Macchu Picchu is on many traveler’s bucket list, but the trek up the Inca Trail isn’t for the faint of heart. With Alpaca Expeditions, you can choose a variety of different treks, hikes, and tours that will meet your abilities and your adventure level. You can spend several nights hiking to Machu Picchu and taking in the natural habitat of Peru and the Incan trails, or take tours by train or van to get to this exquisite landmark.
Why Visit Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian Incan site. It is a World Heritage site, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and is one of the most famous Incan ruins. It was built in the 15th century but abandoned by the Incans a century later when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Since it was abandoned, the Spanish conquistadors and other colonists had no knowledge of its existence, leaving it virtually untouched for centuries. It is now considered a landmark of ancient civilization and revered by historians and travel enthusiasts.
When visiting Machu Picchu you will come face to face with an ancient civilization. You will see amazing stonework, as well as the tools used to track the Incan calendar like the Temple of the Three Windows. These three windows capture sunlight at a specific time of year, which probably helped the Incans track months and years. There is also the Inithuatana, which is a separate structure which was probably used a sacrificial site during the winter solstice and helped mark the passage of time. History is abundant at Machu Picchu and it is one place that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
About Alpaca Expeditions
A tour to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions not only gives you an exceptional tour of the Incan ruins with locals and experts, but it also allows you to travel the Inca trail up to the ruin, seeing the amazing native and natural wildlife, flora, and fauna of the area. Alpaca Expeditions was founded in 2012. It is based in Cusco, Peru and was founded not only to offer amazing tours of the Andes but also to help support the local community. Alpaca Expeditions hires only local porters and guides, providing well-paying jobs and building schools for Andean children.
Alpaca Expeditions is committed to giving sustainable tours of Machu Picchu. They want to educate their tourists about Incan history and culture as well as create a memorable experience. They are committed to giving back to their community as well by maintaining a 100% locally employed team and by giving back in their several social campaigns.
Alpaca Expeditions Social Campaigns
Alpaca Expeditions also has several social initiatives that help the community around them. Alpaca Expedition Kids is a program in which children from the local villages are taken every week to visit some of the surrounding areas of Cusco, learning about the archaeological sites of their ancestors and experiencing some of the places they would not otherwise be able to experience. They have also hired a teacher for a local Andean Village that teaches computer skills, English, math, and literature. This teacher serves over 170 children from ages 5 to 12 years old.
There are several other campaigns in which Alpaca Expeditions have started. Tourists with Alpaca Expeditions are welcome to donate or volunteer their time surrounding their tour to help with these social initiatives:
- Porters Vacation to Machu Picchu– Porters are not allowed to visit Machu Picchu when assisting in treks, so twice per year Alpaca Expeditions takes porters and their families on an all-expense-paid trip to Machu Picchu. Alpaca Expeditions is the only tour company in the area to do this.
- Cleaning Campaign– Every year staff members clean the trail and clean up any non-organic items.
- Fixing Smiles– Alpaca Expeditions has hired a team to visit rural Andean villages to provide dental health screenings, dental procedures, and donate dental supplies.
- Reforestation– Local farmers and larger industries have taken to deforestation for personal gain, leaving the surrounding areas with less and less vegetation. Alpaca Expeditions donates 10,000 Polilpys trees to local villages to combat this issue.
- Christmas with Alpaca Expeditions– Alpaca Expeditions has chosen a local Andean village and donates supplies and boots to the children.
Your Guides at Alpaca Expeditions
Not only is Alpaca Expeditions committed to making a change in their local communities, but they are also committed to creating amazing tours for their guests and fellow travelers. All of the guides at Alpaca Expeditions are locals and they all have a degree in tourism from Cusco University. They are experts in the flora, fauna, geography, history, archeology, anthropology, and astronomy of the area. All of the guides speak English and they are trained in safety and first aid.
Porters will also accompany you on your trek. These hard-working people help carry food, tents, camping equipment, and more.
Together, the guides, porters, and administrative team at Alpaca Expeditions will help you create the adventure of your dreams. They have won over seven awards for travel excellence as well as a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor every year since their inception. They are fully licensed by the tourism board of Peru and they strive to create the best experience for all travelers as well as support the local community.
Alpaca Expedition Trek Options
There are several different trek options available through Alpaca Expeditions. Which trek you chose will depend on your physical abilities as well as the time you want to spend hiking, camping, and seeing the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu. Below are the trek options available to tourists.
