The Trek to Machu Picchu

In Adventure Travel, Featured, Travel Info by Gareth8 Comments

The Trek to Machu Picchu - Walking alone the train tracks to Aguas Calientes

The Trek to Machu Picchu - Walking along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes with the Picch high above.

This was one of those adventures that I will keep with me for my entire life.

When I set out on my most recent trip to South America in October, I had no intentions of visiting Machu Picchu. My goal was to pass through Ecuador and Peru as quick as possible to get settled in Bolivia and start working with BiblioWorks.

The trip developed, one stop led to the next and before I knew it I found myself in Lima contemplating holiday plans and itching to do something big. As I caught my breath from the first 2 months on the road, I realized that Cusco would be a great place to spend Christmas and that Machu Picchu would be a great distraction from being away from home for Christmas.

I was hesitant at first because of all the hoopla around the famous monument. I worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype, I wondered if the rainy season would ruin the trip and I was sure I’d get annoyed with Asian tourists throwing up peace signs all over the place.

Despite my concerns, I wanted to experience Machu Picchu and I thank the Incan gods I did. It turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I was amazed by its size and condition, baffled by how it was all built, in awe of the scenery and absolutely captivated by the energy that flows through the ruins, jungle, and surrounding mountain range.

But before I made it to these incredible ruins, there was a beautiful adventure to be had just getting there. Here’s how the trek to the Picch went down…

CHOOSING THE TOUR

This is the part that sucks about planning for Machu Picchu. Cutting through all the Machu Picchu bull shit and tourist traps in Cusco to find a tour operator that won’t over promise and under deliver. I teamed up with a British friend (Lauren) I met in Arequipa and we set out to find the best possible tour by negotiating around town and reading reviews online. Turns out there are a million different tour sales offices in Cusco but only a few actual tour operators.

After 2 days of scavenging, we decided on the Inca Jungle Trek with Reserv. Cusco for $220 US. A 4-day, 3-night, guided tour that included 1 day of mountain biking, 3 days of hiking, zip-lining, hot springs, food and accommodations.

DAY 1: THE KICK START

Lauren, myself, and our Australian friend (Annika) arrived at the Reserv Cusco office at 7:30am where we met our guide (Juan Carlos) and the last member of our trekking team, Vicky, a professor from California. 4 days in the jungle with 3 women and a guide was a nice perk to the trip.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Mountain Biking on Day 1

My Inca Jungle Trail Crew to Machu Picchu - Mountain Biking on Day 1

We got acquainted as our tour bus took us out of Cusco to Abra de Malaga, where we geared up to mountain bike. The ride started way up in the clouds and descended 65 km (40 miles) into the jungle. We road for about 4 hours, mostly downhill along the highway, and we hit a few small patches of “off-roading,” which was basically just unpaved streets. It wasn’t anything too extreme, but the view was so beautiful that I had to catch myself sometimes so I wouldn’t go over edge.

Inca Jungle Trek - Mountain Biking to Machu Picchu

Up in the clouds, ready to bike!

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Mountain Biking on Day 1

The view from our bikes.

After the ride we jumped back in the bus and cruised for a bit more before we unloaded again for a quick hike to the village of Santa Maria, where we spent our first night.

DAY 2: HIKE LIKE AN INCA

Well rested and ready to roll, we hit the ground running on day 2 for what was planned to be longest hiking day of the trip. We traversed across mountains and cut through thick jungle as we hiked for 7 hours, including about an hour on the official Inca trail.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Leaving Santa Maria to hike part of the original Inca Trail on day 2

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Hiking through the jungle on day 2

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Fresh mangos along the trail!

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Fresh cocaine along the trail? Coca plants cover the countryside.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Beautiful waterfalls line the jungle trail.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Hiking the original Inca trail

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

The highest point along the original Inca trail.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

The view from the Inca trail

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Basking in the sunshine and scenery.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

A cute little tourist trap at one of our pit stops.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Pit stop roll play.

