Peru is known for having some of the most memorable landscapes, ancient sites and hiking routes in South America. At Atelier we love to bring you the little-known activities in South America that take you off-the-beaten-path, and into lesser-explored corners of the country you are visiting. 
Here, we look at some of the most exciting and interesting alternatives to the Classic Inca Trail.

The Classic Inca Trail is, of course, the most famous trek in Peru – perhaps all of South America. And rightly so. You walk through the Sacred Valley along the banks of the Urubamba River, heading into native forest, up high mountain passes and ultimately to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu itself. This is a truly iconic travel experience.

Yet, there is so much more to explore in Peru.   

1. Trek to Choquequirao 

Choquequirao is one of the most remote Inca sites in the Andes, and makes for an incredible off-the-beaten-path trek in Peru. It is found in the Apurimac River Valley of the Willkapamba Mountains, 60 miles from Cusco. 

Excavations of Choquequirao only began in the 1970’s, and still continue to this day. It’s a wonderous Inca site, thought to be one of the last refuges of the ancient Inca people, and is only accessible by hiking from Cachora. Some argue that Choquequirao offers as much intrigue and awe as mighty Machu Picchu, and we’d agree!    

A trek to Choquequirao can take either 4 or 9 days, depending on the route you choose, taking you along isolated mountain paths, through thick forest, and across undulating hillsides. 

The Choquequirao Trek really is one of the great Peruvian adventures that will transport you back in time. 

2. The high-altitude Ausangate Trek

The landscapes alone stand the Ausangate Trek out as one of Peru’s best kept travel secrets. Think multi-colored rock formations, glacial lakes, barren mountains and more as you hike up to heights of 5,000m above sea level during 6 spectacular days. 

Along this largely deserted route, pass from flat plains to thermal springs, in the shadow of the Vilcanota Mountains to the rainbow-hued slopes of Ausangate Mountain, a real natural wonder in Peru.   

In fact, this land was holy and sacred to the Inca, and it’s easy to see why for anyone lucky enough to take on the magical Ausangate Trek. 

No matter where you choose to go, whatever your fitness level or areas of interest, this is just a taste of some of the unforgettable alternatives to the Inca Trail for those looking to get away from the crowds, and try something just a little bit different. 

3. The Salkantay Trail: Lodge-to-Lodge

There is a lot to love about the Salkantay Trail to the Lost City. This Sacred Valley trek not only takes you on a meandering, lesser-visited route to Machu Picchu, but you’ll get the chance to stay at some wonderful mountain lodges along the way, too. Begin with a scenic ramble up to Salkantay Lodge, perfectly nestled as it is under the shroud of imposing Sacred Valley mountains. 

It’s a suitably atmospheric place to start, with the lodge itself bedecked in traditional Peruvian fabrics and décor, exposed beams and stonework, before the Salkantay Trail takes you around beautiful Lake Humantay and the Salkantay Pass. This is where the trek gets a little more challenging. All efforts are, however, rewarded with fantastic views and enchanting scenery – from coffee plantations to cloud forests, and those boutique lodges to look forward to at the end of each day. 

It’s a seven-day route, culminating at Machu Picchu, the ultimate end to a unique Peruvian adventure.    

4. The Lares Trek

Another alternative trail to Machu Picchu is the Lares Trek, with several options available to lead you to The Lost City, depending on your fitness level and time available. Whichever route you choose, you can expect blissful days of scenic trekking through the Sacred Valley over a 3- or 4-day itinerary. 

Along the way, you may find yourself visiting traditional weaving communities, conquering high mountain passes like Ipsaycocha and Huilquijasa, or circling the still waters of Ipsaycocha Lake. 

In particular, thanks to fewer visitors and the openness of landscapes on this route to Machu Picchu, the Lares Trek comes with a real sense of isolation and solitude that makes it a worthy contender to the Classic Inca Trail.

5. The Vilcabamba Trek

Staying in the Sacred Valley, for those looking to test themselves with a more demanding route to The Lost City, the Vilcabamba Trek offers just that. 

Crossing a section of the original, ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, this demanding hike takes you to lesser-visited archaeological sites, stunning viewpoints and isolated passes during 5 glorious days of walking. From Ollantaytambo, start as you mean to go on with a vigorous day of hiking to the ruins of Rosaspata o Vitcos and Ñusta Hispana, reaching the Asuntina Pass at nearly 4,000m above sea level already. 

From here, look forward to tricky and undulating terrain, exposed hilltops and small villages to give you a truly authentic Peruvian experience, before finishing at Aguas Calientes and a well-earned tour of Machu Picchu itself.

Speak to the Peru travel specialists at info@atelier.travel and they will craft your dream tailor-made tour.

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