If you dream of hiking to Machu Picchu, the ancient citadel of the Incas, you might have heard of the famous Inca Trail. This four-day trek is one of the most popular and iconic ways to reach the World Heritage Site, following a historic route that passes through stunning scenery and archaeological sites.

However, the Inca Trail is not the only option to experience the magic of Machu Picchu. There are many reasons why you might want to explore alternative trails that are less crowded, more diverse, and equally rewarding. 

In the past, we included Machu Picchu as one of our top destinations for the spiritual globetrotter. However, if discovering alternative trails to Machu Picchu intrigues you, you are in luck. Peru has many hiking options to take you through some of South America’s most spectacular landscapes and cultures. This blog post will introduce you to three top Inca Trail alternatives that will blow your hiking experience with their beauty, diversity, and history.

Top 3 Inca Trail Alternatives That Will Blow Your Mind

1. Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is a great alternative to the Inca Trail if you want to immerse yourself in the authentic culture and lifestyle of the Andean people. This three-day trek starts near the village of Lares, about 40 miles north of Cusco, and ends at Ollantaytambo, where you can catch a train to Aguas Calientes and then a bus to Machu Picchu.

The Lares Trek takes you through remote valleys and mountains, where you will encounter traditional weaving villages, colorful markets, alpaca herds, and friendly locals. You will also enjoy stunning views of snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes, and lush forests. The Lares Trek is slightly shorter and higher than the Inca Trail, crossing one pass at 4,450 m / 14,600 ft.

Some key highlights of the Lares Trek include:

  • Visiting the village of Huacahuasi, where you can learn about the ancient art of weaving and try your hand at it
  • Crossing the Ipsaycocha Pass, the highest point of the trek, and descending to camp by a beautiful lake

The Lares Trek is considered moderate to difficult, depending on your fitness level and acclimatization. It would help to prepare for cold nights, high altitudes, and long hiking days. 

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

2. Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is one of the most popular alternatives to the Inca Trail for those who want a more adventurous and diverse experience. This five-day outdoor activity connects the town of Mollepata with Aguas Calientes, following a section of the Qhapaq Ñan, the ancient network of roads built by the Incas. The Salkantay Trek is named after the Salkantay Mountain, a sacred and spectacular peak that rises to 6,271 m / 20,574 ft.

The premium Salkantay Trek takes you through various landscapes and ecosystems, from high alpine terrain to tropical jungles. For those seeking a deeper understanding or considering a journey, there are well-curated trekking trips like this one.

You will witness the contrast between the snow-capped mountains and the lush valleys, as well as the rich flora and fauna of the region. The Salkantay Trek is more challenging than the Inca Trail, reaching a maximum altitude of 4,600 m / 15,090 ft at the Salkantay Pass.

Some of the highlights of the Salkantay Trek include:

  • Admiring the views of the Salkantay and Humantay Mountains from your first campsite at Soraypampa
  • Crossing the Salkantay Pass, the most difficult but rewarding part of the trek

The Salkantay Trek is considered moderate to difficult, depending on your fitness level and acclimatization. Preparing for changing weather conditions, high altitudes, and long hiking days would be best. 

Watch this video to learn more:

3. Choquequirao Trek

The Choquequirao Trek is a hidden gem for adventure seekers who want to explore one of Peru’s most remote and impressive Inca sites. Choquequirao, meaning “Cradle of Gold” in Quechua, is an ancient city built around the same time as Machu Picchu by Pachacuti, the Inca emperor who also envisioned Machu Picchu. Choquequirao is similar in size and architecture to Machu Picchu but much less visited and only partially excavated.

The Choquequirao Trek is a four-day trek that starts and ends at the town of Cachora, about a four-hour drive from Cusco. This trek includes navigating both downward and upward through the steep Apurimac Canyon, recognized as one of the world’s deepest canyons. The trail offers amazing views of the canyon and the surrounding mountains and opportunities to spot wildlife such as condors, hummingbirds, and bears.

Some highlights of the Choquequirao Trek include:

  • Crossing the Apurimac River by a suspension bridge on the first day of the trek
  • Reaching Choquequirao on the second day and spending time exploring the ruins and admiring the views

The Choquequirao Trek is considered difficult, as it involves steep ascents and descents, high altitudes, and long hiking days. You must be in excellent physical shape and have previous hiking experience to enjoy this trek. 

Watch this to get a glimpse:


As you can see, these Inca Trail alternatives will blow your mind with their beauty, diversity, and history. Whether you choose the Lares Trek, the Salkantay Trek, or the Choquequirao Trek, you will have an unforgettable experience enriching your understanding and appreciation of the Inca culture and Peru.