Hike to Machu Picchu

We are confident in saying that Machu Picchu is Peru’s number one attraction and our list of the best Machu Picchu tours will take you there.

An Inca city Mysteriously hidden in the cloud forests of the Sacred Valley, on the mighty Urubamba River, the Inca city of Machu Picchu has stood for more than an astonishing 500 years.

This Inca city was hidden from humanity all this time. Until the American explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered the site in 1911, and since the 1970s travelers have flocked to see the mystical temples of Machu Picchu and the legendary Sun Gate of the Incas.

Hike to Machu Picchu
Hike to Machu Picchu

To visit this Inca city is possible to do it by different ways and one of them is by train, thanks to the picturesque trip from Ollantaytambo to Hike to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the town that is located at the base of Machu Picchu.

But, our travel agency specializes in adventure travel and challenging treks. Some treks will take you through the lush Peruvian jungle on trails traced centuries ago by the Incas.

There are also treks that climb high mountain passes where you can see snow-capped peaks high above the clouds. And there are shorter day hikes that offer panoramic views of Machu Picchu itself.

Tours and Hike to Machu Picchu

Here we show you many of the most popular and exuberantly beautiful hike to Machu Picchu.

The ascent to Huayna Picchu Mountain

Huayna Picchu is the shark fin of a peak immediately behind Machu Picchu. You’ve probably seen it somewhere: it’s a common sight on postcards of the long-missed Inca city in the clouds.

Today, Huayna Picchu is also a popular addition for those visiting this Hike to Machu Picchu, offering some of the best views of the UNESCO World Heritage site and the «New Seven Wonders of the World» from the top.

Machu PIcchu Inca Trail Equipment

From our list of excursions to Machu Picchu, the hike to Huayna Picchu is not the easiest. It’s a 300-meter vertical ascent that starts on the north side of Machu Picchu’s main citadel.

You will have to get there on foot or by shuttle bus from Machu Picchu Pueblo before joining the start of the main Machu Picchu trail, which is marked by a guard house. The first section of the trail goes through thick jungle, with peaks and valleys, before reaching a steep fork. Here, you have two options to make this trek to Machu Picchu: go the short way or the long way.

The short trail is a one-hour round-trip hike that zigzags up the front of the peak to the summit. It is steep and has some narrow sections that require climbing.

The longer hike will take you up the back side of the mountain to the mysterious Inca Temple of the Moon (believed to have been a royal tomb) and then up a rocky trail to the summit.

The reward is a frontal panorama overlooking the stone slab that is Phutuq K’usi in the east, the terraces of Machu Picchu below, with breathtaking views of the Salkantay mountain.

There are currently two schedules for the Huayna Picchu hike, one at 7 am and the other at 10 am. The morning means less people on the route, but also a higher probability of fog. In the second schedule it is warmer; but the views are better, it is necessary to buy the entrance ticket in advance.

Only 200 permits are issued per day for Huayna Picchu, so it is important to reserve your place well in advance to climb this sacred mountain.

The Mountain of Machu Picchu

Located south of Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu mountain is one of the highest in the vicinity of Aguas Calientes, at 3,082 meters above sea level.

This hike is less frequented by passengers, so the hike is quieter and you will take better pictures.

To visit the guardian’s house located at the southern end of Machu Picchu, you have to look for it. It is located 30 minutes from the Sun Gate. There is where you show your passes and passport and start your journey in earnest.

Hike to Machu Picchu
Hike to Machu Picchu

The start of the hike is wide and paved and well maintained, but the Machu Picchu mountain steepens quickly.

The hike to Machu Picchu will soon take you amidst huge boulders jutting out from the side of the massif, and then you will pass Inca ruins that can be particularly difficult to walk after heavy rains.

The last stretch of this Hike to Machu Picchu enters more exposed areas with views of the lush green mountains rising to the east. Finally, you follow an open ridge along a dirt road to the refuge located at the summit.

This is where the breathtaking view of the citadel of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu behind awaits you, but also where you can look south to the snow-capped Salkantay.

There is a limit of 400 hikers per day on Machu Picchu Mountain, so be sure to book in advance for this world-class hike. The entire hike takes between 3 and 4 hours. We would say it is a more purist hike than Huayna Picchu.

We believe that Machu Picchu Mountain has better panoramic views of the Andes overlooking the Sacred Valley.

