Trekking around Cusco and Machu Picchu in 2021
The mecca of trekking
Peru is a global mecca for trekking, and Cusco lies at the very center of this. With a third of the country covered by the Andes, dramatic mountain terrain is the norm.
For the last few thousand years, a number of pre-columbian civilizations like the Incas have domesticated this terrain like no other civilization in the world.
They paved 1000s of kilometers of trail to create the largest mountain trail network to have ever existed: The Qhapac Ñan or Inka Trail network, providing engless opportunities for mountain walking.
It doesn’t matter if you are a day hiker or an experienced mountaineer, there is a hike near Cusco and Machu Picchu for everyone. We have compiled a short list to help out your planning for the coming year.
Outlook for 2021
While everything has been closed for most of this year, 2021 is already looking much brighter for hiking around Cusco and Machu Picchu.
The Peruvian government is determined to keep cases under control with strict bio-security protocols throughout the country, while keeping trekking routes and tours to Machu Picchu limited to simultaneously keep the tourism industry alive.
For example, the Inca trail and Machu Picchu have well-established bio-security measures to guarantee the safety of tourists and locals alike since October 2020.
The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Known as the most popular trek in the world, this 4-day adventure starts in the Sacred Valley and follows 43km of ancient Inca trails leading into Machu Picchu.
This is the only trek that lets you arrive directly into the ruins via the ‘Sun Gate’ or ‘Intipunku’, in the same way the Inca emperor did more than 500 years ago when visiting from his palace in Cusco.
Despite requiring to book your slot online in advance via one of the registered Inca Trail tour companies, there is currently a limit of 120 trekkers per day, which makes it perhaps the best time to enjoy a guided Inca Trail tour without the risk of crowds.
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
This is the second most developed multi-day treks to Machu Picchu and is nothing short of astounding. It starts in the dry side of the Andes, passes a couple of glacial lakes and high mountain passes with the view of snowy peaks, and then descends into the beginning of the Amazon jungle on the other side.
One of the main difference between this and the traditional Inca trail is that it is harder, reaching a height of 4600 meters (15000 ft) at its highest point. Also, unlike its more popular counterpart, an independent expedition without a tour company is possible, with the drawback that you cannot gloriously enter Machu Picchu via the ‘Sun gate’.
Lares and Choquequirao treks to Machu Picchu
These two lesser-known, multi-day trekking alternatives are also in the vicinity of Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Unlike the other treks, the Lares trek doesn’t go through any particular areas of interest, but instead takes you through a number of traditional Andean villages so you can experience this more closely. Also, to finish in Machu Picchu you must take a scenic 4-hour train ride into Aguas Calientes.
The Choquequirao trek takes you to this newly discovered citadel of the same name in the dense jungle near Machu Picchu and has only recently become accessible for trekking expeditions. This allows you to experience an undomesticated Inka citadel without the crowds, while also trekking to Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes to Macchu Pichu
If you only want to go on a day-hike while visiting Machu Picchu, your best option is to climb the Machu Picchu trail hike which involves climbing to Machu Picchu from nearby town Aguas Calientes.
This is a 1.5-hour uphill hike through a steep jungle trail, so appropriate footwear is required. You will also avoid the expensive bus fare which most people pay to get to the citadel.
Staying in Aguas Calientes
Casa del Sol Boutique Hotel can provide you with a calm and safe haven within the bustling Aguas Calientes, as well as an opportunity to unwind and experience Machu Picchu in a unique way. Experiences range from private tours of the citadel to shaman-led vow renewals, we cater for all. Our bartenders offer Pisco Sour classes in our exclusive river-side bar while our chefs and masseurs can make you indulge in a relaxation banquet.