Can you not decide how to get to Machu Picchu as there are so many options and all seem like a good idea?
Same here! I struggled with this decision for a month as the Machu Picchu visit for me at least is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and wanted to ensure I do it the best way possible.
So I simply took the 4 most popular options, put them on paper, and wrote pluses and minuses. That is what we are going to do now! After reading this article I hope you will have clearer pictures of the available options and you can pick the one that fits you!
I will cover:
Going yourself by bus or train
Inca Jungle Trail
If you prefer to watch this in a video format and not reading then scroll down to the bottom of the article for the video version!
Duration of the trip
So treks like Salkantay and Jungle are longer ones. If you are short on time then doing a day trip by bus or train will be the option for you. Or the Inca trail is possible to do in 2 days.
The level of difficulty
Also, the Salkantay and Inca trail are hardcore trekking for the whole day depending on how many days you choose to do them, it is doable. People of all ages and physical backgrounds can do the trek at their own pace, you don't need to be an advanced hiker or an athlete. The guide will always ensure everyone finishes the trek and in case something happens or you really feel like you can’t do it, there are always horses on the track to take you to your next camp spot.
The jungle trail is a good medium option.
Going by bus still involves a 10km hike. The train is the easiest way as involves no hiking!
The best part of each option
As I said at the beginning the only way that helped me pick was putting pluses against minuses. So let’s start with the positives!
I do not have anything positive to say about the train or bus. I look at them simply as a way how to get to Machu Picchu. I took a train ride back (to have both experiences - train and trekking) and I was disappointed. I had no window next to me and the window I kind of had in front of me was scratched and dirty so I couldn’t see much anyway. This is purely my experience and my bad luck, you might enjoy the train a bit more.
Said that there is this luxurious train option! It is called 'Hiram Bingham'. The train is absolutely stunning and definitely an amazing way how to travel to Machu Picchu! More about it and pricing you can find out on their website. This is a very expensive option but if money is not a problem then definitely a good option.
As I said the normal train was just an average train ride that was overpriced!
Salkantay trek offers a visit to Humantay Lake which definitely was a big reason for me to pick this trek. Some people do a whole separate day trip just to see the lake, but during the Salkantay Trek, it is on your way. So in case you choose a different path then you can still visit the lake on a separate day but that obviously is a whole other excursion, another expense. Also, the Salkantay trek takes you to the Salkantay Pass which is one of the highest points in the area so you get amazing views.
Inca Trail does not require further comments. It purely is the most special way how to get to Machu Picchu as it includes many amazing Inca ruins on your trek and you visit different archeological sites. This trail is supposedly the original way how Incas went from Cusco (those days Cosco) to Machu Picchu.
The jungle trail is the most fun way how to get to Machu Picchu. During your trip you do rafting and zip lining, you also do some part with cycles and also there is some hiking too. So a very adventurous way how to get to Machu Picchu.
Negatives of each option
Ok, we also have to look at the negatives to measure the differences.
I feel like my positives about the train also included the negatives.
The bus, I simply see it as the cheapest way how to get to Machu Picchu, nothing special about it but a good option if you are on a budget.
The only negative for the Salkantay trek I can think of is that it might be quite hard at some points but throughout the whole trek. Just a few parts. I was worried that I couldn't do it, and after finishing the Salkantay trek I can truly say that anyone motivated enough can finish the trek. It will be a challenge but it will be so rewarding in the end!
Inca trail is quite expensive and you have to book it in advance as it can get booked out even 2 months in advance.
In the end, I couldn’t decide between Salkantay and Jungle trails and the only reason why I leaned towards Salkantay and not Jungle was that I can do rafting and zip-lining anywhere but the Salkantay trek I can only do to Machu Picchu. So I hope you picked up the negative of the Jungle Trail.
I hope these comparisons will help you pick your trail. I based all the above on 50 different options because the moment I entered Peru I was asking everyone we met on the way and also some local guides which is the best way so the above is a summary of many different opinions of people who had done them and local guides who been doing all of them for ages.
I think unless you do premium train, then do not bother spending money on the train. Salkantay and Inca trails are 2 very special hikes to do and do not worry, you can trek them! The jungle trail is a fun adventure to do with friends and family.
Either way, I believe doing a several-day trip to get to Machu Picchu will make your visit extra special and I am definitely voting for one of the trails!
If you want to prepare better for your actual Macchu Picchu visit then check out my blog article: Everything you need to know about Machu Picchu.
Also, if you decide to do the Salkantay trek I have some useful tips and my own journey described in my Salkantay Blog Article.