Tag Archives: Machu Picchu

14 Ways to Get to Machu Picchu [2023] Entrance Fees, Rules + Routes

How to get to Machu Picchu in Peru_

Machu Picchu in Peru features high on many traveller’s bucket lists and rightfully so. One of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is hailed as an archaeologist’s dream.

Believed to be built in the 15th century by Peru’s Inca civilisation (by hand!) this South American icon is hard to miss although often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ (which is really Vilcabamba).

The gateway to this mesmerising abandoned city in the south-eastern city of Cusco/Cuzco and there are many ways to get to Machu Picchu from there.

So whether you are looking to go independently or via Machu Picchu tours, have ample time or are restricted, have holiday cash to burn or are on a tight budget; this guide will advise you how to get to Machu Picchu in 14 different ways.

Planning a trip to Machu Picchu just got easier! We’ll also discuss the new rules and Machu Picchu prices for 2023.

» You may also like: 2 weeks in Peru itinerary – transport, tips + tours

Machu Picchu Rules 2023

Due to the bizarre desire for tourists to get their chebs out and the mass demand to see this wonder, visiting Machu Picchu is now restricted by the Peruvian government. Changes will be implemented from 2017 and they are pretty strict.

Firstly, rules state you can not visit the Inca Citadel without an official guide but the goods news is that you can hire a guide at the gates.

Our friends did bypass having a guide so it is not impossible.

Please tell us what the situation is for you in the comments below.

Secondly, there will be increased set routes for you to follow.

Finally, time limits may be set at certain points to help with the flow of traffic which is probably a benefit to all.

There are also changes to the opening times which I will explain below. Your ticket will have your time on it.

From 2020, the number of entrants per day has been further cut to ensure the safety of visitors. You will also be asked to wear a mask and keep a safe distance from others.

2022 tickets are available through GetYourGuide, see table, for most options in 2023. Let’s take a look at the Machu Picchu prices.

Machu Picchu Entrance Fees 2023

The following Machu Picchu price list is the official fees for 2022. There are several options, some of which you can choose a time slot.

Machu Picchu (only) 6am-12pm: 152 soles/$45 USD – ADVANCE – BOOK NOW $65

Machu Picchu (only) 12-5:30 pm: 152 soles/$45 USD – ADVANCE – BOOK NOW $65

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu hike 7-8 am (1G/G1): 200 soles/$59 USD – ADVANCE $85

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu hike 10-11 am (2G/G2): 200 soles/$59 USD – ADVANCE $85

Machu Picchu + Montana 7-8 a.m (2G/G2): 200 soles/$59 USD – INSTANT  BOOK NOW $85

Machu Picchu + Montana 10-11 a.m: 200 soles/$59 USD – INSTANT BOOK NOW $85

Machupicchu + Horario Vespertino: 1-5pm for those with mountain hike ticket (doesn’t appear to be available on site)

*Warning: some online services advertise the advanced online ticket for cheaper but when you click through the ticket is for the Andean community nations, not foreigners.

How to get to Machu Picchu 

Inca Trail

The highlight of any backpacking trip across South America is the hike to Machu Picchu.

There are many ways to get to the site – rightly accounted as one of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world.

Most people opt for the classic way to Machu Picchu: train ride until Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) and then an early morning bus all the way to the entrance.

Others, though, dream of actually walking along the sacred way of the Incas and thus seeing the sunrise over Machu Picchu.

The only way that guarantees this – regardless of the season and the sunrise time – is via the official Inca Trail.

All other hikes finish in Aguas Calientes, and then require to either walk or take the bus to the entrance of the site, which opens at 6:00, and – provided the sun hasn’t risen already – rush all the way to the Inti Punku sun gate. This is not necessary with the traditional Inca Trail trek.

However, the Inca Trail has to be booked well in advance so your visit to Machu Picchu has to be planned well.

The Peruvian government issues the passes/permits (only 180-200 persons per day are allowed on the trail) at the beginning of January and they are usually sold out for the year within a couple of weeks.

Hiking the Inca Trail is an incredible, exhilarating and exhausting experience.

During the hike, it is possible to visit some otherwise inaccessible sites. The trek’s landscape is breath-taking – and not just caused by the altitude (make sure you are properly insured, see below for what we mean by ‘properly’!)

The trekking consists of long hikes, cold temperatures during the night, rain during the day, and meals in the kitchen tent.

The companionship with the rest of the group, the disgusting toilets in the base camps, the fact that it is virtually impossible to shower for the 4 days of the hike all add to this unforgettable experience.

And then, the cherry on the cake: a 3:00 wake up call to start walking in the dark and reach the Inti Punku in time for sunrise.

At that stage of the night, there is still the uncertainty that the day’s weather will have mercy on you and that the sun shows up, but then it happens, it’s there; Machu Picchu in all its glory.

  • Walking Distance: 43km/26 miles
  • Duration:  4 days/3 nights
  • Highlights: Machu Picchu Inca Trail is the most famous Peruvian trail
  • Downside: : Pre-book 6 months in advance / restricted numbers / expense
  • Tip: The Inca Trail closes for the month of February
  • Recommendation: by Claudia from My Adventures Across the World

Machu Picchu llama lying down

One-Day Inca Trail / KM 104 Trail / Short Inca

Getting to Machu Picchu via the one-day Inca Trail consists for a beautiful train journey. To access the one-day Inca Trail hike, you take the Peru Rail Vistadome train (see below) from Cusco heading towards Aguas Calientes, the town that Machu Picchu is located in.

However, you will disembark the train around 30 minutes before Aguas Calientes at what will appear to be the middle of nowhere, the stop KM 104. 

The Vistadome train has windows that scale to the roof of the train, allowing you to fully absorb the beauty of it curving through the crevices of the Andes Mountains. Don’t get too lost in the beauty of the landscape as you’ll have to hop off of the train at this no man’s land, KM 104.

From KM 104, the hike will take you into the Andes Mountains and scale you up, down, and around this mind-blowing mountain range. It is an intermediate hike that can take anywhere from 5-8 hours. There are plenty of steep climbs and tight curves, but they are all worth the stunning views from the top of the world in Peru.

Make sure to take at least 2 litres of water per person for this hike and plenty of snacks. There will be a few overhangs and places to stop and enjoy a rest and refuel. Also, make sure to pack a poncho in case you encounter rain on the trail.

Once you’ve finished the hike and explored the magnificent Machu Picchu, you can take the bus down to Aguas Calientes town where you can spend the night or take the Peru Rail train back to Cusco.

  • Walking Distance: 15km / 9 miles
  • Duration: 1 or 2 days (2 days more realistic)
  • Train from Sacred Valley: 1.5 hours/Train from Cusco: 3 hours
  • Trek: 5-8 hours
  • Tip: 1-day hike – take the earliest train (before 9am) as the gates close at stages
  • Tip: The Inca Trail closes for the month of February
  • Highlights: Train views, quick
  • Downside: Inca Trail requires a pre-booked permit (6 months in advance)
  • Recommendation: by Scott & Collette from Roamaroo

Although the most sought after, do not stress if you cannot plan as far ahead as the Inca Trail dictates. There are other options.

Here’s How to Reach Machu Picchu Without the Inca Trail

Machu Picchu by Train

The easiest and quickest way to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of the Machu Picchu is by taking the Machu Picchu train.

There are three types of train services which reach Aguas Calientes; Expedition, Vistadom, and Belmond Hiram Bingham.

The journey takes about 3.5 hours and the price varies throughout the year for each option.

The Expedition train is for budget travellers.

As this is the most affordable option, you have to book way in advance. It sells out.

The Vistadom train, which is a more expensive panoramic train, offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. You can see birds flying above the train through the large windows on the ceiling.

This experience allows visitors to connect with nature.

It is an air-conditioned train with comfortable chairs. It costs only a bit more than the cheaper Expedition train ($105+ one way) and it is worth the money.

The Belmond Hiram Bingham is the most luxurious option (images below).

These trains are painted blue and inside they are decorated in the style of the 1920’s Pullman trains.

If you want to feel like you are on the Orient Express, try this transport option to the Machu Picchu.

This price includes dinner and a tour of Machu Picchu.

If you want to continue with luxury check out this review of Belmond Sanctuary Review.

  • Booking Information: Book via Perurail
  • Duration: 3.5-4 hours
  • Highlights: Budget-friendly option, quick, no hike, good views
  • Downside: No hike, lower-class train envy
  • Recommendation: by Barbara from Jet Settera
  • Images via Belmond Hiram Bingham

» » You can book a bus, train and guided tour of Machu Picchu before you go. Click here to find out more with GetYourGuide

Belmond Hiram Bingham Train | How to get to Machu Picchu by train

Lares Trek

The Inca Trail is closed but I want to hike to Machu Picchu!

Don’t panic!

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is a 4 day/3 night trek which involves camping for 2 nights and a hotel stay on the night before Machu Picchu. The Lares Trek starts with a bus journey then breakfast at Lares Hot Springs where you can take a dip in the warm waters.

The day 1 hike ends at Cuncani where hikers meet with local children before dining then an early bedtime.

Day 2 kicks off with a 5:00 wake up call, breakfast then a day of hiking.

This is the hardest day as the trek involves a climb to 4650m (15255ft) above sea level at Condor’s Pass.

Day 3 is relatively easy, hiking to Pumahuacuanca for lunch, a bus ride to Ollantaytambo then the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (also called Aguas Calientes).

Dinner is in a restaurant tonight and hikers have the chance to shower and sleep in a hotel bed.

Day 4 is another early rise for Machu Picchu day, remember your passport or you will not gain entry.

Buses leave from Aguas Calientes all day (see below for more details), the earlier you can take the bus the better to avoid the crowds at Machu Picchu.

Be warned, there are hidden costs of trekking to Machu Picchu – the tips.

This will differ depending on who is in the trek team but averages out at around 65 soles (£14) per person.

We trekked to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions which is regarded as the best Machu Picchu company online and by word of mouth, hence the expense of the trip.

They promote ethical working conditions for their staff which is an important factor of sustainable travel (many companies say they do this but do not). Choose your company wisely.

  • Walking Distance: 33 km/20.5miles
  • Duration: 4 days/3 nights
  • Highlights: Hike, meet locals, camp + hotel, no 6-month pre-booking required
  • Downside: Early rises, camping, very high altitude
  • Recommendation: by us, Gemma and Craig from Two Scots Abroad
  • More details: Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

» Check competitive prices and reviews of Lares Trek here «

Lares Trail Peru

Inca Jungle Trek

From all of the possible ways to get to Machu Picchu in Peru, the most adventurous option is the Inca Jungle Trek, which includes a big variety of different adrenaline-filled activities.

