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Inca Trail vs Alternative Treks
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Salkantay trek to machu picchu

While it is true that you have many treks to choose from during your stay in Cusco, although each and everyone has a special charm, there are things you should take into consideration.

How much time do you have available for your trip?

Depending on the trek you choose, you should keep in mind that most of them require you to have an acclimatization time of two or more days, more if you are coming from low-altitude areas; for example, if you are taking the 5-day Salkantay Trek, you will need a total of seven days.

Availability required

In case you want to hike the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you must reserve your visit 3 or 4 months in advance. There are only 500 spaces available.

What kind of experience would you like to have on your trip?

Each trek has its characteristics. Some treks represent a greater physical challenge and a higher degree of difficulty, such as the Salkantay trek; however, the Lares Trek will allow you to be more in contact with the local people, their way of life, and their ancestral customs.

On the other hand, the Inca Trail hike is the most traveled, besides offering few moments of true tranquility (if that is what you are looking for), since it is the preferred hike for most people seeking to enter the City of Machu Picchu through the Intipunku or Sun Gate.

Living culture, archaeological sites, and landscape

  • The Inca Trail is characterized by several archaeological sites, distributed along the way, accompanied by beautiful landscapes.
  • The Salkantay Trek represents a challenge for many, due to the physical effort that is made especially on the second day. This route has beautiful high Andean and jungle landscapes.
  • The Lares Trek is more experiential; that is, you will be able to share moments with the people of the area, contemplating their way of life. On the route, you will be able to observe a variety of ecological levels from the puna to the jungle.
  • The Huchuy Qosqo Trek is less demanding, requiring only two days.

Some tours have it all, but others have strengths and weaknesses. If the information published on our website is not enough for you to get a good sense of the hike, please consult with us through the online chat or send us your inquiries to

Walking Difficulty and Physical Condition

Both are directly related. If you are not in good physical condition, the Choquequirao trek may be more difficult than normal; the Choquequirao trek is suitable for people in good physical condition and with previous trekking experience. However, the hike you choose will depend on what you consider difficult and of course on your physical condition. You are the person who will be doing the trek, so you should try to be realistic about your physical condition and health.

What do those who have already traveled with us say?

We recommend you to read some Testimonials of the treks on our website. These will give you an idea of the service we provide, as well as comments on what they liked and disliked. One of the comments you will often find is: “It was harder than I thought”.

Why are they called alternative treks?

This is the name given to the alternate routes used by the Incas to reach the Sacred City of Machu Picchu. The entrance to the Inca Trail has to be booked months in advance, so if you did not find tickets for the Inca Trail on the dates you have available, then you will have to make an “Alternative Trek“.

What is the best alternative to the Inca Trail?

The Salkantay Trek has become the most popular alternative trek among visitors, not only for those who did not find availability for the Inca Trail, but for those seeking a trip in more contact with nature and customs of the area, along with other popular treks such as the Lares Trek, Huchuy Qosqo Trek.

What makes the Inca Trail so special?

  • It is one of the most famous hiking trails in the world.
  • It goes directly to Machu Picchu by an ancestral path used by the Incas, no other hike does.
  • It offers a magical entrance at dawn, through the Puerta del Sol with a breathtaking view, although sometimes it is hindered by the morning fog.
  • You will visit spectacular archaeological sites every day of the tour.
  • Lush landscapes, from towering ice-covered mountains, with a descent into a wonderful dense cloud forest in the jungle.
  • Good facilities and services in the camps.
  • Despite the large number of people on the trail, you will still find moments of solitude in the mountains.
  • This represents one of the most famous hikes in the world and culminates with the entrance to one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

What’s not so good about the Inca Trail?

  • 500 people leave each day (this includes tourists and travel staff).
  • Your reservation must be made at least 4 months in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the high season (May – September), no date changes are allowed.
  • If someone cancels, that space will simply not be used. There is no waiting list.
  • Many operators transport groups of up to 25 people (the maximum group size for Machupicchu Terra is only 15 people).
  • The campgrounds are full, the facilities crowded – not exactly a wilderness or adventure camping experience.
  • In some sections, it will resemble a highway (with many people on the road).

Advantages of alternative treks

  • On some of the hikes, your group may be the only one leaving that day.
  • Real barren camp.
  • The lack of archaeological sites is compensated by the cultural interaction with the locals and their customs (experiential tourism).

Disadvantages of alternative routes

  • None directly enter Machu Picchu.
  • Not as well known, which may raise doubts as to whether you have made the right decision.
  • There are no spectacular archaeological sites, which you will find on the Inca Trail.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 19-03-2024

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