If you’ve been following our blog for a while, then you know there are two things we often look for in a travel experience. We love (1) adventure and (2) great travel values. So when considering the many different ways to get to Machu Picchu, taking the Jungle Trek was most definitely the perfect fit for our travel style. It is high adventure and an incredible value!
The 4-day Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu isn’t just a hike. The trek incorporates loads of adventure activities into the journey. In route to Machu Picchu, you go mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and ziplining! This Machu Picchu Jungle Trek has been surging in popularity since it was first offered nearly ten years ago. In fact, our guide estimates it’s now become the second most popular trek to get to Machu Picchu, only after the famous Inca Trail. We see the appeal. The Jungle Trek was awesome!
The adventure-factor of the Inca Jungle Trek is what caught our attention. Yet perhaps one of the best propositions of the Jungle Trek is the cost. We had always thought any trek to Machu Picchu would be crazy expensive. So we couldn’t believe the prices being offered by local agencies when we arrived in Cusco. Jungle Trek prices varied slightly between companies, but tended to be somewhere around $150 USD for the entire 4-day trek.
We paid an agency $159 USD for this adventure-filled tour to Machu Picchu. This price included just about everything during the four days: our transport, guide, the mountain biking, the whitewater rafting, the zip-lining, all of our meals (in restaurants), three nights accommodation with beds in private rooms, and the entrance to Machu Picchu.
The Jungle Trek must be one of the best value tours in all of South America, if not the world! We’re left wondering how these tour operators even turn a profit! Considering that the Machu Picchu permit itself is 152 Peruvian soles (~$47 USD), this means that the actual tour cost is $112. That breaks down to $28 per day including all of those adventure activities, good meals, and basic accommodation. We’re completely baffled.
But I digress. If you want to have an action-packed journey to Machu Picchu on a budget, we think the Jungle Trek is most definitely the best alternative to the Inca Trail.
So what’s it like to go on the Machu Picchu Jungle Trek? Read on. We’ve written this comprehensive Jungle Trek review in attempts to provide all of our tips and recommendations to anyone considering embarking on this route to Machu Picchu.
Our Jungle Trek Experience To Machu Picchu
We had an amazing time on our Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu. The next few sections gives a day-by-day account of our trek. To really get a feel for the adventure, check out the Jungle Trek video:
Jungle Trek Day 1: Mountain Biking & Whitewater Rafting to Machu Picchu
The first day of the Jungle Trek began with a scenic yet gut-wrenching van ride up through glacier-capped mountains. It’s a pretty harrowing drive from Cusco through the Sacred Valley and way up to 4,300 meters in altitude. The adventure had just begun!
High in the Andes Mountains, we reached the first activity of Jungle Trek: mountain biking. The descent started in the chilly mountain air but we soon soared down into the jungle, dropping in elevation nearly 2,000 meters in total in a matter of a few hours!
The cycling trip is on a pave road, rather than a true mountain bike trail. Yet it’s still a very thrilling ride! And it’s all downhill. There was virtually no need to pedal during the entire ride. The breaks, on the other hand, were used very often!
Despite being on a paved road, this downhill plunge was not without hazards. Rivers spilling onto the roadway, potholes, debris from landslides, oncoming traffic, hairpin turns, and steep drop-offs on the side of the road all added to the adventure. It’s not a bike ride for the faint of heart, but that’s all part of the fun!
If you’re nervous about all this, don’t worry. You can hug the breaks during the entire trip down and go as slow as you’d like. Everyone in our group went at different speeds and split up. A support van travels behind in case any bikes have problems or if anyone wants to abort the ride. But don’t. It’s such a fun ride!
We were also given lots of protective pads, body armor, and even a full face mask to help keep us safe.
Once in the jungle at the bottom of the bike ride, it’s lunchtime. At nearly 4:00 pm, it’s quite a late lunch, so we were glad to have packed some snacks to munch on throughout the day. Yet we still had plenty of room to devour our almuerzo (lunch), to get energy for the next adventure: whitewater rafting down the Urubamba River!