The most usual form of the Inca Jungle Trek has a 4 day/3 night itinerary, but it is also possible to do so in this shorter version, which takes only 3 days/2 nights.

During these 4 days, travellers have the chance to test themselves in downhill mountain biking, river rafting, and even zip-lining.

Hostels are the main form of accommodation used during the Inca Jungle Trek but like the Lares Trek, the last night before the visit to Machu Picchu you stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

On day 1 the trek starts with a 3-hour drive to Abra Malaga Pass at 4,316 m altitude from where you will descend by bicycle to 1,196m in less than 60 km.

The downhill is very steep at certain points, so you have to be careful. In the afternoon there is optional rafting in Santa Maria (grade 3 and 4). On day 2 it is time for hiking in the jungle from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa.

The trek takes around 7 hours and you will have the chance to enjoy the beauties of the jungle in the Cusco region.

On day 3, those who are not tired of adventure can try the tallest zip-lining in South America, and the day is finished with a 3-hour trek from “Hidroelectrica” to Aguas Calientes. Day 4 is fully dedicated to visiting Machu Picchu.

  • Duration: 3 days/2 nights or 4 days/3 nights
  • Highlights: Adrenaline rush/hostels, no 6-month pre-booking required
  • Downside: Not for the faint-hearted or unfit
  • Recommendation: by Rachele and Gábor from Surfing the Planet

» » Check availability for Jungle Treks by clicking here

Salkantay Trek

Trek for 3, 4, or 5 days through remote mountain passes and verdant tropical Andean forest.

Optional activities along the Salkantay Trek include hot springs (pack mosquito repellent), zip-lining, a train ride, and horseback riding up to the steepest point of the trek. On the final day, you visit Machu Picchu. The amazing Salkantay Trek is a lifetime experience.

  • Walking Distance: 60km/37 miles
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Highlights: No six-month pre-booking required, excellent scenery
  • Downside: Altitude, long hike
  • Recommendation: by Jessica from Longest Bus Ride

» » Check availability and rates of Salkantay here

Choquequirao Trek

The Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu is an adventure in the truest sense. While the end goal of this 8-9 day trek may be Machu Picchu, the true highlight is hiking in solitude and passing through the expansive-yet-vacant Choquequirao ruins along the way.

The Incan complex of Choquequirao may very well be the next Machu Picchu sprawling more than 18km. Now is really the chance to go before they build a teleferico lift.

The Choquequirao Trek begins from just outside of Cachora. Days 1-2 are tough, as hikers make a steep descent into the Apurimac Canyon and an even sharper ascent up the other side.

The difficult dip is worth all the effort as the Choquequirao ruins soon come into view! Days 3-5 are spent passing over high altitude ridges, retired Inca Trails, and challenging switchbacks in near isolation.

Finally, on day 6-8, hikers will join up with the better travelled Salkantay Trail and finish on their way to Hydroelectrica.

From there, it’s just a train ride to Aguas Calientes and a bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

 The Choquequirao trek is rugged and tough at times, but truly worth the experience.

  • Distance:  64 km / 40 miles
  • Duration: 8-9 days
  • Highlights: Choquequirao ruins, satisfaction
  • Downside: Intense hike, high altitude
  • Recommendation: by Taylor and Daniel from Travel Outlandish

Lares Trek Machu Picchu Peru I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Lesser-Known Treks to Machu Picchu

Vilcabamba Trail/Trek

Vilcabamba Trail/Trek is very much one of the lesser-known hikes to Machu Picchu. It is common for hikers not to see any other tourists until they reach Santa Theresa. The route takes you along the royal roads that the Incas used and past snow-capped mountains. It is very remote.

  • Distance: 48 km/30 miles
  • Duration: 5 days/4 nights (8-hour bus journey to start)
  • Highlights: Remote
  • Downside: Physically hard / not available December to March

The Lodge Trek

Hey, flashpackers! The Lodge Trek to Machu Picchu is for you. Like some high-class monkey swinging from tree to tree, you bounce from hotel to hotel each night taking in the highlights of the journey to Machu Picchu, including a trip to the Sacred Valley (below), without having to touch a sleeping bag. The Lodge Trek does include short hikes (3-4 hours) but often ends the day at the Jacuzzi!

  • Duration: 9 days/8 nights (Cusco included)
  • Highlights: Luxury
  • Downside: Expensive / Length

The Chaski (or Cachicata) Trail

One of the newest treks to hit the Peru scene is the Chaski Trail which is also known as the Cachicata Trail. It is less demanding than other treks so an ideal trail for less experienced trekkers.

The bus from Cusco takes you through the Sacred Valley to the town of Socma (near Ollantaytambo, below) where you hike past waterfalls and meet with the local community to learn about traditional Andean life. The second day is the longest hike which lasts around four hours and ends at Cachicata.

Day 3 the group makes their way to Ollantaytambo to take the Machu Picchu train to Aguas Calientes. Like the Lares Trek, day four is spent at Machu Picchu.

  • Walking Distance: 25 km / 15.5 miles
  • Duration: 4 days/3 nights
  • Highlights: Perfect for new hikers
  • Downside: Fewer companies offer this new trek

Huchuy Qosqo (Small/Little Cusco) Trek

The shortest of all the treks, Huchuy Qosqo Trek is a mere 3 day/2 night trip which involves camping for one night and a stay at a hotel in Aguas Calientes (below) the night before visiting Machu Picchu.

The hike, which can be completed without a tour of Machu Picchu too, starts just 15 minutes outside of Cusco which keeps costs down.

  • Walking Distance: 18km/11 miles
  • Duration:  2 days/1 night or 3 days/2 night (with Machu Picchu extension)
  • Highlights: Budget-friendly / starts close to Cusco
  • Downside: Fewer companies offer this trek

How to see Machu Picchu on the Cheap

Warning, these two options are not for everyone and may involve skill to avoid walking into the train guards around Ollantaytambo (at the start follow the tracks but not on the tracks) and/or lying (say you have lost your hiking group) to execute. Intrigued? You should be…

DIY Machu Picchu Trek

If you want to spend less but get the same experience, you don’t have to sign up with a tour agency to get to Machu Picchu.

Here’s how you can do-it-yourself.

From Cusco, take a shared Colectivo found at Plaza de Armas to Ollantaytambo.

You will also have the opportunity to stay in this town for a while, take some pictures and enjoy the view.

From Ollantaytambo, hop in another shared taxi/van ride to KM 82.

Nope, you are not going to take the $80 train ride but you will be walking its tracks to go up.

Depending on your speed, the 28km walk duration is 7-8 hours.

I was with a group of Argentines who walked really fast so we did it for 5 hours but I was dead by the time we reached Aguas Calientes!

It was so hard to keep up with a fast group so make sure you are physically fit if you are to do this.

You will probably have to spend the night in Aguas Calientes to prepare for the hike the following day.

There are numerous hostels in this town but please do not expect for a super good one as this is a ‘come and go’ area where people only sleep and carry on the hike.

The next day, start the hike up around 3:30 to see the sunrise.

If you do not want to wake up early or are too tired to hike up, you can buy a bus ticket for $9.50/£7.65 that will take you all the way up to Machu Picchu.

  • Walking Distance: 28km + 390 metres/1280 feet
  • Duration:  2 days
  • Highlights: Budget-friendly, cheapest way to Machu Picchu
  • Downside: Level of fitness required / safety / have to avoid train guards
  • Recommendation: by Trisha at P.S I’m On My Way

Warning, this following option is not for everyone and may involve skill to avoid walking into the train guards around Ollantaytambo (at the start follow the tracks but not on the tracks) and/or lying (say you have lost your hiking group) to execute. Intrigued? You should be…

Walking from Ollantaytambo

To travel to Machu Picchu on a tight budget, take a local bus (from Plaza de Armas) hitchhike from Cusco then take a minivan taxi to Ollantaytambo.

This should be a two-hour trip.

At Ollantaytambo, you can visit ruins and then the market which is a good place to buy some snacks for the trip.

From Ollantaytambo walk to Aguas Calientes by the railway path area (being mindful of the train guards).

The walk is 32km and well signposted.

It is very easy to navigate!

Locals and other tourists can be seen walking the railway path too.

This walk can be a little hardcore, 7 hours in total.

Part of the route is an amazing walk next to the river where you can hear the sounds of the river flowing, with a picturesque view.

Be aware of your surroundings; sometimes there is a need to move away from the noisy yet slow oncoming trains.

This walk is one of the cheapest ways to go to Machu Picchu and one of the best, especially for those who love trekking and hiking.

It is highly recommended to take food and water, a flashlight for when it starts to get dark and to wear decent trekking shoes. From here, hike to Machu Picchu (see above) or take the bus (see below).

This route can be hiked to Aguas Calientes and back to Ollantaytambo.

  • Walking Distance: 32km
  • Duration: 9-10 hours one-way
  • Highlights: Hike, meet locals, budget-friendly, cheapest way to Machu Picchu
  • Downside: Hitchhiking, intense hike, safety / have to avoid train guards
  • Recommendation: by Ruben from Gamin Travel

Machu Picchu Escorted Tours

There are many companies who will create tailor-made tours to Machu Picchu and of course that comes with a heftier price tag than organising a trip independently.

However, you have the satisfaction that all aspects of the trip to Machu Picchu will be covered from transports to entrance fees with the added bonus of knowledgeable tour guides who can discuss Machu Picchu history with you.

Hikes at Machu Picchu
Huayna Picchu/Wayna Picchu

Due to popularity, only 250 climbers per day allocated slot are allowed to climb Wayna Picchu ‘Young Mountain’ (Huayna Picchu).

The ascent takes around one hour and involves some scrambling using hands and feet.

The path may be wet to hike, carefully creating a good distance from the climbers in front is recommended.

The first gate opens at 7-8am but the morning fog usually lies until 10-11am.

The descent should take around 45 minutes. The second entrance time is 10-11am. Climbers should exit by 1pm.

  • Duration:  1 hour 45 mins (although some sites claim 3-4 hours)/ final ascent 2 hours before closing time
  • Highlights: Views of the Citadel
  • Downside: Steep but no technical ability required

» Read more: Where to stay in Cusco before/after your tour

Machu Picchu Mountain

Machu Picchu Mountain (Cerro Machu Picchu) Peru’s ‘Old Mountain’ is less touched by tourists so easier to buy tickets for.

The mountain trek is open from 7-8am and then 9-10am but an early start is advisable to avoid the midday heat.

