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About the Inca trail routes

There are literally thousands of miles of Inca trails that connect Machu Picchu with all the distant parts of the Incan Empire. Of  these, the Classic trail was the main pilgrimage route from Cuzco, the capital of the Incan Empire, to Machu Picchu. This became so popular in recent years that to prevent damage to the trail, the Park Authority introduced a permit system which strictly restricts traffic on this route.  Permits now sell out very quickly.

With access to the Classic trail restricted, interest in other Inca trails increased dramatically and there are now many Inca trails that are well established. Of all these routes we have chosen to run those which offer a range of scenery and length of trek to suit all trekkers. A map showing the different routes is below together with a brief description of each route. For each route there is also a detailed map and a 3d animated fly through of the route.

Inca trail routes map

Inca trails to Machu Picchu

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  classic inca

Classic Inca Trail

The Inca trail is the most well-known of all the trekking routes to Machu Picchu, but numbers are now heavily restricted by a very tight permit system. As a result permits, which were released in January for 2017, are already sold out until October. If you want to trek to Machu Picchu in 2017 we recommend either the Lares or Salkantay trail. Alternatively, you can book now for the Inca Trail in 2018 with a low deposit of £100pp.

Prices from £899 Prices From $1169 Prices From €0
7 days

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Lares trail

This trek is an excellent alternative to the Classic Inca trail for those who want to get off the ‘beaten track’ and would like to have a chance to visit authentic Andean communities whilst also being surrounded by stunning mountain, lake and valley landscapes. It begins from a small village in the Sacred Valley, crosses a pass over 4400 metres, passes through traditional, colourful villages and finishes with a visit to Machu Picchu

Prices from £799 Prices From $1039 Prices From €0
7 days

  Ausangate Trek route preview

Ausangate Trek

With several high passes to cross the Ausangate trek is not for the faint hearted and a good level of fitness is required. You will be rewarded by quiet, uncrowded trails, spectacular glacial lakes, stunning snow-capped peaks and the unusual red scree landscapes of the Rainbow Mountains of Vinicuna.

Prices from £899 Prices From $1169 Prices From €0
8 days

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Salkantay trail

One of the reasons the Classic Inca trail is popular is the incredible diversity of the views and ecosystems and in this respect the Salkantay route is even better. The walk is dominated by the 20,500-feet-high Mount Salkantay and cuts through the beautiful Mollepata Valley and passes Salkantay at an altitude above 15,000 feet before traversing around the mountains to arrive at Aguas Calientes.

Prices from £899 Prices From $1169 Prices From €0
8 days

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Inca trail approaching via Salkantay

The Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek combines the magnificent wilderness scenery of the Salkantay region with the cultural interest of the classic trail. Starting to the West of the Inca trail it crosses a high path and joins the main trail at Wayllabamba before continuing to arrive at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.

Prices from £1099 Prices From $1429 Prices From €0
10 days

  Machu Picchu Happy trekkers with Kandoo

Vilcabamba trail

This five day trek takes you right off the beaten track and far into the jungle where the Incas made their last stand against the Spanish. As well as enjoying a wealth of flora, fauna, snow peaks and impressive valleys, trekkers visit some of the last domains of the great Inca empire. The route runs through the sparsely populated Cordillera Vilcabamba, which looks much the same as when Hiram Bingham first explored here a century ago. This trek is not for the faint of heart or weak of legs, crossing three consecutive high mountain passes before descending into the jungle. The trek ends a short walk or train ride from Machu Picchu.

Prices from £899 Prices From $1169 Prices From €0
8 days

choquequirao trek to machu picchu

Choquequirao Trek

Choquequirao, meaning Cradle of Gold, is an Incan City built during the late 15th and early 16th century. It is thought that Pachacuti, the Incan Emperor responsible for commissioning Machu Picchu, founded Choquequirao, which was then passed on to his son, Tupaq Inka Yupanki, who then extended and remodelled it. Our Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is a challenging hike taking you off the beaten track to the fascinating Incan city of Choquequirao and the famous city of the Incas, Machu Picchu.

Prices from £1299 Prices From $1689 Prices From €0
12 Days

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Huchuy Qosqo

An excellent alternative to the Classic Inca trail. If you're short on time but still fancy doing a little bit of trekking before hitting the highlights of Machu Picchu, then the Huchuy Qosqo trail is perfect for you. With only 17km of trail and a maximum altitude climbed of 4350m, it is ideal for those looking for an introductory trek in the Peruvian Andes.

Prices from £749 Prices From $974 Prices From €0
6 days

Permits for the Inca trail

Since 2004 permits have been required to trek the classic Inca trail and the system is policed very tightly. Only 500 permits are issued and as all porters, guides and cooks on a trek need a permit this means the effective number of permits for tourists is about 150.  As a result permits sell out very quickly and for 2017 the only dates left are for November and December. 

For reasons nobody understands, the Park Authority makes all the permits for each year available on one fixed date. So for 2018 all the permits are to be put on sale on  a specific date to be announced in October. You cannot book a permit for a 2018 trek until that date and within days of permit going on sale they will be sold out for the high season. To cope with the permit allocation procedure all operators have developed the same process- they take bookings prior to the "On sale date" and then join the scramble to get permits for those bookings as soon as permits are released. Since we started operating treks to Machu Picchu we have always got all the permits we wanted but feel it is better to be upfront about how the process actually works. If, for any reason we are unable to secure a permit, we will offer you either a full-refund or the alternative of switching to one of the alternative routes.

Please though do not book your flights until after permits have been confirmed.

Alternatives to the classic Inca trail

Whether because of lack of permits or because you are looking for a route that takes you away from the relatively busy classic Inca trail there are some great alternatives that you might consider.

In a similar length trip the there are three alternatives that we would recommend and for a more detailed description about the options see here.

LARES QuechuaWomanLares trek: this trek has a distinctly different feel to the Inca trail as rather than trekking through uninhabited countryside seeing Inca ruins each day you start from the Sacred Valley and trek through all the traditional farming villages in this region. The way of life in these villages has changed little for over 200 years and the trek gives you time to really enjoy and explore their fascinating culture.

Salkantay trek: this alternative is for trekkers who prefer their mountains to their archeaology as it approaches Machu Picchu from the south traversing around the stunning Salkantay Mountain. A much quieter route than the classic Inca trail, National Geographic rate this as the best alternative to the Inca trail.

Ausangate rainbow mountainAusangate trek: another fantastic alternative, the highlights of the Ausangate trek are undoubtedly the spectacular rainbow mountains.  These multi-coloured sandstone mountains might not have the reputation of Machu Picchu but in terms of "wow" factor they are right up there.

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