The Classic Inca Trail and the Royal Inca Trail both like to play hard to get. It doesn’t matter how soon you make up your mind and book one these two beautiful treks, you are always prone to missing out on the last permits. You don’t want to think about alternatives, because you have been wanting to do the Inca Trail for years. Why would you settle for an alternative, if you can do the real deal? Good question. What if we told you, that the Inca Trail alternatives are actually better than the real deal?
Last update: July 2022
Eversince 2002, the Peruvian government has a strict permit system for the famous Inca Trail. The classic path to Machu Picchu became overrun and some structure was needed. The permit system helps to keep the trail clean and allows everyone to have a genuine Inca Trail experience. It can be very disappointing when the permits for your preferred travel dates have run out. This either means that you have to try your luck for other dates or postpone your plans (another) year. You would do that because you are looking for a genuine, authentic Inca Trail experience. Right? Hold on there. Genuine and authentic. The Inca Trail system, Qhapaq Ñan, as a whole has an accumulated length of 40.000 km. Surely there is something more genuine and authentic than a trek that attracts thousands and thousands of people per annum? Of course, there is. In fact, there are some Inca Trail alternatives in Peru that are much, much better than the Classic Inca Trail and the Royal Inca Trail. Here they are:
The Salkantay Trek goes via a part of the Inca Trail system that approaches Machu Picchu via a different trail. The trek is famous for the Salkantay Pass, which is 4600m high and needs to be crossed. It is not the only highlight on this trek: Llactapata, Llaqtapata in Quechua, is a complex with Incan Ruins. It is a great warmup for reaching the final destination of this trek: Machu Picchu. It is believed that Llaqtapata has been an important rest stop on the way to Machu Picchu during Incan times as well. A great drawcard for the Salkantay Trek is that, unlike on the Classic Inca Trail, you are not limited by permit regulations. The Salkantay Trek derives its name from Mount Salkantay or Nevada Salkantay. This is one of the most fascinating and iconic mountains in the Cusco Region. Also, it has the highest peak of the Willkapampa Range. If you need any more reasons to hike the Salkantay Trek, then know that Sallqantay is Quechua for ‘Savage’ or ‘Wild’.
On the Lares Trek, you feel like you have the Peruvian Andes to yourself. As you are trekking your way over the pristine hiking trails of the Lares, you feel that not everyone has experienced this gem of a trek yet. You are high in Andean Mountains where at night you can fantasize about the endless galaxy and you can try count the stars. Also, when hiking the Lares Trek, you are likely to meet the locals. As you are off the beaten track, you will navigate through small indigenous villages that are very welcoming to adventurers. At the end of it all, you also get to experience Machu Picchu.
The name at first almost makes you choke, but with a little bit of practice, you can get it right. This is one of the more quiet treks in the Cusco region. It usually consists of a 58km return to the Choquequirao Ruins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas near Cusco, Peru. It can be done as a separate trek or combined with a visit to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. It is a great Inca Trail alternative. The Choquequirao Trek takes you off the beaten paths and into the unknown. The name Choquequirao translates to ‘Cradle of Gold’ in the local language, Quechua. Found in the Andean highlands, it takes two days of hiking to access the ruins in the south of Peru. Built in the late-15th century, just like Machu Picchu, the site was never found by the Spanish conquistadors, and is an excellent example of Inca architecture. This is not just an alternative to the Inca Trail. The highest pass is even higher than the Dead Woman’s Pass.
Inca Jungle Trail Trek
If you want to do more on the way on the way to Machu Picchu, then the Inca Jungle Trek is your choice. This trek is not just a trek, it is much more than that. A typical Inca Jungle Trek itinerary includes zip lining, river rafting and even mountain biking. If you think you’ve got what it takes to make an adventure out of your trek to Machu Picchu, then you will get rewarded with seeing an unspoilt part of the Inca Trail system. The Inca Jungle Trek is predominantly popular amongst backpackers. No surprises there, because it has exactly the right price-quality comparison for those traveling on a shoestring. For anyone who wants to mix it up a little bit and wants to do more than hike for 4 days (yawn), the Inca Jungle Trail trek is an absolute no-brainer. Vamos!
Inca Quarry Trek
The Inca Quarry Trek. No permits, no crowds, access to Machu Picchu and more archeological sites. Why even bother worrying about Classic Inca Trail permits? Trek through amazing scenery, see waterfalls, visit archeological sites and enjoy breathtaking views of stunning valleys. The Inca Quarry Trek gets its name from the Cachicata Quarry. This quarry was the source for many of the rocks that were used to build parts of local Inca Trail system. In a way it’s no-brainer to do the Inca Quarry Trek or any other alternative for that matter. No queues, easy access to Machu Picchu and fewer chances of meeting your neighbors on the trail. Can’t make up your mind about what alternative to choose? Get in touch and let our trekking experts steer you in the right direction to Machu Picchu.
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