This may mean that you are tackling the thousands of steps through the morning mist but appears to be worth it to watch the Machu Picchu ruins appear through the clouds. 

Climbers must exit by 3pm.

  • Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours (although some sites say the average is 4 hours)
  • Maximum 400 climbers per day
  • Highlights: Seeing Machu Picchu ruins from another angle
  • Downside: Often misty first thing

Overall Tips – Machu Picchu Information

Machu Picchu Tickets 2023

You must pre-pay for your tickets to Machu Picchu before you arrive and you must take your passport with you to Machu Picchu do not do as Craig did and leave it in the hotel!

Remember to collect your cool Machu Picchu stamp at the entrance.

Booking Machu Picchu tickets (and above hikes) can be done online at the official government website (price quoted in Peruvian Sol). It is not the most straightforward though so please read the next paragraph.

Machu Picchu Entrance Fees 2023

The following Machu Picchu price list is the official fees for 2022. There are several options, some of which you can choose a time slot.

Machu Picchu (only) 6am-12pm: 152 soles/$45 USD – ADVANCE – BOOK NOW $65

Machu Picchu (only) 12-5:30 pm: 152 soles/$45 USD – ADVANCE – BOOK NOW $65

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu hike 7-8 am (1G/G1): 200 soles/$59 USD – ADVANCE $85

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu hike 10-11 am (2G/G2): 200 soles/$59 USD – ADVANCE $85

Machu Picchu + Montana 7-8 a.m (2G/G2): 200 soles/$59 USD – INSTANT  BOOK NOW $85

Machu Picchu + Montana 10-11 a.m: 200 soles/$59 USD – INSTANT BOOK NOW $85

Machupicchu + Horario Vespertino: 1-5pm for those with mountain hike ticket (doesn’t appear to be available on-site)

*Warning: some online services advertise the advanced online ticket for cheaper but when you click through the ticket is for the Andean community nations, not foreigners.

Machu Picchu Opening Times

The new opening times for Machu Picchu come in two entrance slots.

The morning opening times are 6am-12pm then for an afternoon visit you have from 12-5:30pm

Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu

Buses from Aguas Caliente start from 5am and run every 10-20 minutes until 15:30 (last entry for Machu Picchu is 16:00).

The bus takes around 30 minutes and can be purchased on the day or pre-booked in Aguas Caliente or in Cusco at the Consettur Machupicchu SAC office (Avenida Pardo) the day before.

We took the bus from Aguas Caliente then walked back after the morning at Machu Picchu. The well-signposted walk took around 1 hour and was relatively easy.

There are frequent buses from Machu Picchu to Aguas Caliente directly outside of the entrance.

Aguas Calientes Accommodation

Aguas Calientes Hotels

There are over 100 hotels in Aguas Calientes so you are not stumped for choice! All cater to visitors getting up early and/or arriving late. Hotels start at around $30-$2000.

The Belmond Luxury Lodge is the most sought-after luxury accommodation in Machu Picchu.

The lodge has stunning views of  Huayna Picchu Mountain and located in a serene setting. Rooms are fully equipped and some have private patios. The Tampu Restaurant boasts panoramic views of the jungle. Rooms start at £900 but sell out very fast.

» » Check the best deals on Machu Picchu hotels here

Aguas Calientes | Ways to Machu Picchu Peru

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a thing and it can hit anyone hard.

You must acclimatise before setting off on your desired Machu Picchu hike or trip. Spend a couple of days in Cusco, especially if you are arriving straight from the capital, Lima.

Craig and I were both OK after spending 1.5 weeks travelling from Lima via the hop-on/off bus, Peru Hop experiencing many of Peru’s tourist attractions such as sandboarding at Huachachina and a boat ride at Isla Ballestas.

However, two members of our trek were hit badly by the altitude.

One rode by donkey for most the trek and the other required gas. It is also worth purchasing coca leaves before your trek.

This local energy boost remedy is placed inside the cheeks and sucked. Make sure you have acceptable travel insurance coverage. What do you mean by acceptable?

Check if your insurer covers you at high altitudes like ours, True Traveller, does.

I shopped around extensively and many do not cover you at this height.

Two members of our party were very sick, take your health seriously before you fly. Check out if True Traveller is right for you by clicking here.

North American readers should look into the most popular travel insurer, World Nomads.

Couple ponchos Peru hike

Best Time to visit Machu Picchu

May through to September, Peruvian winter (dry season) is the best time to visit Machu Picchu with May being held as the optimum month.

However, we hiked in April and were told that our weather (drizzle) was not ‘normal’ for that time of year with El Niño being blamed by locals in Cusco.

October to April is the wet season. February is the rainiest month and also when the Inca trail is closed so consider one of the other Machu Picchu tours (or Machu Picchu tour packages) during this month.

How to Get to Machu Picchu from Lima

So now that you have all of the Machu Picchu information that you need and you are buzzing about your trip to one of South America’s most popular tourist attractions you probably should work out how to get from Peru’s capital to Lima to the Cusco/Cuzco.

The most efficient yet expensive way is by internal flight.

There are several airlines such as Star Peru and Aviana, which make this trip and prices start around $157/£127 (return) for the 1.5-hour journey.

Lima to Machu Picchu is a common journey but please read or guidance on altitude sickness before you book the trip.

Many backpackers who are travelling around Peru use the safe and fun hop on/off bus service, Peru Hop.

This was how we backpacked around Peru, you can read our honest review of the tour.

We loved it so much we used the sister company, Bolivia Hop to get us out of Peru and over to La Paz.

The alternative is to use public buses from Lima to Cusco which is the cheapest option but is also a long at 20+ hour journey.

I’d recommend splitting up the journey by stopping at Arequipa or one of the other smaller towns mentioned above on the way.

Lares trek to Machu Picchu

Inca Trail Packing List (+ Other hikes)

Trekking to Machu Picchu can mean hiking in all four seasons. We experienced rain, shine, and even snow!

The number one priority for your Machu Picchu packing list must by footwear.

It is recommended that you have well-worn in trekking boots or shoes as well as a good raincoat or strong poncho (the latter often provided by the trekking company).

Your Machu Picchu trek company will most likely provide a small bag for you to store clothes and toiletries in which is carried by the porters and donkeys who trek with you (leaving your rucksack stored in your Cusco hostel, this is common).

Your Machu Picchu day pack should include a poncho or raincoat, suntan lotion, money, water, a camera and of course your passport <— do not forget this!

Whether you decide to train, hike or bike there is an option for every type of traveller who wants to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu.

Nearly one million people see this Inca wonder, the big question so is how will you get there?!

Heading to Peru? Don’t miss our itinerary packed full of tips on where to go, what to see, and how to stay alive.

Oh and don’t forget that travel insurance for a tranquilo trip.

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Over to you, how will you get to Machu Picchu?

Peru Travel Guides
What to pack for your Machu Picchu hike
» Backpacking in Peru advice
» Two weeks in Peru itinerary
» Colca Canyon hike – highly recommend
» Learn Spanish in Peru


What to pack for Machu Picchu: Inca, Lares, Salkantay + Jungle Trek

What to pack for Machu Picchu Peru

Thousands flock to Peru every year to hike to Machu Picchu. The most popular route is to hike the Inca Trail which requires planning as the dates for the trek fill up fast (hikers should book at least six months in advance). Although famous, the Inca Trail is not the only route, in fact – there are 14 ways to Machu Picchu. This ultimate guide on what to pack for Machu Picchu includes an Inca Trail packing list as well as essentials for the Lares Trek (which we, Gemma and Craig, completed), Salkantay Trek and the thrill-seeking Jungle Trek as well as what to wear on the big day! All Machu Picchu packing lists have been tried and tested by seasoned travellers, so you can trust their advice on what works, and what you can leave behind. Remember, you will be restricted by size and weight specifications and/or what you can realistically carry on your back. Feel free to use the ‘jump to’ section to select your hike of choice.

Know before you go

Most of hotels and hostels in Cusco offer storage for rucksacks and suitcases and the majority of Machu Picchu hike companies provide duffel bags (max weight 5-8kg) which are carried by porters and donkeys. It is advised to fill your own day bag with hiking essentials, first aid items, water and snacks, although most companies provide snacks too. Treks require camping and it gets cold at night so consider this when reviewing our packing lists.

You must wear in your hiking boots/shoes before trekking, there is no time for sore feet although you can hire a donkey if required. Altitude sickness is real! Acclimatise in Cusco before you set off on your multi-day hike to one of the new modern seven wonders of the world! Quick note, the most important item you must pack is your passport or you will not get access to Machu Picchu!

Naturally, we do not advise going away on any trip without travel insurance. I researched which provider to commit to for weeks (I am that annoying customer) and settled with True Traveller because they cover high altitude hiking (not all providers will). I had to use them while in Vancouver, I had one GP visit and two stints at a physio; True Traveller paid out quickly which was ideal as we were on a budget.

What to wear to Machu Picchu Peru

What to Pack for Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka) is the most popular hike in Peru. The 4-day day hike passes through forest, villages and Inca ruins but due to its popularity, the trail closes every February for cleaning. A maximum of 500 people are allowed to hike per day and this includes 300 porters and guides. Camping is required each night, baby wipes are essentials and there is a 3am wake-up call to hike to Inti Punku to catch the sunrise. So bearing all of this in mind, here’s your Inca Trail Packing List.

Inca Trail Packing List

By  Claudia Tavani | My Adventures Across The World 

Packing for the Inca Trail is easier said than done, and it requires a bit of planning. One essential thing to keep in mind is that walking it is harder than you may think, given the altitude and the almost daily rain. What you pack depends on whether you intend to hire a porter.

There’s a strict, no more than 7 kg of weight that an individual can give to a porter, and that also includes the weight of the sleeping bag.

If you decided to carry your own backpack you can obviously take on more weight, but I advise against it. In fact, my tops are to pack as light as possible, hire the services of a porter, and only take a small daypack with daily essentials along. I have seen various people refusing to hire a porter and giving in on day two of the trail.

