When American historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered the lost city of Machu Picchu in 1911, little could he have imagined that just over a century later, more than a million people would visit the site each year. Yes, that’s how popular the ancient Incan city has become as a travel must-see-in-my-lifetime favourite—so much so that last year the government of Peru decided to impose a maximum of 3,267 tickets for morning visits and 2,673 for afternoon ones.
While many people choose a day visit—via a combination of train and bus from ancient Cusco and travelling up from Aguas Calientes—thousands of others trek one of the traditional and ancient trails that wind through the Andes Mountains to the mystical site. The most well known of these is the iconic Inca Trail, but it’s by no means the only one!
This 10-day option from Mountain Lodges of Peru will see you hike the Salkantay Trail to the archeological mountaintop site. The fact that it’s less well known than the Inca Trail means fewer people trek it—but the rewards are possibly greater bewcause of it. This tour begins with a visit to the archeological sites of Pisaq and Ancasmarca; afterwards, you casn visit traditional weavers in the village of Choquecancha, or enjoy an Andean trek around turquoise lakes to the village of Huacahuasi.
You will hike the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, the oldest living city in Latin America, or trek an Incan trail to the town of Totora. Do an “acclimatizatrion hike,” according to Mountain Lodges, up to Lake Humantay. Eventually you’ll cross the 4,638-metre-high Salkantay Pass, with its spectacular and sweeping Andean views of the Vilcabamba Range, and follow the Salkantay River and Santa Teresa River Valley through banana, granadilla and avocado orchards, and coffee plantations—all before joining the L Inca Trail.
You get your first distant glimpse of Machu Picchu from a 2,736-metre-high pass, before arriving at the site and exploring the unforgettable lost city. The tour is led by experienced guides and all accommodations are in welcoming high mountain lodges, often with Jacuzzis and always gourmet food: the perfect way to end a great day of exertion and exploration.
Mountain Lodges of Peru
- Phone: 877-491-5261
- Length/Departs: 10 days / year-round
- Accommodation: Modern Andean eco-lodges
- Starting Price: $4,700 USD
- Difficulty: Easy