A visit to Peru is not complete without a trip to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. The 15th century citadel lies on a mountain ridge nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. For most, the journey to Machu Picchu begins in Cusco, an historical town where many visitors stay to get acclimated to the altitude before heading to the Incan city. Although they end with the same destination, many different routes are available to accommodate the interests and abilities of every type of traveler. Below, the team at GlobalEntryServices.org explains some ways that travelers can reach the hilltop ruins.
Travelers can head to the Cusco train station in Poroy (located just outside of Cusco) to take a train ride to Aguas Calientes, a town located 3.7 miles from Machu Picchu. The scenic train ride will take one hour and forty-five minutes. Once in Aguas Calientes, travelers can take a fifteen-minute bus trip to Machu Picchu. The team at GlobalEntryServices.org recommends purchasing your train well in advance of your trip, as tickets often sell out months in advance. The standard economy train ticket costs about $80.
- The Inca Trail
The Inca Trail takes trekkers to Machu Picchu on a 28-mile stretch of road built by the Inca. On this trail through the Andes, travelers will encounter Incan ruins and endure several distinct natural environments. The Inca Trail is considered the most authentic way to get to Machu Picchu, as it’s the only route that lets visitors enter the citadel through Inti Punku (The Sun Gate), the entrance used by the Incans. The trek requires the assistance of a guide and takes about four days and three nights to complete. The cost of the hike is typically around $600 to $800. The team at GlobalEntryServices.org suggests booking your trips months in advance, as only 500 spaces are available each day.
- One-day Inca Trail
The One-day Inca Trail is just what you might think: a shortened version of the four- to five-day Inca Trail hike. To begin the hike, travelers will have to take the train from Cusco. Instead of riding all the way to Aguas Calientes, the traveler will get off the train at stop KM 104 and begin the five- to eight-hour hike to Machu Picchu. The team at GlobalEntryServices.org recommends taking the earliest train in order to accomplish the hike in a day.
- Salkantay Trek
The 34-mile Salkantay Trek takes tourists to Machu Picchu by leading them around the 20,569-foot high Salkantay Mountain, one of the tallest peaks in the Andes. Like the Inca trail, the Salkantay Trek passes through diverse ecosystems, including tropical jungles and sub-zero snowy tundra. The trek finally ends in Aguas Calientes. This trail is longer and less expensive than the Inca Trail trek. Travelers can take a five-day, four-night tour that costs about $250. The Salkantay Trek does not require a guide, but trekkers who go it alone should be experienced and prepared.
- Inca Jungle Trek
The Inca Jungle Trek is the best choice for adrenaline junkies. The journey involves some hiking, but it also involves steep downhill mountain biking, whitewater rafting and zip lining. Those on the Inca Jungle Trek will spend their nights in hostels and a hotel. The journey is available in a four-day, three-night version and a three-day, two-night version.
- Lares Route
The Lares Route is the best option for travelers seeking culture. The trek takes travelers on a three- to five-day trip through the Lares Valley, where they will pass through villages and witness local Andeans weaving clothing, tending to llamas and planting potatoes, all in the traditional fashion. The trek ends in Ollantaytambo, where trekkers can take a ninety-minute train ride to Machu Picchu.
For about $15, Machu Picchu-bound travelers can take a minibus to Hidroelectrica. From there, travelers can take a short train ride to Aguas Calientes. However, the team at GlobalEntryServices.org recommends taking the relatively easy, scenic two- to three-hour hike from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes instead.
- The Chaski Trail
The Chaski Trail, also known as the Cachicata Trail, is a new trek that is ideal for less experienced hikers. The 15.5-mile hike takes four days and three nights. Like the Lares route, the Chaski Trail offers plenty of opportunities for travelers to encounter locals and learn a little bit about Andean culture.