Photo credit: justin_vidamo / Foter / CC BY
Easily one of the most popular destinations in the world, Macchu Picchu is one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips. So when choosing how to get there, obviously it is important to choose the right trek that will meet your expectations and time-frame (not to mention your hard-earned cash). However the different treks, especially when combined with add-ons and other excursions can be bewildering to say the least, and overwhelming at most.
After visiting the Destinations Travel Show the other week and speaking to countless tour operators, I have put together a helpful overview of the three most popular trekking options to help you decide which is best for you.
Inca Trail: Easily the most popular route to Macchu Picchu, it also means there is an approximately six-month waiting list to get a permit. Book well in advance if you desperately want to go on this trek, particularly between the high season of June to August, or you will wind up disappointed.
With a maximum of 500 permits a day allowed on the Inca trail, it is the busiest trail to Macchu Picchu. Many tour operators claim tour groups leave in a staggered rota in the morning so the trail is not too clogged with people. Regardless, with 500 people on it at any one time, you’re bound to see some groups on the way, and if the idea of potentially sharing the trail with several tour groups leaves you feeling irritable, then perhaps a quieter option is best. On the other hand, if you enjoy the camaraderie of meeting new people on your travels, then this might be the one for you.
The Inca Trail is supposedly the trail with the most archaeology to see, but is also the most touristy. In addition to this, because it is the most popular trek, it is generally cheaper than the other options.
Salkantay Trek: If you are looking for a challenge, then the Salkantay trek is for you. Following a high-altitude trail that passes by the Peruvian Andes, and in particular the impressive Salkantay peak, this trek is a good choice for those wanting breath-taking scenery. Permits are not required for this trek luckily, and as it demands a certain level of fitness, it is also the most quiet. Speaking of fitness, this is a fairly demanding trek that requires an excellent level of fitness – good for those with time to train, not for those wanting a last-minute trek to Macchu Picchu.
The trail goes through the ‘back-door’ of Macchu Picchu, through Santa Teresa and ending at Aguas Calientes. There, you have the option of either walking the last kilometre to Macchu Picchu or getting the train. Whichever you choose, just make sure you arrive early!
Lares Trek: For those wanting a glimpse of traditional rural life in Peru, then this is the ideal trek. The Lares trail goes through remote mountain communities that still retain a strong sense of local culture. As it is a slightly shorter trek (three days) and does not require a permit, the Lares Trek is a good option for those short on time, booking a last-minute trip, or wanting squeeze in a trek while backpacking through South America.
Similar to the Salkantay Trek, it also ends in Aguas Calientes, with the option of the train or hike up to Macchu Picchu.
Which trek have you gone on, and what made you choose it?