Which tour leading to Machu Picchu is the best: Salkantay Trek, Inka Jungle Tour, train tour or maybe any other tour? First, you need to keep in mind that no one will have the best answer for you. Simply, I have no idea which way will be the best right for you. The truth is, that only you know the answer to this question, only you know what is better for you, what kind of things/adventures you like.
At the same time, I know and understand how important it is to choose the right option. Without any doubts, the visit to Machu Picchu is an adventure of lifetime. This spot is not only one of the most important archaeological sites in Latin America but one of the most important in the whole world. Machu Picchu is not only amazing itself, it is also an outstanding example of man’s interaction with his natural environment. I am sure that everyone wants to enjoy both their time in Machu Picchu and their time getting to it, however that may be.
In this case, there is definitely something I can do for you!
I can show you the most important differences between each of these three possibilities and describe the pros and cons for each of them. I believe that with all the information that you will find below, your decision will be very simple. So let’s see what differs between the Salkantay Trek, Inca Jungle Tour and train tour to Machu Picchu.
But wait a minute… Before I start to analyze these three options, I will say a few general words about the diversity of the roads leading to the Machu Picchu.
The most popular ways to reach Machu Picchu
First of all we need to be aware that there are quite a lot of roads leading to Machu Picchu, of which you can see below:
- Machu Picchu by train: 1 or 2 day tour
- Salkantay Trek: 4 or 5 day tour
- Inka Jungle Tour: 3 or 4 day tour
- Inca Trail: 2 or 4 day tour
- Lares Trek: 4 day tour
- Choquequirao Trek: 7-9 day tour
Second, you also need to understand that all of the possible ways to get to Machu Picchu are unique, beautiful and worth seeing. Often people ask me which option to reach Machu Picchu is the best. In reality there is no better or worse, more or less beautiful tour. There are only different tours! All of them are amazing, interesting and beautiful. Just some of them will match one person better than the other. Everything depends on your personality, expectations, possibilities, physical condition and desire.
From the list above, I choose only three tours, the most popular, but of course there are other options worth taking into consideration. Here is some information about other tours:
Inca Trail: In many places you will probably read that this is the best option to go to Machu Picchu. I cannot say anything about it. First, I have not done this tour. I did the Inca Jungle Tour, Salkantay Trek, train tour as well as the pure Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu. I am not going to write about it, because I know this trail only from the descriptions and pictures of other people, which is not the same. Another thing is that the Inca Trail can be perfect only for some people, not necessary for all. For example if you do not like hiking for 4 days, spending nights in a tent, I doubt you will enjoy it.
Lares trek: I will also not compare the Lares trek to Machu Picchu, because for me it is not the road going directly to the Lost City of the Incas. You can do this trekking as a completely separate trip, which I highly recommend.
Choquequirao trek: It is possible in this tour to see two in one, which means that you can see during one trip the wonderful, beautiful Inca Ruins of Choquequirao and Machu Picchu. There is only one important thing about this trek, it is really hard and long. It takes between 7 – 11 days, depending on the skills of the participants. I will write more about this in another article, because this kind of tour is for smaller groups of adventurers. Here I would like to focus on the roads that can be done by most of us.
More active Inka Jungle Tour and Salkantay Trek or train tours to Machu Picchu
Most popular tours to Machu Picchu chosen by tourists (except Inca Trail Tour, for which the entrance is very limited) are: train tours; Inka Jungle Tours or Salkantay Trek Tours. Below you will find some ideas about them as well as the most important differences. I hope it will help you to match the right tour for you, your personality and the time you have for enjoying the Cusco region.
In the moment when you start to plan your trip to Machu Picchu you need to answer for 3 important questions:
- How much time do you have for exploring this spot and other things on the way: 1, 2, 3 or more days?
- Are in you good physical condition?
- Are you fan of active adventures?
The answer for these basic questions can help you decide which tour will be the best for you.
Possible pros of one/two days train tours to Machu Picchu?
- Do not require good physical condition.
- You will need for the tour 1 or 2 days. If you choose the one day train tour to Machu Picchu, there is something you need to take into consideration. It will be a long and exhausting day. Of course when you will reach your main destination – Machu Picchu, unique landscapes and atmosphere will reward the effort. If you would like to spend one night in Aguas Calientes, a small town just below the Machu Picchu ruins and do some extra treks around, then you can consider a two day tour. This will give you more time for enjoying not only Machu Picchu ruins but also the city and its neighbourhood.
