For those who missed to book the most famous Inca trail, don’t worry! There are still many ways to trek to Machu Picchu. And it is in fact, a lot cheaper plus more adventurous! Here is how we did it, booking just one day in advance of departure.
*It is advised to take at least two to three days in Cusco as Salcantay trek to Machu Picchu will go up to maximum 4,650m on the second day of trek.
Day 1: Pickup at our accommodation around 4:30am. Stop over at the restaurant for a 15 soles breakfast served with bread, jam & margarine, 2 eggs, fruits & granola, tea (- it is better to bring your own if you have time to prepare). We arrived to a small village valley to start the trek totalling 19km/8hours. Lunch & Dinner will be served at this 1st campsite located 3,900m high. Between the meals we hiked up to a Laguna close by. The inclination was quite steep but once we saw the laguna, we all just forget how challenging it was! Throughout the day we wandered amongst an abundance of mountainous nature, with greens and beautiful flowers along the river as well as glaciers in the far distance, this was the first glance at the savage mountain. Our guide explained us a flower called Muña which was grown in the wild, seemingly very effective for acclimatization and bad stomach: later on, we had a unique touch for dinner with this Muña tea on the side. Night was freezing, but the stars and glowing glaciers from the full moon was just breathtaking.
Day 2: We were woken up with a coca tea at 5am, packed bags, ate breakfast. It was still dark outside with a zero/minus temperature shivering. We left for the longest and toughest trek of total 21km/10hours, maximum altitude of 4,650m. Scenery changed from green grass to dry dirt and to rock and ice, back to green jungle after passing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu pass. Our clothes also changed from down jackets to T-shirt, wooly hat to sun hat. At the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu pass, our guide explained how the natives consider high mountains as a sacred mountain and they would pile up some rocks and put three coca leaves between the rocks to make a wish for the Pacha Mama, our Mother of Nature. As he explained, he took out the coca leaves to make wishes on our own too. Yes, indeed, it was a tough day but the achievements we feel at the end of the day were just so good! We all fell straight asleep in the tent right after the dinner was finished.
Day 3: Again, we were woken up with coca tea at 5am, packed bags, ate breakfast. This day was a short day with 15km/5hours. Along the path, there were many coffee plants, wild strawberries and granadillas (a fruit similar to passionfruit, but sweeter!) and we would eat along the way. After walking along the dry path, we finally reached to the campsite. We got ready to prepare for the hotspring after eating lunch. Transportation (15soles/pp) and hot spring cost (5soles) were not included in the package. The location of hot spring was magnificent where it was located in the outdoor valley surrounded by mountains and rivers. It was also divided into four sections depending on the water temperature. We stayed in the hottest water area as others were too cold for me. After hot spring, we went back to the campsite to have dinner and we stayed up chatting and playing local “frog & coin” games all night long.
Day 4: As the custom goes, we were again woken up 6am with coca tea, packed bags, ate breakfast. Today was a zipline activity day. People who were not doing zipline had to walk all the way to the hydroelectric station which was mentioned there is no great scenery. We decided to pay 100soles (some people whom booked in advance paid less price) to make our time worth. This was my first experience for the zipline, but it was actually more fun than what I expected! In the guidance, we were told there will be five sections, total 3,170m of reaching maximum 80km/hour. In between the ziplines, there was a suspension bridge across the river which made the day more thrilling. After the activity, we drove to hydroelectric station to start our walk to Aguas Caliente town where we stayed over at a Bed&Breakfast for the night, total 11km/3hours. We all ate at the restaurant and had an early night sleep to prepare for the final Machu Picchu day.
Day 5: We left the B&B at 4:15am. We had two choices, shuttle bus (approx.US$20.00 for return) or to walk, so we decided to power walk to the first entrance gate of Machu Picchu. Once the first entrance gate opened at 5am, we had to climb 2,000 steps all the way up to Machu Picchu final entrance gate. We needed a torch to climb up at the beginning but towards the middle the sky was gradually lightening up. There were so many people with multiple lingo conversations flying everywhere. Inside Machu Picchu we had about 2 hours of a guided city tour and after that we had free time. Some people, paid extra to go to “Wayna Picchu” or “Machu Picchu” mountains for the higher view. We walked to the “Sun Gate” (for free), which we thought it would be also a good view from above to see Machu Picchu from a distance. Machu Picchu was larger than what we expected, and it was just so amazing that time passed so fast, especially when playing with llamas. The majority of crowds were leaving after 2pm. So we were glad we made a choice to pay for the trains to stay until the very end (5pm close).
Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
Transfer from Cusco to Mollepata
Entrance fees to Machu Picchu
Roomy dining tent and kitchen
Chairs and dining tables
First aid kit
Transportation from Ollantaytambo to Cusco
Professional bilingual guide, cook and assistants
The following meals: 4 x lunch, 4 x dinner, 4 x breakfast (optional vegeterian)
1 night of lodging in a hostel in Aguas Calientes
Personal care items
Tips for the guide and the horsemen
Breakfast on the first day, lunch and dinner on the last day
A current valid passport is required on the day of travel
We suggest to bring: strong walking shoes or tennis shoes, sweater and thick jacket, hat or cap, just one bottle of water, a good rain coat, long sleeve shirts, long and short pants, insect repellent, a sunblock with a UV factor of at least 40, toilet paper, lantern, sunglasses, plastic bags, medical or personal items, a lightweight backpack per person, camera and charger, some cash in change
Passport name, number, expiry and country is required at time of booking for all participants