Trek or Train to Machu Picchu, which should you take?
Train or Trek to Machu Picchu: which should you take?
No trip to Peru is complete without visiting its most recognizable landmark – Machu Picchu. But what’s best for your visit: Trek or Train to Machu Picchu, which should you take?
Machu Picchu Facts
First a quick overview with some Machu Picchu facts. Because the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu during their conquest, it is one of the most well-preserved Inca sites. Most archaeologists believe Machu Picchu, which means “old mountain” in Quechua, was built as a resort for the Inca emperor Pachacutec and the location held sacred religious significance because of the surrounding landscape. Construction began around 1450 at the height of the Inca Empire, but the city was abandoned, still unfinished, just over 100 years later during the Spanish conquest. American historian Hiram Bingham “rediscovered” the city in 1911 and brought it to international attention. Since then Machu Picchu has been declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in a worldwide internet poll in 2007, it was selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; it is Peru’s most popular tourist destination.
Machu Picchu Tours by train
So you’re definitely visiting Machu Picchu when you are in Cusco and Peru. But what is the best Machu Picchu Tour for you? How do you get there?
There are basically two options: 1) do a Machu Picchu Tour, or do a Machu Picchu Hike. In other words: you either take the train, or you go on a trek. If you don’t have much time in Peru, or you think sleeping in a tent sounds like a nightmare, the train is the way to go.
There are three trains to Machu Picchu:
- The Expedition train.The least expensive but still comfortable, with large side and overhead windows;
- The Vistadome train.Which has leather seats and more leg room, and includes a snack and an Andean dance show; and
- The Hiram Bingham train.One of the best trains in the world, it provides a first-class experience that includes welcome aperitifs, wine, on-board entertainment, a tour guide and tea time in Machu Picchu.
If you have more than a few days in Peru, I highly recommend going on a trek ending at Machu Picchu. A Machu Picchu trek prolongs the Machu Picchu experience; you will be overwhelmed with the climax of arriving at such an incredible site after a few challenging days of hiking through the Andes. You will also have a better appreciation of what an incredible feat Machu Picchu is: the Incas carried rocks over the mountains from miles away and imported sand from the coast of Peru to build the city.
Again, there are several options to choose from. The most popular trek is the 4-day 3-night traditional Inca trail to Machu Picchu. This is a 45 km (28 miles) hike through the Andes that will take you past Inca ruins and breathtaking scenery culminating in your arrival at Inti Punku (Sun Gate) on the morning of the fourth day, where you will finally be able to see Machu Picchu for the first time.
If four days sounds too long, there is a 2-day 1-night version, which takes you to Inti Punku on the night of the first day; you return to Machu Picchu early the next morning.
Only a certain number of people are allowed on the Inca trail each day, and because it is so popular these spots fill up quickly. If you are planning to visit during the dry season (May-October), you should reserve Machu Picchu permit a few months in advance. The Inca trail is also closed during the entire month of February every year for maintenance.
Machu Picchu Hiking
If the Inca trail is already full when you will be in Peru or you happen to be visiting in February, don’t worry! There are a number of alternative treks to Machu Picchu that are just as rewarding as the classic Inca Trails. The most popular alternative is the challenging
The most popular alternative is the challenging 5-day 4-night Salkantay trek, which will take you through the jungle and over snowcapped mountains. Other options include
Other options include the Lares trek, which passes through Andean villages and Inca ruins in the Lares Valley, or the Uchuy Machu Picchu trek, which begins in the ruins of Sacsayhuaman in Cusco and takes you through the Sacred Valley to Uchuy Q’osqo (“small Cusco”). If you’re up for some adventure and adrenaline, the
If you’re up for some adventure and adrenaline, the Inca Jungle Trek is a great alternative that combines hiking with mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and zip-lining.
No matter how you get there, your time at Machu Picchu will be an incredible and unforgettable experience, so enjoy the journey whether by train, foot or zip-line!
For more information and updated Inca Trail availability, contact Dos Manos Peru.
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