Having said so here’s a strictly essential packing list for walking the Inca Trail

Clothes and gear

  • Hiking boots – don’t even consider wearing anything else. Running shoes may be lighter and more comfortable, but you really want all the extra ankle support. Check out Salomon Quest boots US / UK
  • Hiking pants/trousers – best if water-resistant
  • A good rain like Mountain Equipment Rupal jacket US / UK and windproof coat and an extra poncho to wear on top, if necessary. Keep in mind that if walking in the winter, it may get even colder than expected
  • A change of pants/trousers – preferably leggings which can also be worn as pyjamas
  • A thermal shirt – it does get tremendously cold at night
  • One or two extra t-shirts
  • A good sweater, best if a fleece
  • A hat and a scarf
  • A couple of changes of underwear
  • Hiking socks
  • Flipflops – for resting your feet at night
  • A refillable water bottle – read Gemma’s review here
  • A headlamp
  • Snacks – they are typically provided on the trail, but they are very basic (popcorn, some fruit) so if you think you’ll need the extra energy, carry a couple of energy bars and some trail mix
  • Cash – to tip the guides and the porters
  • Camera and/or phone
  • Power bank – there’s no way to change anything during the hike (Two Scots Abroad never travel without by Anker’s packs US / UK
  • Extra memory card

Toiletry/medical essentials

You won’t be able to shower at all during the Inca Trail, so spare yourself the weight and just take a small bar of soap and hand sanitizer, a pack of wet wipes, deodorant, travel toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, sunblock and a small moisturizer (take a sample), mosquito repellent, lip balm

  • A small towel
  • A roll of toilet paper
  • Prescription medications and common drugs – paracetamol, Imodium, etc

Lares Trek Packing List

The Lares Trek is one alternative to the Inca Trail and it covers four days/three nights (two nights camping and one in a hotel in Aguas Calientes).

Wake up calls are early, the nights are cold and the hardest part of the hike is reaching 4650m (15255ft) above sea level at the Condor’s Pass. The reward? A hot chocolate at the top, in the snow.

Like the Inca Trail, you can hire porters and donkeys to carry your larger bags (max weight 8kg, usually provided by company). This is the hike that Craig and I did, here’s our packing list for the Lares Trek.

Clothes and gear (male/female)

  • Quality raincoat (I love my Marmot US / UK as it is light and folds into its own pocket)
  • Leggings/walking trousers
  • Waterproof trousers, the packaway ones are fine 
  • Shorts (wore at Machu Picchu)
  • 3 vest tops (you will want a clean outfit for Machu Picchu)
  • A cardigan/fleece
  • Gloves (I bought wool ones from the market for 8 soles, Craig paid 11 soles on the road)
  • 4 x underwear
  • 1 x bra
  • 4 x socks
  • Scarf? (I found useful as a cover too)
  • Hat/headband/bandanna
  • Quality poncho (our company gave us this)
  • Sunglasses (for when you are lucky!)
  • Torch
  • Quality bag cover like Osprey US / UK
  • Walking sticks (you can hire for $15)
  • Camera/phone (cover-up in the rain, one of our team lost her camera to the rain Gods)
  • Money (limited opportunity to buy during trek but needed for tipping and Machu Picchu day as lunch is not included)
  • Passport (needed for Machu Picchu, we learned the hard way…)
  • Swimwear/towel for day one baths

Toiletries and medicine

  • Baby wipes
  • Deodorant (1 x stick / 1 x small spray)
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hair bobble and kirby grips/bobby pins
  • Suntan lotion (vital)
  • Insect repellent
  • Tissues (or steal some toilet roll)
  • Blister pads (you won’t find these in Cusco, invest in Leukotape US / UK before you go which I always tape up with before hikes)
  • Coca leaves/ash or coca sweets for altitude
  • Painkillers

Machu Picchu packing advice

Machu Picchu Shoes

Each packing list stresses the need to have decent walking boots! The second most important tip I can offer (number one is to remember your passport) is to break in your hiking shoes before you touchdown in Peru.

As mentioned above, trainers will not cut it. Multi-day hikes take their toll on your joints, you are already putting your body under tremendous stress by walking at high altitude so do your knees a favour and invest in a decent pair of walking boots or shoes.

I actually prefer trek trainers like walking shoes by Salomon because they are lighter for packing and I don’t like boots touching my ankles after previous Achilles trauma!

Also, pack one pair of flipflops to let your feet breathe at night and give them a rest. You won’t want to put your feet back into your boots once they are off and there’s no way you should be going to the toilet barefooted.

First Aid Kit

  • Painkillers (headaches with altitude)
  • Malaria tablets (if taking)
  • Coca leaves/sweets
  • Others had prescribed altitude sickness tablets – discuss with your doctor
  • Update: I never travel without these hydration tablets US / UK now (mostly as a hangover cure!)


  • Plastic bags for rubbish/wet clothes
  • Cereal bars (one box)
  • Bananas (green ones ripen in one day)
  • Tangerines
  • Water
  • Skittles/candy

Salkantay Trek Packing List

By Owen Ter | My Turn to Travel

Salkantay differs slightly to the Inca and Lares because the hike can last from three to five days and optional activities are offered along the way such as zip-lining, horseback riding and hot spring dips! The highest point is 4600m above sea level. Owen from My Turn to Travel went for the long haul and hiked for five days and four nights. Here’s his Machu Picchu hike packing list.


  • 1 day pack for essentials
  • 1 day pack/duffel bag carried by mules (depending on your agency, it might be provided and maximum weight is 5-7kg)

Clothes and gear

  • Towel (showers are available on the final day hotel at the Agua Calientes)
  • Bathing suit for Santa Teresa hot spring

Hiking t-shirts split into followings:

  • 1 or 2 t-shirts for high altitude trek (cold)
  • 1 for humid weather (cloud forest hike)
  • 1 for a hot (trek from Santa Teresa to Agua Calientes)
  • 1 for Machu Picchu outfit (photo opp!)

Hiking pants long and short for different climate at different sections of the trek

  • Wear long pants if doing ziplining. There are TONS of blood-sucking insects


  • Underwear for 5 days trekking
  • Thermals (USA / UK) for first night campsite at >3900m and second-night campsite 2900m
  • Fleece jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Insulated jacket (recommended to wear layers as internal heat generated keeps trekkers warm)
  • Gloves (it can get very cold at campsite and Salkantay pass)
  • Cap/hat
  • Beanie for cold weather
  • Sleeping bag/pad -10 degrees C (Available to rent from company)
  • Refillable water bottle (min 1L)
  • Trekking poles (optional, can hire from company)
  • Small locks for the duffel bag on the mules
  • Waterproof ziplock bags

Trekking shoes

  • Trekking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Socks for five days (two days cold, three days warmer) + extra socks in case of rain

Toiletries and medicine

  • First aid kit
  • Hangover remedy US / UK is recommended – cheap drinks at Santa Teresa’s campfire)
  • Insect repellent and itch cure
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitiser
  • Toilet Paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp
  • Passport for Machu Picchu
  • Camera
  • Charging cables for phones and camera (charge at Agua Calientes hotel)
  • Snacks

Money for

  • Fruits/additional food and drinks
  • Beer and drinks available at various campsites
  • Bus to hot spring (15 soles)
  • Hot spring entrance fee (10 soles)
  • Ziplining (100 soles)
  • Photos for ziplining
  • Exploring Aguas Calientes (food, drinks, souvenirs)

Do remember

  • Payment receipt – Important!
  • Train ticket/receipt if included
  • Huayna Picchu/Machu Picchu Mountain ticket if included
  • Passport!

Lastly, prop for Machu Picchu money shot… Check out Owen’s guide to the Salkantay Trek.

Salkantay Trek packing list

Inca Jungle Trek packing list

By Patrick Muntzinger | German Backpacker

The Inca Jungle Trek is a great way to reach Machu Picchu since it’s a nice mix of trekking and fun activities such as zip-lining, mountain biking and rafting. Your accommodation will be guest houses (no camping equipment needed) and your guide will also take care of all your meals.

An important note: don’t book the trek online in advance – you’ll pay most likely four times as much as people who book the trek directly in Cusco.

There’s always enough availability (even in high season), so walk around Cusco, compare different offers and make sure to get a good deal – 150$ for the four days, including all accommodation, activities, meals and entrance to Machu Picchu is a fair price.

After this is sorted, it’s time to pack your bag! Here’s the ultimate packing list for the Machu Picchu Jungle Trek

Clothes and gear

  • 1 x pair of long pants (especially in winter, it cools down in the night)
  • 2 x pair of shorts (good for hiking)
  • 1 x swimming trunks (you’ll go rafting)
  • 4 x t-shirts
  • 1 x sweater (for these cool evenings)
  • 1 x rain jacket (especially in the rainy season!)
  • 4 x underwear and socks
  • Hiking shoes (comfortable for a lot of walking)
  • Flipflops (for the guesthouses and rafting)
  • Passport and documents
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp or torch (you’ll start climbing up to Machu Picchu when it’s still dark)
  • Powerbank
  • Chargers and adapter
  • Camera and phone
  • Candy and snacks

Toiletries and medicine

  • Toiletries
  • Toilet paper (always good to have in South America)
  • Travel towel
  • Mosquito spray
  • Sunscreen

Generally, it’s recommended and possible to pack very lightly for the Inca Jungle Trek. Since you’ll have a guide with you, everything is basically organised. Make sure to take only a small daypack which is comfortable to carry on your back (remember there is biking), and you’ll be fine!

What to wear to Machu Picchu

It is likely that you will visit Machu Picchu early in the morning to miss the crowds so you will need a warm layer until the clouds lift. Thereafter, your outfit will really be weather dependent so pack a raincoat in your day bag and be conservative with your dress code.

You can wear shorts and vest tops but dresses may be questioned (check out Follow Me Away’s story). 2017 rules allow cameras but tripods and drones need to be left in Cusco. Suntan lotion is also recommended, even if it’s misty you can still get burnt.

Machu Picchu trek packing list overview

Personally, I feel we packed efficiently for our trek. We advise you to carry snacks, your first aid kit, sunglasses, camera, phone, hats, gloves and most importantly, your passport in your Machu Picchu daypack and remember to collect your stamp at the entrance!

Now, this might sound crazy but I am seriously considering a hammock for future hikes/camping trips.

Naturally, this would only be seriously considered in warmer climates with a low mosquito count, but every time I see someone with a hammock (even in the airport, genius!) I am super jealous. This cause also helps out homeless people – win-win!

Lares trek to Machu Picchu packing list
Warning – dressing in the dark causes funny mistakes.

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What to pack for Machu Picchu

Have we missed anything?
Please leave any comments or questions below.

» Read next: our international hiking packing list


Peru Itinerary: 2 Weeks in Peru [Routes, Transport, Accommodation]

Machu Picchu llama lying down

You’ve picked the right country! Peru is safe, developed, and boasts of every type of terrain possible. 2 weeks in this South American country is ample time to soak up the Peruvian culture without feeling rushed. Here is our extensive Peru itinerary, which can be reduced or extended depending on your timescale. It details the top Peru tourist attractions, how to get around, what to eat and drink, where to stay and how to make your budget stretch. Although I have recommended a number of days for each location, you can pick and choose which stops meet your touring Peru needs best.

