We always tell you that international travel is quite often a lot cheaper than you think it is. Every Tuesday in March we will put our money where our mouth is and recap how much a weeklong trip for 2 to one of our previous destinations would cost you. Maybe this year you could put some of your tax return towards a vacation.
This week: A Trek to Machu Picchu
Perfectly constructed on a sacred hilltop in the clouds and surrounded by many other sacred mountains, this was one of the Inca people’s most sacred spiritual sites and, quite possibly, a university of sorts where their people came to learn. Hidden in the high mountains and accessed only by a trail that The Inca himself hiked once a year, this was a special place and still is today. Whether you trek through the jungle and over mountains to arrive at the Sun Gate at dawn or ride a train and a bus to get here, nothing can prepare you for the grandeur and magic of this place.
Abandoned and cut off from the rest of the empire when the Spanish arrived and then lost to time, this well preserved site is the most pure example of Inca culture and architecture, so well hidden that the Spanish never even found it.
Take a step back in time and come spend a week in the center of the Incan Empire. Cusco, the Inca capital city, still boasts many beautiful and sacred spots for you to explore, from the Temple of the Sun to Sacsayhuaman, and many other sites are just a day trip away in the Valle Sagrado. So there is still plenty to do in the days before or after your trek.
For a trip in May 2013: This is the dry season in Peru, but not quite the high season yet, so prices will be a bit friendlier and there will be fewer crowds than later in the summer.
Roundtrip Airfare for 2 from Miami to Cusco: $649 per person on LAN
Rate for 4 nights at Ecopackers Hostel in Cusco: $216 for a standard double. Ecopackers is a phenomenally well run hostel in an old hacienda one block off the main plaza. Their free breakfast is quite substantial and they are within walking distance of many of the main attractions in Cusco.
Sips and Bites: $50/day for 2 people. Because Cusco is such a popular tourist destination, prices here are a bit higher than other places in Peru. On average, we ate for about $8/person/meal, including food and beverages. Be sure to check out all the wonderful jugos, as well as Pisco Sours, Inka Cola (the national soda of Peru – kind of like a bright yellow cream soda), and Cusquena (one of the national beers). Obviously, because Cusco is such a tourist destination, you could spend a whole lot more or a whole lot less on food.
4 day Classic Inca Trail Trek with Peru Treks: $545 per person. We did our trek with Peru Treks for a variety of reasons. First off, they are a locally owned company, which means that we are contributing to their local economy when we use them. They also have a reputation for taking extremely good care of their porters as well as their families and the towns they come from. Porters (or as we like to call them, Chasquis – the venerable messenger for the Inca) do the bulk of the work on an Inca Trail trek, carrying all the essentials from tents to sleeping bags, food, gas, & water, and even some of our gear. They also set up and break down camp, help you along the way, and even prepare and serve all the food. They are AMAZING people. Unfortunately, many outfitters treat them poorly. When we were doing research to pick an outfitter, Peru Treks had some of the best ratings across the board, and even contribute a percentage to the two villages where their porters come from, to improve village infrastructure and support the local schools.
Peru Treks also offers extremely good value for their trip. Google Inca Trail treks and see how many come in at a $500-$600 price point. They also keep their groups small (never more than 16 people on a trip), and their guides are well trained and well equipped.
The 4 day trek is the classic Inca Trail Trek, hiking along the actual Inca Trail and finishing at the Sun Gate on sunrise of the 4th day. It includes tent, sleeping pad, all your meals, transportation to the start of the trail via charter bus and from Machu Picchu back to Cusco via train. Need a sleeping bag? You can rent one for $20.
Total Cost Breakdown for a week in Peru, including hiking the Inca Trail:
Airfare for 2: $1298 for 2 on LAN
4 nights accommodation at EcoPackers in Cusco: $216 for a double, breakfast included
Food: $200 for the days in Cusco
Inca Trail Trek: $1190 for 2 people.
Grand Total for 2 people to travel to Peru for a week (including a 4 day trek to Machu Picchu): $2904
But I’m not a hiker! There is no way I could hike 42km!
Don’t think you can make the trek? You can arrange a trip to Machu Picchu via train and bus and spend the day walking through the past without having to take one step onto the trail (although you’ll do a good bit of walking and stair climbing in Machu Picchu itself).
Here’s that same weeklong trip to Peru, including 2 days in Machu Picchu, but no Inca Trail hike:
Airfare for 2: $1298 on LAN
6 nights accommodation at EcoPackers in Cusco: $306 + $38 accommodation at Hotel Santuario in Aguas Calientes
Food: $350 for 7 days
Train tickets: $288
Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: $24 for 2 days of roundtrip tickets
Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu: $180 (for 2 days)
Grand Total for a weeklong trip to Cusco (including an overnight in Aguas Calientes and 2 days exploring Machu Picchu): $2484, which leaves a bit of money in your budget for a few day tours to the Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu is one of those iconic places that pretty much everyone has on their bucket list of places to visit. We’ve seen those beautiful photographs in National Geographic and dreamed of someday climbing those stairs and experiencing the magic of this special place ourselves. But many people don’t even think about going because it seems such a huge trip and out of reach, both in time and financially. Why not start working on saving up a week’s vacation and $3k and finally making that trek happen?
You can see more photos from our time in Cusco & our Inca Trail Trek here.