8 walks to get to Machu Picchu

The way more tourists come to Machu Picchu is through the classic train ride from the Cusco stations. However, it is also possible to get there by hiking. Some are long and can last several days. Others are only short routes of a few hours. The truth is that any of these routes bring you closer to the Inca city. Know what they are, what their routes are and how to do them.

Inca Jungle
Inca Jungle – Machu Picchu


The Classic Inca Trail

Classic Inca Trail
Classic Inca Trail

The Classic Inca Trail is considered the best hiking route in Cusco and Peru. It is a 39-kilometer hike along trails built by the Incas, the famous qhapac ñan. It lasts 4 days and 3 nights of camping. The final destination is Machu Picchu. It is the only route that allows access to the Inca city through the Intipunku (Sun Gate), just as the Incas themselves did.

Because the route is protected by the Peruvian State, the only way to do it is through a tour organized by a tourism agency. Tours include everything: transportation, guides, cooks, camps, porters, and more. Due to the high demand for this route, it is necessary to buy the tour online in advance of 6 or 7 months.


The Short Inca Trail

Short Inca Trail
Short Inca Trail

The Short Inca Trail is a shortened version of the Classic Inca Trail. This route lasts only 2 days. It crosses only 12 kilometers. The starting point is kilometer 104 of the railway that connects Ollantaytambo with Aguas Calientes (you get there by train). Then they ascend through Inca trails until they arrive at Intipunku, the gateway to Machu Picchu in Inca times.

Just like the Classic Inca Trail, this route must be done with a tourism agency. Tours include: complete transportation, entrance fees, guides, food, hotel in Aguas Calientes and more. The 2-day version is ideal for people who do not have enough time but want to enjoy the magic of this route. It is the only walk that allows you to appreciate Machu Picchu for the first time from the upper part, the Intipunku.


The Salkantay trek

Salkantay trek
Salkantay trek

The Salkantay trek is one of the most famous hiking trails in Cusco. It owes its name to the fact that it crosses Andean landscapes near the immense snow-capped Salkantay. The starting point is the town of Mollepata. The final destination is Machu Picchu, which is reached through the town of Aguas Calientes. In total there are 70 kilometers through mountainous Andean landscapes and tropical jungle.

The route that the Salkantay trek follows is free for all the public. That is, it can be done with a tour or on your own. Obviously for safety the tour is the best option. These services include complete transportation, ideal camps to withstand the intense cold, guides, tickets, porters and more. You can book a tour weeks or days in advance.

The Lares Trek

Lares Trek
Lares Trek

The Lares trek is a hiking route that crosses traditional Andean landscapes and towns. It starts in the town of Lares, famous for its thermal baths. Then 37 kilometers are traveled for 4 days and 3 nights. The last night you rest in a tourist hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes. Thus, on the last day, you visit Machu Picchu and return by train to Cusco.

The Lares trek is known as ‘The cultural route to Machu Picchu’. This is due to the fact that Andean towns of great history and culture such as: Wacahuasi, Yanahuara, Ollantaytambo and more are known. The hike is arduous but not as arduous as the Salkantay trek. The route is free but the most recommended is to hire a tour that includes everything: transportation, guides, tickets, cooks, porters and more.


The Inca Jungle

Inca Jungle
Inca Jungle

The 4-day Inca Jungle is a hiking route that adds adventure sports such as cycling, canoeing, zipline and a relaxing afternoon in the famous thermal baths of Cocalmayo. The route to follow is 35 kilometers along sections surrounded by tropical jungles of Cusco. At the end, we arrive at Machu Picchu following the route by Hidroeléctrica to the town of Aguas Calientes.

The Inca Jungle follows the route: Cusco – Santa María – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu. Although it is possible to go on your own, it is best to hire a tourism agency. Tours include everything: bikes, tickets, accommodations, guide, transportation, and more. Canoeing and zipline are optional. Cycling is always included in the tour.

The Huchuy Qosqo trek

Huchuy Qosqo trek
Huchuy Qosqo trek

The 3-day Huchuy Qosqo is considered an easy hiking route to Machu Picchu. It only travels 17 kilometers along simple paths that go through the archaeological sites of Tambomachay and Huchuy Qosqo, the latter in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The last section to Machu Picchu is done by train and bus via the town of Aguas Calientes.

This route has characteristics that make it suitable for the whole family. Only one night is spent in a camp under the stars. The second night is in a tourist accommodation in the town of Aguas Calientes. Tours include: transportation, entrance fees, guide, camping, lodging, food and more. The tour can be purchased weeks or days in advance.


The route from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes

Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes
Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes

This short walk is the final stretch of the famous alternative route to Machu Picchu by Hidroeléctrica. It is a free route for everyone that crosses 10 kilometers to the top of the town of Aguas Calientes. From there you can take a bus or continue walking to Machu Picchu.

Although the route from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes can be done by train, the vast majority of visitors prefer to walk. It is that the route offers incredible landscapes of the Vilcanota river, the immense mountains of the jungle of Cusco and the flora and fauna that surrounds the site. To get to Hidroeléctrica you must follow the route Cusco – Santa María – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica (approximately 7 hours route).


The route from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Route from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes is only 10 kilometers from Machu Picchu. Most tourists take the bus to get to the Inca city. However, it is also possible to walk the difficult sections by stone steps until you reach the entrance door. Walking is free for everyone. The bus has an approximate cost of 12 dollars per section.

This little hiking trail is not easy. The uphill section is arduous as hundreds of stairs are climbed. The return section, on the other hand, is lighter as it is mostly downhill. That is why some visitors prefer to take the bus and return on foot. The uphill section on foot can take 2 to 3 hours. The return leg, approximately 2 hours.

 

By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, December 15, 2021


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