Inca Trail vs Alternative – What journey should I do?
In 2004, the Peruvian government regulated the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu limiting the total staff and hikers to 500 per day. We support the sustainable tourism – but the impact of this regulation changed the face of trekking around Cusco and the creation of new alternatives routes forever.
Why they are called alternative treks?
Because if the permissions of the classic Inca Trail are not available (and are sold with 3-4 months of anticipation in general), then you need to do an alternative trek.
The Salkantay Trek has absorbed a big part of “the overflow” of the Inca Trail and it’s the main alternative trek – among other famous – the Jungle Inca Trail and numerous Lares trek, Cachicata trail, Choquequirao Trek.
Some thoughts / advices.
What makes the Inca Trail so special?
- It’s one of the most famous treks in the world.
- It arrives directly to Machu Picchu for the Royal Trail of the Incas – there’s no other trek that does it.
- You arrive to Inti Punku, the famous “Door of the Sun” with an impressive view above Machu Picchu at dawn.
- You visit a wonderful set of spectacular ruins every day.
- Awesome landscapes – Like snowy mountains, an exuberant dense cloud forest and a jungle.
- Good installations and good services in the camps.
- Despite the large numbers of people, the moments of solitude in the mountains still exist.
- The feeling of having made a famous trek.
What is the wrong thing about it?
- 500 people go every day (the tourist and the journey staff are included).
- It’s necessary to book with 4 months of anticipation on the high season and you NEED to make the trek on the
- date you have booked.Changes are not allowed. If someone cancels, his permission will not be used. There’s no waiting list.
- There are groups of 25 people (the maximum size of groups of people in the Apus Peru is only 10).
- The camping sites and the installations are full – It’s not a real wilderness camping experience or an adventure experience.
- It’s like a freeway with lots of people on the road.
- The locals could be a little tired of seeing the tourists.
Positive aspects of the alternative treks.
- In some treks (Vilcabamba for example) your group could be the only one going that day.
- Adventure and isolation feeling.
- A real wilderness camping.
- What is lacking in ruins is often compensated with cultural interaction like getting to know the local people.
Negative aspects of the alternative treks.
- They don’t lead you to Machu Picchu.
- They’re not well known therefor you could have doubts if you made the right decision or not (Sometimes it’s difficult to find other tourists who made those routes).
- There are not spectacular ruins among them (You can find those on the Inca Trail).
- You need to spend the night in Aguas Calientes before visiting Machu Picchu.
- We recommend you take the bus to the citadel on the morning of your visit.
- When you go home nobody is going to say “Wow you made the trek to Vilcabamba!”