Machu Picchu, the iconic citadel of Incas is the highlight of most people trip to Peru if not South America. Most travellers often choose the four days Classic Inca Trail. While some prefer exclusively visiting Machu Picchu on a day trip or two days trip from Cusco.
There are different ways to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco. We have listed the lesser known 5 Best Alternative Treks to Machu Picchu. If you are looking for a unique experience with a hint of culture and history, then this is for you.
History of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was built by the 9th Incan ruler, Pachacutec. He built this as his royal estate. It was home to over 750 workers, majority of them worked in the estate. Unlike most royal estates, this was not passed down in the line of succession. It was used for 80 years and was then abandoned. This was because of the fear of the Spanish conquest in most parts of the continent.
Like most Incan architecture, Machu Picchu had a ceremonial centre, temples and farming terraces. The terraces here are a testament to the advancement of Incan engineering. The Incas also built this to protect the citadel from erosions and land slides, ensuring good drainage facility.
This is one of our favourite treks. Vilcabamba Espiritu Pampa Trek to Machu Picchu is a five days trek from Cusco. If you are inquisitive to know about the history of Incas then this is for you. It takes you to the last capital of Incas. It is in the heart of the tropical jungle.
After winning the Battle of Ollantaytambo in 1537 with the Spanish troops, Manco Inca was certain of a following major attack. This was because of its closer proximity to Cusco. He decided to move farther away, into the jungle. He moved to Victos Rosaspata and eventually, to Vilcabamba. In 1539, he named Vilcabamba as the capital of Incas.
It was in the year 1572 when Manco Incas son, Tupac Amaru assassinated two Spanish ambassadors, this instigated a war. Under the leadership of Spanish viceroy Francisco de Toledo, they captured Vilcabamba and sentenced Tupac Amaru to death. This marked an end to the Inca civilization.
The trek takes you to different sites of Incas. You will be retracing the footsteps of Incas on majority of the trek. This certainly is one of the best alternative treks to Machu Picchu.
Duration: 5 Days | Highest Point: 4170 metres | Difficulty: Challenging | Style: Camping |
Both Choquequirao and Machu Picchu were built in the same era by Pachacutec. This another rewarding experience as you will be visiting both lost cities of Incas on this trek.
Choquequirao ruins nestles at 3200 metres above the sea level. Choquequirao, when loosely translated means “Cradle of Gold” in Quechua. It is also referred as the “Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu”.
The trek starts at Cachora, a small village in Apurimac. From here, it is a down hill hike to Chiquisqa. The following day it will be a uphill hike to the archaeological complex of Choquequirao. Although, the trek involves plenty of switchbacks and constantly changing altitude and climate, it is totally rewarding.
The best thing, you won’t need to bother so much about acclimatising as you would for Salkantay Trek or Inca Trail. The highest point of this trek is 4580 metres which you will be reaching on the fifth day.
Duration: 8 Days | Highest Point: 4580 metres | Difficulty: Challenging | Style: Camping |
Huchuy Qosqo Trek is one of the shortest treks from Cusco to Machu Picchu. It takes you through the lesser known archealogical site to the north of Cusco. Huchuy Qosqo in Quechua means “Little Cusco”.
The eighth ruler of Incan empire, Viracocha established Huchuy Qosqo as a royal estate. The Incas did not practise tax system, they instead took control of the labour and land. When Viracocha faced revolt from the Chancha people, he took refuge here leaving behind the control of Cusco to his son Pachacutec. Pachacutec dethroned his father and took over as the new emperor.
One of the impressive sites here is the kallanka great hall of 40 metres.
The trek is fairly easier with not much of arduous up hill hikes. As one of the lesser known treks, the sites are not crowded.
Duration: 3 Days | Highest Point: 4450 metres | Difficulty: Moderate | Style: Camping |
Cachicata Trek is one of the rewarding treks. This history oriented trek takes you to the largest quarry of Incas in Cachicata before reaching Ollantaytambo from Cusco.
During the reign of Pachacutec, as most Inca cities, Ollantaytambo also saw a rapid expansion. A major construction work was planned, but it never took place. It was in Cachicata they did all the stone work. Upon the Spanish invasion, the project was abandoned and so was the quarry.
The trek takes you to different archaeological sites along the way. You will also be visiting the area that once was a residential complex of the people who worked in the quarry. The quarry of Cachicata has may finely carved pink stone marbles known as “cut stones” scattered around.
On this three days trek, you will be retracing the footsteps of Incas. You will be hiking on the same route that Incas took to transport stones from Cachicata to Ollantaytambo.
Duration: 3 Days | Highest Point: 4500 metres | Difficulty: Moderate | Style: Camping |
Ancascocha Trek to Machu Picchu is not a popular trek yet. Infact, if you ask some locals in Cusco about this trek, you may get amused looks. Being one of the “unfamiliar treks” this trek rarely gets any tourists.
This is what makes Ancascocha Trek different to the rest. It offers jaw dropping views of the snow capped peaks, Andean communities and farmlands.
However the trek does go through many high mountain passes, with the most prominent pass at 4200 metres. You have to reasonably fit and acclimatised to do this.
Duration: 3 Days | Highest Point: 4200 metres | Difficulty: Moderate | Style: Camping |