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Machu Picchu WITHOUT Inca Trail - missing out?

Machu Picchu WITHOUT Inca Trail - missing out?

Old Apr 21st, 2013, 10:38 AM
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Machu Picchu WITHOUT Inca Trail - missing out?

We have a week's vacation coming up at the end of May and no plans as of yet. Machu Picchu is on my bucket list, although I do admit that the work involved in us getting there and the stories of altitude issues do seem daunting!

I admit that seeing the Inca Trail permits all gone does put a bit of a damper on things. We would only have ever likely done the 2 day trek as opposed to anything longer, anyway. But all I keep reading in my research is how amazing of an experience the trail is, how it's not to be missed, how it may even be better than Machu Picchu itself, etc.

I enjoy archaeology and history and have no doubt that Machu Picchu would be worth it (as I said, it's on the bucket list anyway) - but will we feel that we've come such a long way and still missed out on something crucial by not being able to do the 2 day Inca Trail? Is there truly no hope of procuring a permit at this point (do people sell them off)? Should we wait and schedule this trip when it's possible to do the trail also? Or will we be so in awe of Machu Picchu itself, and maybe plan to hike around one of the peaks, that we will be just fine with what we've got?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Apr 21st, 2013, 01:31 PM
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Of course, I know that you know that only you can answer that question, but here is my experience:

I did not hike the Inca Trail. I have respiratory issues that would have made it impossible or, at least, very unlikely. But the experience of seeing Machu Picchu at different times of day (staying in Agua Calientes overnight) and exploring other Inca sites was definitely magical and fulfilling. I did hike a couple of hours of the trail leading out from MP, and it's an experience in itself, so I know the Inca Trail (see colduphere's trip report on it: http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...g-way-down.cfm ) must be awesome, but MP is very, very worthwhile to me.

Do start out in the Sacred Valley (Urubamba/Ollantaytambo) to minimize altitude issues; save Cusco for the end, as it's the highest.
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Old Apr 21st, 2013, 10:29 PM
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We just faced the same dilemma and decided to do the one-week trip without the Inka Trail.

I hiked the 7-day Salkantay trail in the '80s as part of a month in Peru. It was AWESOME, an experience of a lifetime, but very intense (higher and more challenging than the Inka Trail). Some companions had altitude issues, and every moment was an adventure - freezing nights, torrential rain, landslides, parasites, even an earthquake, etc. Like colduphere's report on steroids.

I am now returning to MP with my family in the middle of May on a much tamer last-minute trip (planned 5 weeks in advance). Like you, I thought the 2-day Inka Trail would be perfect, and was not happy to find out that all permits were sold out until August. Begged and tried to pull strings, but all outfitters said that no transfers are possible, even if people cancel.

There are some advantages to not doing the trail - less worry about acclimatization and opportunities for non-touristy treks. Plus, as Amy noted, you can hike to the Sun Gate, which is technically the last part of the trail. And you can climb Huayna Picchu if you reserve in advance. Many posters on tripadvisor did both in a day.

Maybe it's worth waiting if you can postpone until August or September. In our case, we cannot. I will let you know how it goes, but my memory is that MP is so extraordinary on its own that a trek beforehand is a brilliant add-on, but not a must.
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Old Apr 21st, 2013, 11:22 PM
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MP without the trail will still be a fantastic trip. Rest assured.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 09:22 AM
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We did the 4-day Inca Trail. However, I think Machu Picchu without the trail would still be amazing. It's just an awesome place.

If you're debating on the 2-day Inca Trail vs. none at all and more time elsewhere, I would recommend skipping the Trail and using your time somewhere else.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 10:55 AM
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If arriving on foot is really important to you, there are other trails. See:


I am planning to visit MP in the near future, but I have no intention of hiking there!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 01:44 PM
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You can hike other trails -Salkantay, Lares. Not all of them require advance permits. Try this website for more informaton:
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 04:47 PM
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I've hiked the 4 day IT, the one day IT and the jungle bike/hike. Each activity was magnificent but does not compare to the moment when my eyes first scanned the Machu Picchu ruins. The hikes are awesome and I believe they enhance the visit to the ruins. But I don't believe that NOT being able to hike in any way diminishes the magnitude & splendor experienced by each individual when s/he lays eyes on Machu Picchu for the first time.
Having said all that, I would encourage you to consider the alternative 2 day Machu Picchu tour. It includes choice of hikes in the Sacred Valley & permits are not required. The SV hikes are not well-known but the experience is just as rewarding as any other hike in Peru (But without the "pedigree" of the one and only Inca Trail)
If you're willing to forgo the prestige of name-dropping the Inca Trail, your experience in Peru can be as meaningful as you want it to be, with or without the hiking experience.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 04:58 PM
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Thank you all so very much. You certainly helped with my "soul-searching" over this trip. We have decided WE ARE GOING! And we will see what comes of the rest of it when we get there. I know it will be incredible.

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Old Apr 27th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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Heck yea, go!

"Or will we be so in awe of Machu Picchu itself, and maybe plan to hike around one of the peaks, that we will be just fine with what we've got?"

You will.

Just because you go don't do the Inca Trail on this trip does not mean you can never do it. You can scout things out this time and another time add the trail if skipping it haunts you upon your return. On another trip you could delve further into the history and archeology you mentioned you enjoy, and throw in something like an Amazon cruise, Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, etc.
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 05:04 PM
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If you haven't already, I'd buy train tickets now, if that's how you're getting to Agua Calientes. I don't know how far in advance tickets to MP sell-out (only 2,500 can enter/day) but it might be worth looking into.
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Old Apr 30th, 2013, 07:43 AM
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Still great & you will have more energy to explore the site itself. Are you going to the rainforest at all? Tambopata is only about a half-hour flight from Cusco - you are welcome to contact me directly for any advice you require on Cusco & Tambopata.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 08:40 AM
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Hike up to the Sun Gate, the last part of the Inka Trail, the views are drop-dead gorgeous. Many people climb up Huayna Picchu, though we didn't do it. Machu Picchu will bowl you over, don't worry about being shortchanged
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