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7 BEST Machu Picchu Hiking Tours: Comparing Different Hikes

7 BEST Machu Picchu Hiking Tours: Comparing Different Hikes

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If you’re considering a multi-day hike to Machu Picchu, let me tell you upfront – this is one of the best experiences you can ever have! 

We have had the privilege of taking a 5-day trek to Machu Picchu and it was a life-changing experience. However, the logistics of planning can be daunting, so we chose to join an organized tour and they took care of every detail for us!

If you’re like us and love the convenience of organized tours for big excursions, you’ll love these hiking tours to Machu Picchu. We’ve listed our top hiking tours and all that they include, so all you have to do is read, book, and eventually walk dozens of miles!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

This is a difficult decision, but our personal favorite tour is this 5-day Salkantay Trek! We loved this specific hiking route because it’s less popular than others, so we were fortunate to see fewer people on the trail and enjoy the beautiful Peruvian wilderness. This 74-kilometer (46-mile) route is the path religious leaders used to reach Machu Picchu, they believed that the high elevation brought them “closer to God.” We learned so much, had great guides, and everything was taken care of for us all for $698 USD. 

The BEST Hiking Tours to Machu Picchu

1. Inca Trail: 4-Day Hike to Machu Picchu

Three people stand overlooking phuyupatamarca on the Inca Trail near Cusco
Phuyupatamarca along the Inca Trail!
  • Distance: 42 km (26 mi)
  • Time: 4 days
  • Max altitude: 4,216 meters (13,828 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $880 USD

The Inca Trail is no doubt the most popular hike in Peru – honestly, maybe even the most popular hike in all of South America. It’s teeming with Incan history, and you’ll pass by 500-year-old ruins as well as gorgeous rolling hills.

Now, this hike is not for the faint of heart and is not suitable for novice hikers. This trek can only be done through a tour, and we have this great 4-day tour option to conquer the Inca Trail!

The tour of this famous trek takes you for a 42 km (26 mi) hike that reaches 4,215 m (13,828 ft) in elevation over the 4 days. You need to be in reasonably good shape – otherwise, this will certainly be a kick in the butt! We have a good level of hiking fitness and were pretty winded by this trek. While you’ll be carrying your own pack, the tour provides a ton of support and equipment (thanks guys!). 

There will be porters to help carry extra gear and guides to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. They’ll also tell you of the significance of the areas you pass by, which we found to be very valuable. Basically, you’ll be getting a 4-day guided tour of the whole region!

Some notable things we saw along this route are the Incan ruins called Llactapata, Dead Woman’s Pass (the highest point on the trail), a cloud forest, and more Incan ruins (they just keep coming!).

We also camped in the most epic areas we have ever seen! No need to worry about packing the gear either. Porters will be carrying your tent with a sleeping bag and pad. For $15 USD extra, you can even opt for an inflatable sleeping mattress for extra comfort. Which, after hiking through these mountains ourselves, you’ll be pretty sore so it might be worth a few extra bucks!

Reaching Machu Picchu was the icing on the cake. Despite sore muscles, we’ve never felt better. We had that elated, peaceful feeling you get from spending a long time in nature. And looking out at all the views, you really get that sense of awe.

By the end of our Inca Trail trip, I felt like I got the most immersive exposure to Machu Picchu as a tourist could. Getting to spend four whole days in the beautiful wilderness, knowing this was once a popular route for the Incas, was such a fulfilling experience. 

This 4-day journey costs $880 USD, including all meals, camping equipment (tent, sleeping mat, cooking utensils, etc.), guides and porters, and entrance/a tour of Machu Picchu itself! You just have to show up and be ready to hike. You will need to book this tour at least 2 weeks in advance, but earlier notice is preferable.

Related Read: Before you go, check out our guide to trekking in Peru so you’re safe and well-prepared!

2. Inca Trail: 2-Day Hike to Machu Picchu

Hiking up the original trail built by the Incas
Hiking up the original trail built by the Incas
  • Distance: 10 kilometers (6.3 miles)
  • Time: 2 days
  • Max altitude: 2,712 meters (8,897 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $600 USD

Just because you’re trekking to Machu Picchu, doesn’t mean you have to be an avid hiker! In fact, the reason we love this 2-day Inca Trail Tour is because it’s much more accessible than other hiking tours on this list. Even families or those with differing fitness levels can tackle this climb. 

Instead of hiking the full 42 kilometers (26 miles) of the Inca Trail, you will hike a doable 10 kilometers (6.3 miles). This trail starts at KM 104, so you will take a train from Ollantaytambo to reach this leg of the journey. The tour will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco and coordinate the train logistics, so you simply just have to show up!

