Maybe it’s just us, though before setting off to Machu Picchu, all we heard was that it’s something we had to book 5/6/7 months in advance… turned out this isn’t that case and only applies if you want to do the Inca trail or climb Wynapicchu mountain. (Which are completely worth it)!
Outside of that, the trek options, timescales and costs are all open for personal choice! Here’s our 5 step plan to help you choose the best options for you, before setting off on this unforgettable adventure!
1. Which trek?:
There are at least 4 different types of trips you can do to reach Machu Picchu, all vary by cost, timescale, route & activity. To give you an idea, here’s a description of the ones we found:
Inca trail – The original Inca route, and one of the top 5 treks in the world. Following the path which the Incas built and used so you are quite literally walking in their footsteps. Along the way you will see undiscovered Inca trails, as well as abandoned Inca sites, cloud forests & incredible scenery that are now under Unesco heritage protection. You’ll arrive to Machu Picchu from the Sungate and see lots of flora and fauna on the way. If you want to truly experience the history of the trail, this is the one for you & you definitely need to book in 5/6 months plus in advance, the government restricts the number of trekkers to preserve the route.
Jungle trek – This trek follows a different Inca path, though by far it’s the most adventurous in terms of activities. So instead of learning the history, it’s more about adrenaline rushes along the way. You’ll be doing things like cycling, zip lining and white water rafting. If you’re an adventure junkie on a budget, this is the trek for you.
Salkantay trek – One for the hardcore trekkers! This route has many stops on the way and covers the most ground. The original Inca trail comes at the latter part of the trek, with the first part being a climb up Salkantay mountain! It’s more about the number of stops & things you get to see along the way. If you want to fit in as many sites as possible & are up for covering serious ground, this is the trek for you.
Day trip – We had no idea you can take a bus up to Machu Picchu, there is even a hotel at the base of the mountain… (We don’t think that’s a good thing!) If trekking isn’t your thing or if you are physically unable to do it, the great thing is you can still see Machu Picchu! Read on below about getting to Aguas Callientes, once there you can’t miss the huge bus queue. Anyone going up from the town can either hike up or take the bus, most take the bus, it’s a winding journey up the mountains lasting around 15/20 minutes.
2. Getting there:
You’ll be glad to know it’s pretty easy! Cusco is generally the base for each trek & all the above treks will include transport from and back to where you are staying.
We recommend you do one thing: stay an extra night in Aguas Calliente so you can go back to Machu Picchu the next day!
Each tour lets you explore Machu Picchu for some time, though unless you have 3/4 hours there, it’s unlikely to be enough & will leave you wanting more, thats why staying overnight nearby if you can is definitely worthwhile.
Whether you’re going with a trek company or going alone, you’re pretty much sure to follow the same route: either a bus or train from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. This second train journey is stunning with some of the best train journey views in the world.
The treks usually include all of the travel within the price and this is mainly what bumps up the cost! These tickets, along with the entry are expensive, though unfortunately there’s no way around it. The good news… Machu Picchu more than makes up for it!
As you can see above, each trek is very different, so is the cost variance. And as my Dad always said… you get what you pay for! Ranging quite literally from $200 to $2000 per person. You could pay even more depending on how exclusive you want it. The main thing is to research the right trek for you & of course your budget.
Inca trail: Whilst this is the most costly of all treks (for us $1400 in total) it’s all about discovering the history & incredible scenery, so was something we had our heart set on. This trail can range from $700-$2000pp
Jungle trek: You can expect to pay between $160-$500pp dependant on who you go with & the number of activities you want to do
Salkantay trek: This will set you back roughly $250-$600pp though remember you will be seeing a lot on the way
If trekking you’ll also need to take some extra cash for snacks and tipping your guides & porters after the trek. After all… they carry everything!
4. Time & distance:
It can range from 1 day to 10 days depending on which adventure you choose. No surprises the train & bus trip is a 1 day thing, the other treks are generally as follows though it’s likely the company will offer variances in the trek / short & long versions:
Inca trail: Ranging from 2 days to 4 or 5 days, each with camping overnight. We did the 2 day trek (15km/10miles) as we did it soon after to Colca Canyon trek. The 4/5 day trek covers 42km / 26miles
Jungle trek: Usually a 4 day 3 night trek with camping. Distance wise its 55km / 34miles
Salkantay: Runs between 5-7 days (usually 5) with camping each night. Distance wise the 5 day trek covers 72km / 45miles
We were lucky to arrive to Machu Picchu around dusk & how they did back in Inca times, through the Sun Gate, which allowed us to feel the magic of the place with almost no one around. Truly a moment we won’t forget.
The following morning we were hit with the reality: mass tourism. We queued for about 40 minutes to jump on a bus that took us to the entrance, where we found a luxury hotel, school trips and big tourist groups getting ready to go in… We didn’t quite expect it, though this marvel of the World hosts 4000 visitors daily!
5. Nearby towns to visit:
On the way to Machu Picchu you’ll go through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a stunning valley where you can find some other Inca places and charming villages to spend a night in:
Ollantaytambo: This is a quaint village with a nice charm, stay here if you have one day/night spare either on the way to or back from Machu Picchu. It keeps its traditional vibes, with old houses and relaxed hostels & hotels surrounded by mountains.
There is also a great Inca site within walking distance from the village. Actually, you can visit 2 sites: the Inca citadel and the warehouses that sit on the mountain opposite. The entrance is included in the Boleto Turístico, so you don’t have to pay a penny to go in!
Aguas Calientes: Most probably you’ll be staying here if you don’t do the camping option. It’s very touristy, expect ‘jaladores’ (people that try to get your custom at every single shop/restaurant), massages, souvenir shops and high prices. Oh, and the only place in Peru that you will pay for the service.
Camping nearby is a better option for a more authentic experience of Machu Picchu, though if you prefer a hotel, this is your place to be able to spend more time at Machu Picchu the next day.
We hope this helps give you the info you need ready for your Machu Picchu adventure! You’re going to love it for a lifetime!
If you have any other questions just drop us a message or WhatsApp and we’ll help you out.
Shay & Iban 👬 🎒