The Inca Jungle trek to Machu Picchu is by far the most adventurous trekking option in the Cusco region. It is also the most varied in terms of activities.
The ‘trek’ includes a massive downhill mountain biking experience, followed by possible river rafting on Grade III and IV rapids, jungle trekking, and optional zip-lining. It culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu.
Most trekking companies offer the Inca Jungle trek on a 4D/3N itinerary, although it is possible to complete the trek on a 3D/2N itinerary (more on this below). Accommodation on the trek is in a hostel or homestays, with a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
The trek naturally appears to adventurous types who like thrilling adrenaline-filled experiences.
If you are looking for a pure Andean trekking experience, hate mountain biking, and enjoy camping, then this trek is not for you. Rather check out these alternative treks to Machu Picchu or indeed, the Classic Inca Trail.
Below we have provided detailed information on the Inca Jungle trail itinerary and its route map. We have also provided guidance on the best time for this trek, acclimatization and altitude sickness, the best tour operators, and equipment packing lists.
not too steep.
There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes – a dry season that runs from May through to September, and a wet season from October to April.
The Inca Jungle trek can be completed all year round, however, heavy rains during January and February often lead to landslides on the trail and road that connects Santa Maria with Santa Theresa, and hence the Inca Jungle trek is often closed during this time of the year.
The best time to do an Inca Jungle trek is either during the dry season or on the dry season shoulder months of March / April and October / November. The latter shoulder months are particularly good if you are keen to do some rafting in Santa Maria.
The trail is busier during the dry season, but nowhere near as busy as the Classic Inca Trail hike.
Temperatures are fairly consistent all year round, with warm days reaching into the high 20s (Celsius). Nights and early mornings are cold (in the single digits and sometimes drop below zero degrees, especially in the dry season).
You will want to bring layered trekking clothing so that you can layer up or down as the daily temperatures fluctuate (see the packing list below for details on layering).
Finally, micro-climates are the dominant weather force in the Andes. Make sure to bring some wet weather gear, like a basic poncho, as it is possible to encounter rain at any time of the year.
The Inca Jungle trail is technically a high altitude trek, although the amount of time you spend at altitude is in fact very short.
The highest altitude you will reach is Abra Malaga Pass at just over 4,300m. From this point, you descend relatively quickly, as you are cycling, and end the day at a rather low altitude for the Andes, just under 1,200m.
For the rest of the tour, the trail undulates but never goes higher than 2,000m. Machu Picchu itself sits at 2,430m, which is still relatively low.
This means that altitude sickness on the Inca Jungle trail is rare and nowhere near as prevalent on some of the other trails in this region where trekkers spend good portions of time hiking over 4,000m passes.
You are in fact at greater risk of succumbing to altitude sickness symptoms before you start the trek. Most visitors to Machu Picchu fly into Cusco which is situated at a high altitude, of over 3,400m. Experiencing mild altitude sickness, like a headache or nausea, is common for many visitors to Cusco.
It is important that you spend a few days acclimatizing at this altitude before going any higher.
Another good option, if you have the time, is to immediately descend from Cusco into the Sacred Valley, which is a good 1,000m lower, and rest here for a few days before returning to Cusco to join your Inca Jungle trek.
Either way, acclimatizing for a few days in Cusco or in the Sacred Valley before you begin your trek is a worthwhile investment.