Just because this trial is shorter doesn’t mean it’s any less epic. You’ll get to see the most incredible landscapes and mountains, walk through the cloud forest, and witness some of the greenest forests I’ve ever experienced. There are also Incan ruins that can be seen along the trail, including Wiñayhuayna, the home of the Incan priest. 

The last bit of the trail takes you by the Urubamba River before you reach Agua Calientes. This is where you’re staying for the night! You’ll probably be pretty wiped after that climb, so be sure to go to bed early because tomorrow is just as epic – starting with Machu Picchu at sunrise!

Take it from our experience, waking up early to see Machu Picchu at sunrise is entirely worth it. It is simply stunning and not many tours offer this! You will also have a guided tour of the ruins, which we found super helpful as there is a lot to learn, and then you’ll have time to explore on your own. After about 4 hours at Machu Picchu, you will begin your journey back to Cusco. 

While this is a relatively short tour, you will experience so much! It’s perfect for those on a tighter timeline and who want to hike and explore the ruins. We especially love that the company takes care of all the logistics, including meals, entrance to Machu Picchu, hiking equipment, your overnight stay, and transportation. Plus your incredible guides, who really deserve a shout out!

This experience is $600 USD and should be booked in advance. 

3. Salkantay Trek: 5 Days (our personal favorite hiking tour!)

Bailey takes a photo overlooking a valley on the Salkantay Trek, Peru
The Salkantay is a beautiful hike too!
  • Distance: 74 km (46 miles)
  • Time: 5 days
  • Max altitude: 4,630 meters (15,190 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $698 USD

The Salkantay Trek is another amazing hiking option. It’s less popular than the Inca Trail, but a better trekking option, in my opinion! I even wrote a whole review on hiking the Salkantay Trek. Overall, because it’s less popular, it’s cheaper, has fewer people, and you can really get off the grid on this 5-day trek, we know because we did it for ourselves!

The Salkantay Trail is 74 km (46 mi) and reaches an elevation of 4,600 m (15,100 ft). You really go a long way on this trail and get to see a variety of landscapes, natural wonders, and of course, impressive Incan ruins.

Some of my favorite stops along this route were Humantay Lake, with its turquoise water, and the top of the Salkantay Pass (we were so high you could see for what felt like forever below). I also loved our visit to a coffee farm for a tour and some caffeine!

The trek ends with visiting Machu Picchu, which makes reaching this destination extra rewarding as you just spent the last four days working to get there. But the real cherry on top is a visit to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes. This was just what my sore muscles needed after days of climbing mountains!

Honestly, out of all the tours listed, I think this one is my favorite! The Salkantay Trek is so unbelievably beautiful and has a variety of scenery, wildlife, and history along the trail.

This epic 5-day excursion includes all transportation during the trek (except walking – you have to do that on your own), guides, porters, cooks, and entrance to all other activities (the coffee farm, Machu Picchu, hot springs, etc.). It also includes all of your meals and one night at a hotel in Aguas Calientes – that’s a lot included for $698 USD! You can also rent gear from them including sleeping bags and air mattresses if you need it!

Related Read: Read our detailed review about the best Salkantay Trek guided tours.

4. Salkantay Trek: 4 Days (over 2,000 5-star reviews)

Cloudy view on the Salkantay Trek, Peru
Cloudy view on the Salkantay Trek, Peru
  • Distance: 60.5 kilometers (38 miles)
  • Time: 4 days
  • Max altitude: 4,630 meters (15,190 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $569 USD

This is one of the most popular Salkantay hiking tours out there, raking in more than 2,000 5-star reviews (you can check them out here). So you know it’s a reputable company and an overall amazing experience! This tour differs from the previous Salkantay tour because it’s only 4 days and 3 nights. So you’ll be skipping the Llactapata Ruins, which is one of the most difficult portions of the hike. 

Not saying this hike is easy in any way though! You still get the challenge and major reward of hiking to Humantay Lake, the Salkantay Pass, and through a cloud forest. One of the coolest aspects of this tour is staying in the Sky Camp Igloos in Soraypampa with a glass-domed roof! You can see the stars like never before because of the lack of light pollution and the high elevation – it’s one of the most remarkable parts of this experience!

The last evening will take you to Agua Calientes. You get the option to take the 3-hour trek to the city, or ride the Hydroelectrica train, which is also a cool experience! Your final day includes a sunrise at Machu Picchu, a guided tour, and time to explore on your own. If you haven’t had enough hiking, you can hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu – it’s worth the extra effort if you can muster up the energy!

This 4-day journey includes all transportation, camping equipment and hotel stays, your guides, porters, entrance fees to Machu Picchu and the Salkantay Trail, and most meals and snacks. If you choose to add on extra experiences, those will be at your own cost. But, this isn’t a bad price of $569 USD for all that’s included, such as the star-filled igloo stay!

