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5 Inca Treks Beyond Machu Picchu (PHOTOS)

Posted: 09/12/2012 7:00 am

The Classic Inca Trail -- all snowy peaks, subtropical forests and ancient ruins -- is one of South America's hottest tickets. But only 500 people are allowed on the four-day trek to Machu Picchu each day, so if you don't get a ticket months in advance, you might be stuck drinking pisco sours and watching badly dubbed Baywatch back at your Cuzco hotel.

Luckily, the neighborhood is filled with lesser-known, yet no less amazing, treks. I've hiked all five of these -- click through to see why they're my top picks.

-- Abbie Kozolchyk, Condé Nast Traveler

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  • CAMINO DEL APU AUSANGATE

    You’re more likely to come across a group of llamas or alpaca on the Ausangate Trail than you are humans. I booked with Andean Lodges, which provides two or three guides to serve as your hosts, porters, and llama chargés d'affaires. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/food/2011/07/Pop-Goes-Peru?mbid=synd_huffpo" target="_hplink">Peru's Awesome New Food Scene</a></strong>

  • CAMINO DEL APU AUSANGATE

    You'll feel completely removed among the five-day trek's ochre, sage, and rust red striped-hills. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/cruises/2012/03/photos-european-cruises-mykonos-st-petersburg-rome-spain-turkey-monte-carlo-slovenia?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink">7 Perfect Days in 7 Perfect Ports</a></strong>

  • CHOQUEQUIRAO

    Dubbed “the next Machu Picchu” and “Machu Picchu’s little sister,” Choquequirao offers something that big sis has long outgrown: solitude. The site is sufficiently unknown and so hard to get to (two days of uphills and downhills on the way in, the same going out) that you may well have the place to yourself. On the average trek, you’ll run into a few backpackers, the occasional orchid thief (yes, the flora is that good) and—one hopes—a tipped-off ranger. The ruins, which are surrounded by snowy peaks and lush slopes, were sacred to the Incas. I used Habitats Peru, which can set up a five-day camping trek—and the attendant guide, porter, and supplies. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/05/remote-secluded-private-hotels-islands-photos?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink">11 Hard-to-Get-to Hotels</a></strong>

  • CHOQUEQUIRAO

    Choquequirao has terraces to spare, and though climbing them is probably the last thing you’ll feel like doing, the views from 5,000 feet above the Apurimac river are worth the burn. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/08/room-with-a-view-25-years-anniversary-photo-slideshow?mbid=synd_huffpo" target="_hplink">25 Years of Rooms With Unbelievable Views</a></strong>

  • CAMINO SALKANTAY

    The Classic Inca Trail isn’t the only path to Machu Picchu: The five-day Camino Salkantay takes the literal high road to the ruins (you're more than 15,000 feet high at times, whereas the original never exceeds 13,800 feet). Accordingly, you’ll find yourself up close and personal with some of the area’s most famous peaks—not least, the trail’s namesake, Salkantay. You could camp, but I found that the hot tubs, plush duvets, and generous bartenders at the Mountain Lodges of Peru properties on the trail went a long way toward recuperating from the day's work. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/03/national-parks-views-photos-yellowstone?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink"><strong>National Park Views Not to be Missed</strong></a>

  • CAMINO SALKANTAY

    Though they're essentially the local cargo vans, these horses will give you a ride if your own legs need a rest. (You undoubtedly weigh far less than what they’re used to carrying.) <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/cruises/2012/03/photos-european-cruises-mykonos-st-petersburg-rome-spain-turkey-monte-carlo-slovenia?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink">7 Perfect Days in 7 Perfect Ports</a></strong>

  • LARES

    Lares—essentially the Andean answer to Eden—is the picture of primal beauty: Think bubbling thermal waters, misty river valleys, and flagrantly fertile soil. Trails vein the valley in every direction. The operators who work here generally offer three- to five-day routes—and whichever way you go, it will be gorgeous. This trek from G Adventures actually ends at Machu Picchu. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/05/remote-secluded-private-hotels-islands-photos?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink">11 Hard-to-Get-to Hotels</a></strong>

  • LARES

    The signature Lares look gets accessorized to within an inch of its life come festival time. And the local calendar is obligingly fiesta-filled. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <strong>Read More: <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/08/room-with-a-view-25-years-anniversary-photo-slideshow?mbid=synd_huffpo" target="_hplink">25 Years of Rooms With Unbelievable Views</a></strong>

  • QUEBRADA DE LOS LOROS

    If you’re more of a day hiker than a long-distance trekker, the Sacred Valley is full of possibilities. The Quebrada de los Loros walk starts high up in Chinchero (a famous architectural layer cake of Inca and colonial ruins), winds down through the area’s accordion slopes, and finishes in the farming town of Urquillos. I booked through Tikariy tours, which also has several other options. <em>Photo by Abbie Kozolchyk</em> <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/03/national-parks-views-photos-yellowstone?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=1" target="_hplink"><strong>National Park Views Not to be Missed</strong></a>

 

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