TREK OR NO TREK: Experience Machu Picchu Without Hitting The Inca Trail

One of the seven wonders of the modern world, Machu Picchu has long been a firm travel favourite, with the Inca Trail being the most well-known way to reach it.

One of the seven wonders of the modern world, Machu Picchu has long been a firm travel favourite, with the Inca Trail being the most well-known way to reach it.

The route is so iconic that permits are limited to 500 a day (200 travellers and 300 porters and guides) to avoid overcrowding. The struggle to get one of these golden tickets is, therefore, real but there is a light at the end of the trail.

Fortunately for the hikers (and non-hikers) among us, other options are available so dust off your walking boots (or not) and make some tracks.

Here’s how.

Traditional life on the Lares trek

Step into the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’ in the lesser-explored Lares region north of Cusco where the rural background is punctuated with splashes of colourful traditional attire and you will be sharing the paths with alpacas and llamas.

Depending on your energy levels, five or seven-night treks are available with a choice of luxury accommodation in the form of comfortable mountain lodges (open-air jacuzzi, anyone) or camping options.

Whichever lodging style you choose, you will be rewarded with waterfalls, glacial lakes and snow-dusted mountains en-route, culminating in a visit to Machu Picchu.

Walk or ride the Salkantay

Slightly more challenging than the Lares trek, this journey invites you to lace up those boots or jump in the saddle to experience some of the most incredible landscapes in the world. Picture the scene, you are atop your trusty steed overlooking the snowy peaks of Mount Salkantay, the second most sacred mountain in Incan mythology and tonight a cosy mountain lodge where you can get a well-deserved massage or soak in the jacuzzi awaits.

This eight-day experience is an extensive journey into rural Peruvian life where you will get glimpses into an ancient culture which has remained intact – be treated to a traditional Pachamanca, a feast of meat and vegetable layered on hot stones to a backdrop of velvety green mountains.

No trekking, no problem

If trekking isn’t an option, Machu Picchu can still be accessed. All aboard the comfortable train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes which allows you to put your feet up and watch the world go by to the lively soundtrack of Latin American music.

Authentic refreshments created using Andean herbs and fruits add a twist to the usual train trolley selection and the views aren’t too bad either. The next day, you can take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of its intricate grounds.

Get lost in a maze of green and grey before returning to Aguas Calientes for your return train.

Luxury lodging

Remember that open-air jacuzzi from a few paragraphs back? The good news for all the fair-weather campers/non-campers out there is that you can still trek to Machu Picchu and stay in absolute luxury with lodge-to-lodge adventures.

Mountain Lodges of Peru have designed programmes on both the Lares and Salkantay routes which will see you hitting the trails hard by day and relaxing even harder by night.

The rural location is complimented with beautiful cuisine inspired by the unique flavours and ingredients of the region and Incan culture remains at the fore: they are owned and run by Peruvians who are passionate about both their mountains and their Andean neighbours.

Latin America and Polar Travel Specialists, Chimu Adventures, can organise all your Machu Picchu travel plans regardless of which route you choose.

Walk, ride or train, Machu Picchu is waiting!