Related Read: Considering hiking to Machu Picchu Mountain too? We think it’s well worth it – read our full guide here to answer all of your questions!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

5. Lares Trek: 4 days with Panoramic Train

Llamas on the The Lares Trek ith views of the mountains
Llamas on the Lares Trek with views of the mountains
  • Distance: 38 kilometers (23.6 miles)
  • Time: 4 days
  • Max altitude: 4,600 meters (15,100 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $698 USD

The Lares Trek is another major trek around Machu Picchu. This one isn’t as popular as the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek. However, it’s absolutely beautiful and has more of a focus on the cultural experience rather than epic views.

This Lares Trek tour will take you through local farms, where you will learn how they care for the region’s llamas and alpacas. This tour also stops in small mountain villages and schools to give you a look at traditional Andean culture.

Just like the other hikes we mentioned, you’ll want to have a base level of fitness to complete this multi-day mountain climb. The trail is 39 km (24 mi) and gets to 4,600 meters (15,100 feet) in elevation! 

You really see some cool stuff on this tour. On the first day, you’ll be picked up around 4:30 am to start your fun-filled day – which involves thermal-medicinal baths (like hot springs) and a hike to a gorgeous waterfall. You’ll also hike to a remote village without any modern technology and get to hear their indigenous language, Quechua.

This route will take you through Ollantaytambo, where you’ll have an afternoon to explore this historically rich city. Most tours just pass through Ollantaytambo, so it’s cool that you’ll have some time to get to know the city. 

Your final day will take you to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the historic grounds. After this guided exploration, you’ll have time to either climb Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu on your own. Both are challenging routes but offer spectacular views. If you want to do one of these extra hikes, let them know when you make your booking.

After Machu Picchu, you’ll head to Aguas Calientes for lunch (at your own expense). Then, you’ll board the Vistadome Train to return to Cusco. This train has panoramic views so you can take in all the sights one last time!

This 4-day expedition costs $698 USD, including all transportation necessary (with hotel pickup and dropoff), most of your meals, guides, porters, cooks, and entrance fees to all the activities. Most nights involve camping, but you’ll spend one night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, which is included.

We love that this tour is a little off the beaten path of the normal trekking routes at Machu Picchu. It gives you a truly unique experience and is perfect for those who love delving into other cultures.

6. Inca Jungle Trail: 4-day adventure tour

Scenic view along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu
The views on the Inca Jungle Trail are epic!
  • Distance: 60 km (37 miles) biked, 38 km (24 miles) walking
  • Time: 4 days
  • Max altitude: 4,316 meters (14,160 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $490 USD

If you’re looking to diversify your adventure options, this 4-day Inca Jungle trail will hit the spot. Instead of just hiking, you will also get to mountain bike (downhill, don’t worry) and visit an adventure park to explore ziplines and suspension bridges. It takes a slightly different route from the traditional Inca Trail, going from Cusco to Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, Agua Calientes, and Machu Picchu. 

We had so much fun hiking through these mountains, so I can only imagine how thrilling biking is! You’ll downhill bike for about 60 kilometers, which allows you to cover some serious distance quickly, and will save your legs a bit! I love how this specific route gets you off the beaten path (quite literally) and is a totally different experience than the ever-popular Inca Trail. 

Don’t worry though, there is still plenty of trekking on this trail, as you will still cover about 38 kilometers (24 miles) of walking paths. You’ll see all of the beautiful parts of the Peruvian mountains, such as its flora and fauna and ancient ruins. At the end of day 2, you will reach Santa Teresa and get to soak those sore muscles in the thermal baths! 

The third day is yet another sort of adventure, as you explore an adventure park in the mountains! There are ziplines, suspension bridges, and lots of beautiful wildlife like parrots, butterflies, and birds. This is the only tour that includes this sort of adventure, which we think is so fun. You’ll reach Agua Calientes in the evening, where you can rest up as you have sunrise at Machu Picchu the next day!

This four-day, three-night adventure tour is one of my favorites, just because of how unique it is! You still get the traditional hiking experience and spend half a day at Machu Picchu, plus the fun extra activities mentioned. This tour includes biking and trekking equipment, all entrance fees, 3 nights accommodation, meals, and your wonderful guides. Bring some extra money for souvenirs and other snacks and meals along the way, but all in all the price tag of $490 USD isn’t bad for all it includes!

Travelers love this experience, and with over 300 5-star reviews we can certainly see it! 

