The Inca Trail is the most famous of all the trekking trails to Machu Picchu. A permit is required for this trek and there is a maximum limit of 500 trekkers per day. Due the popularity of this trek permits sell out months ahead and when starting to plan their dream trip to Peru a lot of traveler realize that permits for their travel dates are fully sold out already.
Here are four alternatives to the classical Inca Trail that we especially recommend if your were planning to hike the Inca Trail and but did not manage to buy your permit on time.
Short Inca Trail
The 2 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a short and less demanding way to experience the original Inca steps and end the trail in Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu that was used by the Incas.
On your way to Machu Picchu you will pass Wiñaywayna Archaeological Site, the Sun Gate and the southern agricultural zone of Machu Picchu city, where the most famous photos of the site are taken.
Even though this shorter option also requires a permit, these tend to sell out with much less anticipation, thus this short trek is a great alternative to still hike the Inca Trail’s highlights if permits for the classical 4 day trek are sold out for your travel dates.
The Salkantay Trek is the most popular Inca Trail alternative.
It leads you along beautiful trails through diverse landscapes and combines Andean plateaus with spectacular views of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, turquoise lakes with high jungle and cloud forest. You will pass through tropical fruit and coffee plantations and during part of the trek walk on an original Inca trail to a small Inca ruin where you will have a distant view of Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek also includes a trek to the popular Humantay Lake and concludes with a tour of the magical city of Machu Picchu on the 5th day.
The Choquequirao Trek takes you through historically rich territory and diverse landscapes and climates. Those who opt for this hike will walk from highlands surrounded by snow-capped mountains along green valleys, and arid mountain peaks to the cloud forest and the tropical forest of the high jungle.
This trek is an excellent Inca Trail alternative as you get to visit, and even camp in, Choquequirao, a spectacular Inca Ruin site that is even larger than Machu Picchu and far less touristy. The long 8 Day Choquequirao Trek ends with a visit of Machu Picchu on the final day of the tour.
Ausangate & Rainbow Mountain Hike
The Ausangate & Rainbow Trek is a lesser known off the beaten path wilderness trek and especially recommended for all nature lovers. It takes you along a portion of the Ausangate Trail to the incredibly colorful Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain composed of stratified layers of sandstone. En route you encounter snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, glacial peaks, hot springs, llamas, alpacas, chinchillas, and maybe even a wild vicuña. The 6 day tour includes 4 hiking days and a Machu Pichu visit after the hike, combing the best of all attractions around Cusco.