There’s nothing like the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu on one’s own two feet, which is why the classic Inca Trail hike has become so popular in recent years. The time when a traveler could roll into Cusco and set up an Inca Trail trek for the following day—or week, or month—has long since passed, though. To limit damage to the trail, the Peruvian government now limits access to 500 persons per day, porters included. Permits for the peak summer season sell out months in advance.
Fortunately, the Inca were master road builders who blazed trails all throughout the Andes, and many of these are alternate routes to Machu Picchu (or at least you get as close as a quick train ride). Here are six alternatives, most of which require no permits and can be arranged through any reputable outfitter in Cusco. Some of these hikes are available in multiple variations and can be tailored to meet a particular fitness level; those listed here are among the most popular versions.
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