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Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

New York, New York
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Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

Will be in Cuzco 6 days in August. Is it advisable to do a 3 night / 4 day trek. We would stay in Cuzco for 1 day, 4 days for trek and last day fly out early. Is this cutting things too close and not giving enough time to acclimate to the altitude? We are young (25 yo) and somewhat fit, but would exercise and get in proper shape (knowing that we have until August). Are the trek's spectacular or is going by train almost as good? I don't mind the effort (in fact, it sounds fun), and would love to see more...but have heard that the trails are run down and overused. We were looking at llama trek and peru trek (both seemed to get good reviews on here).

Thanks,

Mike

Sasolburg,South...
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1. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

With the limited time you have I would suggest you take the train to Aguas Calientes to visit MP.

The 4 day trek is spectacular,lot`s of mountain scenary,birds and off course the archeological sites.But you would miss out on the Scared Valley and if you are effected by the altitude,it might spoil your hike.For people who suffer from altitude sickness it can take up to 3 days to recover completely

If you arrive in Cusco early on the first day,take a collectivo or taxi to the scared Valley.Ollantaytambo would be my recomendation.You could then spen 2 days there before heading to MP

Unfortunately age and fitness plays no part in whether you would suffer from altitude sickness or not .

Heinrich

Jamaica
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2. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

If you had more time, I would say go for the Inca Trail! But since you are only there for a limited time, I would agree with Heinrich in that you might have a better time experiencing Cusco and spending a few days in the Sacred Valley (visiting the small towns of Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Pisac and seeing some amazing things like the circular terraces in Moray and the salt mines, as well as some of the other ruins).

Just as a side, I would say that I am in fairly good shape and was 24 when I went to Peru, but the altitude hit me pretty hard nonetheless (and my husband wasn't impacted at all). It is hard to predict, unless you have had previous experience with altitude sickness.

But altitude aside, based on the time you have, I think you might miss out on seeing some of the great things that the area has to offer by doing the Inca Trail, but at the same time, the Inca Trail would offer a totally different experience. It depends on what you are hoping to experience from your trip.

Good luck deciding!

Lima, Peru
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3. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

I agree with both comments above.

Specially for the altitude sickness issue.

I do not know how many chances will you have to visit Cusco, so I would use this opportunity to visit as much as possible. I am sure that after your first experience you will come back and do the Inca Trail.

Ottawa, Canada
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4. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

Hey Mike

I have to agree that 6 days is probably too little time to acclimatize to attempt the 4 day Inca Trail, but have you considered the 2 day hike? It is actually only one day of hiking, but you get a taste of what the Inca trail is like, and get to visit Machu Picchu from the sun gate the first day, spend the night in AC, and then the second day to explore MP again.

A couple of points:

Yes, the 4 day trek IS spectacular. No, going by train is not almost as good! No, the trail is not run down or overused. We did the 4 day Inca trail with Llama Path in August and it was definitely a trip of a life time.

My advise? Find a couple of extra days, spend 2 or 3 days acclimatizing in SV or Cusco, then do the 4 day Inca trail. You wont regret it.

Perth, Australia
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5. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

I'm a hiker and love hiking, but the hikers coming down into Machu Picchu after the 4-day trail hike seemed to just want to get out of there nd find a hot shower and a warm bed. Out of all the hikers I saw come into Machu Picchu that day, none of them seemed to want to hang around and enjoy the superb scenery and history, which to me was a great shame. Sorry, but I went to Machu Picchu to enjoy the place and I think that I accomplished that far better by train and bus rather than hiking in.

Yorktown, Virginia
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6. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

We hiked the Inca Trail with Llama Path, and I wouldn't have done it any other way. Yes, we were exhausted by the end of the 4 days, and had a very early start that last day -- well before dawn. But the experience was incomparable.

