Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — When visiting Peru, most people think there’s only one option for trekking to Machu Picchu: the four-day Inca Trail hike. Fortunately, now there are at least three alternative routes for reaching the famed Inca citadel—each with its own unique sites along the way. This summer, Ben Westwood, author of Moon Machu Picchu, shares four of the best ways to make a pilgrimage to the lost city of Inca.
The Four-Day Inca Trail Hike
This hike, which threads two 4,000-meter passes on the way from the high Andes to the cloud forest, has become a signature experience for arriving at Machu Picchu. The first and second day are the toughest; the fourth day is a short hike to Machu Picchu, followed by the full ruins tour.
The Two-Day Inca Trail Hike
If camping is not for you, or you are short on time, try the abbreviated version of the Inca Trail. In order to take in the final set of spectacular ruins at Wiñay Wayna, trekkers start farther down the trail and enter Machu Picchu at dawn through the Sun Gate. You spend your first day hiking the Inca Trail and seeing ruins and your first night sleeping in a hotel at Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. The second day is spent exploring Machu Picchu.
The Salcantay Five-Day Trek
While the trek past Nebado Salcantay, a 6,000-meter-plus peak, does not contain the stone paths and ruins of the Inca Trail, this five-day trek offers a wilderness experience and spectacular views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks. It’s also far less expensive than the Inca Trail, and trekkers are free to hike independently (unlike on the Inca Trail, where everyone must sign up with a licensed agency). The trek is longer and higher than the Inca Trail, but new sustainable eco-lodges have been built along the Salcantay route to allow trekkers to travel fast and light and stay in relative comfort.
Inca Jungle Trail
This multi-activity option is a good choice for backpackers on a budget. What it lacks in Inca ruins, it makes up for with the wonderful cloud forest scenery. The route enters Machu Picchu from the high mountains and cloud forests on its downstream side. Participants are first transported to Abra Málaga (4,300 meters), a high pass in the jungle, for a stunning mountain bike descent into the alpine zone to lush cloud forest nearly 3,000 meters below. From here, trekkers camp for the night and then head out on a cloud forest trek to Santa Teresa, a riverside village. On the third day, hikers head up to the Río Urumbamba to Aguas Calientes.
For more information, visit Moon.com and read Ben Westwood’s “The Best of Machu Picchu in Eight Days.”
About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com:
Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, California, Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon online at Moon.com.