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Plan your perfect Machu Picchu trek

Kandoo's View

Kandoo is all about trekking and we initially thought Machu Picchu might be too much culture and not enough trekking.

After a month hiking different routes around Machu Picchu we realised we were 100% wrong. Machu Picchu is certainly about amazing culture, but it is also about great trekking - there is a huge range of fantastic choices.

If you are totally into mountains you can trek around Salkantay. If history is what you love, you can follow the Inca  trail. If you want to explore unchanged local villages, you can take the Lares trail.

All these routes lead to the spectacular temple at Machu Picchu, so choose what you like and book now!

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Which is the best route to trek to Machu Picchu?

There is no one best route to Machu Picchu. All the routes are really great so we have chosen a range of routes which are all very different. Hopefully this will mean there is one route that is perfect for you.  The  routes on which we run a regular schedule of open group treks are the Inca trail, the Short Inca trail,  the Salkantay trail and the Lares trail.   A map of these routes and a brief description is below. 

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THE INCA TRAIL | This is by far the most famous trek in South America. You see beautiful mountain scenery,  cloud-forests, subtropical jungle and lots of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels.  You will arrive at Machu Picchu, the mysterious "Lost City of the Incas" via the famous Sun Gate. Bear in mind though that the number of trekkers on this route is strictly controlled by permits. If you want to trek on this route you will need to book really early. For more about permits see here.

THE SHORT INCA TRAIL | Ideal for those short on time, this trek starts at KM104.  In just a one day hike you will arrive via the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu.  Great for those who want to trek on the Inca trail but don't like camping!

SALKANTAY TRAIL | This trek passes around the 20,500-feet-high Mount Salkantay. It then cuts through the beautiful Mollepata Valley before taking you around the mountains to arrive at Agua Calientes. There are less ruins on this route but also far fewer trekkers. National Geographic liked this trail so much they included it in their list of the World's Best Hikes.

LARES TRAILThe Lares trek is an excellent trail for those who want to get off the ‘beaten track’. It treks through Andean communities whose way of life has  stayed the same for centuries. You are still surrounded by stunning mountains but the real interest is in the fascinating villages you trek through.  Ranked as one of the top alternative routes to Machu Picchu.

For more detailed advice on routes take a look at our Machu Picchu route recommendations here.

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When is the best time to trek to Machu Picchu?

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Average Rainfall (cm) | Machu Picchu

The best time to trek to Machu Picchu is during the dry season which starts in May and runs through to September. 

The shoulder months of March and October are also good if you can cope with the occassional downpour. The trails are much quieter during the shoulder months.

It is possible to trek during the full rainy season but you need to expect to have warm sunny periods with short, sharp very heavy rain. You can find more details about the weather at Machu Picchu here.

The Classic Inca trail closes for the whole month of February each year for repair and maintenance, but it is possible to trek on other alternative Machu Picchu routes at this time. 

Flight prices

Flying to Machu Picchu is never cheap, but prices go up a lot during the main summer season. If you can book early you might get a good deal, otherwise off-peak periods are a much more economical option.

Festivals

Throughout the year there are many festivals held in Cuzco which are certainly worth fitting  into your trip. A really good guide to the festivals and when they happen can be found here.

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Frequently asked questions

Q1How difficult is it to hike to Machu Picchu

The treks we operate range in difficult to very hard. The Short Incal trail is a one day trek with a tour of the ruins on the second day and is a very easy option. The full Inca trail is one of the easier treks we operate and it is only when you look at the the longer treks like Vilcabamba that they become more challenging.

Q2What kit do I need for the trek?

You will not get big changes in temperature on a Machu Picchu trek so you will need fewer clothes. A pair of shorts, a t shirt and a thin fleece are fine for the day and a change into trousers and a thicker fleece/jacket for the evening. These can also be used if the daytime temperatures do get colder.

For wet weather gear we recommend using a plastic poncho. Even when it rains the humidity is high and goretex  will not let your body breath fast enough to rid of sweat - you then get wet from the inside.  We provide a full list of what you need on Machu Picchu packing list  as well as a printable checklist.

Q3What is the difference between an open group climb and a private climb?

Private treks to Machu Picchu are your own personal adventure. They give you total flexibility to tailor-make your trip. Just choose your date, route and any of our tailor-made options.  A private trek is ideal for a group of friends, a charity group or a couple looking to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary.  Upgrades to private climbs start from £100 per person depending on the size of the group.

If you want the company of others while you trek to Machu Picchu then an open group is perfect for you. We have a schedule of open group treks every week during the trekking season from March through January.  They are limited to a maximum of 12 climbers to make sure you get the best chance of summit success.

Q4Do you organise charity treks to Machu Picchu?

Yes, we can organise Machu Picchu charity treks for fundraisers and for anyone looking to trek to raise money for your favourite charity.  We do not  organise treks where the cost of the trip is funded by donations.  For more information on our charity treks and climbs in all destinations then take a look here.

Q5Can I climb Huayna Picchu?

