Guide for Hiking From Cusco to Machu Picchu

The treks from Cusco to Machu Picchu are very moderate for most hikers, and it is a popular way for pilgrims to get to Machu Picchu. Snow-capped mountains, diverse Andean vegetation, hospitable locals, and more than that. Wondering about hiking from Cusco to Machu Picchu but have no idea? This article introduces three main treks from Cusco to Machu Picchu, provides you with a packing list, and some tips you wish to know before your tour.

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu

Inca Trail:

The Inca Trail is the most famous way to get to Machu Picchu and one of the most famous treks in South America. This is the official route, which means it needs to be reserved early and well-planned for a better experience.

The classic Inca Trail is about 26 miles (42 km) to hike, and the maximum elevation of this trail can reach 13828 feet (4214.8 meters). It is challenging, but most hikers can complete it if they are well-prepared in advance. On this trek, you can hike through the Andes and see the snow-capped mountains, and you may meet cute alpacas on the road.

Cute Alpacas Along the RoadCute Alpacas Along the Road

It takes 4 to 5 days for hikers to finish the Inca Trail, or you can choose to take a train from Ollantaytambo to the train station km 104 and start your hike from there, there are still 7 miles (11 km) to arrive at Machu Picchu. In this part of the Inca Trail, the altitude is between 6726 feet (2050 meters) to 9022 feet (2750 meters).

Ollantaytambo StationOllantaytambo Station

Inca Trail does not accept hikers individually, so you can only enter with local guides. This trail only allows 500 people to enter per day, including 200 tourists, 100 guides, and 200 porters. It can be arranged as a journey for two to seven days, and the difficulty is from hard to moderate, depending on your choice.

Salkantay Trek

This is also a popular trek with beautiful scenery. Usually as the alternative to the Inca Trail.

The Salkantay Mountains is known locally as "the guard of Andes". It is one of the highest in Peru Andes Mountain. This trek is 46 miles (74 km), much longer than the Inca Trail. This route needs more time to hike and is also more difficult.

Usually, it will take five days to hike, and you need to hike 6 to 7 hours per day depending on your speed. But with this route, you can indulge in the charisma of Peru more deeply, embrace nature, communicate with locals, and escape from your daily routines of hustle and bustle.

In Salkantay Trek, you can hike through deserts, admire lush jungles, and encounter beautiful lagoons. With a maximum elevation of 15090 feet (4600 meters), hikers need to prepare more carefully before and during the hike. During this route, you can visit the communities that still practice ancestral traditions on the agricultural calendar and learn to harvest avocado, coffee, and granadillas (depending on the time of the year). If you are interested, we are happy to help you to customize your Peru hiking tour.

Lares Trek

This trek is about 24 miles (39 kilometers) long and requires a hike of 5 to 6 hours per day. It is shorter than Inca Trails, and more importantly, it does not need official permission to hike. It is another choice for travelers who can not reserve tickets for Inca Trail. The difficulty is moderate, but it reaches a higher altitude than the Inca Trail. The elevation of the Lares trek reaches 15778 feet (4809 meters).

In Lares Trek, you can encounter thousands of llamas and alpacas and appreciate the Andean vegetation. Lares is close to the Sacred Valley. Before starting the trek, you can spend a day visiting the terrace and Inca Citadel nearby to learn more about the history of the Inca Empire.

Sacred ValleySacred Valley

Compared to the former two trails, this route is more cultural, and you can learn more about how locals live and work. Lares Valley is famous for its homemade textiles, and here live many traditional weavers. You can interact with local people and experience the traditional lifestyle of locals. It provides opportunities to visit local villages to learn about Andean textiles. Watching how they produce the textiles and try some parts of producing, and if you want, you can buy some Andean handicrafts before you leave there.

