Basically there are two types of hikes that take you to Machu Picchu; the Inca Trails or the Alternative hikes. Following you can information about both;
Inca Trails to Machu Picchu;
There are two Inca Trail Hikes that take you to Machu Picchu; the Classic 4 day Inca Trail or the 2 day Inca Trail. The 2 day is the short version of the 4 day Inca Trail and halfway the first day meets up with the Classic Inca Trail at the Inca site of Winay Wayna. Please keep in mind that in order to protect the Inca Trails, the governing body (INC) only allows 500 people (including guides and porters) on the Inca Trail making that the trail will sell out for most days of the year and therefore it is recommended to book well in advance. Also keep in mind that due to maintenance operations both Inca Trails as closed during the entire month of February every year.
The 4 day Classic Inca Trailinvolves 3 full days walking and 3 nights camping. The trail takes you over original Inca paths, tunnels and passes by several lesser known Inca sites. On the morning of day 4 you will arrive to Machu Picchu. The return to Cusco or Ollantaytambo is done in train. FULL ITINERARY
The 2 day Inca Trailincludes one day walking and does not involve any camping. The trip to the starting point (Km.104) as well as the return to Cusco or Ollantaytambo is done in train. The hike takes places the first day and involves one climb and visits two other Inca sites. The second day is partially a guided tour and free time at the site. FULL ITINERARY
Alternative hikes to Machu Picchu;
There are several alternative hikes to Machu Picchu and the number of routes is almost endless. As the Inca Trail is gaining popularity every year and does sell out for most days in the year, the alternative hikes have gained a lot of importance and there are more alternatives every year. Nevertheless, besides having less crowds, these hikes also have as advantage that they provide different experiences to hikers and let you know different country sides than the Inca Trails. Following we will list the most popular ones.
Salkantay Hike to Machu Picchu
This 5 day hike takes you through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Southern Peru with as highlight the snowcapped Salkantay Mountain standing 6,271 m (20,574 ft) tall. Passing through the highlands on the 3rd day you will slowly start descending till you reach the cloud forest region of Santa Teresa. On day 4 you will hike to the hydroelectric station (the last train station on the other side of Aguas Calientes) and from here continue to Aguas Calientes – also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. Day 5 is a full day to visit the site of Machu Picchu and the afternoon / evening will return to Ollantaytambo or Poroy station in train and from here continue to Cusco. FULL ITINERARY
Lares Hike to Machu Picchu
This 4 day hike takes you through some of the most beautiful Andean highlands in the Cusco area. The region it will take you through is scattered with typical small Andean villages still living the same way people here did centuries ago. From the Sacred Valley you will head to the Valley of Lares where your starting point is the beautiful village of Lares. Here one can also find some amazing thermal baths heated by water coming from an underground volcano. From here you will start hiking for the coming three days. The hike takes you through the Lares Valley back to the Sacred Valley, ending in Ollantaytambo from where you will continue in train to Machu Picchu. FULL ITINERARY
Huchuy Qosqo Hike to Machu Picchu
This 2 day hike is a little lesser known but makes for a great alternative to the 2 day Inca Trail. The hike starts at the village of Chincheros located at 30 minutes from Cusco. Here you will start hiking to the Sacred Valley of the Incas passing by some amazing countrysides and views till you reach the small Inca site of Huchuy Qosqo, Little Cusco in Quechua. From here you will head into the valley and to the train station for your train to Machu Picchu. Spend the night in Aguas Calientes and the second day is a full day to enjoy this amazing citadel in the Andes. FULL ITINERARY
Inca Jungle Hike to Machu Picchu
The Inca Jungle Hike is not so much a multiday hike as it is a combination of different modes of transport and adventure to get to the climax of this trip Machu Picchu. This route takes you from either Cusco or the Sacred Valley to the Malaga Pass at 4,300 meters above sea level. From here you will start all downhill biking for another 2-3 hours when you reach the small village of Santa Maria where you will be spending the night. The next day you can optionally enjoy a water rafting excursion on the Vilcanote River and afterwards start hiking. You will hike to the town of Santa Teresa where you will arrive in the afternoon. In Santa Teresa there are also some thermal baths to be found. The third day you will continue walking to Aguas Calientes and on day 4 have a full day visit to Machu Picchu and the return train to Cusco.FULL ITINERARY
The 4 day hike to Choquequirao may not take you to Machu Picchu but will take you to its most close sister site; Choquequirao. Choquequirao means the “Cradle of Gold” and used to be a site that competed with Machu Picchu when it came to religious importance. Unlike Machu Picchu this site can only be reached on foot and it takes at least two days to reach from Cusco. This makes that the site is much less crowded and parts are still overgrown by nature. The hike can be done in 4 days but a fifth day can be recommended in order to have time to visit the outer laying parts of the site. This hiek can also be combined with Machu Picchu if you are up for a week-long hike. FULL ITINERARY