What You Need to Know About the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu

Last summer, three friends and I went to Machu Picchu. I got overwhelmed at the options and information out there. So many different prices, lengths, and companies! Let me tell you, I researched them all like crazy before we decided on the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu and hopefully, my research will help you out!

There are a lot of different ways to get to Machu Picchu. You can hike, take a bus, get a private car, or take a train. Every single hike or trek to Machu Picchu has unique things to offer and will be an incredible experience.  No matter which one you take, you are traveling on trails the Incas did, but I'm here to make the case for the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu. We had an awesome time and you will too!

The first thing I have to tell you is every trek I list is an Inca Trail, they just served different purposes to the Incas! There is not one Inca trail, the Incas had thousands of trails. Our guide got shocked when we said we weren't on the Inca Trail on the first day. He was quick to correct us and let us know we were definitely on an Inca Trail! With that knowledge, here are the popular routes to hike:

  • Traditional Inca Trail - limited passes, sells out months in advance, and was the trek of the royalty to Machu Picchu. Includes stops at many different Inca ruins. Takes anywhere from 2 - 7 days.
  • Lares - visits to authentic Andean communities whilst being surrounded by mountains, lakes and valleys this trek offers a real insight in to the lives of the people of Cusco. Takes 4-5 days.
  • Sulkatanay - connects the city of Mollepata, Cusco with Machu Picchu on a remote footpath along snowcapped mountains beside tropical rain forests. Takes 5-6 days 
  • Jungle Trail - as our tour guide called it - the trek of the farmers and runners, through the rain forest side of the mountains, and is very green. Takes 4 days.

Each of these treks has unique things to offer, but here's why I loved our trek along the Jungle Trail and how you can prepare so you love it too!

This is a super adventurous trek! We mountain biked, hiked on cliffs, zip lined and more. This is a trek for an adventurer who isn't scared to try new things. A lot of different companies offer the same exact tour and activities along the jungle trail. The things we did were standard for the trail so basically, no matter what company you use, this guide will help! 

I will say... Our tour company did an excellent job, our guide was super helpful, and we felt completely safe the whole time. Many tour companies offer the same exact trek as our did, but I highly recommend Inka's Destination. They offer all the treks I listed above as well. So even if you aren't doing the jungle trail, I still recommend them as a solid tour company. Also, guess how much it was... only $380 dollars a person! That's less than $100 a day for basically everything included. Great deal considering there were so many listed for so much more doing the exact same thing as them and the company did an excellent job. They even met with us the night before we left to talk over concerns and questions. It was so thoughtful. We really had no other expenses too. 

Overview of trek:

Day 1: early morning pick up from hotel, stop in Ollantaytambo, mountain bike, white water rafting, hike to hostel

Day 2: hike to waterfall, full day of hiking, hot springs

Day 3: zip lining, hike

Day 4: Machu Picchu 

What makes it different:

This trek was incredible. I mean I didn't even have to try to get gorgeous photos! The scenery was just there. There's lots more too though. Here are the reasons this trek is unique:

  1. It includes so many different activities. No other trek has all these things! Seriously
  2. It's perfect for the adrenaline junkie. 
  3. We interacted with so many locals and supported Peruvians in their own businesses (hostels, stops for water and food, and many activities were owned and operated by locals who live in the region - this is important for ethical travel!)
  4. You stay in hotels some nights. That's right hotels with real beds to sleep in!
  5. We had electricity every night. This made charging phones, go pros, etc no problem!
  6. It's warmer than other treks. This is key when it is winter! We never needed gloves, hats, or big coats. It stayed warmer even though it was their winter. 
  7. You know the famous runners in roman history? The Inca's had them too! The runners would start in Cusco, sprint short distances until they go to the next runner. This continued and messages moved faster because of it. The jungle trail was how the runners got important messages to Machu Picchu. The location was never told to all the runners except for the very last ones. How incredible is that? You get to walk those same paths. 
  8. It's less crowded than other treks. We saw the same three groups at restaurants, during activities, and on our hikes. We really didn't see many other people. This made for little stress, feeling peace in nature, and kept us going at our own pace. 

