewhat true. The destination is definitely amazing, but I’m telling you, it doesn’t mean as much unless you work for it and hike it!
There are a lot of tours to do Machu Picchu but below are my top 3 recommendations for various reasons.
1. Inca Jungle Trek
Difficulty level: Easy
Days: 3-4 days
Price: Around $200-300 USD
This 3 day “trek” is a really fun way to get to Machu Picchu. It includes white water rafting, mountain biking and zip-lining. You also stay in hostels rather than camping and there is not too much hiking involved, hence why I put “trek” in quotation marks. If you’re looking for a fun time, and nothing too difficult, this option is best for you!
2. Traditional Inca Trail
Difficulty level: Hard
Days: 4 days
Price: Around $600 USD
This 4 day trek goes through the traditional Inca trail. You hike all four days and camp rather than staying in hostels. This trek books up the fastest so give yourself 6 months’ notice to book it (if you don’t have 6 months, don’t worry.. stay tuned for option 3) One of the best parts of this trek is that you hike directly to Machu Picchu.. versus the other hikes you hike to Aguas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Picchu.. very touristy). This hike is the most iconic hike to do, however it gets very crowded (despite them limiting the amount of permits). Another downside to this hike is there are a lot of stairs and hasn’t been deemed the “best scenery of all the treks” unlike the third option below.
3. Salkantay Trek
Difficulty Level: Hard
Days: 4-5 days
Price: Around $200 USD
This is my personal recommendation and this is the trek that I did. It’s 4 or 5 days (you have the option for either… but I would recommend 5 day, it’s a little easier that way and you don’t miss the hot springs). This trek is amazing. It involves summiting Salkantay Mountain, going to Lake Hummantay (Pictured below), hiking through the jungle and hiking parts of the traditional Inca trail. This hike famously showcases the best scenery of all the treks to Machu Picchu. However, this trek is very difficult. You will definitely be exhausted by the end, but you will feel VERY rewarded. On this hike, there are horses/donkeys that carry your belongings, so do not worry about that. They also have chefs that come along with you and cook you the most amazing food. You camp rather than staying in hostels (other than the last night…the night before Machu Picchu you stay in a hostel). I will be posting a full blog post about the Salkantay Trek, so stay tuned for that! Or leave a comment below if you have more specific questions you would like me answer right away!
Overall Machu Picchu recommendations:
If you do something other than the traditional Inca Trail, make sure you wake up at around 3 am to be the first ones in line for Machu Picchu so you can be up there for sunrise and before it gets crowded by tourists coming by train. The hike in the morning is not easy! It is A LOT of stairs…. So get there early, take your time and enjoy Machu Picchu to yourself. Also, make sure you pay the extra $20USD beforehand so you can hike up Wayna Picchu. Another hike to do in Machu Picchu is to Sungate, this is also a beautiful lookout spot and highly recommended (if you do the traditional Inca trail, you will come through sungate).
Note: Hike options 2 and 3 can be very strenuous on your body, especially due to the extremely high altitude. Please give yourself a few days in Cusco before the trek to allow your body to properly acclimatize. Also, make sure you go to a local pharmacy before hand and let them know you need acclimatizing pills. They will know exactly what you are asking for and will give you what you need. Another tip for helping your body during the trek is to drink as much coco tea and chew as many coco leaves as possible. This local remedy will help keep your body feeling energized!
If you have any more questions or have anything to add please leave it in the comments below!