Machu Picchu is one of the most popular and iconic destinations in South America, and the Inca Trail is the most well-known hike to get there. However, the Inca Trail can be fully booked months in advance, leaving many travelers scrambling to find alternatives to the inca trail hikes to visit the ancient citadel. Others are simply interested into a cheaper option; or prefer to stay away from the ‘crowds’ and want to explore an off-the-beaten-trek Inca trail alternative, a different Machu Picchu hike. Fortunately, Peru is a hiker’s paradise and there are many different alternatives.
Here are a few options for those looking for an Inca Trail alternative:
# 1 Salkantay Trek:
The Salkantay Trek takes you through the stunning Andean mountains, past glaciers and lush rainforests, and over the Salkantay Pass (4600m). The trail passes through traditional Andean communities, and offers breathtaking views of the Vilcabamba mountain range. The trek typically takes 5 days, and ends at the Machu Picchu citadel.Reading tip: About the Salkantay Trek
# 2 Lares Trek:
The Lares takes you through the remote Andean villages of the Lares Valley, where you will have the opportunity to interact with local communities and learn about their traditional way of life. The trail passes through beautiful mountain landscapes, hot springs, and ends at the Machu Picchu citadel. The trek usually takes 3-4 days.Reading tip: Make the most of the Lares trek
# 3 Choquequirao Trek:
The is a less-crowded and less-known alternative to the Inca Trail is the Choquequirao Trek The trek takes you to the beautifully restored Inca citadel of Choquequirao (often referred to as the “other Machu Picchu”), and offers a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. The trek typically takes 4-5 days.
# 4 Vilcabamba Trek:
The Vilcabamba trek takes you through the beautiful Andean mountains and valleys of the Vilcabamba region, known for its rich Inca history and stunning natural landscapes. The trek ends at the Machu Picchu citadel and usually takes 3-4 days.
All of the above Machu Picchu hikes are less crowded than the Inca Trail and offer a more intimate and authentic experience of the Andean culture and landscapes. However, they are also more physically demanding, so it is important to be in good physical shape and to properly acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco to avoid altitude sickness before undertaking any of them.
We recommend you do those treks in the Cusco region with a guided tour, and it is always recommended to book with a reputable tour operator in Cusco to ensure the safety and quality of the experience.