Inca Jungle Trek
The perfect combination of Biking, Rafting, Trekking, Hot Spring and Zipline.
The hike through the Inca jungle to Machu Picchu is by far the most adventurous option and one of the best alternatives to both the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek in Cusco. It is also the most varied in terms of activities compared to the others.
The famous adventure trek begins with a downhill mountain biking experience from Abra Malaga, then we have the option of grade III and IV rafting, jungle trekking, cocalmayo hot springs and a zip-lining, the last day we visit the wonder of the world, Machu Picchu.
Most trekking companies offer the Inca jungle hike on a 4 day 3 night itinerary, although it is possible to complete the hike on a 3 day itinerary on a route they call the short Inca jungle. The accommodations on the route are a combination of hostels or cottages and hotel.
The hike seems to be natural for adventurous types who like exciting and adrenaline filled experiences.
For lovers of pure walking and trekking in the Andes, this trek is not something that they will like, for that you can do the classic Inca Trail or Salkantay trek, which are walks with campsites of 4 and 5 days until you reach Machu Picchu
Below we have provided detailed information about the Classic Inca Trail itinerary and its route map. We have also provided guidance on the best time for this trip, acclimatization and altitude sickness, the best tour operators, and packing lists.
Remember, we are the creators of Inca Jungle Trek, and if you want a unique and quality experience, Lorenzo Expeditions is the company that will give you the best tour of your life.
The Inca Jungle Route
The classic and original Inca jungle hike that Lorenzo Expeditions offers, is usually completed in an itinerary of 4 days and 3 nights.
View: Inca Jungle Trail 4 Days
The hike through the Inca jungle begins with a 3 to 4 hour journey to the top of the Abra Malaga pass, which is about 4,316 m.
Lorenzo Expeditions picks you up from your hotel or a hot spot, and in this way one of the best experiences begins, then takes you to pick up all the safety equipment and bikes for the route.
The trip goes to the north of Cusco (3.400m), and passes through the town of Chinchero before falling into the Sacred Valley, where you will see the Urubamba Mountain Range for the first time. A unique and impressive landscape awaits you, which we have no doubt will surprise you.
You will cross the Urabamba River to the town of the same name and continue to Ollantaytambo (2,792m). Some tour operators may stop here for breakfast before continuing up a very impressive and winding road to the top of the Abra Malaga Pass.
This is the highest point of the hike (4316m) and provides incredible views of the Peruvian Andes highlands.
Mount Veronica (5680m / 18635ft).
Passengers posing on their bikes and the Veronica Mountain in the background.
Veronica is the highest peak in the Urubamba Mountain Range. Its Quechua name is Wakay Willca, which means “Sacred Tears”. This image was taken from the other side of the Sacred Valley, near the Abra Malaga pass
You will land at the top of the pass and begin to prepare for one of the most exciting cycles of your life. The route from the top of the Paso de Málaga to the final destination is all downhill – 4316m to 1196m of descent – and just under 60km away. Most people take 4 or 5 hours to ride this section.
The route is not very strenuous, in fact you can drive freely most of the way and will use the brakes rather than the pedals; however, the route is very windy which can make it a bit dangerous, particularly because there are many blind corners and the cars on the route (which are few and far between) drive like maniacs!
Biking in the Inca jungle hike
View of the descent in bicycle in the route Abra Malaga to Santa Maria.
Lorenzo Expeditions provides you with high visibility vests, reliable mountain bikes and protective equipment such as a full-coverage helmet and potentially body armor (this might be too much for some people).
A backup vehicle is usually behind you and if you get tired or want to stop, you can get in the car and enjoy the rest of the route by watching.
You will stop for lunch on the way and arrive at Santa Maria (1,196m) in the mid-afternoon. If there is time and the season is right (typically October to April) you can go rafting on the river.
This is an optional extra offered by us and is charged separately. The cost is about US$50 per person.
Note: sometimes the visibility is very poor in the Abra Malaga Pass.If there is a lot of fog, the bike tour will probably be cancelled and will take you directly to Santa Maria.
Lorenzo Expeditions will be aware of the weather, and we always choose the best and safest option.
After a night in Santa Maria, we stay in the best hostels, so don’t worry about the quality we take care of, it’s followed by a good early breakfast.
Many travelers tell us that it is the biggest and most difficult trek, but it will be worth it, and that you will say to us at the end of the day.
The hike begins by passing the river where rafting is done the day before, with a steep and strenuous climb that gradually flattens out, before continuing along a series of winding roads, where we pass streams and several agricultural plantations, one of which is an authentic Inca trail.
The landscape has a lush vegetation typical of the high jungle of Peru. Remember to use insect repellent, and beware of nasty sand flies that leave bites that can last for weeks.
On the way you will see coca, coffee and several fruit tree plantations – everything grows in the jungle! After lunch and a 6-7 hour walk you will arrive in Cocalmayo, an area known for its hot springs.
Most hikers stop here for a dip, so remember to have your swimsuit handy, “we’ll give you towels”. From the hot springs the walk to their hostel in Santa Teresa (1550m) is only 30 minutes.
Do you see the path in the background? We’ll have to go through it to get to Cocalmayo.
This day you will see a lot of vegetation and our guides will explain you about the plantations and products that grow in this part of Cusco’s highlands. From this part of the jungle comes coca, cocoa and coffee.
On the third day, adrenaline addicts can try their hand at zip-line.
The zip line option is sometimes included as an optional extra in the tour packages, remember that this is one of the longest in Cusco and possibly in Peru.
If it is an optional extra, the cost is about $40 and includes transportation to the zipper lines and 3 to 5 zippers, the highest of which is 150 meters above the ground.
