If you’re planning a trip to Peru, chances are you’re going to visit Machu Picchu. But if you’re not a fan of hikes or camping, the idea of spending three uncomfortable nights in a tent and four long, long days trekking along the Inca Trail could be enough to put you off seeing one of the most amazing wonders of the world. But did you know that you don’t have to follow in the footsteps of the Incas to see Machu Picchu?
If you’re always up for travel hacking, check out this (much faster, easier and cheaper!) alternative to the Inca Trail.
A great travel hacking alternative to the Inca Trail
Start off by flying into Peru. The country’s capital is Lima which has great connections with airports all over the world. Spend a night in a cheap hotel in Lima close to the airport and in the morning catch a flight to Cusco.
Fly to Cusco
Loads of travel experts say you absolutely must spend a few days at Cusco before travelling to Machu Picchu to help you to acclimatise to the high altitude. Cusco stands at around 3,400 m above sea level, while Machu Picchu is at just 2,430 m above sea level. The idea is that your body gets used to the very high altitude at Cusco for 2-3 days, so by the time you get to Machu Picchu, the lower altitude is no big deal and you don’t get sick.
But altitude sickness takes about two days to kick in. So if you don’t really want to spend any time in Cusco (I definitely recommend you do – Cusco’s amazing) you can land in the city in the morning then in the afternoon, take a taxi to the Poroy train station and catch a train to Aguas Calientes, the small city that sits at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Train to Aguas Calientes
This train journey takes around hours, but the scenery is so stunning you won’t mind the lengthy trip. I travelled on the Vistadome train, which is the cheapest option with dome-like windows in the ceiling so you can admire the view from all angles. If money’s no object to you, take a ride on the Harold Bingham train. This luxury mode of transport has an Orient Express feel and although it comes at a hefty price, it includes a luxury stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge just steps away from the wonder and exclusive early access before anyone else. If you get on the ordinary train, you’ll need to stay overnight somewhere in Aguas Calientes, so plan your accommodation beforehand.
Bus to Machu Picchu
The train will get you into the village in the early afternoon, which is early enough to catch the bus straight up to Machu Picchu (it’s only a 30-minute ride) the very same day. If you could do with a rest, you can wait until the next day and have a full morning and afternoon exploring.
One of my favourite things to do at Machu Picchu is to walk up to the Sun Gate. This walk is around 60 minutes uphill and gets you to a lookout point you’ll instantly recognise as the famous one from the photos. This walk is technically part of the Inca Trail, so although you won’t have done the whole walk, you will have done a little snippet of it.