Everything You Need To Know About The Jungle Trek To Machu Picchu

Monday, 19 March 2018

So you’ve decided to do the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu or maybe you’re considering it but want to find out some more details. You might just want a nosey at some Machu Picchu Pics. Either way you’re in the right place.

We want to start of by saying just how much we loved the trek and that we’d really recommend it for those of you who are generally fit and active, and are looking for an alternative to the Classic Inka Trail (which is ludicrously expensive). The trek is physically challenging but not beyond the capabilities of your average backpacker (someone who tends to do quite a bit of walking but not necessarily an avid hiker). This is a perfect description of Melissa, who admits she found it challenging but by all means doable. 

Later on we’ll give you some tips we’ve picked up on how and where to book your treks, making sure you’re getting a fair price and are using a safe/decent agency. We’ll also give you some general advice we’ve worked out across the 4 days, in terms of what we’d recommend you bring with you. For now, here’s a brief summary of the itinerary to let you know what to expect!

Day 1
The first day starts with a 7:00 (ish) pick up from your hostel/hotel followed by a 3 hour drive towards the starting point, with a short break in the middle allowing you to get a coffee/breakfast etc or buy anything you might have forgotten e.g. raincoat/mozzy repellant. 

You’ll then get kitted up with pads, safety jacket, helmet and high vis before hopping on a mountain bike and cycling down a 50km downhill stretch of road. You don’t need to be an experienced cyclist for this as it isn’t particularly dangerous (much safer than Death Road!) The ride lasts about 3 hours and requires no effort at all as is all downhill. That said you’ll probably feel pretty tired by the end from concentrating and braking a lot. 

You’ll then hop back on the bus, head to the lunch point down the road and then to the homestay for the night. You’ll have dinner at about 7:30pm then you’ll probably want to get an early night as it’s an early wake up the next day! 

Day 2 
This is the big day of walking! 6:00am wake up, 6:30 breakfast then out at 7:00am, where you’ll start the 9 (approx) hour walk through the jungle and along the Inka Trail. Bare in mind there are lots of breaks where you’ll try local foods and learn about local culture. On the other hand the walk is predominantly uphill and so is pretty strenuous. We were given the opportunity to taxi any of our kit we didn’t need for the day to the next homestay so that we didn’t have to carry unnecessary weight but this may not be an option for all tour companies.

The walk encompasses a lot of the Inka Trail with narrow paths and stunning views over the Sacred Valley, also crossing many rivers, involving a little bit of rock scrambling and walking through a tunnel. The pace is fast, it was for our group at least, but we never felt any pressure to walk at the pace set by the guide. Walk at your own pace and you’ll catch the group up when they stop for regular and long breaks.

At the end of the trek there is the option to use the hot springs for a couple of hours or so, which was welcomed after the tough walk. Bare in mind the 10 soles pp isn’t included in most tours and is an extra you’ll have to pay.

You’ll then get a 5 soles taxi to the homestay in the town of Santa Theresa which is bigger than last town and has a ‘Discotheque Club’ for those interested! 

Day 3
A relatively late start at 7:00am, day 3 consists of ziplining in the morning (3 ziplines and a high rope bridge) followed by a 3 hour hike along train tracks to the town of Aguas Calientes, AKA Machu Picchu Pueblo. This day is relatively easy although you’ll probably be aching from yesterday’s hike. You’re probably going to want an early night due to tomorrow’s wake up call...

Day 4
The final day starts with a 3:30am wake up call before you either make your way to the start of the steps up to Machu Picchu or get in line to take the first bus up. Although the majority of our group took the stairs we decided to save our energy and take the bus but walk down the steps later. The bus costs an additional $12us pp and is totally worth it if you don’t think you’ll be able to do the steps in about an hour. (There are A LOT of steps)

You’ll get through the gate to Machu Picchu at 6:00am and you’ll probably have a 2 hour guided tour included at the start. Before this starts quickly run ahead to get some good pics and views of MP before anyone else enters! 

After the guided tour you’ll have up to 4 more hours (until 2:00pm) to explore the site. However unless you’ve paid extra for the train back, you’ll need to give yourself enough time to walk back along the train tracks to the bus point, where you’ll get taken back to Cusco. This probably means you’ll need to leave Machu Picchu at 11:00am to not be late. 

The bus back is a painful 8 hours but you’ll probably sleep most of the way due to the early start. You’ll most likely arrive back in Cusco at 9:30pm.

Things to consider when booking the trek
  1. Don’t pay more than $150us! This is what we paid and other people paid as little as $130us
  2. DO NOT BOOK IN ADVANCE! We cannot stress this more. Prices online are $700us upwards and there is absolutely no need to reserve it. Walk around Cusco and agencies will bite your arm off to get you on their tour. We booked ours only the night before!
  3. If you’re on a strict budget you may consider to book the trek and entrance ticket to Machu Picchu separately as this will save you about $10us. You’ll need to do this if you also want to purchase the ticket to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain whilst up there.
  4. Check that transport back to Cusco is included!
  5. There is the option to go white water rafting but this will only be available from April to the end of the dry season. Check with the agency.
  6. Make sure the zip line is included as they may brush over this and you’ll be forced to pay a lot more on the day!

Our top tips for the Jungle Trek
  1. Wear walking boots. You’ll get wet across all four days - regardless of the weather (due to river crossings etc!) You’ll be a lot happier walking with dry feet!
  2. Take snacks! Although meals are provided you’re not given enough calories for the amount of exercise you’ll be doing. It’s SO much cheaper to buy snacks in one of the many supermarkets in Cusco rather than a town like Aguas Calientes!
  3. Bring some money with you. You’ll likely want to buy a beer or something at the end of a tough day and this won’t be included within the tour.
  4. Take bug spray with you! It’s called the jungle trek for a reason and you’ll get bitten very easily without it.
  5. Walk at our own pace. There are so many long breaks along the trek that mean even if you naturally walk slower uphill you’ll catch up everyone at the stopping points.
  6. Don’t feel pressured to walk the steps up to Machu Picchu. Some people in our group felt like they had to do the steps to stick with the majority of the group and to ‘finish’ the trek properly but in our opinion it’s much better to not be exhausted when you get to Machu Picchu. After all it’s the whole reason you did the trek in the first place!

We really hope that this has been useful! If you have anymore questions please ask away - just email us (allofthegearnoidea@gmail.com) or hit us up on instagram @allofthegearnoidea

Thanks for reading!

Will & Melissa

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