You do need at least 2 days at altitude before starting the trek. Most trek operators require that, in fact. They don't like to have clients have to quit & turn back because of altitude sickness. As someone else said, fitness level does not matter when it comes to altitude. (Though you should try to be as fit as possible if you are doing the trek --it's tough.)

The Inca Trail is not worn down, not overused, IMO. They instituted the daily trail use limits (500 total, including porters, guides & trekkers), and the requirement of using a registered operator to minimize the impact of trekkers on the trail. And, though you may have heard otherwise from some who did NOT do the trek, it is not overcrowded.

I would highly recommend doing the trek if you had more time. But it doesn't look do-able in your time frame.

Buffalo, New York
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7. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

We too did the trek with LLama Path (excellent choice) and agree that we would not have done it any other way. The experience was a lifetime accomplishment.

Yes, it is also true that the hikers are exhausted but as redhead stated we were up very early that last day to see MP at the sungate at sunrise. If you do trek I would recommend that you spend a night in Aguas Calientes and return the next day to explore MP and to even climb Huayna Picchu.

We spent 5 days in Cusco before our hike and I still had some issues with the altitude but my boyfriend didnt. In our group, which was mostly 20 somethings, a few had some issues, so age doesnt matter.

We spent 2 weeks in Peru and wish we had more time. We feel in love with the country and hopefully can return someday.

Yorktown, Virginia
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8. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

Do you mean taking the train to Aguas Calientes (this is in the valley)? Then you would either take the bus up the mountain or hike up -- but it's not a pretty hike.

Lots of people get to Machu Picchu every day. It's available year 'round, including February.

Saint Louis...
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9. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

First, just want to ditto what everyone said about the altitude issue. You don't know if it will affect you, and age/fitness level doesn't matter. My husband and I are 30 and spent a full week in Peru before starting the trip. (including a few days at Lake Titicaca which is significantly higher than MP and 2 days prior to the trek in Cusco) My husband wasn't affected at all, I was not affected until we did the trek. Having said that, as redhead mentioned above, being physically fit is helpful as the trek is extremely grueling and would be so even without the altitude issue thrown in.

Having said all of that, the Inca Trail made up 4 of the most horrible, difficult, excruciating, amazing, wonderful, fun, EXTROARDINARY days of my life. I was the slow one in the group and had difficulty keeping up. But I have never felt more proud or accomplished than completing the 2 passes we crossed on horrible Day 2; and making it to the Sun Gate to see the sun rise behind us and the rays hit MP was far and away the highlight of our trip, and one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I wouldn't do it any other way. However, as mentioned above, your timeline is pretty tight. It's a tough call because Peru is such a rich, diverse country, that I feel like I only saw the tip of the iceberg, and we spent 2 weeks there. It seems a shame to sacrifice everything else. On the other hand, Seeing MP from the first time from the Sun Gate is an unforgettable experience and you will get nowhere near that same effect taking train, then bus up. It will still be amazing, but you'll never get your first look back.

Good luck making your decision. If I were you, I'd try to finagle 3 or 4 more days and do the 4 day trail. Whatever you decide, have a great time!

Yorktown, Virginia
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10. Re: Inca Trek worth it or Machu Picchu by train?

You can't just "walk through the valley." When you get there & see the landscape, you will understand. The roads only go so far.

On Lonely Planet (Thorn Tree forum), there have been posts about a back way to Aguas Calientes. You can do a search there on "walking to Aguas Calientes."

This is what I can up with from that forum :

(Disclaimer -- I did NOT do this route myself)

1. Take the Quillabamba bus or a collectivo to Santa Maria, stay the night.

2. Take the bus from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa (4 a.m.)

3. Take a taxi up to the hidroelectrica.

4. From the hidroelectrica, cross the Carrilluchayoc pedestrian bridge.

5. Walk to the station along the tracks 50m.

6. Across from the guard house, go up the stairs to the right.

7. At the next train tracks, turn left and walk to Aguas Calientes, about 10k (4 hours).

I'd rather take the train!