2 Weeks in Peru Itinerary – The Route

1. Lima

Most travellers fly into the capital, Lima.

If you have one night, stay in Miraflores, it’s very touristy but has everything on your doorstep – food markets (North America’s embassies – McDonalds etc), clothes shops, bars (Tenerife strip style), and an amazing view of the beach.

The Larcomar is a complex of more upmarket shops and restaurants as well as a cinema and bowling alley. The sunset is not to be missed from this spot.

If you have more than one night in Lima, stay in the trendy area of Barranco. Cute coloured buildings, art, and microbreweries! A nice balance of attractions for your Peru itinerary.

  • Recommended nights: 2-3 nights maximum in Lima is required. Taxi Green or Uber from the airport to Miraflores will cost around S/50 (£10 / US$16) or use the new airport bus for $8 US
  • Lima to Paracas: Approximately 3 – 4 hours
  • Lima to Màncora (see below): 17 – 19 hours (1-hour 45-minute flight approximately £225.00 / $322)

Accommodation in Lima

Hotels in Lima

Hotels in Miraflores are surprisingly cheap. Apart Hotel Petit Palace Suites is popular with holidaymakers who like the clean comfortable rooms, fruit and bread continental breakfast and professional staff.

Free bikes are available, take a ride along the Malecón! Standard rooms start at approximately £50/$71, prices go up to suites at £100/$143 (5 people). Click to check availability.

The Luxury Inkari Hotel is spectacular! The heated swimming pool and gym with sauna get a thumbs up from visitors who also enjoy the restaurant and cocktails. An airport shuttle is available. Click to check availability.

For a rooftop pool in Lima check out the 5-star Hilton Lima Miraflores. The super modern rooms are kitted out in luxury linen. Deluxe rooms start at around £150/$215 with the Executive for four people capping at around £320/$459. Click to check availability.

Lima Hostels

Hostels in Lima are your cheapest option and they are pretty economical starting at just over £5/$7 per night for a dorm bed. Most offer a (dry) bread and jam breakfast and social events on rooftops etc – click here to check reviews and best prices for Lima hostels.

Private rooms average at around £25/$35, which is pretty typical for hostels in Peru. I would honestly love to stay in the Barranco area of Lima and there are a few welcoming options for backpackers such as Barranco’s Backpacker’s Inn.
Where to stay in Lima - Miraflores

2. Paracas and Isla Ballestas

Paracas is a small beach town approximately four hours from Lima. It is the gateway to Isla Ballestas,  ‘the poor man’s Galapagos Island.’

By speedboat (not fancy a cabin boat, take layers to wrap up), you can see Humboldt penguins, seals, sea lions, and birds. Isla Ballestas has its very own Nazca Lines called Candelabra Geoglyph, 150m high and 50m wide.

A must-see highlight on your Peru itinerary. It was hot during the boat tour, make sure you pack a hat, sunglasses and factor 50.

Ladies, I like La Roche-Posay factor 60 cream when splurging. Never sacrifice a smooth face for the sun! Check out boat tour availability by clicking here.

  • Recommended nights: 1 night (unless you want some beach and not just boat time)
  • Paracas to Nazca Lines: approximately 1 – 2 hours

Accommodation in Paracas

Paracas Hotels

Hotel Hilton Paracas is the most popular option. This modern hotel is located next to the Paracas National Park.

Many of the rooms have balconies with either a swimming pool or sea view. There are a restaurant and breakfast for an extra fee. The Inca Spa offers massages so if you are after a relaxing break, there’s really no reason to leave the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort. Room prices start at £127-280. This is luxury in Paracas.

A cheaper option is the new Hotel Riviera Inka Paracas. One of the nicest features is the balcony as well as the proximity to the beach and El Chaco Boardwalk. Breakfast is included and rooms start at £40/$57.

Hostels in Paracas

Paracas is a small town so there is not much choice when it comes to accommodation with under 10 hostels available in the area.

However, sometimes size does not matter, Paracas ticks the box for variety – party backpackers tend to flock to the well-known chain Kokopelli Backpackers which has a pool and is directly on the beach (we walked right through it to get to the playa). We stayed in their capsule-style dorms in Cusco and found it private but still sociable, great concept. Breakfast is also included. For rates under £8/$11+ and reviews see here.

For a more chilled stay check out the new 11 rooms with private bathrooms and 12 share of the Paracas Backpackers House. Facilities include a kitchen, three common areas, one with hammocks.  Prices, reviews and availability can be found here.

The most interesting looking to me (which wasn’t there when we visited) is the Paracas 360 Eco Hostel, check out the bedrooms; they are like mini-caravans (there’s a bar and swimming pool too). No breakfast provided. To see if there are rooms available and at what cost, click here.

Budget backpackers, there are dorms available for under £5/$7. See reviews for the full range of hostels in Paracas – read the overview.

Isla Ballestas and Paracas I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Isla Ballestas – Cute Penguins 

3. Nazca Lines

Man-made or aliens?! The burning question that lies with Peru’s Nazca Lines. Budget travellers can see the Lines from the viewing platform for a couple of Peruvian soles. For those who truly believe, there are companies which offer helicopter rides over the twelve Nazca Lines.

Check availability before you head to Peru – these helicopter guides are English speaking and the ride is 45 minutes for just under £300/$430.

  • Recommended nights: In & out unless taking a ‘copter ride, you’ll need to stay overnight
  • Nazca Lines to Ica (Huacachina): 2 – 3 hours
  • You may want to skip the overnight if you only have two weeks in Peru unless it’s a hot one for you

Accommodation in Nazca

If you do decide to take the flight you’ll need somewhere to stay and there are a few options with 9/10 reviews from fellow travellers so you are in safe hands. The small Nanasqa Hostel is close to a supermarket, offers a pick up from the bus station if the car is available and probably most importantly boasts of a selection of local beers.

Dorm rooms are economical, check out the best rates and availability.

Four-bed dorms and private rooms are also available at the Nasca Lodge. This colourful hostel also offers a car pick up from the bus station and towels (do you travel with a towel? I hate the feeling of those travel ones, we ended up just hiring or booking accommodation with them). Prices depend on the type of room, see here for more details.

Check out the full range of hostels in Nazca to see which fits your budget – see the overview here.

4. Huacachina

Ever partied in an oasis? Huacachina is one of the best places to visit in Peru!

A small (party?) town surrounded by large sand dunes, itching for you to board (or ski!) down.

There are a plethora of companies looking to take you to the dunes but for the authentic experience choose one which offers appropriate gear (authentic boards and boots) and the opportunity to ski.

Mode of transport?

Buggies! Huacachina is a fun place to spend a weekend if you want to relax by the pool (Banana’s Adventures Hostel) or have some drinks.

Warning, Huacachina can cause serious headaches, we now swear by these hydration tablets US / UK. Stock up! In fact, it was a British doctor on holiday in Cuba that recommended them (too much rum!)

The next town is Ica, there you will find banks, supermarkets, restaurants, and shops. It’s a short tuk-tuk ride away (approximately 15 minutes, 4-5 soles/£1/$1.43

  • Recommended nights: Max. 3 nights. 1 or 2 nights if only interested in sandboarding Peru
  • Huacachina (Ica) – Arequipa: approximately 12 hours (overnight available)
  • Why we didn’t sandboard in Huacachina…
    Huacachina and Sandboarding and Sand-Skiing in Peru

Accommodation in Huacachina

Hotels in Huacachina

An unusual hotel in Huacachina is Desert Nights Ecocamp. The glampsite is set up on the dunes looking down on the oasis. There’s definitely no sleeping on the floor – tents have double beds. A swimming pool is also available as well as a bar and cafe/restaurant.

A more basic option is the Hotel El Huacachinero which has private bathrooms, a shared common area, swimming pool. This hotel is only a three-minute walk to the restaurants and bars.

Huacachina Hostels

I honestly have such fond memories of our stay at Banana’s Adventure, we ended up staying for three nights instead of one.

There’s such a nice vibe around the pool, they put on BBQ nights, the poolside bar has smoothies and our Peru Hop (see below for more information) tour guide (who was not staying at Bananas) said that they do the best food in the town. The WiFi wasn’t great (non-existent) but that meant I could take a weekend off blogging and actually chill out (and party!)

Like all hostels in Peru, Bananas has dorms and privates, we had no issues sleeping regardless of the rooms being around the pool area, the bar closes and everyone heads around to Huacaf*ckingchinas, including the bar staff. Check out the best option for your trip here.

The rest of our Peru Hop companions stayed at the hostel with the Friday/Saturday nightclub attached, Casa De Arena. Personally, I avoid hostels which are the party place, I like to visit them, drink and dance and then get some rest elsewhere, the decision is yours. Check out more review here.

Huacachina hostels have seen a bit of competition over the last few years and there is certainly more choice, check out the other options at the Huacachina overview.

Huacachina I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

5. Arequipa

Arequipa (Are-eh-keepah), The White City and gateway to the Colca Canyon is a city like no other.

Peru’s second most populated city is surrounded by three dormant volcanoes, El Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu.

The ‘free’ walking tour, run by students (pay by tip, which is typical in South American cities) is extensive and recommended. Grab a jugo (juice) from San Camilo Market (The Witches Market) then get a good night’s sleep for your early rise to the Colca Canyon.

  • Recommended nights: 4 nights if hiking the Colca Canyon (1 night before and 1 after). 2 nights if not
  • Arequipa – Colca Canyon: Approximately 3 hours

Accommodation in Arequipa

Hotels in Arequipa

There are over 150 hotels in Arequipa ranging from £20/$29-£160/$229. La Hosteria is an elegant hotel located in a renovated Colonial house only 5 mins from the historic centre. Continental breakfast is offered daily and rooms have TVs. Click here to check availability.

Katari Hotel is located in the prime spot of Plaza de Armas and the panoramic views from its rooftop are incredible. Rooms are elegant and breakfast is included in the price which starts at £77/$110. Click here to check availability.

Hostels in Arequipa

We stayed at the chain hostel, the Flying Dog. It’s peaceful, breakfast is included and you can book your Colca Canyon Tour guide through them.

It is on the quiet side so if you are looking for a party hostel I’d veer towards Wild Rover which has a bar and swimming pool. Breakfast is also included. Arequipa is a big city, there are over 50 hostels to choose from so do check out which suits your needs and cash flow in this guide.

