If you’re one of those people who love to hike but aren’t so enamored of camping, this may be the trek for you. It’s also the perfect alternative for couples who disagree over the degree of romance attached to sleeping in a tent.
Trekking to Machu Picchu is a great way to get the most out of your visit to the archaeological site. There’s something about making the pilgrimage on foot that really puts you in the right frame of mind to appreciate it.
Fortunately, there is an alternative. Along the Salkantay route, a popular alternative to the Inca Trail, are dotted several luxurious mountain lodges, allowing you to sleep in comfort at the end of each day. To really ease the soreness of your muscles, you can even relax in a Jacuzzi and get a massage.
It has to be said that food on the normal treks in Cusco is outstanding. Somehow with just a couple of burners and a tank of gas, trekking cooks can even make birthday cakes when the occasion calls for it. Sitting down in comfort to dine on a scrumptious organic meal at one of the lodges is even more of a treat, however.
You’ll pass through meadows and pastureland, occasionally dotted by small lone houses, as you make your way downward. (After the highest pass, the trail is mostly a descent but, it must be said, in the Andes that typically means you will have to go up at some places only to go back down again.) As you pass through the mountains, you may catch a glimpse of condors.
Continuing your descent, you will arrive at the cloud jungle surrounding Machu Picchu. It’s amazing to think that just a couple of days earlier you were looking at snowy Salkantay and are now walking amidst orchids, bananas and coffee plants with hummingbirds to guide you.
The trek ends at the town of Aguas Calientes, the frontier feeling community just below the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. You’ll spend at least one night here so you can visit the citadel first thing in the morning.
To finish off in style, though, you may want to make it two nights and stay at Inkaterra’s Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a lush jungle escape. Having a second night will allow you to take advantage of your own private hot tub and reward yourself with a relaxing massage following your day of tramping around Machu Picchu.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived and worked for more than 4 years. She wrote this article on behalf of Aracari Travel Peru, a provider of special interest and cultural Peru tours.