Trekking Pole

Please remember to bring a trekking pole with you or purchase one before your journey to Machu Picchu. It will help a lot for the long-term trudge. Because it can reduce the pressure on knees during trekking in the highlands. But remember not to buy a metal-tipped trekking pole because it is not allowed to be used, for protecting the roads of the Inca Trail.

Outdoor Jacket

It is wise to prepare an outdoor jacket that is waterproof. It may also rain accidentally during the dry season in Peru. And a jacket can also help you to keep warm in cold weather in the morning and after the sun goes down.

Base Layer

You may sweat a lot during hiking and the base layer would be helpful for you to keep dry and comfortable during the long term hiking. Remember to bring at least 2 pieces of base layer for change.

Cashmere Tops

It is important to keep warm during trekking in the Andeans Mountains to prevent you from catching a cold. And wearing tops made of cashmere will keep you warm and light, which can help you to keep energy during trekking.

Duffle Bag and Backpack

All belongings should be arranged well before you leave home. Distinct the things you need to use during the journey and put them in the backpack to find them easily and conveniently. Put those you may need to use during trekking including a jacket, water bottle, energy snacks, trekking pole, camera, etc. Put those you won't use in your duffle bag and let the porters help to bring.

Items for Sun Protection

Protect yourself from the sun while trekking in Peru because you will hike for at least 5 hours per day in the sunshine. Not only because you may get a sunburn, but also because it will affect your health and stamina during the trek.

So sunscreen, a hat that can cover your neck, and long sleeves are necessary when you are packing your bag for the Peru tour.

Protect Yourself From SunProtect Yourself From Sun

Hiking Boots and Socks

Kindly remind in case you have no experience of trekking, do not bring a pair of new shoes to hike. Make sure to bring your 'old pal' to hike to avoid being chafed by the shoes.

And remember to bring enough socks to change because it will be stinky after one day of trekking. It is not that convenient to wash it during your journey so the solution is to take enough socks for your whole journey.

Sleeping Bag

Trekking from Cusco to Machu Picchu usually needs to stay overnight on the highlands. The travel agency usually will prepare basic equipment for camping, you can check the list before your trip. If you mind about whether it is used by others or not, you can take a sleeping bag liner by yourself.

Water Bottle

It is very important to keep hydrated for hiking in the Andes Mountains. It is helpful to reduce the possibility of altitude sickness. And you can also bring some sachets of salt to make saline water to drink, in order to maintain your salinity levels.

Personal Medication

Preparing personal medication before your tour is really important for you. It may not be that easy to purchase the medicine you usually use in a foreign country.

Bug Spray

To prevent you from being bitten by some unknown bugs during hiking in the forest, bug spray is necessary to pack.

Obey the 3 Layer Rule

Wearing multiple layers of clothing to adjust to the weather change and body heat release. The 3 layer rules will help you keep warm and dry during hiking. A base layer to soak up the sweat from your skin that keeps you dry and comfortable. The mid-layer helps you to keep warm. And the outer layer protects you from rain, wind, or some other elements.

Acclimatization to Altitude

From Cusco to Machu Picchu, you should rest well and keep hydrated in order to get used to the altitude height. Hiking, however, is still a physically taxing activity. Local people usually drink coca tea to reduce the effect of altitude, but if you want to use medicine to help, be sure to confirm the details with your doctor before your Peru tour.

Book in Advance

The Inca Trail restricts 200 travelers from entering per day. It is wise for you to book in advance at least in a month. Especially during the peak season, it is really hard to gain a position on entering the Inca Trail. So at this time, you can consider hiking another trek route.

Peru usually rains in the summer (from November to April) and some of the treks are closed during this time, in the Amazon it rains a lot too if you plan to visit the rainforest. So it is better for you to reserve the tickets in the dry season (from May to October).

Customize Your Peru Trek with Odynovo

Peru is a country full of mysterious and natural wonders. Hiking in this country must be a unique and memorable experience for you. Hope this guide can help you with your Peru tour and inspire your trekking plan. If you have any other questions about your Peru tour, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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