Classic Inca Trail 4 Days and Hike to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is possibly the most famous trekking route in the world. The trail follows an eroded route that was actually built by the Incas themselves, reaching the mythical temple of Machu Picchu.

Along the way, the Inca Trail passes through an area known as the Sacred Valley for its wealth of ancient sites, temple complexes and other ruins. There are multiple versions of this trek through Machu Picchu, but the most popular is the Classic Inca Trail. It usually lasts 4 days and 3 nights.

Hike to Machu Picchu
Machu PIcchu Inca Trail Equipment

Most Inca Trail tours begin with a pick-up from your hotel in the city of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire.

This trip will take you an hour and a half by car to the town of Ollantaytambo, from where there will be private transportation to the first checkpoint at kilometer 82.

The first day of trekking consists of gaining altitude as you climb the Urubamba Mountain Range and see the incredible Inca grain silos of Llactapata.

The second day of the Inca Trail trek is a real challenge above the clouds. Things start in the lush meadows of the Llulluchapampa highlands with the mighty peak of Huayanay lurking behind.

Then you reach the highest point of the entire trail, the Paso de la Mujer Muerta (4,214 meters).

The third day is lower, in a wetter terrain where the archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca watches over.

On the fourth day, you will explore the actual grounds of Machu Picchu, behind the iconic Sun Gate.

There are currently quite strict rules about the number of people who can hike the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is important to note that admissions are limited to 500 per day, but only 200 of these places are allocated to hikers.

The remaining are reserved for cooks, porters, and guides, so you should book your Inca Trail trip well in advance. If you are eager to learn more about this classic Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu, we have answered the most searched questions about the Inca Trail.

Salkantay Trek Details

  • Distance: ~45km
  • Average walking distance per day: ~12km
  • Maximum altitude: ~4,200 m (Warmiwanusca Pass, also known as Dead Women’s Pass).
  • Number of days: 4D/3N (can be extended to 5D/4N for hikers who want to spend an extra day in Machu Picchu)
  • Difficulty: +++ (the trail consists of many steps that are a strain on the knees)
  • Best time: The dry months of May through September are best. Note that the trail is the busiest at this time. The rainy months of March/April and October/November can be good. The trail is closed in February and is very wet in December and January.
  • Lodging: Camping
  • Route Guide: Inca Trail

Salkantay Trekking

If you have come to the Cusco region in search of visions of snow-capped peaks that look like sleeping giants, the Salkantay Trail is probably the route to Machu Picchu for you. This trail, which is certainly for the most devoted hikers, takes at least 5 full days to complete and traverses some of the most amazing areas of the Sacred Valley. It is more physically demanding than the Inca Trail, has a little less history, but much more out-of-the-ordinary mountain terrain on your way to Machu Picchu.

Salkantay Trekking

The traditional Salkantay trek begins with a walk from Soraypampa to the turquoise waters of Lake Humantay.

Lake Humantay is located in an amphitheater of Andean peaks, with the mighty peak of Salkantay (6,271 meters) watching from the clouds.

The next morning marks the beginning of the hardest part of the trek, as we gain altitude to cross the high Salkantay pass at 4,600 meters. The mountains feel very close, the air is thin, but the views are simply spectacular.

After that high point, you will descend into the green rainforest and grasslands on the way to Lucmabamba. There, you will walk in the company of hummingbirds and herds of alpacas as you trek north towards Machu Picchu. Arrival at the famous UNESCO site is reserved for the fifth day, but most travelers opt to soak in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes before reaching Machu Picchu.

Salkantay Trek Details

  • Distance: ~55km
  • Average walking distance per day: ~12km
  • Maximum altitude: ~4,600m (El Passo – Salkantay Pass)
  • Number of days: 5D/4N
  • Difficulty level: (long trekking days and high altitude)
  • Best time: The dry months from May to September are the best. Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay is not too crowded during these months. The rainy months of March/April and October/November can be good months and are much quieter. The trail can be hiked all year round, but we recommend avoiding the rainiest months (December, January and February).
  • Lodging: Camping, with one night hotel in Aguas Calientes.
  • Route Guide: Salkantay Route

Hiking through Vilcabamba

If you are looking for a challenge on your trek to Machu Picchu, this is the test for you. While crowds of travelers flock to the famous Classic Inca Trail and Salkantay views, the Vilcabamba Traverse remains firmly out of the spotlight.

