best machu picchu trek a comparison

Best Machu Picchu trek: a comparison

What is the Best Machu Picchu trek for you? We compare the pros and cons of each route to help you choose the trek that’s right for you.

Machu Picchu, that great Wonder of the World, that icon of South America so ubiquitous on travel websites and agency storefronts. Is it any wonder would-be visitors fret about choosing the perfect trek?

Some book their trip months in advance to make sure they get their trek of choice, others are left heartbroken when they turn up to find that they’ve missed the boat.

Prior to our trip, we had one pressing question: is the Inca Trail worth it?

With an open schedule that let us take in an impromptu cruise and an unexpected US road trip, we had no idea when we’d be in Peru let alone Cusco, so wanted to make sure the Inca Trail was worth the extra cost and extra planning. We trailed through itineraries, studied route maps and pored over the pros and cons.

In the end, we chose the best Machu Picchu trek for us: the 5-day, 4-night Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu with local company Alpaca Expeditions. We were keen to try a challenging route and avoid the crowds. Of course, we understand that different people have different desires.

Best Machu Picchu trek: a comparison

As such, we have put together a super-simple comparison table of the most popular treks to help you choose the best Machu Picchu trek for you.

It won’t tell you everything you need to know, but serves as a great starting point for making a decision. Let us know what you decide.

 IncaSalkantayLaresChoque-quiraoHuchuy Qosqo
Typical structure7D/6N, 5D/4N, 4D/3N, 3D/2N & 2D/1N5D/4N & 4D/3N4D/3N4D/3N, 5D/4N & 8D/7N3D/2N & 2D/1N
Max. altitude4,215m (13,821ft)4,600m (15,090ft)3,850m (12,631ft)4,670m (15,322ft)4,050m (13,287ft)
DifficultyEasy-mediumMedium-difficultMediumMedium-difficultEasy
SitesChachabamba, Wiñaywayna, Inca ruinsSalkantay mountain, Santa Theresa, IntiwatanaLares valley, hot springs, Salinas de Maras salt minesChoquequirao ruinsHuchuy Qosqo ruins, Puca Pucara
TerrainSteps and steep climbsCloud forest, river valleys, steep in placesLakes, cloud covered mountainsCanyons, river, cloud forestRocky valleys
ProsExcellent ruins, established campsites, historical routeGreat views, unique campsites, some Inca Trail includedCultural experience, remote communities, small group sizesDramatic ruins, secluded trails, excellent flora and faunaEstablished trail, good for families and those looking for a gentler trek
ConsCrowded, no horses allowed so porters carry load manually, must book far in advanceHigh altitudeLess dramatic sceneryHigh altitude, demanding routeLess dramatic scenery
Best forBragging rightsAdventureCultureSecluded ruinsShort and sweet
Price ($ USD)$425-$1,150$555-$575$555$600-$1,050$425-$485

Other treks to consider

  • Vilcabamba (6D/5N) trek through the Pantiacola Pass is a challenging longer trek from Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu.
  • Cachicata (4D/3N) trek is a good alternative quiet trek taking in views of high peaks and visiting alternative Inca sites.
  • Llama Ausangate 7D/6N and 5D/4N treks make the most of spectacular slopes of Ausangate Mountain, the highest peak in the Cusco region.
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