Arequipa I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

6. Colca Canyon

You are researching a trip to Peru so it is highly likely that you have either secured your place on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or you are deciding between one of the alternative treks to the seventh modern wonder of the world.

Stop right there! Consider this – two or three day hike down into the world’s second deepest canyon (3,400m), a sound sleep in the canyon, and then a steep climb out!

The Colca Canyon trek is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. Watch condors swoop overheard, sip soup in a local’s home, and feel self-satisfaction as you make it to the top!

Hiking is great for keeping fit while travelling, add to your Peru trip itinerary to combat the backpacker’s belly.

  • Recommend nights: 1 or 2 nights depending on the trek
  • Arequipa to Cusco: Approximately 10 hours (overnight bus available)
  • Which trek did I prefer, Colca Canyon or Lares Trek to Machu Picchu? Find out here: Colca Canyon Essential Guide and Colca Canyon Packing Guide
  • Although this was one of my highlights, many visitors with only one week in Peru prioritise Machu Picchu hikes 

7. Cusco

Another overnighter to the cobbled streets of Cusco. Many travellers get sucked in by Cusco’s beauty and simplicity.

Everyone that is backpacking Peru ends up in Cusco at some point (the start of their Peru itinerary if coming from Bolivia or near the end if they are starting in Peru). It did rain every day for one week in Cusco!

It also rained every day during our trek to Machu Picchu so think about taking a waterproof jacket with you.

I like my Marmot PreCip US / UK as it is light and folds into its own pocket, small enough to pop into my bag after the downpour.

Cusco I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary
This is where you will begin the trek to Machu Picchu (Inca, Salkatanky, Lares or Jungle Trek – anywhere from £199-£332+/$285-$475+).

It is vital that you spend some time acclimatising before you begin your trek or you run the risk of suffering from altitude sickness. It is also advised that you select a travel insurer which allows you to climb to the heights stipulated in your trek guidelines (for example, the Lares Trek reaches highs of 4650m15255ft above sea level).

We shopped with True Traveller because of their coverage of these high altitudes, mass importante! See if their rates work for you by clicking here.

Machu Picchu Peru Llamas

Hiking, not your thing? The train to Machu Picchu leaves and returns to Cusco. Do stop in the archaeological site town of Ollantaytambo, if you have time! Machu Picchu is not the only day trip.

Machu Picchu I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

It is easy to spend a fortnight in Cusco if you are looking to attend Spanish school (and a homestay to practice what you are taught). For space geeks, Cusco has its own family-run planetarium!

Accommodation in Cusco

Hotels in Cusco

Cusco has some of the loveliest hotels in Peru and prices start from around £23/$33-£450/$645. Why not stay in a former monastery which dates back to 1592? Belmond Hotel Monasterio is a luxury hotel in Cusco, close to the action but set in serene gardens. Rooms are fully equipped and there are dining options on-site. Prices start at £294/$421. Click here to check availability.

Cusco hostels

We played Goldilocks in Cusco over the two weeks we spent in Peru’s cutest city. We tested the beds of three different hostels and dined and partied in a few more. Initially, we stayed with Kokopelli Hostels, their private capsule style dorms are really neat, you just pull a curtain over for privacy. The hostel has a bar which serves food and puts on social events. Free tea is available and coca leaves are in abundance. We left our luggage with these guys when we hiked to Machu Picchu. Check the variety of rooms and rates here.

After Machu Picchu, we tried the ‘other side’ of Cusco, San Blas. This is the more bohemian side of the city. Our first hostel was Casa de la Grinda which is an option for those in Peru to try some of its more ‘natural remedies’ (we didn’t).

We ended our time in Cusco at Thomas Grill and Garden, the views from the top room are incredible. The hostel also has a kitchen. It’s very quiet so not for those looking for a disco. We partied at Loki Hostel which is another popular choice for backpackers throughout Peru. There are over 100 hostels in Cusco! Check out more here.

8. Puno

A small town which is very much a ‘normal town’ in Peru but has a port where boats take travellers to the Floating Islands of Uros. These are reed (also know ask totora) islands inhabited by the Uros people on Lake Titicaca. The half-day trip from Puno is a wonder to behold but may be looked upon as ‘touristy’.

If you are looking for a more authentic experience to add to your Peru travel itinerary, why not stay on Taquile Island with a local Peruvian family?

Many of the women on the island only speak Quechua but some of the men and children can converse in Spanish (even if yours is broken Spanish!)

There are no cars on Taquile Island, life is simple and traditional. Ask about the environmentally friendly, Chukjo! This tour can only be booked through Inka Rest hostel, we stayed there for two nights in a private room, breakfast was extensive and the staff were friendly (a tad mad!) This Peru trip would really only be feasible for those spending 3 weeks in Peru.

For a less authentic but still different experience try a homestay on Amantaní Island. Both islands can be reached by boat, however, this must be booked through an organised tour (approximately 85 soles/£ 18/$27 each).

  • Recommended nights: With homestay: 3 nights (1 night on the island) / without homestay: 1 night
  • Cusco to Puno: Approximately 8 hours
  • Read about our night without WiFi! Puno and Taquile Island
  • 2 week Peru itinerary would probably remove a stay on Taquile Island (especially if you can’t speak any Spanish) 

Uros Floating Island, Peru I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Uros Floating Islands 

9. The Jungle in Peru

Over half of Peru is a jungle! This country really has it all. Peru shares The Amazon with Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. There are many indigenous tribes still living in the Peruvian rainforest and a variety of animals call this region home too. The city of Cusco is the best entry point for travellers looking to spend time in the jungle and there are many companies who sell trips.

Please do some research on the ethics of companies, there are stories of mistreatment of animals by some.

If there is a guide holding a snake in an advertisement photo, give that trip a wide berth! There are lots of options depending on budget and wants. Puerto Maldonado is accessed by air and road which is the base for Madre de Dios (Reserva Nacional Tambopata and the Parque Nacional Bahuaja-Sonene) and deemed the best place to go to visit wildlife by Rough Guide.

Cheaper options may include taking a bus from Cusco via Ollantaytambo to Quillabamba where lots of travellers go to do white water rafting on the Río Urubamba.

There are options from Lima too. According to Go2Peru, Iquitos is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road! Iquitos can be reached by plane, LAN, Peruvian Airlines, and Star Peru fly daily. There are one-day or multi-day trips to the Amazon to suit every budget and can be booked before you reach Iquitos for whilst you are there.

Naturally, there are lots of scams so choose your company wisely. It is cheaper to go to the rainforest via Bolivia, this is what we intended to do so skipped it in Peru. You will 100% need some form of mosquito repellent.

We initially travelled with a DEET heavy repellent like OFF but moved on to a DEET free product called Avon So Soft US / UK after nothing was working for us and we had the fear about putting DEET on our skin after a year of applying it on and off.

  • Recommended nights stay: Depends on excursions --> unless priority Peru highlights, I’d skip this on a 14 day Peru itinerary
  • Cusco to Puerto Maldonado: Approximately 1-hour flight
  • Cusco to Quillabamba: Approximately3.5-hour bus ride
  • Lima to Iquitos: Approximately 2-hour flight

10. Huaraz Hikes

Huaraz is a small town known as the hotbed for Peruvian hikes. This high altitude town (3000m absl) is a base for many backpackers who are planning 1 day and multi-day treks around Peru’s Andes Mountain Range. The best time to visit is typically June when there is little rainfall or snow.

Popular hikes include the 1-day trek to Laguna 69/ Lake 69 (that Canadian blue!), 1 day Paron Lake, 3-4 day Santa Cruz hike (best views of the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca) or the 12 day Cordillera Huayhuash circuit.

It is advised that you do two 1 day hikes (or more) to help acclimatise before attempting the multi-day Peru treks. Highs can reach 5000m absl. I really wish we had added this to our Peru backpacking itinerary.

Trekking Peru at high altitude can get uncomfortable, make sure you acclimatise well. 

  • Recommended nights stay: this really depends on what treks you are doing
  • Lima to Huaraz – 8 hours by bus (Cruz del SurMovil Tours and Oltursa) 

*If Huaraz is on your Peru itinerary, I would suggest visiting after Lima as it is north of the capital. I am very disappointed that we missed this out. But do check out Jon is Traveling’s experience of his trek to Laguna 60.

Huaraz Accommodation

There are quite a few options for hostels in Huaraz.

You definitely want to get a good night’s sleep before the hike so be sure to check the reviews before you book. La Casa de Zarela is a fair trade hostel only 10 mins walk from the bus station. There are a variety of rooms and kitchen facilities. For reviews, prices and availability click here.

Laguna 69 I Three Weeks in Peru I Image by Jon Is Travelling

Laguna 69 Jon Is Travelling

11. Màncora – Backpacking Peru Itinerary for Surfers

North of Lima you’ll find the Piura Region and a coast of beaches where travellers go to party.

Not a bucket list option for many travellers who have previously spent a month on the Colombian coast but an option for those looking to chill out (in what some critics say, not the cleanest of beaches), surf (South Beach), or dive (Vichayito Beach).

*If Màncora is on your itinerary, I would suggest you visit there before moving further south. I’m not disappointed we missed this, we never actually met anyone who had Màncora on their Peruvian itinerary.

  • Recommended nights stay: Depends on how much partying / beach time you’d like
  • Lima to Màncora: 17 – 19 hours (1 hour 45-minute flight / approximately £225.00/$322)

Màncora Accommodation

There is a mix of chill and party in Màncora hostel wise. Loki makes another appearance (you’ll see the popular party hostels at most stops in Peru) with Loki del Mar, not only is it close the surf breaking point but it also has its own swimming pool.

More laid back options include ocean view bungalows at Misfit Hostel. Vegetarians may want to swing by Marcilia Beach Bungalows (accommodation available as well as a cafe). There’s more! Check out reviews, rates and availability.

Our Three Week Peru Itinerary

Craig and I were spoiled for time so spent one month in Peru in March/April, taking one week out to attend a Spanish school in Cusco.

We flew into Lima from Austin (we are from Scotland but started our long-term travel itinerary from New Orleans then Austin for the music festival South by Southwest).

After three nights in Lima, we took the Peru Hop bus and following this Peru travel itinerary

  • Paracas/Isla Ballestas (nature/one night)
  • Huacachina (sandboarding/three nights) with a trip to the bank in Ica
  • Arequipa and Colca Canyon (stunning hike/5 nights)
  • Cusco (Machu Picchu two weeks including one week at school)
  • Puno and Taquile Island (this island is silent/three nights) then Bolivia (two and a half weeks – check our guide)

Playa Roja Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Playa Roja near Ica 

The Best Time to Visit Peru

Peru’s weather is best measured by the ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ season as opposed to summer and winter.