Absolutely yes!  It looks impossible when you see a picture but Inca path builders have built a series of steep staircases. You will want to use your hands for balance but it requires no technical climbing skills

You do though need a separate permit and these are in high demand. They must be booked at the same time as you book your trek to guarantee your place as a Huayna Picchu climber.  Read more about it here

Q6How do I get to Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is not easy to reach as there are no direct flights. All routes either  take you via Lima, the capital of Peru, or via Bogota. This difficulty can be made worse by the fact that strong winds often close Cuzco airport in the afternoon.  From Europe the best flights are with KLM . From North America there is a wider range of options including American Airlines and US Airways.  More detailed advice on flights can be found here.

Q7What are the passport and visa requirements?

A visa can be bought for all nationalities on arrival. Unlike a lot of destinations there is no minimum term required as outstanding on your passport. For more detailed advice on visas see here Remember if you are trekking the classic Inca trail you will need to keep your passport on you to be checked at the start of the trek.

Q8What will the food be like on the trek?

The food that our cooks provide on our Machu Picchu treks is amazing.  If you have special dietary requirements we can handle most things so just let us know well in advance.  More detailed information on food on our treks can be found here

Q9What are the tents you use like?

On all our treks we use comfortable three person mountain tents . They are extremely strong and with only two people in them you have plenty of room. Our mess tents are tall, strong and comfortable allowing plenty of space for large chairs.  More information about our tents can be found here .

Q10What are the toilets like?

On all our treks to Machu Picchu we provide a private toilet tent. This is a plastic toilet seat with a bucket underneath.  Absolutely everything has to be carried out, so you do your business into a plastic bag which sits inside the bucket. This  contains crystals to dehydrate everything.  Our team then take care of the rest, as we've said, everything has to be carried out -  including your pee and poo!

For those trekking the Inca trail, there are several public toilets on the trail on day one of the trek, but there are very few after that. You also need to pay 1 sol to use the public toilets, so make sure you have some change on you if you want to use these. Public toilets are all stand up and squat type.  Generally, there is no need to use these as we will set up a private toilet for use by our group.

Q11How will I wash during the trek?

Every morning and evening you will be provided with a bowl of hot water for washing. As well as this we strongly recommend a good supply of baby wipes for cleaning hands during the day.  Another option is to take baby-wipes and do a "pits and bits " wash.  Remember that everything, including rubbish and used wet wipes, have to carried out.

Q12Will I be able to get mobile signal while trekking to Machu Picchu?

Trails to Machu Picchu are remote and, in many areas, you are surrounded by mountains. There is, therefore, very rarely any mobile reception on the trails themselves, however, once you reach Aguas Calientes, you will be able to get a mobile signal. You can also get WiFi at some hotels/restaurants

Q13How should I expect to pay for tips?

Tips are not a substitute for us paying good wages. Kandoo pay our crew some of the highest wages of any operator.  Tips are customary in Peru and we recommend $20 per day for the guide, $12 per day for the cook and $5 per day for the porters. These are all costs for the group. Of course tipping is optional. If you are not happy with the service do not feel under any pressure to pay tips.  More advice on tipping can be found here

Q14What do you do for the local community?

Working with the local community is one of our highest priorities in all destinations.  We work hard to give something back to each area we operate in, through our Kandoo Foundation.  In Peru, we have recently opened a cultural craft centre in the Sacred Valley. This allows you to see first hand the local Peruvian people weaving and producing handicrafts.   

Q15Do I need any vaccinations?

The list of vaccinations recommended for a visit to Machu Picchu is quite long, and includes the Rabies vaccine, as well as other popular holiday vaccinations. For up to date advice on vaccinations, see here 

Q16What insurance do I need for my trek?

You must have proper insurance  for all of our Machu Picchu treks.  This must cover you up to an altitude of 4,500m, and  should specifically include the costs of emergency evacuation in case this is necessary. More advice on insurance can be found here.

Q17WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF MACHU PICCHU?

Machu Picchu has been called ‘The Lost City of the Incas'. It is located atop a mountain ridge, more than 2400 metres above sea level. It overlooks the Urubamba Valley and is less than 80 kilometres from the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco.  It is believed that Machu Picchu was constructed in the early 1400s as a palace and temple complex for an emperor.  Its ruins are very well preserved, and an excellent example of the ‘classic Incan style’ of architecture.

Q18HOW WAS MACHU PICCHU CONSTRUCTED?

It was built with polished dry-stone walls and thatched roofs.  Incan stone work used huge stone blocks carefully ground and shaped to fit together. These were combined in perfect complex patterns without mortar. The fact that they are still standing in this earthquake-prone region shows how well they were built. The stone used for Machu Picchu was quarried from the site itself. Chippings from the large stones went to form the terraces and courtyards allowing them to drain off the heavy rainfall they receive without too much erosion.

Q19WHAT ARE SOME OF MACHU PICCHU’S MOST IMPORTANT SITES?

