The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is undoubtably on many traveler and trekkers life list trips, if not at the top. But Peru, which is roughly twice the size of Texas, has enough awe-inspiring trips to fill it’s own bucket list from the deepest canyons in the world, to towering Andean peaks, steamy jungles and ancient kingdoms. Hiring a guide or going through a reputable local outfitter is recommended for all these treks, but many can be done without.
Salcantay to Machy Picchu
Of course not visiting Machu Picchu is not an option, so consider taking this alternate four to six day trek to Aguas Caliente (the town at the base of the site) that will run you through Andean peaks, cloud forests and jungles without the crowds. Despite Salcantay meaning savage mountain, this is considered the easiest of the Inca trail alternatives, as it heads north from Mollepata then west around the mountain breaching Salcantay pass at a paltry 4600 meters.
The Huayhuash Circuit
Made famous by the book and film Touching the Void, the Huayhuash Circuit’s 140 kilometers travels completely above treeline with the high point being Punta Coyoc pass at 5490 meters, yeah that’s over 18,000 feet. Steep and intensely glaciated this hike has many hazards: chiefly the high chance of altitude sickness, but being robbed by bandits, terrible weather, having your food eaten by wild dogs and a high probability of getting lost are serious considerations when undertaking what is often referred to as the “greatest hike in the world”. Hiring a guide is seriously advisable.
At 3,535 meters deep Cotahuasi Canyon is the deepest gorge in the world and provides a spectacular destination with treks available from overnight to eight days. Starting at the highest Andean point in Arequipa, the longest trek will take you all the way to the Peruvian coast passing a plethora of sights including glaciers, massive waterfalls, Incan and pre-Incan ruins, soothing hot springs and panoramic views up and down the canyon and its dozen different ecosystems.
Alpamayo Base Camp
High in the Cordilerra Blancos rises one of the most beautiful peaks on earth: Alpamayo. This six to seven day trek will climb and descend massive elevations changes with passes lying between 4600 and 4900 meters throughout its 90 kilometers of trail. Monumental vistas of the mountains and valleys and glaciers, as well as soaks in hotsprings and meetings with the indiginous Quechua people will help distract trekkers from the difficulty of the trek. This is another trip for the experienced hiker only and proper climitization is vital and guides are strongly recommended.
Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu
Another, but even more remote, alternate route to Machu Picchu this trail will take you through the “Lost Capitol of the Incas” as the last remaining survivors lived in this remote area after the Spanish conquest. Rising from the Amazon to some of the ruggedest terrain in the Andes on your way to Machu Piccu, natural and historical sites abound on this tranquil, uncrowded hike.
This epic trek circumnavigates the 20,945-foot Ausangate massif, one of the most sacred mountains to the Incas.
Remote and gorgeous this hike rises up to over 5000 meters at the high point of its 70 kilometers, but provides fantastic views of glaciers, thousands of alpacas and hot springs to revive a tired body. This hike is recommended for the extremely fit and experienced.