Planning a Trip to Machu Picchu in Peru

I’m planning a vacation for myself and my family to go to Machu Picchu next year. If you’ve never been, I can tell you it’s almost overwhelming (well, it really is overwhelming, not almost) how many choices and options there are. I’ve planned vacations for the last couple of decades and haven’t been phased at all by places like Chile (even the middle of nowhere Chile), New Zealand with all of its options, or Malta (a place most Americans have never even heard of). Peru, however, is proving to be a bit more difficult, shall we say, simply because of all of the options.

Just about the only place I know for sure we will be going to is Machu Picchu. From there, the choices are who to go with for our group tour, and from there, how do we want to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are options to camp in tents for anywhere from a few nights to 10 days, hiking along the way. There are options to just take the train in and take a guided tour for a few hours. Then there are options for which trek to do, if you want to camp and hike with a guided tour. I can see why many people just take the train in and do the guided tour of Machu Picchu for the day; that would be the easiest way.

Beautiful Machu Picchu in Peru

However, if you know me at all, you know I don’t take the easiest way, nor do I take the route most traveled (most of the time, although I have been to more popular places as well). I often go to places where people will ask me beforehand, “Why are you going there?” or “Where is that?” Although I’ve been to popular places like Rome and Miami (and of course no one ever asked why I was going there), I like to venture off the beaten path a bit. Hence, I’ve chosen to take the Lares Route instead of the most popular classic Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu. As far as I can tell, the three most popular choices if you want to do some hiking are the Lares Route, the classic Inca Trail, and Salcantay Route. There is also a one-day Inca Trail, the strenuous Vilcabamba Traverse Route, the Lodge Trek, and the Chaski (or Cachicata) Trail.

What I like about the Lares Route is it’s not quite as crowded as the classic Inca Trail and the trek passes through small villages so you get to see some of the artisans and farmers in person. There are also hot springs (what’s not to like about that after a long day of hiking). There are a couple of options for the Lares route: 2 nights of camping in tents and two nights in hotels along the way to Machu Picchu or 2 nights in tents and 1 night in a hotel before reaching Machu Picchu. I didn’t want to get to Machu Picchu, only to be so tired from not sleeping well in a tent for the past 6 nights and not be able to fully enjoy the star of the show!

So now the major remaining question is what do we do with the rest of our time in Peru? We have a couple of weeks, plus or minus a few days to spend in Peru. I know we’ll fly into Lima and probably just spend a night there before flying to Cusco. I also know we should acclimatize to the elevation in Cusco for a few (I’m thinking three) days before beginning the Lares Route to Machu Picchu. Then what to do after that? Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca, looks pretty awesome, and by then we should be used to the elevation. That would add one day. I thought about going to Huacachina from Lima and spending a night there, but I’m not sure if it would be worth it. We’ve been to the amazing sand dunes in the Canary Islands, so it’s not like we’ve never seen a place like this before.

I’ve heard of other people tacking on the Galapagos Islands to Machu Picchu because of the somewhat near proximity (all things relative), but that’s not something I want to do. I’d rather focus on Peru on this trip and go to the Galapagos Islands at another time. My family and I love hiking, beaches, mountains, and historical sites. If you have any ideas for some things to do around Lima or Cusco, I’d love to hear them! Also, two of the three of us suffer from pretty bad motion sickness so while airplanes are usually fine (with medicine), boats aren’t a great idea for us.

Have you been to Machu Picchu? What was your experience like? Have you been to Peru but not Machu Picchu? Where did you go and what did you see? Please help me plan my vacation to Peru! All suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Happy travels!



Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

12 thoughts on “Planning a Trip to Machu Picchu in Peru”

  1. This is awesome Donna. So inspired by your adventurous spirit–and your tenacity in planning! I have looked at different places in South America every year the past 3 years and we always end up going to Europe instead just cause i get overwhelmed by the planning and logistics. We usually can only afford one international (and a few) domestic journeys a year so when we do go overseas, we want to go for weeks at a time and be able to experience a few different countries. That is obvi a breeze in Europe–but South America is such a different story. Once i get into the nitty gritty of traveling between countries i throw my hands up and move the map. It will happen one day, hopefully soon! Just wanted to say i admire your patience and spirit! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cat! Planning a trip to Europe is so much easier, for sure. I’m not sure why South America is so much more complicated, but it definitely is. I completely understand why so many people just go to a travel agent and have them plan out their vacation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE PERU!!!!!!! Ben and I went there some years ago and still to this day, it’s our favorite trip. We talk all the time about how we want to go back.

    We went with Alpaca Expeditions and they were AMAZING. A bunch of our friends went them as well and we all had the most incredible time. They feed you so well (

    Our guide, Cesar, used to work with them, but he decided to form his own tourguide company. Cesar was wonderful, so you can go with his group: We love Cesar and next time we go back, we will go with his company.

    We also visited Lake Titicaca and did a homestay. It was totally weird, but fascinating and worth doing. Email me if you want more info. I’m so excited for you because I HEART PERU!!!!!!! I’m so jealous. I just wanna go with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read great things about Alpaca Expeditions, so that’s good to hear you recommend them. I’m probably going to go with them because Cesar’s company doesn’t do the route for the number of days I want to do but Alpaca does. I have a million questions so I’ll email you. Thank you!


  3. Totally agreed that planning a trip to South America is always a bit more challenging than going to Europe! We just got back from Peru last week and got to see Machu Picchu for the first time. Absolutely incredible! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences – it was a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

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