Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of the Inca Empire, draws thousands of visitors each year, and for good reason. But with so many people flocking to this iconic destination, the well-trodden paths can sometimes feel a little too crowded. For the intrepid traveler seeking a more off-the-beaten-track experience, there’s good news: several alternative treks to Machu Picchu offer unforgettable adventures through Peru’s majestic landscapes, all while avoiding the crowds. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best alternative treks to Machu Picchu and share insider tips to help you plan the perfect journey.
A Challenging Adventure through the Andean Highlands
The Salkantay Trek is a 5-day, 74-kilometer (46-mile) journey through the diverse landscapes of the Andean highlands. Traversing the base of Mount Salkantay, one of Peru’s highest and most sacred peaks, this trek challenges hikers with its rugged terrain and high-altitude mountain passes. The reward? Breathtaking vistas, remote valleys, and an unparalleled sense of accomplishment.
Why Choose the Salkantay Trek?
The Salkantay Trek is perfect for those seeking a more challenging and less crowded route to Machu Picchu. As you navigate through remote landscapes and reach altitudes of up to 4,600 meters (15,000 feet), you’ll enjoy a sense of solitude and connection to nature that’s difficult to find on more popular routes.
A Cultural Immersion in Traditional Andean Communities
The Lares Trek is a 3-4 day, 33-kilometer (20-mile) journey that offers an unforgettable cultural experience in the heart of the Andes. As you hike through the picturesque Lares Valley, you’ll visit traditional Andean villages and interact with local communities, gaining insights into their daily lives and centuries-old customs.
Why Choose the Lares Trek?
The Lares Trek is ideal for those looking to combine breathtaking scenery with a culturally immersive experience. By choosing this alternative route, you’ll not only escape the crowds but also engage with local communities in a meaningful and authentic way.
A Journey to the “Cradle of Gold” and Machu Picchu’s Sister City
The Choquequirao Trek is an 8-9 day, 98-kilometer (61-mile) expedition that takes you to the ancient Inca site of Choquequirao, often referred to as Machu Picchu’s sister city. Hidden in the cloud forest and only accessible by foot, Choquequirao is a testament to the architectural prowess of the Inca civilization. After exploring Choquequirao, the trek continues towards Machu Picchu, offering hikers a unique opportunity to visit both ancient sites on a single journey.
Why Choose the Choquequirao Trek?
The Choquequirao Trek is perfect for experienced trekkers seeking a truly remote and off-the-beaten-path adventure. With fewer crowds and an unparalleled opportunity to explore two incredible Inca sites, this trek offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for intrepid explorers.
A Hidden Gem of Breathtaking Landscapes and Ancient Ruins (H3)
The Ancascocha Trek is a 5-6 day, 58-kilometer (36-mile) adventure through the picturesque Andean countryside. This lesser-known route takes hikers through remote valleys, past glistening glacial lakes, and along ancient Inca pathways. With a variety of archaeological sites along the route, the Ancascocha Trek offers a unique blend of history, culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Why Choose the Ancascocha Trek?
The Ancascocha Trek is an excellent choice for those seeking a quieter, off-the-beaten-track experience without sacrificing the opportunity to explore fascinating Inca ruins. With its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Ancascocha Trek is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers.
Tips for a Successful Trek
Choose the Right Trek for You
Consider your interests, fitness level, and the desired level of challenge when selecting your alternative trek to Machu Picchu. Consult with a reputable tour operator to help you determine which route is best suited to your needs.
Book with a Responsible Tour Operator
Select a tour operator with a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices, and prioritize local operators who support the communities along the trekking routes. Responsible tourism is essential to preserving these fragile environments and cultures.
Be Prepared for High Altitudes
Altitude sickness can affect even the most experienced hikers. Spend a few days in Cusco or another high-altitude location before starting your trek to acclimatize and reduce the risk of illness. Stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, and consult your doctor for advice and potential medications.
Respect Local Customs and the Environment
Always be mindful of your impact on the environment and local communities as you trek through these sacred landscapes. Follow the “Leave No Trace” principles and respect local customs, ensuring your trek is both enjoyable and responsible.