Alternative Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu

“A two week, small group tour, following the Salcantay trek route to Machu Picchu, and then exploring the Andes on foot for a week. With six nights of camping, the rest in small hotels. Starts in Lima, with an internal flight to Cusco. ”


Lima | Cusco | Sacred Valley | Sacsayhuaman | Chinchero Plateau | Maras salt pans | Ollantaytambo | Urubamba River Valley | 7 day Salcantay Trek to Machu Picchu and Inca Trail | Soraypampa | Humantay | Mt Salcantay | Incachiriasca Pass | Incachiriasca Pass | Pampacahuana valley | Ancascocha Pass | Hatunrumiyoq | Views of Mount Veronica | Traditional Pachamanca meal | Ollantaytambo | Wiñay Wayna | Aguas Calientes | Machu Picchu

Description of Alternative Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu

This two week Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu follows the Salcantay route to the great citadel, which is much quieter than the other route used by most trekkers. It enables us to not only escape the crowds, but also enjoy a week amongst the soaring Andean peaks, taking in the cultural heritage of the Incas, culminating in the great Machu Picchu.

Starting in Lima, with a day to explore the Peruvian capital, we fly to Cusco taking time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site city and also acclimatise to the elevation of the Andes. The Salcantay Trek is named after the eponymous mountain which dominates the landscape, along with other greats such as Humantay and Huayanay.

Trekking and camping for a week, with the support of porters and guides, we explore the Peruvian Andes’ wilderness areas surrounded by snow capped peaks, with trails to elevations of 5000m in the Cordillera Vilcabamba and camping in places you will never forget. Waking up to views of the great Mount Salcantay being one of those special ones.

The glorious culmination of this Andean trekking holiday is, of course, Machu Picchu which we approach from the Sun Gate. We spend a night in Aguas Calientes, staying in a much welcomed hotel and also enjoying the reason this town is called‘hot springs’. We are then rested and ready to spend a whole day exploring Machu Picchu properly, starting at sunrise. It’s moments like this when you realise exactly why this valley was considered sacred.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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Check dates

2018: 28 Mar, 11 Apr, 25 Apr, 9 May, 23 May, 13 Jun, 27 Jun, 11 Jul, 25 Jul, 15 Aug, 22 Aug, 12 Sep, 26 Sep
2019: 27 Mar, 10 Apr, 24 Apr, 8 May, 22 May, 12 Jun, 26 Jun, 10 Jul, 24 Jul, 14 Aug, 21 Aug, 11 Sep, 25 Sep
Holiday type

Avoid disappointment - book your Inca Trail holiday in time

In the last few years, the Peruvian government has imposed increasing restrictions on tourism on the Inca Trail in order to protect it from overuse. The aim is to minimise ecological impact and erosion, mainly by having limited access and improving the quality of the operators. There are now only a very limited number of trekking permits available - 500 per day (around 200 for travellers and the rest for staff) - and they are being issued on a first-come-first-served basis. In order to avoid disappointment we recommend booking well in advance (up to a minimum of 3 months in peak season), unless you are extremely flexible over your travel dates.
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Alternative Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu

Our operational base in Cusco has been instrumental in raising the standards of porter conditions and welfare in the Andes. We are founding members of the Peruvian Association of Adventure Tourism Workers (ATTAP) and the Peruvian Adventure Tourism Association (APTAE). Our management team based in Peru have been instrumental in the recently introduced legislation to ensure that the numbers on the legendary Inca Trail are environmentally sustainable.

All human waste is carried off the trails by the use of PETT toilets which use 100% biodegradable bags and chemical-free cleaning agents.
You will contribute to our pioneering scheme to reduce the vast numbers of plastic water bottles that are put into the waste dumps and land fills since there are no plastic recycling plants in the South Eastern Andes of Peru. We have made arrangements with all the hotels that we use to allow us to provide you with large containers of spring water and fill your bottles as necessary and avoid the need to buy water only available in plastic bottles. In 2003 alone this project has prevented more than 15,000 plastic bottles entering the environment.

A proportion of the cost of this trip will pay for a team of doctors and health workers to visit the villages of the porters every year. They also take this opportunity to attend to any villagers who need immediate attention. This is a very costly procedure but makes a very big difference to the general health and well being of the villagers.

Our Responsible Travel Guidebook
Our philosophy since 1975 has been to leave only footprints and take only photographs. To reiterate this, every customer who travels with us receives a copy of our award-winning Responsible Travel guidebook. This detailed book outlines our environmentally sustainable principles, and outlines how each customer can minimize their impact while traveling.

Global Warming and Carbon Balancing
The root cause of Global Warming is society's dependence on emission creating fossil fuel. Planting trees is not going to reverse this trend or cancel our carbon emissions very quickly or effectively. We believe the way to reduce these dependencies is to create clean energy production. Therefore, we support renewable energy projects like wind and solar power, and we are aligned with Climate Friendly, the gold standard setter in effective, meaningful action addressing climate change. So, while we believe that tree planting can play a small role in greenhouse gas abatement, we have gone the extra mile in promoting a longer term solution. Is this cheap? No. Is it responsible? Absolutely.

No local payments policy
Local cash payments are becoming increasingly popular with many operators in the adventure travel industry. This policy seems to benefit the tour operators more than the local economies or the travelers, as it avoids local taxes and transfers the costs and risks of cash handling onto the travelers. In accordance with our Responsible Travel practices, we have chosen a policy of not asking for such payments.

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