So have I convinced you yet that it'd be awesome to go on the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu?!

Well now that you want to go, let me tell you what you need to know:

  1. You have to carry everything you bring with you - pack light! I used a day pack from REI that rolled into a little bag and only pulled t out for the Machu Picchu trek. Most hotels let you leave your larger bags for when you return. Super easy! Also, packing can be daunting - I've got a whole packing list for the jungle trail you can use right here! The 
  2. This is the jungle. There are lots of mosquitoes. PLAN AHEAD. Bring extra bug spray and then more. You'll be fine if you do this. I was not. 
  3. Activities are intense, most if not all companies include the equipment in their fees and will tell you what you have to pay extra for. We paid extra for zip lining and white water rafting ($30 each). 
  4. You will most likely be buying bottled water all along the way - bring cash. We had water at out hotels or hostels, but would end up running out midday and have to purchase. Be prepared with small bills so you can stop along the way. 
  5. Altitude sickness is very real people. Plan ahead - we bought coca leave candies, coca leaves, medicine from our doctors in the US, and drank lots of water. Don't be afraid to tell your tour guide if you need a rest. It's serious to deal with! For more on altitude sickness, check here - I wrote a whole post with tips and trick for dealing with it!
  6. There are built in stops along the trek for rest. Travel companies do not want to have you helicoptered out - take your breaks as you need them. Our tour guide was very good at asking us what we needed and switching the pace as needed.
  7. The third day ends in Machu Picchu town where you can choose to take the bus or hike up Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu town is pretty pricey - don't buy lots of souvenirs here instead do it in Cusco where they are cheap! We were so exhausted we took the bus up the next day. It was $15 and we were on the first one in the morning so we could see sunrise at 6:30 am (this is when Machu Picchu opens). My friend hiked up and he said it was stairs the whole way and pretty challenging. Either way, you're in for a treat!

So everyone, time to go start planning your trip to Machu Picchu! It's an amazing place and no matter which trek you take, you're in for the experience of a lifetime. Questions about Machu Picchu? Let me know below!

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  • Ahhh so pretty! This is on my bucket list! Looks incredible!!

  • Amrita Sen

    Machu Pichu has always be on my wish list. After reading this blog, I just want to pack my bags and run off there.

  • Meg Marie

    Machu Picchu is totally incredible. I hiked the mountain behind it and the views were stunning. I’d be happy to go back any day!

  • Kesi Irvin

    I did the original inca trail and loved it. I really appreciate your insight on the jungle trek.

  • Pinelopi Kyriazi

    Amazing experience!! I would not dare to do the zip line though!! I am afraid of heights! No way!! hahaha! On my bucket list! 🙂

  • Lucy Elizabeth Lourdes Pearson

    Sounds amazing! Love the picture of you and your friend in the pool – what a view! xx

  • Rhiannon Travels

    I’ve always wanted to visit Machu Picchu! It’s definitely on my bucket list. I imagine it being one of those “is this real?!” moments once you reach it!

  • Wow what an adventure! And fairly cheap per day too. The views look incredible although the zip lining is my idea of hell haha.

  • I love this! It looks like you had a fabulous time! Thanks for sharing this handy insider info- I didn’t realize such an adventure could be so affordable!

  • Julia Dent

    This looks so amazing!!! I would love to go zip lining there! And thanks for the head’s up about the mosquitoes!

  • Brooklyn

    This is a really helpful post. I’ve looked into Machu Picchu before but there was so much information it was really overwhelming.

  • Practical Wanderlust

    Oh how fun!! I wish we’d done this instead of the original Inca Trail (we couldn’t make it on that trek – had to turn around on day 2 and take the bus. SUCH a huge waste of money). If we ever go back, I’m choosing this trek instead.

  • Jamie

    Wonderful detailed post and pics – not sure this trek is for me, but it looks magnificent!

  • Thank you for the tips! We were actually thinking on going by ourselves. We don’t usually join tours, like when we trekked to Everest Base Camp independently. But it looks like you had an awesome time. It does look hard but sooo worth it! Keeping this post, as it’s on our bucket list for sure 🙂

    Telma at Blank Canvas Voyage