Inca Jungle Ultimate Travel Guide to Machu Picchu
Nowadays, Cusco has many routes to reach Machu Picchu, and the most famous and well-known is the Inca Trail. As an alternative route, you have the Inca Jungle, which is one of the most adventurous ways to reach this incredible Inca site. The Inca Jungle, like the other trekking routes, is the favorite route for many adventure lovers. My name is Vidal Gamboa, and I have worked as a tour guide for more than 12 years, leading groups to Machu Picchu via the different routes that exist in Cusco. In this article, let’s see what makes the Inca Jungle different from the other trails.
The Inca Jungle Tour , also known as the Inca Jungle Trail or the Inca Jungle Trek, whatever you call it, is the same tour that leads to Machu Picchu through the Peruvian jungle. Since 2010, it has become a highlight for adrenaline lovers, combining a variety of fun activities in its 4-day Inca Jungle Tour. If you are limited by time, you also have the option of doing this tour in 3 days from Cusco; in this case, you will skip the hiking section on the second day.
The Inca Jungle became very popular after the Inca Trail because it offers a full package of activities that you cannot find easily on the other routes. The 4-day tour combines mountain biking, whitewater rafting, hiking on the Inca Trail with the hot spring at the end, a zipline, and Machu Picchu as the highlight on the last day of your journey.
What are the highlights of the Inca Jungle Trail?
Well, when you decide to visit Machu Picchu through the Inca Jungle Trek, you will have various outstanding moments during the four-day tour. Let’s see some of them:
- Cycling down from the mountains to the high Peruvian jungle
- Whitewater rafting in the Urubamba River
- Hiking through the Inca Trail and the jungle
- Relax at the hot spring with stunning views.
- Fly though the mountain via Zip-Line
- Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas
What is the difference between the 3-day and the 4-day tour?
The most well-known Inca Jungle tour is the 4-day tour, which is the complete tour with all the activities that we mentioned before. However, for people who do not have enough time to explore the 4-day tour, there is a short version of the Inca Jungle Trail that offers the same adventures as the longest version; the only difference is that on the 3-day tour, you will skip the hiking section and reach the next town to continue your way to Machu Picchu. Below, you will see the difference between these two tours.
Inca Jungle Trek 4-Day
Day 1. Cusco – Habra Malaga – Huamanmarca – Santa Maria
Driving from Cusco to the beginning of the biking, located at 4,300 meters (14,107 feet), and descending for about 3 hours to reach Humanmarca town, then driving to Santa Maria, where after lunch you’ll enjoy the white water rafting for a few hours. Spend the night there.
Day 2. Santa Maria – Quellomayo – Cocalmayo – Santa Teresa
We hike for about 8 hours (15 km/9.3 miles) through the jungle, visiting some local farms, then hike on the Inca Trail to reach the hot spring and relax the afternoon there.
Day 3. Santa Teresa – Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes
We fly in the zipline for a few hours, then drive to Hydroelectrica, where we start the hike beside the railway to reach Aguas Caliente town (3 hours hike / 10 km).
Day 4. Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
The most important day where you will visit Machu Picchu nowadays is the New Seven Wonders of the World. In the afternoon, you will return to Cusco.
Inca Jungle Trail 3-Day
Day 1. Cusco – Abra Malaga – Huamanmarca – Santa Maria – Santa Teresa
Drive from Cusco to the highest point on this tour, then begin your descent into the high Peruvian jungle. In the afternoon, raft for a few hours and take the bus to Santa Teresa, where you will spend the night. You have the option to relax at the hot spring if there is enough time.
Day 2. Santa Teresa – Hidrolectrica – Aguas Clientes
Have fun flying on the zipline for a couple hours and board the bus to Hidroelectrica, where the hike begins to reach Aguas Calientes town.
Day 3. Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
Early in the morning, you will reach Machu Picchu to explore and enjoy the stunning views. During the afternoon, you will return to Cusco.
What is the difficulty of the Inca Jungle?
The Inca Jungle Trail is not very popular compared to other trails, but as tour operators, we have a lot of families that come with their kids and really enjoy the tour. The most challenging part of the trek is the hiking sections on the second day; however, we have the option to shorten the distance in case you decide not to continue hiking on the last part.
On the second day, the hike is about 15 km (9.5 miles), which goes up and down, but the altitude is not too high compared to other trails. The hike reaches over 1,700 m (5.577 ft) at the highest point, so there is no worry about altitude sickness.
The other section that you will hike will be on day three, the last section following the railroad, which is almost flat.
Some companies need to hike longer than what we mentioned before because they don’t include the transport in some sections.
What is the highest point on the Inca jungle?
The highest point that you will reach doing this Inca Jungle Trek will be at the beginning of the mountain bike on the first day; the altitude is 4,316 meters (14,160 ft), but you will reach there by car and be there only for a few minutes before starting the cycling down to the jungle.
On the next day, the altitude will vary from 1200 to 2,040 meters, and the altitude of Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters, which you will visit on the last day.
How difficult is the mountain bike?
The cycling on the first day will be easy because the road goes down to the jungle. The ride will start at 4,280 meters and end at 1,800 meters, following the asphalted road with breathtaking vistas along the way. Your tour guide will stop several times for you to rest and enjoy the views.
The total distance that you will ride will be about 43 km (26 miles) in 2.30 hours. Your guide, who will be in front of the group, will make all the signs to control the speed. In case you don’t want to continue riding, the van will be behind the group, and someone will collect if someone doesn’t continue.
Is the mountain bike safe?
