It is common for travellers to South America to assume that trekking the Inca Trail can be organised a few weeks, if not days, before departure. The average time required to book in advance, however, is four months. A fact that has resulted is some very unhappy wannabe Inca Trail campers, locked into travel times and itineraries that simply cannot be changed.

If you are one of these, our condolences, but all is not lost.

Your visit to Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley will be full of surprises, but most importantly, there are some more than satisfactory Inca Trail alternatives.

That said, calling them alternatives is actually a bit of a misnomer. They are bona fide Inca trails – trails once used by the Incas – and they take you through jungles, across mountain ridges and to spectacular Inca ruins just as good as any other ‘Inca trail’ can.

The main treks available are the Salkantay Trek and the Choquequirao Trek.

A four or five-day trek from Cachora, five hours drive from Cusco, the Choquequiao Trek takes in the spectacular ruins of Choquequiao, ‘the Cradle of Gold’, another lost city of the Incas. Comparable in size to Machu Pichu and considered to be the last Inca outpost, Choquequirao, while remote and hard to access, is an impressive site to behold.

The Salkantay Trek is a tough five-day journey through the Salkantay Mountain Pass to the Inca ruins of Llactapata and features lush cloud forests with beautiful orchids, the occasionally spotted rare Spectacled Bear, numerous cute little villages, and, in the rainy season, numerous waterfalls.

If these don’t interest you, for something different, you might consider the Sakantay & Llactapata Inca trails on horseback (equestrian-escapes.com)– a 10-day ride featuring a glacial lake and the passionfruit orchards of the Santa Tersa Valley.

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