Inca Jungle Trail Trek to Machu Picchu - The Girls

The girls and their trekking war paint (from left to right, Lauren, Vicky and Anikka)

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Hiking along the river to the hot springs

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Crossing the river the old fashion way. Just a basket and some rope.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking Day 2

Perfect end to a long day of hiking - the hot springs of Cocalmayo

We finished day 2 at the hot springs of Cocalmayo before making a final push to our second night’s stop in Santa Teresa.

DAY 3: ZIPPING INTO AGUAS CALIENTES

Sore and blistered, the girls sucked up their funky foot issues to keep up on day 3. After breakfast, a shuttle bus took us to the zip-lining headquarters where we received some safety instructions and got geared up.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Zip-Line Day 3

Ready to Zip.

There were 6 different zip-lines stretching across a deep canyon that could be reached by a network of muddy trails, each one faster and higher than the last. The highlight was definitely the “Spiderman” move Juan Carlos taught us, which is where you swing yourself upside down and let your hand fly free as you zip over the river a few hundred feet below. It freaks ya out a little bit.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Zip-Line Day 3

Vicky taking off (screaming all the way)

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Zip-Line Day 3

Don't look down Annika!

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Zip-Line Day 3

Juan Carlos teaching us how to Spiderman the zip-line.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Zip-Line Day 3

No big deal, just hanging upside down as I fly through the air a few hundred feet off the ground.

We unhooked from the zip-line and continued on foot for another few hours, through the jungle and along the train tracks to the beautiful village of Aguas Calientes, which would be our base camp for Machu Picchu…

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking to Aguas Calientes Day 3

Hiking to Aguas Calientes as Machu Picchu looks on from above.

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking to Aguas Calientes Day 3

Lauren found a monster butterfly along the hike to Aguas Calientes

Inca Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu - Hiking to Aguas Calientes Day 3

Arriving in Aguas Calientes, our Machu Picchu base camp.

SEE PART II: My Machu Picchu Experience

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Comments

  1. Author
    Gareth

    Unlike the classic Inca or Salkantay trails, the Inca Jungle Trek gives you the opportunity to do some other fun stuff and break up the hiking a bit. Definitely check it out when you get there Steph.

  2. Renato

    Man, great pics…I did the Jungle Trail a few weeks ago….I relived my experience with your picks….It was so amazingly beautiful….in fact I am going back next month and do the trekking to the Pich in a different way…around the Salkantay mountain range. I will be better prepared too…the mosquitos ate me up last time…. Peru is a fantastic place….and doing the trekking adds value to the whole experience. Absolutly fantastic !!!!

  3. Peruvian Mountains

    We, Peruvian Mountains Treks & Expedition is run by professional Trekking & Mountain guides, tour guides of English, Spanish, since year of establishment 2008 .We are an Expedition, Climbing, Mountaineering, adventure travel and trekking Operator company for Operating expedition, in the Cordillera Blanca santa cruz trek circuit cedros ,llanganuco ,ulta chavin climbing alpamayo , huascaran chopicalqui ,pisco artesonraju Cordillera Huayhuash full huayhuash trek diablo mudo climb Cordillera raura circuit lima churin raura cajatambo Cuzco inca trail machupicchu choquequirao Cordillera real pequeño alpamayo huayna potosi khotia trek . We are always ready to assist you to organize climbing expeditions to scale the mountains Peru – Bolivia. We have fixed departure for any adventure trip , So you can join with our any our program.

  4. Tara

    This jungle trail looks awesome. I’m currently looking at different tours for my trip – any reason why this one is so much cheaper than most of them out there? Does the $220 include meals/camping/entrance fees?

  5. Pingback: Machu Picchu Travel Tips | Air Travel Tips

  6. Inca Jungle Trek

    I wanted to mention that to reach Machu Picchu on a journey of adventure is not only the Classic Inca Trail that their spaces sell out in advance, but there are other alternative Inca trails to reach like Inca Jungle trail biking and hiking, Salkantay trek, lares trek.

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