Yes, at Vidal Expeditions, we know that safety comes first, which is why our tour guides are well trained to handle any emergency that can happen during the ride. We also include the best quality of biking gear (a full-face helmet, gloves, a stowaway wind jacket, knee pads, and body armor), and we do periodic maintenance on our bicycles.
What is the grade of the water rafting and is it safe?
Cusco has many places where you can do rafting, but the one that is located along the Inca Jungle Trek is one of the most well-recommended for beginners and experienced people. On this river, you will easily find I, II, III, and III+, with some rapids that make it perfect to enjoy the water.
This activity is very safe because the people who work with us are very professional and licensed by the authorities in Cusco. They will provide a safety speech before going in the river, as well as the safety gear (helmet, life jacket, water shoes, splash jacket). There will also be a safety kayaker who will take care during the rafting.
If I don’t know how to swim can i join the rafting
Yes, we just need to tell the rafting guide that you are a novice swimmer, and they will take care of you.
What to see during the hike in the Inca jungle?
On the second day, you will see different local farms where fruits are grown, such as bananas, oranges, limes, papayas, avocados, and more. You will also see some wild fruits. We will have the chance to visit some coca farms and learn how we use them.
Enjoy the best chocolate and coffee that are grown in the area. In case you want to participate by doing some chocolate or coffee, you can do it too.
You will hike on a section of the Inca Trail that connects with Machu Picchu and the jungle, enjoy the breathtaking vistas, and learn the history of the Incas.
The wildlife is not the exception on this tour; you will see some wild animals on the route, including snakes, parrots, insects, birds, and more.
What temperature is the hot spring in the Inca jungle?
The hot spring of Cocalmayo has a varied temperature. the coldest one is about 25 Celsius and the hottest one about 38 Celsius. You can spend around an hour in it due to the new regulations.
It is natural hot water that comes from the ground and it is clear water
How long and safe is the Zipline?
At Vidal Expeditions, we know these kinds of activities have a big risk, which is why we have chosen the safest zipline company in the area, which guarantees safety and has a lot of experience.
That zipline is one of the longest in the Cusco region, and it crosses the valley a few times with different circuits, the longest of which is about a kilometer.
Can I skip the extra activities Raf and Zip?
Yes, if you want to skip these activities for any reason, we understand and will help you find another option. You can also just stay at the base camp with the others in the group and board the bus together to reach the next place.
Why Vidal Expeditions price is higher the other companies?
This is the question that many travelers have asked us; our price is moderate compared to the other companies that offer the same as we do.
During the Inca Jungle Trek 4-Day, we include:
- Small group service: The maximum size of our tour is 8 people (with some exceptions, we bring more due to the same groups, ex. students).
- Professional tour guide: We work with experienced and certified tour guides.
- Private accommodations: When you join us on our tour, you will get private accommodation every day and a private bathroom.
- We include extra activities: On the Jungle Tour, we include the water rafting and ziplining, so you won’t have to worry about paying extra.
- Hotel in Aguas Calientes: The Inca Jungle excursion includes a night in a hotel, which starts on the last night before you explore Machu Picchu.
- Bus round trip to Machu Picchu: We included the round-trip bus to Machu Picchu.
- Train tickets: On the returning way, we include the train service, which will make it easy for you and avoid walking for another 3 hours to board the bus, which will take about 6
hours to drive to Cusco
- All fees are included
Packing list for the Inca Jungle Trek
Hiking to new places looks complicated, and sometimes you don’t know what to bring. Below is a list of things that you should bring for this 4-day Inca Jungle Trail:
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)
- 4 days’ worth of clothing (t-shirts, trousers, socks, pants, 2 sweaters, etc.)
- Bug repellent
- A waterproof coat (you’ll probably need it, trust me).
- Bathing suit/bikini and towel (for rafting, thermal pools, etc.)
- Cameras and lenses (if you’re into photography)
- Water bottle
- Hiking poles (I actually didn’t use them but they might come in handy)
- Some money is in cash.
Why travel with Vidal Expedition on the Inca Jungle?
There are many reasons why you should choice us as your tour operator in the Inca Jungle.
- We are a travel company with years of experience on this route; Vidal, the owner, has worked as a tour guide for more than 10 years, leading many groups on this Inca Jungle tour,
and he knows very well what to offer to our customers.
- We are a local tour operator with a 100% Peruvian team, and as you will notice in our Inca Jungle package, we included everything compared to other companies with no hidden prices that can surprise you along the route.
- Our professional staff of tour guides is carefully selected to lead groups on different excursions, with a large amount of experience leading groups or private tours. All our tour guides speak English, Spanish, and Quechua and can communicate easily with everybody. They are well trained in customer service, first aid, oxygen supply, history, and more.
About the service
- We include private accommodation on our Inca jungle trek, with private bathroom and towels in the room, if you are a couple, friends, or family you definitely have you own room on this tour, just the solo traveler could share a room with same gender in case they want. We also have the option to include a private room for a solo traveler if you require one.
- At Vidal Expeditions, we know Peru is well known for the variety of food that you can find while visiting the country. That is why we offer during the tour a varied selection of dishes prepared by the locals along the route, and we take care about your diet (vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, and others).
Supporting local families
- We work with local families on this tour who provide us the accommodation every day. This is the best way that your money is supporting not only our company, if not local families who have benefited since we started operating this tour. That is why we don’t build our own lodges or hostels, since our main goal working in tourism is to bring benefits to local people and communities.
- We are one of the local companies that works with local families, restaurants, and tour guides, and the rest of our staff is from different communities that are located along our excursions and helps them have a better life.