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How to Get to Machu Picchu & Great Hikes in South America

Machu Picchu is the most popular and iconic landmark in South America. But when your clients want to visit Machu Picchu, they’re going to have to determine how they want to get there. You see, you can’t drive to Machu Picchu. You have to hike or ride the train. So which route should your clients take to see the Lost Citadel of the Incas?

For a detailed answer, check out this webinar from Professor Goway, where he leverages his decades of experience and dozens of times visiting Machu Picchu to answer the age-old question: “Rail or Trail to Machu Picchu?” But if you want the short version, keep reading!

How can travellers get to Machu Picchu?

Traditional Inca Trail

A four or five day hike along the iconic Inca Trail. It includes mountain passes, Inca ruins, and incredible views of the mountain ranges and Urubamba Valley. It’s iconic, but also strenuous, reaching 4,200 m / 13,800 ft at one point. If your clients want to experience the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in the classic manner, this is the best option for them.

Baby Inca Trail

If your clients are short on time, they can condense the experience to a single day of hiking on the Inca Trail. Ride the train to KM 104 and hike 16 km / 10 mi the rest of the way to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu. They can then rise before dawn the next day in order to explore the ruins at sunrise.

Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is a great alternative for your clients if they’ve already hiked the Inca Trail or want to experience something different. The route takes hikers along a back trail to Machu Picchu and includes magnificent mountain views and some unique experiences. Travellers can also stay in 4-star mountain lodges along the way, so it provides a nice alternative to camping along the Inca Trail.

Vistadome Train

The Vistadome is the classic train to Aguas Calientes, the small town at the foot of Machu Picchu. The most appealing feature is the glass ceilings and massive windows, which give great views of the Urubamba Valley while travelling from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.

Hiram Bingham Train

The other train option to Machu Picchu is named after the American explorer who famously introduced the ruins to the English-speaking world in 1911. The train is a luxury upgrade option, with private cars, a bar car, onboard meals, and some classical atmosphere.

What are some great hikes in South America?

What if your clients have already explored Machu Picchu, but love to hike? Where else can they go? Luckily, there are some great options across the continent.

W Trek of Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia

The most iconic hiking trail through Chilean Patagonia. It loops 100 km / 60 mi through the windswept region and includes plenty of time in Torres del Paine National Park, home of the famous Towers.

Hiking from El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia

In Argentine Patagonia, your clients can head on great day hikes from El Calafate. Many of these hikes are relatively easy, but still lead to iconic natural landmarks, including Perito Moreno Glacier.

Rainbow Mountain of Peru

This is a breathtaking, multicoloured mountain several hours east of Cusco. It’s a high-altitude day hike that rewards travellers with incredible photo opportunities.

Colombia’s Lost City

If your clients really want to veer off the tourist trail and explore a unique destination, they should hike through the jungle to the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. These jungle ruins are 650 years older than Machu Picchu and offer some incredible views, especially at sunrise.


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