May – October is essentially the dry season which results in more tourists. However, nights can still be cold, especially for those who are in Peru to trek. November through to April fall into the ‘wet’ season.

This is subject to change as Peru is seeing the effects of the weather phenomenon, El Niño.

The Inca Trail is not available in February of each year for annual clean up. It snowed during our trek! I told you the weather could be grim, don’t forget your rain jacket.

Lares Trek Machu Picchu Peru I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Currency in Peru

Peruvians use the Peruvian Nuevo Sol or soles.

ATMs in Cusco have a maximum withdrawal which can be problematic when settling bills for treks to Machu Picchu. Expect a 5.5% charge when using Visa. Bargaining in markets is acceptable but not always successful!

Getting to Peru

Most of the larger city airports have flights to Lima.

UK and U.S citizens do not require a visa to enter Peru and should be granted six months on their ‘little white sheet’ at immigration. This is not always the case when you arrive at immigration. Keep the immigration information (‘little white sheet’) with your passport as you need it to leave the country.

Getting Around Peru + Peru Hop Bus

Cruz del Sur is popular but is simply a bus company, no tours or information offered. Internal flights will connect Lima with Arequipa and Cusco but again, remember to give yourself time to acclimatise when arriving in Cusco. There is an efficient and safe hop on/off bus service called Peru Hop.

It is aimed at travellers (although we did meet people of all ages on the bus, including a 9-month-old baby!)

Peru Hop I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Hop on/off bus – Peru Hop

Accommodation in Peru

For those on a budget in Peru, hostels are your best sleeping option. Prices vary depending on where you are. For examples in Lima, a dorm bed may cost £5.50 to £12 whereas in Huacachina you will find one for £5/6. Homestays are popular in Cusco for those looking to work on their Spanish (although cheaper in Sucre, Bolivia if heading that way).

For those on a more modest Peru vacation, with the exception of the homestay islands, you will find hotels from basic to boutique or uber luxury with spas.

Food and Restaurants in Peru

  • Desayuno (or breakfast to us), typically consists of pan (white bread roll), butter and jam, with hot drinks. If you are lucky you may get huevos (eggs) and / fruit salad. You will be bored of pan by the end of your trip
  • Peru‘s famous cuisine is ceviche – raw white fish, cooked in strong lemon juice served with cold sweet potato, corn, and cilantro (coriander). Locals tend to eat this late morning. I tried it twice, once in Lima and then Paracas (a beach town)
  • You’ll find lots of different types of everyday meats and the addition of alpaca (heavy like lamb), llama (lighter), and cuy – guinea pig! Fish, especially trout, is popular around the Uros Floating Islands region
  • Chifa is Chinese food with a Peruvian fusion, or just Chinese food really!
  • Western food can be found in most towns and cities (including the ‘American embassies’ in the big cities)
  • Set menus are a good way to get your fill cheaply. In Cusco, you can eat a two-course meal for 10-20 soles. The soups are the best in Peru. They make great use of quinoa, my favourite sopa
  • Dulce de leche, the Peruvian Nutella! It’s toffee not chocolate, rico (tasty)!

Restaurant article – from cheap to a bit less cheap: Food in Cusco

Ceviche I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Ceviche – fish, sweet potato, sweetcorn, onion, coriander 

Peruvian Snacks

You’ll get all your normal fruits in Peru, they are just bigger and tastier! New additions include Granadilla which gives you the sensation you are sucking frog spawn but it is delicious and refreshing. Corn is very popular, you’ll find lots of vendors selling popcorn.

Peruvian Drink

Before I get onto the hard stuff let’s talk about drinking water. It is not advisable to drink tap water in Peru. We travelled with a purifying and filtering water bottle and managed to avoid Dehli belly for the full month so I suggest you do it!

Trusted makes include Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]  which is slightly cheaper than the most popular, LifeStraw. 

  • Pisco Sour! The Peruvian sweetheart! Pisco is the national drink, add lemon juice, raw egg, and sugar to it then tadah – a Pisco Sour. Fuerty (strong)
  • Each region has local beers for cheap. Cerveza (beer) is very popular and cheap. Pilsen, Cristal, and Arequipeña are a few labels to look out for
  • Chicha! The locally brewed corn drink, not for gringo consumption our tour guide warned us. Still up for it? Look out for the red flag outside people’s houses or shops, this indicates it is on sale
  • Coca tea helps with altitude. You’ll drink heaps of this in either leave form (add sugar) or teabag. Locals chew on it for energy
  • Muna is delicious. Drink with hot water, like a tea, to help with digestion

Please take our point about travel insurance seriously! We met a guy who was sick and when his friend finally dragged him out of the dorm bed to see the doctor it turned out he had dehydration.

Look after yourself and get travel insurance, here is the link to the company we use

Coca Leaves I Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

Coca Leaves – Altitude relief?

Final Words

It’s easy to see how 2 weeks in Peru can be extended or merged into a quick trip by picking what you feel would be the highlights from above. I hope that you find this Peru 2-4 week itinerary useful. Share your Peru itinerary below. 

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Over to you – any other suggestions/questions?

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu – Is This Peruvian Hike For You?

Lares trek to Machu Picchu

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the alternative hiking routes to the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail actually books up at least six months in advance and only a certain amount of passes are available each day, therefore, the Lares is a great alternative for those who are less committed to a trek date (like ourselves, Gemma and Craig). Hikers still experience hiking through Peruvian rural villages, camping at high altitude and a day at Machu Picchu with the Lares trail. The Lares and the Inca are just two ways to get to this modern wonder, in fact, there are at least 14 ways which you can read about in this extensive guide (trains, treks and tours).

Lares Trek, Peru

The Lares Trek is appealing because it is a short multi-day hike (4 days/3 nights) with only two nights camping and the third night in an Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel. Guys, it gets really cold camping in rural Peru!

The route consists of trekking through valleys, mountains, tropical forests, up and down hills, past lakes, waterfalls and towns. Day two is the hardest, although this is not unique to the Lares trail, day two is tough on all Machu Picchu treks.

Initially, we planned to sign up for the Salkantay Trek but decided to do the Lares Trek instead because we would have been the only two people on the trip and I feared that we would throw each other off the Andes if that were the case. We were not disappointed with our change of plan.

Lares Trek Peru

Before You Trek to Machu Picchu – Altitude

Arrive in Cusco (there are flights from Lima and buses from other destinations such as Arequipa) at least two days before your trek to acclimatise. Do not take this warning lightly.

One member of our team was very sick with altitude sickness; she ended up with two days of flu/hangover-like symptoms and trekking via donkey taxi on day two. Her friend was fine so it impacts everyone differently.

With the Lares Trek, the highest point is 4650m (15255ft) ABOVE SEA LEVEL and it is horrendous! (Craig enjoyed it, weirdo). But then you see a ‘bonito’ (beautiful) lake so, like childbirth, I assume, you swiftly forget the pain. Question your fitness. You will be in a group of mixed abilities and the trek is tough.

Machu Picchu Trek Travel Insurance

Research this question: does your travel insurance company cover you at this altitude? Many others did not insure above 3000m and the treks to Machu Picchu will hit above this.

We chose True Traveller because they did insure hiking at this altitude. I actually had to claim in Vancouver (not related to high altitude or hiking!)

I had ear crystals which were making me dizzy every time I stood up. True Traveller paid out, fast. Their communication is also very efficient. Check out the best rates for your trip here.

Many people buy coca leaves to chew. Not only is it legal, but it’s also recommended to help oxygen hit the blood and prevent altitude sickness.

Just remember the activator ash to go with it. We didn’t chew any but drank a lot of coca tea (best served with a spoonful of ‘azucarar’ sugar) and opted for coca sweets bought from the supermarket for a boost while at the high heights.

Ollantaytambo Peru Lares Trek_

Choosing a Company to Trek Machu Picchu

Two different travellers recommended Alpaca Expeditions to us. They both agreed with their ethical stance on paying porters a good wage, cheaper companies pay very poorly.

We had five glamorous assistants – a cowboy for the horses, two porters, a waiter (with a dicky bow tie outfit!), and a commis chef, plus the head chef. We were advised that the team were very professional and the food was outstanding.

I used the ‘chat’ function on the website and discussed our options with Bonnie, I got good vibes. However, regardless of paying a fair wage, we were still hit by a really awkward tipping situation at the end of the trek, read below to find out more.

How Much Do Machu Picchu Treks Cost?

Your trek to Machu Picchu will most likely be your biggest outlay during your Peru trip. Regardless of the advertised price (around $575/£412-$906/£650), there are other things to consider.

Firstly, to hold your place on the trek you must pay a deposit through PayPal and annoyingly there was a 5.5% charge on top of this, each! Secondly, although the remaining balance can be paid in full on arrival, in Cusco (where hikes leave) the ATMs only let you take out $200 per day.

We arrived in Cusco two days before we trekked so we had to split payment via cash and Visa card. A third hit is yet another 5.5% charge for using Visa. Infuriating for those on long-term travel trips like us.

Additional Optional Costs

Companies recognise that your trek is not the sole purpose of travelling to Peru so offer additional gear to make your hike more comfortable. You can hire walking sticks for around $15/£10, a sleeping bag for $20/£14 and an air mattress $15 (a camping mat is usually supplied). Thanks to Alpaca Expeditions for throwing these in free to cover this honest review.

Our sleeping bag was by North Face and creates a cosy cocoon! Along with the hot water bottle (this was a nice surprise for some of the team) and the llama wool blanket, I was snug as a bug. I would recommend the airbed but I never camp without one, I’m such a sleep snob.

The Hidden Cost of Machu Picchu Treks

The Alpaca Expeditions website and information sheet state that tipping your team is ‘100% voluntary.’

However, this is not true. We had a very awkward exchange after our last lunch with our (otherwise excellent) guide as we attempted to hand over our collective tip, he stated that this was only the ‘minimum recommendation’ and we could pay more. Alpaca recommend 60 soles per porter (£13), we assumed the commis chef was in this category and 150 soles (£33) for the chef (the food is immense).

This worked out at 65 soles (£14) per person. This put one couple over budget so they put in 30 soles less. The guide’s dissatisfaction put a bit of a downer on the lunch for a while.

Another member of the group later added more money to the pot. I think it needs to be made much clearer to travellers on a tight budget that the tip is expected so they can factor in this cost. If the suggested amount isn’t enough, a higher amount must be made clear.

