3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail

3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail

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The Inca Trail is probably the most renowned trek in the world. It sits alongside Everest Base Camp, The Annapurna Circuit and Kilimanjaro a must do for traveller bragging rights. But with spaces limited and busy trails, what are the alternatives for the growing band of anti-populist travellers who don’t like to follow the crowds? How can you get to Machu Picchu through the back-door?

Back in 2008 entry to the epic Inca Trail became controlled by a limited permit system. These permits tend to sell out at least three months in advance and the problem is exacerbated in the peak summer months. Even if permits are available not everyone relishes the prospect of trekking such a well-worn path in the company of so many others.

Luckily Machu Picchu is surrounded by fantastic trekking and the Inca Trail isn’t the only option on the table, there are now an ever growing number of alternatives for your dose of Incan culture and mountains. And although none of them can serve up the wonder of crossing through the Sun Gate for that first glimpse of the majestic ruins, they are all worthy alternatives.

 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail

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Best for culture vultures : The Lares Valley Trek

lares valley s 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail follow me on pinterest button 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Lares Valley is the off the beaten path alternative to the Inca Trail, offering wonderful insights into the traditional cultures of the Andes. The valley itself features the beautiful Andean views of snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes that you would expect, but it is the colours of the communities and markets full of local textiles that make it special. The trek itself is easier than the Inca trail, but still involves plenty of high altitude exertion. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end at Machu Picchu, instead you are transported by train and bus to the ruins at the end of the trek. Takes about four days.

Pros & cons

    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Off the beaten path – much quieter than the alternatives
    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Traditional villages
    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Stunning mountain scenery
    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail (Relatively) easy trekking

    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Machu Picchu is more of a bolt at the end than an integral part of the trek
    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail There are no ruins to see along the trail

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Best for serious trekkers: Salkantay

The Salkantay trek winds through through humid jungle and high passes. Salkantay itself is a towering alpine peak with dramatic steep sides. At the highest point of the trek, the Salkantay pass (4,650m), expect the full alpine vista of mountain streams, snow covered peaks and highland forest, whilst at lower altitudes, you’ll be trekking through temperate plantations. Although you won’t be tackling the peak itself, there is some serious up and down involved and whilst you don’t need to be a serious trekker, a decent level of fitness and oodles of determination is seriously advised. Plan on five to six days of trekking.

Pros & cons

    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Stunning mountain scenery
    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail More varied trekking than other options

    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail This trek ends close to—but not at—Machu Picchu
    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail There are no ruins to see along the trail
    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail It is a real slog in the wet season

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Best for contrarians: Choquequirao

choquequirao peru s 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail follow me on pinterest button 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail For those of us who shun populist choices, Choqeuquirao is Machu Picchu’s much lesser-known Inca sibling. The Choquequirao ruins are more spread out and the arcihitecture more functional than Machu Picchu, but what you sacrifice in photogenic vistas you can certainly make up for with the joy of connecting with your inner Indiana Jones. There are no luxury train services and visitors are few and far between so you get a far better sense of discovery exploring the ruins. The trek itself from Cachora to Choquequirao involves two days there and back by the same route consisting of a daunting 1500m (5000 foot) drop followed by a 1800m climb—so as with the Salkantay (above), expect tired muscles and aching knees. The whole trek typically take five days.

Pros & cons

    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Enjoy fantastic ruins in peace
    pro review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail Quieter than the Inca Trail

    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail The Choquequirao ruins are great, but they aren’t Machu Picchu
    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail It’s a tough trek
    con review 3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail No good in the wet season

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Lofty thanks to Ben Colclough for guest writing this post. Ben writes for the adventure travel company Tourdust.com. To find out more about the Inca Trail, read his guide to trekking the Inca Trail.

published: 8 Aug 2010
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Related posts:
5 Wonderfully Earthy Glamping Sites ← also by Ben Colclough
7 Amazing Circular Geological Oddities
5 Temples & Monasteries on Perilous Cliff Sides
Top 10 Destinations For Rice Terraces ← one is in Peru

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Responses

  1. Alex Rascanu says:


    Twitter:
    Wow! Such a thorough review of the options available. Hopefully I’ll get to visit Machu Picchu next year and make use of your article.

    [Reply to this comment]

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