Updated: Dec 21, 2022
There are a lot of different ways to get to Machu Picchu and some incredible hikes in Peru in general! 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 Trek to Machu Picchu.
We used Inka’s Destinations and paid just $380 for an incredible 4-day experience. I highly recommend this company! We had an awesome time, and you will too.
Three friends and I went to Machu Picchu. I got overwhelmed by the options and information out there. Here’s what I learned after my experience with the Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu!
There are many different prices, lengths, and companies offering guided hikes to this ancient, remote location, plus recently, the rules have changed. Make sure you are following all the new rules for Machu Picchu, and going with a tour company is one of the best ways to ensure you follow all the rules! Let me tell you, I researched them all like crazy before we decided on the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu, and hopefully, my research will help you out.
Your trek will start in Cusco—you’ll want to stay there for a few days to acclimate before heading out. There are lots of options for where to stay in Cusco and taking time before the trek is important.
Inca Trail Options
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 was 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 — It has limited passes, sells out months in advance, and was the historical trek of the royalty to Machu Picchu. It includes stops at many different Inca ruins, especially the Sacred Valley (you can taxi here instead to not miss it). Takes anywhere from 2 – 7 days.
Lares — This visits authentic Andean communities whilst being surrounded by mountains, lakes, and valleys. This trek offers a real insight into the lives of the people of Cusco. Takes 4-5 days.
Sulkatanay — This trek 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 Trek — As our tour guide called it, this is the trek of the farmers and runners. It goes through the rainforest side of the mountain range 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 Trek 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 Trek. 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 we 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 Trek to Machu Picchu, I can 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 an all-inclusive trip. It’s a great deal considering there were so many options 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 the Jungle Trek:
Day 1: Early morning pick up from hotel, stop in Ollantaytambo, mountain bike, white water rafting, hike to the hostel.
Day 2: Morning hike to waterfall, full day of hiking, hot springs.
Day 3: Zip-line, 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. But there are a lot more reasons, too. Here are the reasons this trek is unique:
It includes so many different activities. No other trek has all these things! Seriously.
It’s perfect for the adrenaline junkie and adventurer.
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!)
You stay in hotels some nights. That’s right, hotels with real beds to sleep in!
We had electricity every night. This made charging phones, GoPros, etc no problem!
It’s warmer than other treks. This is key when visiting during the winter! We never needed gloves, hats, or big coats. It stayed warmer even though it was their winter.
Do you know the famous running messengers of ancient Roman? The Incas 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 Trek to Machu Picchu was how the runners brought important messages to royalty living there. The location of Machu Picchu wasn’t told to any of the runners except for the very last ones. How incredible is that? You get to walk those same paths!
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 low stress, feeling peace in nature, and kept us going at our own pace.
There’s amazing food on this trek. Peru has incredible food like Peruvian chicken, ceviche, and lomo soltado. All meals are included, and we got to have great food at local farms, restaurants, and more.
So have I convinced you yet that it’d be awesome to go on the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu?!
Now that you want to go, let me tell you what you need to know:
You have to carry everything you bring with you along the way—pack light! I used a daypack from REI that rolled into a little bag and only pulled it out for this 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 trek you can use.
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!
Activities are intense, and 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).
You will most likely be buying bottled water all along the way—bring cash. We had water at our 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.
Altitude sickness is very real, people. Plan ahead—we bought coca leaf candies, coca leaves to chew, 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 tricks for dealing with it!
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.
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 that we took the bus up the next day. It was $15 a person, and we were on the first one in the morning so we could see the 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!
We loved the entire two weeks in Peru that we had, and while you’re there, Machu Picchu is a must. 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!