The site has two primary components: the agricultural sector and the urban sector. The urban areas are further divided into the upper town or temple district, and the warehouses of the lower town. It has around 200 buildings constructed in wide terraces, centred on a large public square. To the west of this square is a tower called the Torreón, which was very likely an astronomical observatory (without a telescope, of course). Also of interest are the Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows, and the Inti Watana stone. These were all central to the worship of the chief Inca god, Inti, who was associated with the sun. The Inti Watana, sometimes called ‘the Hitching-post of the Sun’, is a stone set up to mark the position of the sun at the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. Note that Bingham named it such, based on his limited understanding of its religious significance and his desire to make for compelling publication. Modern researchers believe the stone is more likely a calendar, much like Britain’s Stonehenge. The Inti Mach’ay is an actual site associated with the worship of Inti at Machu Picchu. It is a carefully constructed artificial cave designed to only receive light for a few days around the winter solstice, when the Royal Feast of the Sun was celebrated. Young nobles would be initiated into manhood by having their ears pierced as the sun rose upon them in the cave.

Q20WHEN WAS MACHU PICCHU DISCOVERED?

There is some evidence that Europeans may have found Machu Picchu’s existence in the mid to late 19th century.

The most famous discovery was by an American named Hiram Bingham in 1911. He publicised it widely and explored the ruins in a lot of detail.

Q21WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF MACHU PICCHU?

Machu Picchu is Peru's biggest tourist attraction and they are working hard to protect it.  At the same time they want to get lots of visitors so they are making changes to permits to restrict the time you can spend in the ruins. This has split the day into morning and afternoon permits.

These changes are not great for tourists, but it is the only way to manage the number of tourists while protecting the ruins.

Why trek to Machu Picchu with Kandoo Adventures?

 
Safety: our top priority
Safety: our top priority

Our expert team of guides do everything possible to ensure your safety on the trek

 
Climbers have more fun with Kandoo
Climbers have more fun with Kandoo

Safety and summiting are top priorities but we also make the adventure fun

 
Uniquely operate our own climbs
Uniquely operate our own climbs

It might seem surprising but we are the only major operator who actually runs their own treks.

 
Exceptional guides
Exceptional guides

We employ and train all our own guides and have become the employer of choice for all the best guides in Machu Picchu.

 
Delicious food
Delicious food

We make sure all our meals are really tasty and that there is plenty for even the biggest appetites.

 
You book direct to get great prices!
You book direct to get great prices!

Because we sell direct to you we offer exceptional quality and great prices too.

Some of the other great things you can do while visiting Machu Picchu

 
Titicaca
Visit Lake Titicaca

Squeezed between the mountains of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is one of the most fascinating lakes in the world. It is the world's highest navigable lake at over 3800 meters and is a sacred place for the Inca civilization. Their mythology says that the first Inca king, Manco Capac, was born here....

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COLCA opt
Hike Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon is immense: twice as deep as the USA's Grand Canyon. Unlike the Grand Canyon though, the area is remarkably fertile and you can see the local people farming here on the pre-Inca stepped terraces. And of course Colca is really famous for the rare Andean Condors which can be seen at close range....

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jungle
Experience the Amazon jungle

Just the name Amazon conjures up images of ancient tribes, dense untouched forest and incredible wildlife. Whether you visit the Amazon for just two days or much longer you will not leave disappointed. ...

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Fly over the Nazca Lines
Fly over the Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are what archaeologists call geoglyphs. These are patterns carved into the ground creating images. The geoglyphs at Nazca are vast. Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, they cover an area of about 450 sq. km....

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shutterstock 1035773533
Trek to the Rainbow mountains

See the incredible, colourful, candy-striped Rainbow Mountains of Vinicunca, to the east of Cusco...

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About Machu Picchu

When you reach the end of your trek and arrive at Machu Picchu you will be standing 2,430 m above sea-level, on a sharp ridge rising above a tropical mountain forest. The setting is simply breathtaking.  As well as the beautiful natural setting, the scale of the construction and the feat of engineering to build in this location are quite amazing. Giant walls, temples, and houses have been cut into the rock itself and the surrounding forest has a huge diversity of flora and fauna.

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Machu Picchu was built around the fifteenth century but was sadly abandoned when the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Incas in the sixteenth century. It was then left unknown to the rest of the world until 1911 when it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham.

Since then, Machu Picchu has become huge tourist attractions. Progressively more of the site has been cleared of jungle and more of the buildings have been reconstructed.  The restoration work still continues, although the fast growing jungle makes even keeping the existing cleared site free of forest a huge task.

Machu Picchu was built with highly polished dry-stone walls in the best classical Inca style. Approximately 200 buildings are arranged on wide parallel terraces around a vast central square that is oriented east-west and is believed to be a public place of worship.

There are three large structures contained in what archaeologists call the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. These are the Inti Watana (a ritual stone associated with the astronomic clock), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.

The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, as well as the upper town and the lower town. The temples are part of the upper town, the warehouses the lower. Maintaining Machu Picchu and all its visitors required an army of workers and servants and a huge amount of food and the extensive terraces were used for agriculture with complex irrigation providing water for the fields.  For more on what you can see at the ruins see "Top 10 things to do at Machu Picchu"


 

Speak with an expert Start planning your next adventure by contacting one of our team.
Sarah BW

Sarah Orson

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 1283 499980

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Rachael Bode

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: + 44 1283 499982

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Sharon King

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 1283 499981

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