Lush and mountainous, Peru is one of the most beautiful places on earth to hike and trek.

The region surrounding Machu Picchu is readymade for hikers of all kinds, with a great variety of trails that have been established over time–often by the Inca themselves many centuries ago.

No matter where your interests lie; nature, local culture, archaeology or all the above, you’ll find a hike that is right for you. What’s more, many of these are quite easy to combine with a trip to Machu Picchu, which makes for a picture-perfect hiking reward.

How to get there? Machu Picchu and the surrounding region is remote, yet easy to reach.

Machu Picchu ruins Peru

View of Machu Picchu

Huayna Picchu

Moderate to difficult

The hike: This hike is short, but with over 1,000 feet of altitude gain it will take 1-2 hours or 4-5 hours to do the full loop with Temple of the Moon.

You'll see: You will reach a lofty bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu and can complete the full loop on the uncrowded trail to the Temple of the Moon.

Tickets: Tickets are for purchase with Machu Picchu entrance ticket and are limited to just 400 per day; 200 people may enter between 7 and 8 am, and 200 more between 10 and 11am.

Machu Picchu Mountain

Moderate to difficult

The hike: A longer and more gradual ascent, with over 2,000 feet of altitude gain which take 1.5 to 2 hours to summit, but allow 3 hours with the descent.

You'll see: With Lighter traffic than Huayna Picchu, you will get a dramatic bird’s eye view from the top.

Tickets: Tickets are for purchase with Machu Picchu entrance ticket and are limited to 800 per day; 400 people may enter between 7 and 8 am, and 400 more between 9 and 10 am.

KM 104 (aka the 2-Day Inca Trail)

Easy to Moderate

The hike: An 8 mile hike that takes around 6 to seven hours depending on pace.

You'll see: Pass through the terraces of Wiñay Wayna to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot.

Tickets: Formerly regulated as part of the Inca Trail, which is limited to 500 per day, the route now has a separate permit system capped at 150 per day.

The Lares Trek “The Cultural Trek”

Moderate

The hike: Approximately 20 miles, the hike takes 3 days with an option to increase the length and intensity.

You'll see: Meet Andean villagers and traditional weavers and stop at a hot springs to bathe, with accommodation options from camping to luxury Andean lodges.

Tickets: No permits necessary, but book through an outfitter for quality and safety.

Classic Inca Trail

Moderate due to altitude

The hike: Approximately 28 miles taking 4 days to compete with 3 nights camping at designated campsites.

You'll see: The is a world-renowned “bucket list” trek that includes Incan ruins and rewarding mountain passes.

Tickets: Permits limit traffic to 500 people per day, including guides and support staff.

Machu Picchu Facts

  • The Incas began construction of Machu Picchu in the height of their empire, around 1430 AD.
  • Machu Picchu means “old mountain,” taking its name from a peak that hovers above it.
  • The citadel is linked not just to one “Inca Trail” but to a vast network of ancient Incan roads and canals.
  • Machu Picchu’s average altitude is 8,047 feet above sea level.
  • In the high season, from June until early September, up to 2500 people arrive daily to admire Machu Picchu from within.
Choquequirao Inca trekking trail near Machu Picchu Cuzco region in Peru

Choquequirao Inca trekking trail near Machu Picchu

Choquequirao Trek “Machu Picchu’s sister ruins”

Difficult

The hike: Approximately a 40 mile hike with an extreme ascent and descent that will take 4 days, with 3 nights camping.

You'll see: Some stunning, variable scenery and spend time exploring the lesser visited ruins.

Tickets: No permits are needed, but there is a fee to enter Choquequirao.

The Ausangate Trek “The Highest Trek”

Very Difficult

The hike: Approximately a 60 mile hike with a high level of difficulty due to the altitude, exertion and cold nights. It will take 6 days with 5 nights camping or luxury Andean lodges are available.

You'll see: Visit the surreal, striped “painted mountains” and explore the vast wilderness areas with blue lagoons and rare wildlife.

Tickets: No permits are necessary, but it is extremely important to book through a outfitter for quality and safety.

Inca trail of Machu Picchu peru

Hikers walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Alternative sites and activities

Machu Picchu sits at the apex of an ancient empire, with dozens of other sites scattered around it. It’s worth visiting a few of the neighbouring ruins for a bigger picture of the Inca people’s former grandeur. You can balance your ancient history immersion with outdoor adventures or encounters with local communities.

Other archaeological sites

Moray
These enormous concentric circular terraces were used for farming. Each layer creates a slightly different microclimate as they descend deeper into the ground.

Maras salt mines
The salt mines of Maras have ancient roots but are anything but ruins — they’re still in use today! Salt is harvested here the same way it has been for centuries.

Ollantaytambo
The royal estate of an Incan emperor is now a halfway point between Cusco and Machu Picchu, in the Sacred Valley.

Pisac
Pair this near-to-Cusco ruins site with a local market on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday of each week.

The “Four Ruins” tour
This popular day trip from Cusco includes the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the aqueducts of Tambo Machay, the military stronghold of Puka Pucarka, the religious site Q’inqu, and finally Coricancha in Cusco — an impressive Inca temple-turned-Catholic-cathedral, once plated in gold.

Salinas de Maras man made salt mines near Cusco Peru

Salinas de Maras, man-made salt mines near Cusco

Other activities

Mountain biking
The dirt roads and terrain are right for exciting exploration around Cusco on the two wheels of a mountain bike. A popular route is to the ruins of Moray and through neighboring villages. Tracks are gentle; first-timers welcome.

Meet an Andean community
Get a taste of today’s Andean culture with a traditional weaving demonstration, a visit to a community-run “potato park” or a ceramics workshop with a local artist.

Horseback riding
Reach the ruins of Moray and the Maras salt flats by horseback. Several ranches in the Sacred Valley can arrange this for any level of horseback riding experience.

Rafting the Urubamba River
Take a full day to get drenched as you barrel down the Urubamba river near Cusco. Depending on season and section of the river, the level ranges from calm to Class III rapids. Note this is a dangerous activity; check your travel insurance covers rafting and be sure to check safety codes.

Machu Picchu tip

Unless archaeology is your thing, pick and choose additional ruins sites. “Ruins fatigue” is a real condition for travellers in Peru.

Machu Picchu Treks

Maureen Santucci

Maureen is based in the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco, where she works as a travel advisor and journalist covering Peru for Fodors Travel Guides and a variety of other publications.

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