For most travellers who haven’t been there, hiking up to the once-lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is often close to the top of the travel wish list. It has been a bucket list mainstay since the 20th century, after it was thoroughly explored on a scientific level by the US historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. Since then it has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1983, and was designated one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World in 2007.
However, as with many archaeologically sensitive sites, Machu Picchu has become something of a casualty of its own magnificence, with poor tourism restrictions endangering the site. That is why an organised tour is one of the best ways to experience the Inca stronghold, utilising local guides to experience the area with the respect and reverence it deserves. Here are five of the best Machu Picchu hiking tours, chosen for their environmental awareness, value for money, and itineraries, among other considerations.
From $674/ per person
More often than not, the classics are the best. The Inca Trail is the most popular route up to Machu Picchu, and therefore one of the most accessible ways to make the journey. the Inca Trail also has added significance because it was the trail built by the Inca themselves to link their cities. This trail involves roughly five hours of hiking each day and does pass above 4,000 metres, so it is not ideal for those lacking in fitness. But the challenge is well worth it for the archaeological complexes of Runkurakay and Machu Picchu, as well as the stunning panoramas of the Andes en-route.
From $685/ per person
A good alternative to the Inca Trail is the Lares trekking route. The most obvious bonus is the circumvention of most tourists along the trail, but there is so much more on offer by taking this option. The hike passes through local communities like Kiswarani Village, as well as thermal baths at Lares, which are ideal for unwinding after hours spent on foot. This tour also goes over Condor Pass, which at 4,700 metres can be quite a challenge for anybody who hasn’t taken the time to acclimatise to the higher altitudes of the Andes. The final day is reserved for Machu Picchu, which you’ll reach by bus, with more time to explore the site or surrounding mountains.
FROM: $686/per person
If you are looking to do Machu Picchu in less time than other tours customarily take, but still want to tackle the revered site the right way, on foot, then this two-day trek, starting at Chachabamba, and entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, is an excellent way to go. There are other sights along the way, including the archaeological ruins at Chachabamba, and Wiñay Huayna. After seeing Machu Picchu in the afternoon, day two offers the chance to see the Lost City of the Inca at daybreak. There will be extra time allowed in case you wish to press on and tackle Huayna Picchu also.
From $759/ per person
Close to Machu Picchu, but far enough away that most visitors never make it that far, Salkantay is an excellent, mountainous stretch of country that has some of the region’s best hiking. This tour starts out by scaling the stunning mountains leading up to the Salkantay Pass, which is 4,580 metres-up and best tackled by those who are already acclimatised to the Andes. the views around here are striking. Other highlights include the Llactapata Inca site and the cloud forest along the Sahuayaco River. The best, Machu Picchu, is saved for last.
From $1,164/ per person
For a more immersive tour that takes care of the planning all the way from Cusco, the Machu Picchu Adventure is an excellent option. This eight-day tour is longer than the rest although potentially poses slightly better value for money, as well as guaranteeing a broader range of experiences. Besides Machu Picchu, which is included on day five of the tour, highlights include a trip to the Sacred Valley, with cultural visits to a weaving co-op and pottery makers, as well as the train to Aguas Calientes through the stunning Urubamba Valley. Hotel accommodation and breakfasts are included, along with all transportation.