Inca Trail Treks
There are six different Inca Trail Treks available to tourists with Alpaca Expeditions. Each trek offers a unique experience with different amounts of time on the trail, group or private tours, and accommodations.
- Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu (4D/3N) Group Tour- This 26-mile hike is challenging and suited for those with a moderate level of fitness.
- Inca Trail Trek (4D/3N) Private Tour– This is the same hike as the one above, but it is for private groups.
- Inca Trail Tour (5D/4N)– This is a slower-paced 26-mile hike to Machu Picchu. It is a more moderate hike and is well-suited for families or for those who want to take their time trekking.
- Short Inca Trail Hike with Camping (2D/1N)– This is a short hike that has one day of walking about 8 miles, and then camping overnight to see Machu Picchu in the morning. Direct transport back to your hotel is provided after.
- Short Inca Tail Hike with Hotel (2D/1N)– This is the same hike like the one above but instead of camping out under the stars, you will stay in a local hotel in the village of Aguas Calientes. Hotel stay is not included.
- Inca Trail Salkantay Trekking Tour (7D/6N)– This is the longest trekking tour offered by Alpaca Expeditions. It is 46.7 miles and spans seven days. It is an extremely challenging hike and is reserved for experienced hikers who are physically fit.
To read more about the Salkantay Trek, click here.
Alternative Machu Picchu Treks
There are other alternative treks to Machu Picchu which don’t take you through the Inca Trail but rather in alternative routes. This is a great way to see some of the other amazing features that Peru has to offer. Here are some of the options:
- Classic Salkantay Trek (5.5D/5N)– This hike is for very physically fit hikers as it is a difficult course to take. It is one of the top choices because you are able to visit the Humantay Blue Lagoon and camp looking over Machu Picchu on your last night.
- Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (4D/3N)– Another challenging hike because of the rise in elevation, this trek follows the Classic Salkantay Trek but on the third day you switch to the Inca Trail.
- Humantay Blue Lagoon– This one day hike takes you up the Salkantay trail to see the exquisite Blue Lagoon. It is a great addition to your trip.
- Lares Trek to Machu Picchu (4D/3N)– This is a moderate hike that is flat, but the elevation may affect some hikers. It is a good trek for families; however, it goes up the coldest trail- the Alpine Trail- so several layers are required.
- Lares Trail Peru & 2D Inca Trail with Camping (5D/4N)– This is a combination of 2.5 days of the Lares trek plus the shorter Inca trail. You will be able to sleep under the stars and it is a great hike for families with younger children.
- Ausangate & Sivinacchoa (7D/6N)– This hike does not take you to Machu Picchu but it is a wonderful experience if you want to see the wildlife and geography of the Andes. This hike is challenging but it gives you amazing views of the glaciers, lagoons, and wildlife.
- Ausangante & Rainbow Mountain (4D/3N)– This hike is a cold one, with temperatures often dropping to below 0 at night. You must be in good physical shape for this hike but it allows you to experience one of the newest attractions – Rainbow Mountain.
- Rainbow Mountain– This one day hike allows you to see one of the newest attractions, Rainbow Mountain- with about 5 hours of trekking time.
- Choquekiraw Trek (5D/4N)– This hike does not visit Machu Picchu but it is considered a hidden gem. The ruins are larger than Machu Picchu and are not as popular – yet.
- Choquekiraw & Machu Picchu (8D/7N)– If you just can’t leave Peru without visiting Machu Picchu but want to experience the hidden gem of Choquekiraw then this trek is for you. It takes you to Choquekiraw and then though the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for your last day.
- Huchuy Qosqo (3D/2N)– This hike is a good hike for families and those in moderate shape. It is one of the prettiest hikes and the last 1.5 hours is mostly downhill.
Tours By Train with Alpaca Expeditions
If hiking isn’t something you are interested in doing, Alpaca Expeditions also offers tours up to Machu Picchu by train and van. There are several different options available, and any overnights are spent either on the train or in a local hotel in the villages. These are great options for those with small children, families, or those who aren’t physically equipped to hike:
- Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu (2D/1N)
- Cusco City Tour, Sacred Valley, & Machu Picchu (3D/2N)
- Sacred Valley 2D & Machu Picchu (3D/2N)
- Cusco City, Sacred Valley 2D, & Machu Picchu (4D/3N)
Alpaca Expeditions also offers day tours around Cusco City, Maras Moray, and Sacred Valley. These can be added on to your hiking treks if desired.
Important Things to Know When Planning Your Trek with Alpaca Expeditions
What’s Included in Your Trek with Alpaca Expeditions?