I also feel the suggested collective tip isn’t a good idea because all travellers have a different budget and affordability varies. It was unfair on the nominated member of our group who had to take the flak whilst handing over our “voluntary” gratuity.

Craig believes there is a misconception that travellers are all very wealthy when in reality we all work hard (two years in our case) to pay for the trip. He thinks this stereotype needs to be tackled.

I’ve heard from friends who did the Inca Trail with another company that they suffered the same tipping situation.

We took part in the three days/two night Colca Canyon trek and there was no discussion on tipping (in writing or verbally) so the same can’t be said for all Peru treks just the Machu Picchu hiking tours.

The briefing: Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

6pm, the night before our trek, at Alpaca Expeditions headquarters we met with our guide, Sibi (Savy) and our companions for the next four days.

Sibi mapped out the plan and gave us advice on what to bring (pack your swimwear in your day bag for the baths!) Unpleasantly, he mentioned the ‘tipping’ recommendations that we had read about on the information sheet so already the expectation was becoming clear.

We were given a duffel bag and plastic bags to pack our clothes in along with a day bag cover and poncho, both of which became essentials.

I highly recommend taking a good quality foldaway coat like my Marmot Precip US / UK as it rains, a lot.

A down, puffy coat like my Rab Alpine USA / UK is also a good idea for the colder nights.

You can pick up a hat at the market in Cusco before you hike.

Day 1: Cusco – Lares Hot Springs – Cuncani

Bleary-eyed, Sibi and the Alpaca crew picked us up from Kokopelli at 04:45. He gave us a llama wool blanket and told us to sleep. With one market stop (where you can buy snacks and toys to give to the local children at your campsite on day one) we arrived at Lares Hot Springs.

The Alpaca staff, all dressed in impressive ‘green machine’ uniforms set up a breakfast fit for a king, served in a tent. We ate bread with jam and butter as well as eggs and drank hot drinks.

We were also given snacks (a chocolate bar and banana) for the morning trek. Some of us went for a post-breakfast dip, the water was gorgeous (and not the hottest of the many pools), and then set off for our day one of trekking at 10am at 3100m above sea level.

Personally, Craig and I found the day one trail a doddle. The weather was dreary, the ponchos were useful but, for us, the waiting in the rain for some of the group to catch up was a challenge. The only other issue you may encounter at this stage is down to poorly worn-in walking boots.

For any hike abroad, don’t let poor footwear choice let you down or forget to get the shoes moulded to your feet before you go!

I actually hike in Salomon trek shoes US / UK which are great for packing as they are lighter than boots. 

after a previous hiking trip killing my Achilles heels.

I always pack Leukotape US / UK for my ankles too – cheap and stops blisters happening. Read more on our trek footwear choices.

The day picked up when we arrived for lunch. The Green Machine clapped on our arrival and we couldn’t believe the setup.

A toilet (yes!) tent, our dining room tent, a plastic mat for our bags and soap with water bowls for us to wash our hands. Lunch always consisted of soups, bread, meats and veg.

At every meal, we were spoiled by content and presentation. Although the porter boil the water for consumption during meals, it’s wise to carry a filter bottle like this Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off] one.

Couple wearing ponchos Lares Trek

The afternoon trek concluded with meeting some of the local children. Sibi was like the ‘pan’ (bread) man; kids came running in their colourful dresses and ponchos to see what was on offer. Some of the group brought them gifts too.

Our arrival at camp was even more impressive than lunch, in addition to the toilet and dining room tent, our night tents were all set up with the mats, sleeping bags and blankets.

Our duffel bags were all laid out for collection too. We snacked on popcorn, empanada (llama cheese ones, delicioso!) and hot drinks then we were called outside.

You might want to consider packing some flipflops like Havainas to rest your feet at the camp.

About thirty of the local kids were sitting in the field (the land actually belongs to one of the porters) being served hot chocolate and bread.

Some snatched, some showed gratitude, usual kid behaviour. One of the little characters saw that a traveller was handing out presents. She conversed with Sibi who gave her another piece of bread but she was not happy with that. She wanted toys!

Then they all skipped off home to share the excess hot chocolate with their siblings and parents. It was refreshing to hear that they all go to school here. At night we dined on a platter of everything.

Sibi told us the plan for day two and we were in bed by 9pm (with a hot water bottle – The Green Machine treated us embarrassingly well).

Day 2: Huacawasi – Condor Pass – Quenayoc

The ascent! We trekked from 7am (wake up call with coca tea 5am then breakfast fit for kings again, PANCAKES) until 11am with ease. The ponchos were on and off then on again.

The horse collected one of the team members who was suffering horrific altitude sickness (she felt like she was being forced to walk with the worst hangover or flu), none of Sibi’s magic potions or lotions could lift the pain.

The horse was in demand! It also collected a second member to help her along the way. The remaining five were feeling smug – we’d made it to the top.

We found a rucksack with an Alpaca cover on it, must be a signal that we had made it? How wrong we were!

The next 35 minutes were horrible. We began the true ascent. Craig ran up (as usual), I felt like I was walking in space. I couldn’t take more than two steps without the feeling that my breath was being stolen from me. It didn’t help that it was so misty, another teammate, Steph, said she thought she was going to meet her maker! Sibi encouraged us all the way.

Then it began to snow. Luckily we had made it to the top where we were unexpectedly greeted with coca tea and a cheese sandwich by one of the porters.


Do you like a challenge?  Check out this guide to the Inca Jungle trek to Machu Picchu.

Once we’d regrouped we began the descent, all the hard work was worth it because our next lunch stop looked like this…

Lares Trail Peru

One of the group lost colour and looked faint. Sibi ran to base for the oxygen but she pulled through. Day two must be a challenge frequently as The Green Machine had set up a ‘sleeping tent’.

As per usual we overate (just couldn’t say no to the chicken,  pasta, bread or veg!) then waddled off into what could only be described as… Scotland!

After we arrived at camp, everyone took a siesta. A few of us made it up at 17:30 for snacks and chats with Sibi. I liked how passionate he was about his country and the positivity he showed for the company and the treatment of its employees.

Cena (dinner) arrived and the last supper did not disappoint.

The chef baked us a cake! Seriously, I can’t bake a cake in a kitchen with gas and electricity at sea level never mind on a mountain with a stove. Absolute genius.

Day 3: Quenayoc – Pumahuacuanca – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes

Day three is a breeze. We were allowed a long lie (6am coca call), ate an omelette and the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted for breakfast. We then trekked with a short ascent then an easy descent down to 2800m.

The walk only took 3.5 hours before we were lunching again. Once ‘tipgate’ was resolved we said goodbye to the immense Green Machine who rewarded us with an Alpaca Expeditions t-shirt.

Next, we bussed to Ollantaytambo.

The cute cobbled town is shadowed by many Inca terraces, some of which are still used for crops today. Sibi gave us a tour of the town and showed us how chicha (an alcoholic beverage) is downed (not suitable for gringos?) If you see a house with a red flag outside it, this indicates chicha (a kind of beer) is being served.

I’ve tasted the non-alcoholic version, chica morada, (ok to drink in cities), which was lush – this one didn’t look that inviting. The next stage of our tour to Machu Picchu is the train to Aguas Calientes.

The train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (also called Aguas Calientes) from Ollantaytambo takes 1.5 hours and Inca Rail serves a free beverage and snack which is a nice touch.

The journey follows the tropical forest and the Amazon River to the destination. On arrival at the hotel, we took a much needed hot shower and then dined together (all of this was included in the price of the trek).

Day 4: Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu day! Ready to see the 7th modern wonder of the world?

Lares trek to Machu Picchu

The 5am wake up was draining but worth it. We were up and out for 06:45 but back at the hostel by 7am as Craig forgot our passports. No passports, no entry to Machu Picchu! After the blip, we met the rest of the group and Sibi took us to the perfect photo opportunity spot.

It is difficult to comprehend that people made this city with their hands in the 15th century. The architecture and craftsmanship of the houses, terraces and temples are neat yet striking.

The Inca peoples ingenuity and relationship with nature served them well.

It’s sad to see that conflict (invading conquistadors) drove them out and disease killed the skill off and it’s easy to understand why the Incas are proud of their heritage.

Sibi’s three-hour tour of the city was extensive (the trip to Cusco’s Planetarium had given us a sound base knowledge of the Inca culture, recommended), afterwards we had free time to explore and then make our own way back to Machu Picchu Pueblo for 2pm.

It really wasn’t our day, the llama wouldn’t get a selfie with us (Steph’s picture was a banger), Craig smashed his iPhone screen, I lost my ticket (the nice office employees printed me another) and the bus back to town was going to cost us 80 soles / £17 each.

So we decided to take advantage of our misfortune and the one hour of sunshine to trek the path back to Machu Picchu Pueblo. The stairs took 35 mins then the ascent (seriously, another hill?!) 25 mins.

After a pizza (20 soles / £4 each) and a glance at the market, it was time for the train back to Ollantaytambo where Sibi and the Alpaca van collected us and dropped us back off where it all began in Cusco (near but not at our hostel).

It’s always really sad to break up the ‘family’ at the end of trips. You get comfortable with your team and it’s refreshing to speak to other people (no offence Craig)!

The four-day trek was exceptional and the weather did not drown our spirits. We had some of the best food that we have tasted in Peru, hats off to The Green Machine. Read this alternative viewpoint – why I hate Machu Picchu.

Alpaca Expeditions Review

Alpaca Expeditions were recommended by two other travellers because of their fair wages and treatment of locals. They are not the cheapest or the most expensive but they do cater for their mostly Western guests well and make the two nights of camping as comfortable as they can be.

The only dampener is the whole tip situation because it doesn’t quite add up with the perception that they treat their workers well. If they do, why is on the travellers who are spending a large part of their budget on the trek to Machu Picchu to bump it up?

The additional charges through PayPal and Visa are also a sting since our daily budget for this trip was £45 per day (for two).

Was the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu hard? Not really. Was it worth it? Yes! Was it my favourite Peruvian hike? No! The Colca Canyon was! Be safe fellow travel lovers, remember to acclimatise before you arrive in Cusco and be armed with quality coverage travel insurance (check quotes here).

Lares Trek essentials
Don’t forget your travel insurance
Check out this review of hostels in Cusco
Click here for the best hotel rates
Here’s our list of what we can’t travel without
Don’t want to hike? Read our guide to 14 other ways to get to Machu Picchu

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Lares Trek to Machu Picchu Peru

Are you going? Questions? Fire away…
Have you been? What was your experience like?