Best hiking route to Machu Picchu


Are you searching for a Machu Picchu hike? Discover the top three options, including the pros and cons of each. Additionally, we’ll highlight some lesser-known treks you may want to consider.

Although arriving at Machu Picchu by wing suit or bungee jump would be pretty impressive, the best way to reach this ancient Inca city is on foot. The Machu Picchu hike is like a pilgrimage as you trek through the mountains and valleys of Peru, following in the footsteps of Inca people and olden-day explorers. This allows you to fully appreciate the setting and culture, instead of just quickly passing through as a tourist.

If you are now convinced to hike to Machu Picchu, you can choose from three main route options that will lead you to the foot of the Inca city: the Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, and Lares Trek. Each of these hikes has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to examine the details and select the best option for you. If you need more reasons to go hiking in Peru, check out “5 Reasons Why You Should Go Hiking in Peru” and then come back to choose your route.

1. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Let’s talk about the Inca Trail, which is one of the most famous routes to Machu Picchu. There are several starting points to the Inca Trail, and they are marked by the distance in kilometers from Cusco along the train line. For the classic Inca Trail, you begin at the 82nd kilometer marker, which is also known as Km 82.

The Inca Trail involves hiking up an old Inca road and reaching the famous Sun Gate, which offers a stunning view over Machu Picchu. This view is the one that you see in many photographs of Machu Picchu. If you are looking to capture that photo, then the Inca Trail may be the best choice for you. It is even possible to do a one-day Inca Trail trek, where you skip most of the hiking and just do the last day.

However, since the Inca Trail is the most famous route to Machu Picchu, it can be crowded with tourists. If you are hoping for a peaceful hike through the jungle, you may be disappointed. Additionally, you need to obtain a permit to hike the Inca Trail, and they tend to sell out quickly!

The Inca Trail is about 40 kilometers in length and typically takes four days and three nights to complete. Its start point is Km 82.

2. Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

If you want to avoid the crowds on the Inca Trail and prefer a shorter hike to Machu Picchu, then the Lares Trek may be the perfect solution. This route is renowned for its cultural experiences as the Lares Valley is home to many traditional weavers who produce high-quality handcrafts.

Unlike the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek does not require a permit and is still relatively unknown. However, it is important to note that the Lares Trek takes place at a higher altitude than the Inca Trail, so acclimatization is essential.

The Lares Trek covers a distance of 33 kilometers and typically takes two or three days with one or two nights of camping. The starting point is near Lares village.


Although it has been named as one of the top 25 treks in the world by National Geographic, the Salkantay Trek is still considered to be an off-the-beaten-path experience. This is because it is a longer trek, which naturally dissuades many tourists from embarking on it. However, if you have ample time for your holiday, it is definitely worth taking the time to explore this incredible route. After all, a trip to South America is not a weekend getaway!

The Salkantay Trek is designed for seasoned hikers and those who relish long treks through the mountains. The fact that it culminates at the modern wonder of Machu Picchu is simply an amazing bonus. Expect to trek through some challenging mountain passes and camp out in the wilderness overnight.

This trek is one of our top 5 multi-day treks in Peru that are not the Inca Trail. If Machu Picchu is not your sole objective, it is worthwhile to consider other exceptional trekking opportunities throughout Peru.

The Salkantay Trek spans 72 kilometers and typically requires a 5-day, 4-night commitment. It commences at Soraypampa.


Numerous alternative routes and tour companies claim to offer “the best new alternative to the Inca Trail.” However, it’s essential to check the details of each trek before selecting one since some take public transportation to Machu Picchu on the penultimate day.

Here are some examples of other hikes to Machu Picchu:

  • One Day Inca Trail – Starting at KM 104 and completing only the final day’s trek
  • Inca Jungle Trek – A blend of adrenaline-pumping activities with a small amount of hiking
  • Choquequirao Trek – Includes a visit to the Inca ruins of Choquequirao before joining the Salkantay Trek
  • Vilcabamba Traverse Route – A long trek (lasting one to two weeks!) through the mountains, which involves several high passes.

There are many more options available, whether you desire an adventurous hike to Machu Picchu or prefer a relaxed walk with hotel accommodations.

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