Many backpackers who visit South America often think the famous Machu Picchu trek is out of their budget. After some careful planning, I discovered the alternative routes were more fun and will cost you only £200 or less.
After a 22 hour bus journey from Lima to Cusco (which turned out to be a harrowing experience, considering I had booked the “local cheap transport” – PRO TIP: always pay extra for the bus!) I arrived, slightly groggy and dazed in a very busy run down bus-station. As I was walking through the station I was literally hounded by taxi drivers left right and centre, luckily I had grown used to this occurrence, having endured SE Asia’s desperate tuk-tuk drivers throwing themselves at you, grabbing your luggage before you could realise what was going on.
After the whole façade was over and I had checked into my hostel (Milhouse and Wild Rover hostels are cheap and more importantly super social) I managed to catch up on a good six hours sleep in the hostel.
The city of Cusco is breathtakingly beautiful, nestled within a valley and rivers. Its colonial buildings speak a thousand words and echoes rich, proud history. Although Cusco has been obviously transformed by the tourism industry, after all it is the main hub before embarking on the infamous trek, the city had an old traditional feel to it which was somehow preserved and kept immaculate at that. It’s a wise idea to stay in Cusco a couple of days before you start MP to accustom yourself to the altitude, although hearsay on the mountains recommend you chewing a bundle of cocoa leaves to avoid sickness. Although you could probably cover the city in a few days, it’s easy to grow used to Cusco, a few travellers I met had intended to stay for three days and were still there three weeks later due to the surpisingly buzzing nightlife.
Pre-departure, what do people say about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail? I had read mainly from travel brochures and the web that you have to book the trek six months in advance, costing £600 or more. This is true because the Government wants to preserve the area and enforced a law to restrict a maximum of 200 hikers per day. Yes, the real inca trail IS limited to a number of tourists each year and requires a few months booking, particularly in high season. However if you’re on a budget and want to see Machu Picchu in all its glory without having to endure a very difficult week of camping and blisters you don’t have to take this exact route to go.
I was quite happy to book two days in advance for the four day Jungle Trail, an alternative route which involved trekking, mountain biking, water rafting, zip lining for $249 (works out about £159). For this you received food, accommodation, train tickets, a hotel at the end and a tour guide. (However, a stark warning, they do not provide water on this trip, so allow yourself a few dollars a day for this!).
I booked directly from Milhouse hostel at their tourist desk, however, there are a few companies about such as ‘Lorenzo Expeditions’ which were also recommended to me, so it’s worth looking around for the best deal. You can even try your luck at getting a discount if you tell them you’ve seen a better deal.
So, if you’ve always wanted to do MP but thought it was too expensive – think again!
Here’s a YouTube video which visually best describes the experience, but I’ll be posting a day-by-day personal account on here soon!