Set high in the Andes mountains, the spectacular Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is Peru’s biggest attraction. Considered one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’, these famous ruins are a must-see for anyone travelling in South America and are typically reached by hiking the stunning Inca Trail or taking a scenic train and bus ride from Cusco.
But for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, there’s an alternative trek to Machu Picchu that you need to know about.
The Wild Andes Trek
Following pristine trails used only by local villagers and very few other trekkers, the Wild Andes Trek is a unique and pioneering route. Passing Inca ruins and magnificent mountain scenery, the three and a half day trek takes you well off the beaten track and deep into the real Andes, with the opportunity to visit some local communities along the way.
The route makes for a fantastic alternative trek to Machu Picchu and is available on our overlanding trips in South America. To give you a better idea of what’s in store, here we answer some questions you’re bound to have about this spectacular trail.
What will I see each day?
Here’s an overview of the highlights for each day of the Wild Andes Trek:
Leaving from Cusco, you visit the ruined temples of Sacsaywaman and the ancient terraces of Pisac before seeing a traditional weaving demonstration in the Quechua-speaking village of Chincheros in the Sacred Valley. After lunch you then drive to Quillarumiyoc, also known as the Temple of the Moon, where you begin the first section of the trek.
Walking distance: Approx. 8km
Estimated time: 4 hours
Today’s trek takes you through the archaeological Inca site of Qenteqentiyoc, also called the Hummingbird Temple, before ascending to an elevation of 4,400 metres for breathtaking views of the surrounding Vilcabamba and Vilcanota mountain ranges.
Walking distance: Approx. 13km
Estimated time: 8 hours
Today sees another ascent, where you have the chance to spot Andean widllife such as eagles, caracaras and ibises. You then descend into a beautiful highland valley to enjoy lunch beside the glacial Kengo Mayu river.
Walking distance: Approx. 10km
Estimated time: 6-7 hours
This morning you descend through the impressive granite walls of the Silque Canyon to reach the Camicancha community. You then enjoy magnificent views of the snowy peak of Mount Victoria and finish the trail in the community of Chilca. Your trek is now over and you are driven to Ollantaytambo. Here you visit the world-famous Temple of the Sun and enjoy a good night’s rest.
Walking distance: Approx. 12km
Estimated time: 5 hours
Today you travel by train and bus to visit the phenomenal ruins of Machu Picchu! You have plenty of time to explore and take photos, as well as trek to either the Sun Gate or Huayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the citadel.
Will I camp the whole time?
Unlike the Inca Trail, the Wild Andes Trek doesn’t involve camping every night. On day one you stay in a colonial house in a local village, where you gain a taste of the local culture and enjoy a traditional dinner.
The following two nights are spent camping, however on the final night you stay at a comfortable hotel in Ollantaytambo. That way, you can be sure to get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to explore the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu on day five.
How difficult is the trek?
Although this alternative trek to Machu Picchu is similar in terms of length and difficulty to the classic Inca Trail, it does reach a slightly higher altitude. Whereas the Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail has an altitude of 4,200 metres, the Wild Andes Trek takes you to an altitude of 4,800 metres.
The trail can be quite steep and rocky, so you’ll need to be of good physical fitness and health to enjoy the experience to the full. As you’ll be trekking at altitude and for up to 8 hours each day, you’ll also need to have a good level of stamina to keep going.
Instead of porters, llamas, horses and mules are used to carry the trekking equipment. These animals can also be used to help anyone suffering from exhaustion or altitude sickness.
How does it compare to the Inca Trail?
In comparison to the 500 people allowed on Inca Trail each day, the Wild Andes Trek follows virtually deserted routes to take in pristine and unspoiled Andean scenery. You’re unlikely to see another tourist on the trail and instead spot lone llamas or alapacas dotted among the lush hillside and isolated villages.
Another key difference between the two routes is how you arrive at Machu Picchu. On the Inca Trail, you trek into Machu Picchu via the famous Sun Gate. However, on the Wild Andes Trek, you spend the night before at a hotel in Ollantaytambo and then catch a train and bus to Machu Picchu in the morning.
If you’re looking for an alternative trek to Machu Picchu, the Wild Andes Trek offers a fantastic opportunity to get off the beaten track, experience local communities and make the most of this celebrated Inca ruin after a good night’s sleep.