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Popular alternative routes to Machu Picchu

Excited to finally head to Machu Picchu, you go online to search for the best trek to fulfill your adventurous spirit. You quickly find one called the Inca Trail, but it’s already booked for almost 2 months in advance. Though the Inca Trail is surely one of the most amazing treks in the world, there are several alternatives that match its quality. Described below are several equally as amazing treks to Machu Picchu that you can investigate.

The Salkantay Trek

Possibly the most popular of the alternatives, this 5D/4N trek will test your limits of endurance and stamina while providing you with amazing views of the Andean highlands. Starting in the town of Sayllapata, hikers will spend the first two days ascending until reaching the highest point at an altitude of 4630 meters (15190 feet). Here you’ll take a quick hour break to enjoy the incredible view of Salktantay mountain before descending directly into a tropical climate. The hard part over with, the third day consists of an easy 16 kilometers filled with exotic fauna and wildlife. On this day you’ll have the option to go to the hot springs at Colcamayo. Well worth the entry fee of 10 soles, your muscles will appreciate a soak in both the hot and cold pools that are available. You can opt to start the fourth day by walking or bus depending on how you feel. Eventually you’ll be following a set of train tracks along the massive Urubamba River as you make your way towards the magical town of Aguas Calientes. Here you’ll sleep comfortably in a hostel with running water and hot showers while you prepare for the day ahead. Finally, on the fifth day you’ll reach your final destination of Machu Picchu. The trails and tribulations of the previous days will float away like mist when you get your first view of the citadel at sunrise.

The Lares Trek

Typically available in both 4D/3N or 3D/2N formats, this off-the-beaten trail begins in the town of Lares about 40 miles north of Cusco. Before taking one step on the trail, hikers can take a quick dip in some hot springs to loosen up before heading out. After your soak, you’ll drive to the trailhead to walk about 12 kilometers towards the first campsite in Haucahuasi. Known as a weaving community, the second day commences by watching the indigenous communities demonstrate their craft. A tough but short hike, today involves climbing over the highest point of the trail at 4450 meters before descending towards the next campsite at Ipsaycocha Lake. Everything is downhill on the third day as you make your way towards the transport hub of Ollantaytambo where you’ll catch a bus or train to Aguas Calientes. After a comfy night in your hostel, your guides will likely have a 2-3 hour tour of the citadel planned in advance. If you still have any energy left you can choose to hike one of the many mini trails that are within the archeological park. 

The Ancascocha Trek

Named after a reservoir lake, this trek is doable in 4 or 5 days and is the ultimate choice for those seeking solitude from the crowded trails. Starting in the town of Soraypampa, the first day involves almost 8 hours of hiking through strenuous terrain with a maximum altitude of 5000 meters. The second day does its best to out-do the first with 10 hours of hiking at altitude. As difficult as it may be, the views are second to none and the crisp air is as fresh as it gets. You may be ready for a descent at this point but that’s still one day away. The third day is another one spent at altitude, albeit less tiresome than the previous two. Passing through monstrous valleys and red-tinted mountains is a unique experience that many will never have the chance to see. Across the range is the famous Inca Trail surrounded by the sacred mountains of Salktantay, Humantay, Huayanay, and Huacaywilka. The day ends with a 1.5-hour descent towards the campsite of Ancascocha. Your wishes of an easy hike finally come true on the fourth day. Descending next to orchids and bromeliads you’ll head towards Ollantaytambo to catch a train towards Aguas Calientes where you’ll be treated to a comfy bed and celebratory dinner. On day 5 you’ll reach the pinnacle of everything you’ve worked for by heading to Machu Picchu. 

The Quarry Trail

A rising star in the trekking world, the Quarry Trail takes a different approach to reaching Machu Picchu. Day 1 starts right outside Ollantaytambo and focuses on Incan ruins and cultural exchange as you learn about the local customs. Day 2 is seemingly always the longest for treks and it’s no exception here either. After hiking 4 hours to the pass at 4500 meters you’ll stop for a quick snack/photo break before heading towards a beautiful vantage point where lunch will be served. As the terrain levels out you’ll pass through a multitude of ruins before reaching the campsite of Cachicata. The trek continues after waking up to a much needed breakfast. Today’s goal is to reach Aguas Calientes by train after circling back to Ollantaytambo. As always you’ll be treated to hot springs and restaurant dinner before heading back to your hostel. The fourth day begins with a windy bus ride up Machu Picchu mountain where you’ll be greeted by your tour guide who will explain to you all the ins and outs of this incredible citadel.

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