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Is the classic Inca trail the only route which arrives at Machu Picchu by foot?

I have seen some other organised treks advertised, but they appear to require a bus or train transfer to actually reach Machu Picchu.

  • Just checked this site link and noticed that indeed most trekkings pass aguas calientes and mention a bus ride onwards. It is possible to hike this last part as well. I think it should take you about 1,5 hours. First 15mins is along the street, then (just after the bridge) the trail starts and you will find yourself walking up stairs for the remainder of the route all the way up to Machu Picchu. It's not a very scenic route, just a walk in a forest. It's possible though, we did it 7 or 8 years ago. – DiscoFever Sep 22 '16 at 14:41
  • Considering there's no road to Aguas Calientes, how did those busses get there? – MastaBaba Sep 22 '16 at 15:52
  • @MastaBaba They are small buses. Perhaps they were brought in on the railway? – Patricia Shanahan Sep 23 '16 at 19:41
  • @PatriciaShanahan: Not when I was there; they were full blown, large, tour busses. The kinds that run between big cities. – MastaBaba Sep 23 '16 at 20:38
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On foot, an alternative to the Inca Trail is to walk from Aguas Calientes, along the bus route. There is a checkpoint at the bridge where you have to present an entrance ticket before continuing. Walkers take the stairs that connect the switchbacks used by the buses (beware of the vehicles).

Machu Picchu Trek gives an overview of options:

The most popular trek to Machu Picchu is the Classic Inca Trail, which follows original trails that the Inca’s would have taken from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Along the way trekkers are treated to a wide variety of impressive Inca sites and stunning scenery.

Due to its popularity and concerns over the impact of tourism on the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the trail is limited to 500 trekkers a day (300 of which are earmarked for porters and guides). Securing a place on the Inca Trail means booking early, particularly during the busiest trekking period in the dry season (May-September).

Alternatively, we highly recommend considering some of the other treks to Machu Picchu, which are all unpermitted, less touristy, often more affordable and offer unique variations on the Classic Inca Trail.

  • Salkantay Trek: A great 5D/4N trekking challenge with incredible scenery. The highlight on the trek is getting up close and personal with Nevada Salkantay, the 6,271m iconic Andean peak. The second most popular trek in the region after the Inca Trail and voted one of the Top 25 Treks in the World by National Geographic
  • Lares Trek: A less strenuous trekking trail that provides unrivalled opportunities to interact with local Andean communities that have changed little over the past few centuries. Undoubtedly one of the best cultural trekking experiences in the region
  • Choquequirao Trek: The longest and one of the toughest treks in the region, but super rewarding. Choquequirao is an Inca site that is worthy of a visit on it’s own. Combined with Machu Picchu, this trek is fast becoming the ultimate archaeological trekking experience
  • Inca jungle Trek: Designed with the adrenaline junkie in mind, the Inca Jungle trek combines a massive 60km downhill cycle with trekking, zip-lining and potential river rafting.
  • Vilcabamba Trek: By far the most off-the-beaten path trek to Machu Picchu. On this trek you are guaranteed three things: absolute solitude, unbeatable alpine and jungle vistas and sore legs.
  • Huchuy Qosco Trek: A short and pleasant trek to Huchuy Qosco (‘Little Cusco’ in Quechua), which is just north of Cusco, in the Sacred Valley.

Another good reference is the National Geographic article Top Six Alternate Routes to Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu.

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    It's not at all clear to me if any of those actually let you walk/hike up to Machu Picchu itself, it sounds like most of them are just treks in the region of Machu Picchu. – CMaster Sep 22 '16 at 15:17
  • @CMaster some are, but the National Geo article details the very, very long treks to the site itself. The shorter route requires booking b/c of the limited number of trekkers allowed daily. – Giorgio Sep 22 '16 at 15:27
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    This doesn't really answer the question. "Is the classic Inca trail the only route which arrives at Machu Picchu by foot?" – DiscoFever Sep 23 '16 at 0:03
  • I've downvoted this answer, until it actually answers the question (perhaps by identifying which of these trails actually go to Machu Picchu, or perhaps by describing in more detail how to walk to Machu Picchu) – CMaster Sep 23 '16 at 11:26
  • @CMaster added the relevant answer, eliminated irrelevant details; with apologies – Giorgio Sep 23 '16 at 14:26
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Well the key thing you're missing is by foot...from where?

If you're saying from Cusco, then yes, as Dorothy mentions, you have several alternative treks.

However you can also get the train to Aguas Calientes, and then forgo the bus ride up the mountain in the morning and walk, if you really wish to. Although I was on the first bus of the day, and we still beat the walkers up the hill - it's quite a hike, and they looked exhausted. I suspect it'd take me over 2 hours to do, if I'd walked.

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