This is the Machu Picchu traverse to do if you are truly looking for a remote and rugged adventure experience. The Vilcabamba traverse is breathtakingly beautiful, requires no permit, and traverses some of the most unexplored parts of the Sacred Valley. Sold? Let’s take a look at what the hike entails….

The Vilcabamba hike begins with a sort of loop around the mighty Nevado Veronica massif.

You will pass from the winding Urubamba River to the dusty canyons of the Abra Malaga highlands by car. With your boots on, you will descend into the Chaullay Valley, a hidden land of green meadows and fascinating pre-Columbian religious sites such as the Ñusta Hispana (the mysterious White Rock).

The second day of this trip to Machu Picchu joins the historic Inca trails that take you higher and higher to reveal the rock-riddled peaks rising from the flourishing rainforests.

Day 4 is the true jewel in the crown of the Vilcabamba Traverse. It is also by far the most demanding part of the trip. It involves a trio of high-altitude passes, starting at Yanacocha (4,420 meters), passing through Tullu Tacanca (4,500 meters), and ending at Mojon (4,510 meters).

Here we will have impressive views, including some views of Huayna Picchu and the colossal Salkantay, but also of the eastern Andes rising near Lares and Chicon.

The Vilcabamba Traverse then moves westward. It traverses lower terrain filled with passion fruit farms and coffee plantations (you won’t lack for a drink during your hike!). A word of warning: This is the most difficult Machu Picchu hike on this list and requires good physical condition to walk.

Details of the hike in Vilcabamba

  • Distance: ~62km
  • Average walking distance per day: ~16km
  • Maximum altitude: ~4,500m (Tullu Tacanca Pass)
  • Number of days: 5D/4N
  • Difficulty: +++++ (arguably the most difficult hike to Machu Picchu, long days of hiking and many high passes)
  • Best time: The dry months of May through September are the best. This trail is always empty, so you don’t have to worry about crowds. Rainy months are not good, as the trail becomes very muddy and fog is common in the Vilcabamba River Valley.
  • Lodging: Camping, with a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
  • Guide of the route: Vilcabamba Hike

The hike to Lares, the Hike to Machu Picchu Tour

Often omitted to mention this hike, the hike to Lares which has an impressive relevance, Lares Trek is a true adventure in its own right.

It takes you through the Lares Valley, in the more unknown eastern part of Machu Picchu. This is a place steeped in local tradition; a land of hardy alpacas and weaving communities where the first language is Quechua.

Although no permit is required to hike the Lares route, there is no need to worry about crowds, as it is a trail that escapes the footfall of other trails in the region.

The hike to Lares, which usually takes 3 days, begins with a long bus ride from the town of Lares to the trailhead below the Huilquijasa pass. It is a challenging start, taking you more than 4,200 meters above sea level to a plateau dotted with shimmering lakes.

Hike to Machu Picchu
Hike to Machu Picchu

On the second day, we will make a descent into a land of forgotten villages surrounded by icy peaks. Then you have to conquer the highest point, which exceeds 4,694 meters. The last stretch takes you to Ollantaytambo, where you can rest before exploring Machu Picchu itself.

The most popular version of the Lares Trail is often called the Weavers’ Trail. This is because it includes a stop in the isolated valley of Huacawasi, a place of ancestral artisan communities that still live according to their ancient Inca traditions. It is considered the most culturally complete option of all the excursions to Machu Picchu and is still relatively unknown.

Details of the Lares route

  • Distance: ~33km (varies according to route variation)
  • Average walking distance per day: ~8km
  • Maximum altitude: ~4,450m (Ipsaycocha Pass)
  • Number of days: 4D/3N (may be extended or shortened depending on the variation of the route and the number of days spent in Machu Picchu).
  • Difficulty: ++ (relatively easy, with a difficult pass)
  • Best time: The dry months of May through September are best. The trail never gets too crowded during the high season. The rainy months of March/April and October/November can be good. The trail can be hiked year-round, but we recommend avoiding the rainiest months (December, January and February).
  • Lodging: Camping, with the one-night hotel in Machu Picchu Pueblo
  • Route Guide: Lares trekking

We hope you are excited to embark on an adventurous trip to the Sacred Valley and that you have enjoyed this guide to the 6 best treks to Machu Picchu. If you have, you’ll also love that we’ve created the most comprehensive guide on the internet on the Hike to Machu Picchu to help you prepare for a truly epic trek. Be sure to also check out the best places to visit in the extraordinary country of Peru and contact us for more information on planning your dream trip.