Your trek with Alpaca Expeditions covers most of your expenses for the actual hike or train ride. Travel to and from Peru is not included, nor are any hotel stays or expenses before or after your trek. Here is what is included:
- Professional guides- All guides are English-speaking and are local to the Cusco area.
- Permits- Permits are necessary for visiting Machu Picchu but Alpaca Expeditions will purchase them for you.
- Porters- Porters will carry your duffel bag (provided by Alpaca Expeditions). Your belongings can be placed in there but it cannot exceed 14 lbs.
- Transportation– Transporation from your hotel to your trek starting point as well as from the end of your trek back to your hotel is included.
- Food– All food during your trek is included and is cooked by an accompanying chef. You will get breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a happy hour of tea and snacks and a morning snack. Only breakfast is served on the last day.
- Tents– Tents are provided, and each are 4-person tents housing only 2 people at a time.
- Water– Water will be prepared at each meal by the Alpaca Expedition team by boiling, filtering, and cooling before distributing. Each person must carry their own personal water bottle or Camelbak.
- Private, ecological toilets are also included for use at stops.
- Sleeping systems– Each person will get a small pillow and foam mattress for insulation while sleeping, as well as a day pack to cover their belongings and a rain poncho.
- Satellite Phones– Each guide carries a satellite phone for emergency use or for personal use (at a cost).
- All taxes and fees are included in the price of your trek.
- You can rent the following equipment– Sleeping bags, inflatable air mattress, and walking sticks.
Altitude sickness can occur for many hikers when first arriving in Peru and as they continue their hike up to Machu Picchu. Peru’s average elevation is 5,000 feet above sea level. Most people begin to experience altitude sickness at around 8,000 feet above sea level. With many popular attractions having much higher altitudes, most people taking this excursion will experience some level of altitude sickness. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
If you currently live at a higher altitude, you will have an easier time acclimating to the altitudes during your trek. However, if you live at sea level you should allow yourself 1 to 3 days to acclimate to the altitude before you start your trek. Drink plenty of water (3 to 4 quarts per day) and avoid alcohol and tobacco. Symptoms usually go away in one to three days.
The altitudes of some of the points on your trek with Alpaca Expeditions are:
- Cusco- 11,152 feet
- Inca Trail- 13,780 feet
- Macho Picchu- 7,972 feet
Permits are Needed
Permits are necessary to hike the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Alpaca Expeditions will purchase your permit when you book your trip. They are non-transferrable and cannot be altered once purchased except for your passport number. Permits are available on a very limited basis, and it is possible that there are no permit spots left for the day of your visit. It is important that you check the Inca Trail Availability Page when booking your trek with Alpaca Expeditions to ensure that your permit is secured.
You will need the following information to secure a permit:
- Full name as written on your passport
- Passport number
- Date of birth
You cannot change the date of your trek. You will have to purchase a new permit in this case, and permits might not be available if this happens.
What to Pack for Your Expedition
Although Alpaca Expeditions covers a significant portion of your equipment, there are some personal items you may want to consider packing for yourself. These items can go into your provided duffel bag or your personal hiking pack.
- Immigration card (given to you when you enter Peru)
- Water bottles or water storage like a Camelbak
- Comfortable hiking boots
- Wicking t-shirts
- Hiking pants
- Undergarments (for as many days as you are hiking)
- Down jacket
- Rain jacket and pants
- Hat (sun and snow)
- Waterproof gloves
- Walking boots and comfortable shoes for camp
- Quickdry towel
- Battery charger
- Plastic bags
- Sleeping bag
- Face moisturizer
- Bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Extra money for souvenirs and tips
When to Plan Your Trip with Alpaca Expeditions
The Inca Trail is closed in February, so it is not available for treks during that time. There are alternative treks that are open year-round, however. Since Machu Picchu is located among the Andes mountains, the weather is hard to predict. Here are some guidelines to help you plan:
- The dry season with the most sunshine is April to October
- The warmest temperatures (albeit with some light to heavy rain) is November to March
- The other months which provide the dry and warm climates are April, May, September, and October.
A trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing experiences anyone will ever have in their lifetime. A visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World isn’t to be missed, and a carefully planned and enjoyable tour by the local natives of the area with Alpaca Expeditions is the way to go. With several different trek options based on your physical abilities, time, needs, desires, and budget as well as methodically planned accommodations and equipment, your hike up to this magnificent historical site (or the others surrounding it) will be life-changing and memorable.
Enjoy this video of the Salkantay trek with us as we make our way to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on PERU.