How to Choose Your Machu Picchu Hike: Options for Everyone

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How to Choose Your Machu Picchu Hike

Machu Picchu Hike Options: How to Make the Best Decision!

At Apus Peru, we aim to take you off the beaten path and into the REAL Andes. There are so many great Machu Picchu hikes, though, it can be hard to pick just one!

To make sure your once-in-a-lifetime Peru adventure is the perfect one for you, here are a few tips for choosing among all the Machu Picchu hike options, and all the factors you should consider.

We hope that these tips for how to pick the right hike to Machu Picchu will help you get the most out of your Andean trekking experience with Apus Peru.

We look forward to hiking with you!


1. Read the Machu Picchu hike descriptions carefully

We’ve done our best to capture in words what you can expect on each trek. Check out the photos, too, to get an idea of what the route is like. This will give you a good sense of what to expect on the trail.

Here is a link to all of our treks.

2. How many days do you have? 

We offer treks of almost any length – from short 1 or 2 day hikes to moderate 3, 4 and 5-day hikes, to epic hikes of 6, 7 or 8 days or longer. If you know how many days you’ll have available for trekking, or are limited by time, you can search our treks by number of days to help you find the right trek for you.

Don’t forget to factor in the recommended 2-3 days of acclimatization at altitude before beginning any trek. This might limit the length of trek you’re able to hike. Read more about altitude sickness and how to acclimatize.

3. Fitness level matters

Your relative health and fitness will make a big difference in how you experience your trek. And, sorry to say it, but some Andean treks are meant for only the most experienced, fittest and well-acclimatized trekkers out there. This includes treks like the 4 day Salkantay Trek or the 8 day Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek.

It is also very important that you let us know if you have any medical conditions which could affect your trekking ability. If you do not tell us anything, we will assume you are 100% healthy!

Do you have a heart condition, knee problems, severe asthma or are you more than 18 weeks pregnant? If so, you should not participate on any trek. People with mild asthma, diabetes or who are less than 18 weeks pregnant must bring a letter from their doctor stating that they are fit to undertake the trek. They also must be accompanied by a healthy trekking companion on the trek at all times who will hike at their side and be familiar with any medicines required in case of an emergency.

We also reserve the right to cancel your trek if you have not fully disclosed, at the time of booking, a medical condition that may pose a risk to your health and/or that of other trekkers. No refunds will be given for cancellation on these grounds. Please refer to our Booking Conditions for more detail. 

4. How Difficult is the trek?

Related to your fitness level is how difficult do you want your trek to be? What level of difficulty do you think you can manage? Make no mistake: all Andean treks are hard. But some are harder than others.

Trekking in the Andes is definitely not easy but it is so worth the physical and mental effort. There is nothing like waking up surrounded by majestic peaks all around you, and barely another soul.

So, how can you tell how difficult the trek is?

We’ve come up with a three-part rating system that classifies all of our treks based on their difficultyremoteness and adventurousness. The Remoteness (or Solitude) rating will give you an idea of how busy a particular trek is – from the “everybody hikes this route” trek to the “are you sure there is really a trail here?” hike. The Adventure rating is somewhat similar and will let you know if the route is basically standard tourist fare or if you need to bring your Indiana Jones hat with you.

We’ve tried to accurately indicate relative difficulty for each of our Andean treks but, remember: difficulty is pretty subjective. It depends a lot on your personal fitness and experience. Treks are rated in relation to each other, not in relation to an international standard of difficulty or to hikes in any other region. Try to be realistic about your abilities and don’t forget that everything is harder at high altitude! We do not take any responsibility for the assumptions you make about the trekking routes and their difficulty, or for insufficient acclimatization.


5. What kind of experience do you want? 

Ancient ruins? beautiful vistas? immersive cultural experiences? Some treks offer all three, but most highlight one element or another. You can search our site according to several different categories, including Culture, History, Adventure or Popular.

Here is a brief rundown of what each of the principal treks around Cusco is best for:

  • Ancascocha – mountain scenery, remoteness/uniqueness and Inca ruins.
  • Ausangate – stunning mountain views, wilderness and flora and fauna. This is also where the Rainbow Mountain is found.
  • Choquequirao – history and Inca ruins, lower altitude, stunning views of the Apurimac river valley.
  • Inca Trail – history and Inca ruins, stunning mountain views, variety of landscapes, wilderness and flora and fauna, and its place among the most famous trails in the world.
  • Lares – cultural immersion, stunning mountain views.
  • Salkantay – stunning mountain views, Inca ruins and cultural immersion.
  • Vilcabamba – history and Inca ruins, off-the-beaten-track factor.

6. When do you want to go on your Machu Picchu hike? 

When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail? For most treks in Peru, the best time to go is the dry season. This is roughly May through September. This is also peak tourism season in Peru, though, and when trails are likely to be the busiest. 

We like the shoulder seasons – April, October – as good times to hike in Peru because the weather is usually still good but there are fewer crowds.

You can also do some hikes during the rainy season, which is around November through March, with the rainiest days being January-March. Not all trails are available during the rainy season, though. As we explain in more detail in our blog, some treks can become dangerous after a lot of heavy rain. Also note: the Inca Trail is closed in February.

Are you interested in planning your trip around cultural events and festivals in Peru? Then check out our calendar of Peru festivals to help you plan your trip!

Here is a look at all trek availability month-by-month:


7. Do You Need a Permit?

Remember that any Inca Trail trek requires a permit that must be booked at least 6 months in advance for high season dates (May through August) or 3-4 months in advance for the rest of the year. If you know your dates, BOOK NOW to avoid missing out later! Find out more here about booking the Inca Trail.

There are only 500 permits available every day, and of those, only 200 are for hikers! The rest are for the guides and porters. Additional permits are required for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, which some people like to include during their tour of Machu Picchu.

By contrast, the alternative treks are not as heavily regulated by the government and do not require permits. This means that they can be booked on short notice. So you don’t have much time to plan, then a so-called “alternative trek” might be the best Machu Picchu trek to choose.

8. More Resources for Visiting Machu Picchu

Whether you hike to Machu Picchu or take the train, check out these additional helpful resources before you go:

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