Peru Treks

Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are on just about everyone’s bucket list, and for very good reason. Stepping back in time and exploring the Inca’s Lost City, tracing the footsteps of Hiram Bingham, and experiencing first-hand the spectacular Quechuan culture is not something to be missed in one’s life. I had the opportunity to experience a great deal of this in 2013, when I flew to Cusco for the Salkantay and Ausangate treks. The Inca Trail is historic, and a beautiful walk from what I’ve heard. Due to it’s popularity, it is incredibly crowded, and a strict permit system limits the number of tourists who can walk each year. If you find yourself unable to find a guide company (required) with space left for an Inca Trail trek, strongly consider the Salktantay Trek. It was my preferred choice from what I saw online, and having now walked it, am very happy with my choice.

For both of my treks I went with the guide company Alpaca Expeditions, there is a reason these guys are rated #1 on TripAdvisor. Alpaca Expeditions was founded by Raul, a native of the Andes, and former porter and trail guide. This shows in the attention to detail, planning, and great working conditions for his staff. Most importantly, Alpaca Expeditions hires great chefs (I loved Mario), which goes a long way when trekking for five days at a time!

Great food!
Great food! (L toR): Eric, Fenny, Suzanne, Olf, Me, Julia

If you’re planning on doing either of these treks, I suggest you get yourself in top shape by training for it. I hike just about every weekend, and have access to 10,000ft+ peaks, and the altitude still took some getting used to. I flew in to Cusco, and allowed my body 48 hours to adjust to the high elevation. You might need more/less time depending on your fitness.




 Day -1 and 0: Cusco Peru  Sightseeing and City Walking  Hotel

Cusco is the perfect city for acclimatization because there is so much to see and do! Julia and I ate lots of incredible Peruvian food and drank a ton of fresh juice at the markets. We also walked though the craft tables and picked up some great alpaca warmies.  Learning about the history of the Inca was incredible, as it is now married in time with the Spanish inquisition.


Salkantay Trek/Machu Picchu

Miles (Elevation Gained)


 Day 1: Cusco to Soraypampa to Wayracpunku  9 (3000 ft)  Wayracpunku
 Day 2: Wayracpunku to La Playa  14 (1500 ft)  La Playa
 Day 3: La Playa to Llactapata  7.5 (2600 ft)  Llactapata
 Day 4: Llactapata to Aguas Calientes  9 (981 ft) Aguas Calientes
 Day 5: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu 5  None (Cusco)

The night before we began our Salktantay Trek, we met at the downtown offices of Alpaca expeditions for a debrief. It was here we first met our guide, Effrain, and went over the details of what the next five days would entail. You can see the day-to-day breakdown in the table above. We were picked up at our hotel bright and early (4:30 AM), and began a roughly three hour drive to our starting point. From here, we trekked for 4 days before reaching Aguas Calientes. On our fifth day, we explored Machu Picchu and climbed Huayna Picchu before taking the train to Ollantaytambo for the van ride back to Cusco.

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

Ausangate Trek

Miles (Elevation Gained)


 Day 1: Tinki to Upis  7.5 (2300 ft)  Upis
 Day 2: Upis to Pucacocha  10.25 (3000 ft)  Pucacocha
 Day 3: Pucacocha to Jampa  7.3 (2000 ft)  Jampa
 Day 4: Jampa to Pacchanta  10.6 (2000 ft)  Pacchanta
 Day 5: Pacchanta to Tinki 7 (270 ft)  None (Cusco)

For some, one week of vacation time is all you’ll be able to spend in this incredible area. If you have more time, and would like to see more of Peru, I can’t give a higher recommendation than the endorsement I give of the Ausangate trek. If you like huge mountains, high elevation, glacial lakes, incredible people, and days of solitude, this is the trek for you! I’ve traveled all over the world, and so far nothing has compared to the beauty I saw on the Ausangate trek. To make things even better, you’ll want to go with Alpaca Expeditions. Our guide, Jose, was phenomenal. His knowledge of the local language, people, and history, is something you’ll only get with guides who are from the area. It’s a beautiful thing. Our porters and chef, were from the very first village we stopped at. By village, I mean a small handful of one room houses. In this part of Peru, you’ll get alpaca, vicuna, hawks, and lots of other spectacular wildlife. Check our the table above to see a day-to-day breakdown of the trek.

The Greatest Land On Earth
The Greatest Land On Earth


  1. View Pictures on Flickr
  2. Both treks booked with Alpaca Expeditions
  3. Watch my trip documentary!

10 comments on “Peru Treks

  1. Sounds great! I did the Inca trail a few years ago. I am heading back to Machu Picchu next year and want to take an alternate route. Salkantay Trek defiantly sounds like a good option. Have you hiked in Torres Del Paine? Would the Ausangate Trek compare to anything n the glaciers down there?

    • You’ll really like the Salkantay trek a lot! It was a great 5 days to Machu Picchu. I never made it down to Torres del Paine while I was in Argentina, but I hope to return soon. Top hiking season in the Southern Hemisphere is my busiest time at work usually which makes it tough. From what I’ve seen online, the two look pretty similar. Maybe more physical beauty in Torres del Paine, but Ausangate is no slouch.

  2. Looks and sounds amazing! I’m hoping to book it in within the next year

  3. Pingback: Trail To Peak Featured On The Huffington Post For A Trek To Machu Picchu | Trail to Peak

  4. Drew- Looking at trying to book my trip for the end of 2016 as I know that the spots fill up quickly- can you tell me why you did the alternative trek you did to Machu Piccu? Looking at the adoptions on the Alpaca expedition site and there seem to be a lot. Definitely going to do the Ausungate trek. Did you choose 5 days just due to your time constraints? thanks for your help!

    • Sure! I booked the trek to Salkantay as the Inca Trail was already fully booked. Once I saw that the Inca Trail was fully booked, I wanted to do a trek with the best views and one that also included mountain regions. Salkantay was perfect as the first day is above 15000 feet by albra Salkantay. Day 3 is also spectacular at Llaqtapata. The views on Salkantay are actually better, but it lacks the history and lure of the Inca Trail. The Lares trek is also incredible, and one I would have done if I had more time.

      Glad to hear you’ll be doing the Ausangate trek! As much as I liked Machu Picchu and Salkantay, the Ausangate trek is second to none in my eyes. I did the 5 day for time constraints, and I like longer hiking days. Hope this helps!

  5. that would be options not adoptions. 🙂

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