When I booked my travelling in January 2018 the official Inca Trail had already sold out. That is 8/9 months in advance. The official trail takes you along the same trails as the Incas where you hike at significant altitudes. So if you want to do the official trail keep in mind how far in advance it sells out. We decided to go with a company named Reserv Cusco recommended by friends who had taken the same trek earlier in the year. There are many other companies that offer the same “alternative” experience. We personally really enjoyed this tour and our guide Marco was brilliant, below is our itinerary.
Day 1 – Start at 6:45am where you are driven up to Malaga at 4350m the highest you go throughout the whole trip. Then the car takes you down to 3000m to start 60km of downhill mountain biking. The roads are smooth so not Death Valley type cycling which is what I had originally thought. The bikes were fine heavy by my standards but that’s because I am used to my road bike. They equip you with a helmet, pads for the legs, arms, back, chest and shoulders so you feel secure. At the end you are rewarded with lunch in Santa Maria which is 1430m. From there we walked to our hostel (not camping as again we had thought we were doing) then a bit of down time before heading to the Urubamba River to go white water rafting. I had never been water rafting before and I loved it. They took us through a full safety briefing and a practice run before heading out. I will definitely be going again as it was so much fun. After the rafting it was time to hit the home made outdoor sauna, showers and snacks before heading back for dinner.
Day 2 – We started arpund 7:30 at our hostel before our first full day of hiking. We we were driven about 20mins out of town unlike other operators who start walking from town itself. Then it was time to start trekking onwards and upwards. Our guide informed us of the different plants and trees like mango trees, banana trees, coffee and coca, cocao plants and how to identify them. We climbed up for a couple of hours before coming to Monkey House where we stopped for at least an hour. Marco got us to try chicha the purple corn drink, different liqueurs, cocao and more. The house had pet and wild parrots which I had never seen outdoors before. We even got to try on some traditional clothing. Then we set off for some more up and joined part of the official inca trail. The views were amazing, you could see the river down at the bottom snaking its way through the mountains. After a few hours we stopped for lunch. The food for lunch and dinner generally consisted of a soup to start and perhaps guacamole if you were lucky. Then for the veggies like us rice, yuka, and vegetables. After that we set off for another couple of hours across suspension bridges and going on what I can only say was a open wooden tray across the river. They called it a cable car but I wasn’t convinced either way it was exhilarating. After that we went through a tunnel full of bats and ending at some hot springs which were well deserved after around 7/8 hours of walking. Post relaxing in the baths we headed to our next hostel by car in Santa Teresa and once we changed we went for dinner down the road.
Day 3 – We started at about 8am and headed back down to the place we had dinner to get our breakfast. Breakfast I will warn you was not the best often an omelette and then stale bread with butter and jam. Drink wise there were several tea options including coca leaves which are meant to be good for altitude sickness etc. Remember not to have coca before bed as it’s likely it will keep you up. After breakfast we were off to go zip lining! There were 6 zip lines and 1 suspension bridge. The longest zip line was 990m and I think the shortest was about 200+m. I unfortunately got stuck on 5/6 zip wires and had to pull myself towards the end before someone came to save me. Literally ridiculous, not really sure why but in general it seemed safe. After zip lining we drove towards Hydro and then stopped for lunch. We walked along the railway until we got to the town of Aguas Calientas which is at the bottom of Machu Picchu. Our hotel was fairly basic and pretty noisy but had a warm shower and WiFi! We had dinner off the main plaza and then off to bed for a very early start.
Day 4 – We were up at 4am and out the door by 4:15am. The enterance to walk up to Machu Picchu opens at 5am and buses start at 5:20am. We decided to walk up but whether you walk or bus it is best to get there early as there is a queue. It took us around 40mins to walk up. There are a lot of steps, it is basically steps all the way to the top. Once you are at the top don’t forget to get your passport stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp which is free. There are only toilets outside of the site itself so even if the queue looks long once you are in you cannot leave to go and hen come back so may be best to go there and then. We met with a new guide for Machu Picchu who unfortunately was no where near as enthusiastic and informative as Marco. However the site itself is just beautiful and well worth it. We finished the tour about 8:30 and made our way back down by foot. Once we were back in x we went to a French bakery as we were starving despite being given a breakfast pack in the morning. As our train wasn’t until 2:30pm we decided to go to the hot springs in the town. They were not as nice as the ones on day 2 but still nice to chill post trekking and pre our journey home. It was 20 soles to get in the hot springs which is around x. We were pleasantly surprised when we boarded the train and found ourselves in first class. It was pure luxury in comparison to how we’d been living the last few days. The train is about 1:45mins to x and then a 2hr transfer to Cusco. We had to wait about an hour for our transfer to leave and when in Cusco they didn’t drop us off at our hostel as we were previously told but we were about a 10min walk away so not so bad.
All in all this alternative tour to Machu Picchu was amazing and the views at the end were incredible.