Machu Picchu sits high on top of the Andes Mountains just above the Urubamba River valley. It was believed to have been a religious site or a royal estate for Incan leaders. It’s made up of about 150 different types of impressive stone buildings, but its mystery makes it about its purpose makes it even more attractive. The Incan citadel went pretty much unnoticed for hundreds of years until American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911. And since that discovery, Machu Picchu became Peru’s most visited attraction.
Although it’s tricky to get to (the Incans knew how to make you work for it!), it’s an incredible place to experience. Here are five adventurous and budget-friendly ways to get to Machu Picchu, depending on your travel style.
Inca Jungle Trek
The Inca Jungle Trek is one of the most adventurous ways to get to Macchu Picchu. It involves rafting, mountain biking, ziplining, white water rafting, and hiking your way to the Incan citadel. Nope, we’re not joking! This action-packed guided tour takes you into the Peruvian jungle, along a beautiful section of the original Inca Trail to end in Machu Picchu. It takes four days and three nights of camping. Along the way, you’ll get to witness a variety of stunning landscapes including the Andean mountain range, the cloud forest, the Urubamba River and the lush green jungle!
The Salkantay Trek is an intense multi-day hiking adventure to Machu Picchu. Depending on how much you love to walk and camp, you can choose between a four day or five day tour. Both tours guide you through breathtaking snowcapped mountains, picturesque valleys, beautiful lakes, and rushing waterfalls. The biggest challenge during the trek is hiking to the top of the glacier-capped, 20,574-foot Mount Salcantay (aka Savage Mountain), which is considered a sacred spot by locals. As a final treat, you get to walk along the Inca Trail for a short section before arriving at Machu Picchu.
The Lares Trek is an alternative route to the Inca Trail (which gets booked out months in advance). This guided tour is great for those who want to meet and interact with local Andean communities. On this four day trek, you’ll learn about life in these isolated villages, become familiar with their culture and traditions, and visit a local school. The Lares Trek is stunning as you’ll experience the majestic Andean mountains with piercingly blue glacial lakes, waterfalls, and, of course, countless cute llamas and alpacas. The tour finishes on a literal high, with an unforgettable day exploring and learning about Machu Picchu.
If you’re crunched on time, but still want to experience a historical way to visit Machu Picchu, consider a two day Inca Trail Trek. It begins with a traditional Andean Blessing, then continues along the winding stone Inca trail to the archeological site of Wiñaywayna. Then you’ll enter the sacred site through the edges of the highland jungle cliffs to the ‘Intipunku’ (Sun Gate) — a ceremonial gateway into Machu Picchu. During the trek, your guides share stories on Inca traditions and secrets of Pachamama (the Earth Mother) for a more culturally informative experience.
2 Day Train Tour
Not a big hiker or don’t feel like roughin’ it? Not a problem. You can take a train and bus all the way to Machu Picchu! Oh yeah. This option is great for travellers who are short on time or need a little luxury in their life. A two day train tour takes care of everything for you, including accommodation in Aguas Calientes, train tickets, transfers, and informative guides. You’ll get a local perspective of Machu Picchu and have time to enjoy all of its archeology, culture, and mysticism. The best part? After exploring the Incan citadel, you can jump on a train then a bus that will take you all the way back to your hotel in Cusco. Too easy!