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Off the (well) beaten track – Peru’s Alternative Inca Trails

Machu picchu

Without doubt, Machu Picchu is the most famous attraction in Peru. The winding Inca trail draws people from across the world, but like so many of the World Heritage Sites, Machu Picchu’s awe and attraction comes at a cost.

Over 400,000 people visit every year and, whilst the Peruvian government has restricted the amount of people who can walk the Inca Trail to a maximum of 500 daily; with 2500 people being allowed entry to Machu Picchu itself, and only 400 being allowed to trek Huayna Picchu, there is still a great risk of permanent damage to these protected sites.

So, what’s the alternative? Well, there are trails running throughout Peru that are just as stunning as those leading to Machu Picchu – and with far fewer people! Camino Del Apu Ausangate is a path through this stunning landscape of snow-capped mountains and rust-red hillsides and thermal springs.  And you’re more likely to stumble across a heard of llamas than you are another tourist.

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For those still looking for that Machu Picchu experience, Choquequirao is the best option. Nicknamed “Machu Picchu’s Little Sister” this site is ideal for those who still want to experience an Incan settlement, but with solitude. After two days of uphill and downhill climbing, adventurers are rewarded with lush slopes, traditional buildings and ‘llama-terraces’. And for the real explorers (or mad-men) climbing the Choquequirao terraces 5,000 feet above the Apurimac river is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Camino Salkantay is an alternative path to Machu Picchu, and trekkers really do take the high-road. With the original Inca Trail reaching 13,800 feet above sea-level, Salkantay rises even higher to over 15,000 feet. As such, walkers will be explore some of the area’s most spectacular mountains, and while the high altitude may have a strain on the body, the hot-springs, warm duvets and friendly bartenders at some of the lodges along the trail do help the daily recovery.

Views from Choquequirao

Views from Choquequirao

If you are still committed to trekking the Inka Trail all the way to Huayna Picchu, then do your homework. Booking your tickets online is the only way to ensure you reach the peak – and do this early: unsurprisingly with a centuries old settlement nestled in the heart of the Andean mountains, mobile phone signal isn’t at its strongest.

However, with all of these treks being so ‘off-piste’, so to speak, they’re not for the faint-hearted. Expect strenuous days and aching nights. But the end destination is beyond words. Just invest in a good pair of boots. Our additional tours at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel mean you’ll have an expert, local guide alongside you whilst trekking the Inca Trail. It’s even a trip to take with the whole family with our specially created family journey to Machu Picchu. Make 2014 the year you see one of the most iconic archaeological sites in Peru, if not the world.

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