7. Machu Picchu Mountain: 1 day tour

Bailey, Daniel and a friend take a photo on Machu Picchu Mountain
On Machu Picchu Mountain!
  • Distance: 3.8 km (2.4 miles)
  • Time: 2-3 hours of hiking, full day tour
  • Max altitude: 3,082 meters (10,111.5 feet)
  • Departure point: Cusco
  • Cost: $418 USD

If you’re limited on time but still want to get a little bit of hiking in and also visit Machu Picchu, this one-day tour is an excellent option. While you won’t be hiking the long, multi-day treks like the Salkantay Trail or the Inca Trail, you will get to climb to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain, which may be even more iconic. 

This tour starts by picking you up from your hotel at 3 am (don’t worry, they will have coffee on the train), and you will begin a 3.5-hour journey north. This tour follows the typical route of taking a bus to Ollantaytambo, followed by the train to Aguas Calientes. From there, you’ll catch a 30-minute bus to Machu Picchu. This early start time ensures you will arrive at the mountain by 8 am, giving you plenty of time to climb and explore. 

You’ll need a few hours to climb the Machu Picchu Mountain trail. This is definitely a difficult hike – it is very steep, and the high elevation makes it harder to breathe. The hike itself is about 3.8 km (2.4 miles) and will take 2-3 hours to complete. But it’s the coolest thing you can do on a day trip here, and it is such a good way to experience the natural beauty of the entire area! 

Once you complete the trek, you’ll have time to explore the Incan city of Machu Picchu, which sits below the mountain. The day starts to wind down, and you’ll take a bus to Aguas Calientes, explore the city for a bit, and then take the train back to Cusco. 

This day sounds exhausting but epic. It’s great if you’re on a time crunch and have the energy for a full day of adventure. I think the amazing views from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain are worth the effort!

This full-day tour drops you off in Cusco’s city center around 9:30 pm. The $418 USD price covers transportation fees and entrance to Machu Picchu. It does not include food or water, so be sure to bring some (or cash!).

This tour should be booked far in advance, as it fills up very quickly.

Do you need to book a hiking tour to Machu Picchu in advance?

The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru
The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru
A man walks towards the Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu, Peru
Walking to the Inca Bridge is a must but also scary!

Yes, you definitely need to book your Machu Picchu hiking tour in advance! The tour operators need to know their tour numbers at least two weeks ahead of time so they have adequate supplies and staff ready to go. 

They also have to book permits and entrance tickets in advance, so the sooner you can book your tour the better. The logistics of getting to Machu Picchu isn’t very simple, even for the experts. So giving adequate notice makes it easier for everyone involved. 

Plus, some of the best tours are in very high demand and it’d be a shame to miss out on this experience simply because you waited too long to book your tour. Some of the tours offer free cancellation or changes up to 24 hours before your tour departs, so if anything comes up you’re not totally at a loss. This is why we love booking our tours with Viator, and we honestly do it as often as we can! 

When is the best time of year to hike Machu Picchu? 

Bailey sits on a ledge while overlooking the main area of Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru
Overlooking Machu Picchu never gets old!

As far as the time of year is concerned, we suggest visiting during the dry season (April – October). With clear skies, you’ll be able to capture better views. Plus, hiking around this area is much easier without rain.

The ideal time to visit is in April and May. The scenery is at its greenest after the end of the rainy season, but you’ll still get to enjoy the good weather. You’ll also avoid the peak season crowds of June, July, and August. 

The worst time to visit is February since it’s the rainiest month. The Inca Trail actually closes during this time, although Machu Picchu itself stays open.

Is hiking to Machu Picchu worth it?

Bailey and Daniel take a photo on the Salkantay Trek in Peru

This is an easy answer, YES! Trekking to Machu Picchu was high on our bucket list and I am pleased to tell you that it lived up to the hype. While these treks are certainly challenging, the views, history, and immense beauty of the journey make it entirely worth it.

Then you get to Machu Picchu itself, which is even more immaculate in person. I think reaching Machu Picchu after 5 days of hard hiking leading up to it just made our experience even more satisfying. 

So if you’re looking for an experience that is potentially one of the best memories of your life, I highly recommend joining a hiking tour to Machu Picchu. It is an experience I will never forget!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey on the Salkantay Trek with views of Machu Picchu behind her
Thanks for reading!

Hiking to Machu Picchu is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I know you’ll love! Even if you don’t love every second of the trek (it can be difficult, let me tell you!) it will be worth it in the end. These are our top choices of hikes, and each is great for different reasons. So I hope that you are able to find a trek that perfectly suits your adventure style.

If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out our other Peru articles! We have been to all over Peru and many other parts of South America, and simply love sharing our travel tips and tricks. To assist in your planning process and travel inspiration, here are a few blogs that might be useful:

30 BEST Things to do in Peru (Peru Highlights you can’t miss!)

6 Best Sacred Valley Tours from Cusco +Tips BEFORE You Book!

The BEST Peru Travel Guide