- You will save some money, but not too much.
- You will have more time for exploration of other interesting spots near Cusco.
Possible cons of a one/two day train tour to Machu Picchu?
- Less beautiful landscapes and views during the way (because it is the shorter version).
- Less possibilities to meet with local communities on the way, to learn about life of Peruvians living in other parts of Cusco.
- No camping in the mountains.
- No physical, active recreation.
- No extra adventures, like trekking, biking, zip line or rafting.
For which travelers this option may match more?
If you have a limited holiday in Peru or in the Cusco region, a one day tour to Machu Picchu by train can be the best and actually the only option for you. It can also be an alternative for all of you who do not like or for any reason cannot do trekking or other adventure activities. It can also be the only choice for all of you who plan to visit other places in Peru and for the Cusco region have only 2-3 days.
Active tours to Machu Picchu: Inka Jungle Tour or Salkantay Trek Tour?
If you have at least 4 days and if you prefer an active holiday, you will probably be interested in taking one of the several day tours leading to Machu Picchu. Of course here you will have the question, which tour to choose: Inka Jungle or maybe Salkantay? Of course there is no one answer for that, which I mentioned at the beginning, but there are very clear differences between these two options and if you know them, the choice will be easy. So before your final decision, read carefully what is below :-).
Inka Jungle Tour
- This is the only tour offered all year. Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares are closed in Febuary and Choquequirao is not available in rainy season (between November – April).
- This tour provides several different adventure activities along the way:
- Day 1: biking from more than 4 300 meters above sea level to around 1 500 meters above sea level; after a short break rafting and at the end, a little bit of hiking
- Day 2: trekking through real Inca paths
- Day 3: zip line and trekking
- Day 4: trekking and an important lesson of the history about the Inca Empire with the ruins of Machu Picchu as the main attraction
Possible pros of the Inka Jungle tour to Machu Picchu?
- Changing landscapes from high, snowy peaks to the jungle – a lot of diversity and stunning views
- Many different activities, not only trekking but also biking, zip line and rafting
- Accommodation – in hostels (sometimes very basic), but not in the tents
- Warm during the day and during the night but at the same time more humid
- General time of the tour: 4 days, but there is possibility to do it in 3 days (without one part)
- The highest point: 4 340 m.a.s.l. and only for a while, so it is much easier to adapt to the high altitude
- Experiencing the real jungle, with a possibility to see coffee plantations and plantations of all seasonal fruits, as well as a lot of different jungle birds
Possible cons of the Inka Jungle tours to Machu Picchu?
- It takes 4 days
- It is very active
- Mosquitos along the way
This is the best option for whom?
If you are lover of extreme sports, if you like to do different things every day, if you don’t like sleeping in tents, probably will prefer Inka Jungle Tour instead of Salkantay Tour.
Salkantay Trek Tour
- This tour is organized only several months during the year (not recommended in rainy season: November – April)
- Provides one activity: trekking
- Day 1: trekking
- Day 2: trekking
- Day 3 and/or 4: trekking
- Day 4 and/or 5: trekking and an important lesson of the history about the Inca Empire with the ruins of Machu Picchu as the main attraction
Possible pros of Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu?
- Warm during the day, colder during the night but less humid
- General time of the tour: 5 days, but there is possibility to do it in 4 days (if you are in good physical condition)
Possible cons of Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu?
- Less diversity, can be a little bit boring – especially for people who like to do different things
- Accommodation is in tents but on the other hand sometimes it is nice to sleep high in the mountians 🙂
- No deep experience with the jungle
- Landscape similar – higher mountains
- The highest part: 4 640 m.a.s.l. so can be a little bit more difficult to adapt to high altitude
This is the best option for whom?
If you are big fan of trekking and if it is not a problem to wander for 4 or 5 days, if you like to sleep in the tents, or if you do not want spend a lot of time in the jungle.
So, now you know all about the most popular tours to Machu Picchu. Good luck in choosing the tour that matches you the best and enjoy the incredible, unforgettable experiences that await you in the Lost City of the Incas!
If you are also looking for good travel company based in Cusco, who prepares all of the above mentioned tours, you can check Inka Jungle Tour. They have great services, new equipment and good, english-speaking tour guides. Here is the link to their website http://inkajungletour.com/ It is the only company to offer a really unique itinerary. They have a private lodge in the jungle, so the first night you will spend in a house in the jungle with a local family instead of in the town of Santa Maria where there isn’t much to do.