After the zipper line we will continue by car for about 30 minutes to the famous Hidroelectrica, where the road ends and you have to walk, then we will have to continue by train walks for another 2 or 3 hours to the town of Aguas Calientes , or if you are tired you can take a train to Aguas Calientes from the hydroelectric station (approx. 45 minutes, cost: ~US$25!).
Walkers who are not interested in ziplining will start this hike first thing in the morning or wait in Santa Theresa until the zipliners have finished their aerial tour.
The route along the railroad from the Hydroelectric Plant to Aguas Calientes is relatively easy, and we will find many wild animals (birds) and vegetation.
Day 4 usually begins with a wake-up call at the hotel reception so you can catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu. The buses start running at 05:30 and take 30 minutes to reach Machu Picchu, which opens at 06:00.
If you are going hiking during the high season (May-September) expect the bus line to start before 05:00. If you decide to get up early, it is probably because you are anxious to see the sunrise from the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) which is a good 40-60 minute walk up a gradual slope from the Citadel.
After arriving at Machu Picchu in the morning, we will give you a private 2 to 3 hour tour of the main highlights of the Inca citadel.
For this day we have many options, some prefer to climb Machu Picchu and others Huayna Picchu or just the archaeological site.
Our guides are certified and have a card that identifies them. This guide will not have to pay an additional fee, since the tour includes this guide.
Expect to pay around 40-50 Soles per person if there are 2 or more of you, 80-100 Soles if there are only you.
It is worth climbing the Huayna Picchu if you still have energy and are not afraid of heights.
The climb is steep and strenuous, and it takes the average hiker about an hour to reach the top.
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu.
The views from the top are breathtaking and well worth the effort. There are only 400 permits to climb Huayna Picchu per day, so you have to book in advance if you want to climb, another option is to climb the mountain Machu Picchu.
Inca Jungle Trek Route Map
The following map made by us, shows you the route of the Inca jungle from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to the Abra Malaga. From here the trekkers bike to Santa Maria, and then go to Aguas Calientes walking to Santa Teresa, and then end up in Aguas Calientes and the last day to visit Machu Picchu.
Best Time for an Inca Jungle Trek
There are two main seasons in the Peruvian subtropical Andes: a dry season from May to September, and a wet season from October to April.
The Inca jungle trek can be completed throughout the year, however, heavy rains in January and February often cause landslides on the road and highway connecting Santa Maria and Santa Teresa and therefore the Inca jungle trek is usually closed during this time of year.
The best time to take a walk through the Inca jungle is during the dry season, or in the months of March/April and October/November. The last few months are particularly good if you want to go rafting in Santa Maria.
The trail is busier during the dry season, but not as busy as the classic Inca Trail or Salkantay trail.
Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, with warm days reaching 20 degrees Celsius. The nights and early mornings are cold (in the single digits and sometimes fall below zero degrees, especially in the dry season).
It is convenient to take trekking clothes in layers so that you can go up or down the layers according to the fluctuations of the daily temperatures (see the luggage list below for more details about the layers).
One thing you should know is that microclimates are the dominant climatic force along the Andes and the Peruvian highlands. You will need to bring some wet weather equipment, such as a basic poncho, as it is possible to encounter rain throughout the year.
Acclimatisation and Altitude Sickness for the trek
The Inca Trail is technically a high-altitude hike, although the amount of time you spend at altitude is actually very short.
The highest altitude you will reach is the Abra Malaga pass at just over 4,300 m. But, you are only going to be about 30 minutes maximum at this altitude. From this point you descend relatively quickly, as you are cycling, and end the day at an altitude quite low for the Andes, just under 1,200m.
During the rest of the route the path undulates, but never goes beyond 2.000m. Machu Picchu itself is at 2,430m, which is still relatively low.
This means that altitude sickness on the Inca Trail is rare and not as frequent on some of the other trails in this region where trekkers spend a good deal of time walking through passes over 4,000m, such as the Inca Trail and Salkantay.
In fact, there is a greater risk of succumbing to the symptoms of altitude sickness before starting the journey. Most visitors to Machu Picchu fly to Cusco, which is situated at a high altitude of over 3,400 meters. Experiencing mild altitude sickness, such as a headache or nausea, is common for many visitors to Cusco.
It is important that you spend a few days acclimatizing to this altitude before climbing any further, we recommend about 2 days, but it depends on your physical condition.
Another good option, if you have time, is to immediately descend from Cusco to the Sacred Valley, which is about 1,000 m deep, and rest here for a few days before returning to Cusco to join you for your Inca jungle trekking adventure to Machu Picchu.
Either way, acclimatizing a few days in Cusco or in the Sacred Valley before starting your hike is a worthwhile investment.
We have written a detailed guide on acclimatization and altitude sickness that we recommend you take a moment to read.
Inca Jungle Trek Packing List
The packing list for an Inca jungle hike is very similar to that of a classic Inca Trail hike.
We recommend you to take only the basics, only the second day we will be on long walks, away from small towns, but then the rest of the day, we can find small stores.
The key difference on the Inca Trail is that you will not be camping, and therefore will not need a sleeping bag or a heating pad as blankets will be provided at the Santa Maria and Santa Teresa lodges.
Training, Fitness and Preparation
Inca Jungle Trek is a diverse adventure with many different activities: hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and zip line. The hike is definitely more suitable for young people with an adventurous heart.
In recent years, the number of trekking companies offering trekking in the Inca forest has increased significantly.
We are the best of this route, the creators and those who set the tone, if you have any doubt, give a review to the blogs and tourism sites about Lorenzo Expeditions.
We have quality equipment, super professional guides and quality services along the route.
Our prices vary according to the options you want, they range from 329 USD and can increase if you want to add options like Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
Do not hesitate, contact us and we will help you with all your doubts.