We thought it was a really fun river to raft down, but the water level changes things throughout the year. Our 90-minute rafting trip was mostly class 2 and 3 rapids with a couple of huge waves along the way. Most rafts tended to avoid the biggest drops, but one raft in our group went over an enormous wave and flipped! At times, the river seemed deceptively tranquil but it turned out to be a bit fiercer than it looked.
It was a very full day of adventure in which the rafting lasted into dusk, just in time to dry off before the cooler night air came through. The day ends in the quiet village of Santa Maria, concluding with dinner and a good night’s rest for all the trekking ahead on Day 2.
Machu Picchu Jungle Trek Day 2: Trekking, Inca Trail, and Hot Springs
The second day of the Jungle Trek involved lots of trekking. There’s 21 kilometers in total that’s broken up by a number of stops in which our Jungle Trek guide gave informative lectures about the Incas, local culture, history, etc.
Perhaps the most interesting of these stops, was learning about some of the agriculture of this jungle valley. We tasted stevia, toasted cocoa beans, a homemade fudge-like chocolate sweetened with honey, and finally some “Inca Tequila.” Everyone is offered this shot of liquor which a snake has been soaking in!
To have a shot of any liquor in the morning and during the middle of a fairly intense trek seems counterintuitive. Adding a snake to the concoction takes things to the next level. But who are we to refuse! This snake-laden Inca Tequila actually wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. Try it if you dare.
During the long day of trekking, the trail climbed up and down, but we didn’t find it to be too strenuous at any point. The highlight of the day is a short 300-meter stretch that traverses the ancient Inca Trail. Having yearned to trek the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it was nice to get a tiny taste of that experience during our Jungle Trek.
The trail hugs the side of a valley, which drops off to the Urubamba River down below. This section of the trail was easily the most scenic portion of the entire Jungle Trek route.
Ultimately the trail descends back into the jungle near the river for lunch. Plenty of hammocks abound in this tranquil area for a short siesta to regain your energy. The hike forward then flattens out and becomes quite fun. We encountered a rickety old swing bridge crossing high above the river. Then we scaled some boulders while trying not to get our shoes wet while stepping across a wild stream.
Finally we neared the hot springs, but there’s one problem: the bridge is out. The solution to get across is by way of a hand-pulled cable car. It looks crazy and there’s no safety belts or anything. Local guys stuffed their cheeks full of coca leaves to give them the energy to quickly whisk the entire group across the river. It was quite the experience!
After hiking across rugged terrain for 21 kilometers of the Jungle Trek, the hot springs come as a very welcomed reprieve in the late afternoon. It’s a heavenly finish to soak away the days aches & pains. The hot springs also doubled as a bath of sorts, as there are only cold-water showers for the first two nights of the Jungle Trek. After biking, whitewater rafting, and a long day of trekking – a few hours in this hot water was much needed!
But Day 2 of the Jungle Trek wasn’t quite over yet. This was the “party night.” After getting cleaned up in the hot springs we were given two options: walk another hour or so along a dirt road in the dark to where we’re staying in the town of Santa Teresa, or stay clean and go by van for 5 soles (~$1.50 USD). Everyone opted for the latter!
After a good dinner of chicken milanese, the party began. Our guide had mentioned a few times that this would be the party night, and we thought it was just a joke. This is a fairly intense trek after all. But it wasn’t a joke. Shots of Inca Tequila were passed around, the lights dimmed, and the music was turned up. A calm dinner with beers had turned into a legit party as pisco sours were being slid onto our table.
Local kids came to join the fun and stayed up passed their bedtime as they kicked around soccer balls with the increasingly intoxicated travelers passing through their small village. Needless to say, the kids were easily winning these impromptu futbol matches.
Somewhat surprisingly, there’s actually a club in this remote town. Those really looking to party proceeded in the club well into the early morning hours. We instead opted for bed.
Inca Jungle Trek Day 3: Zip-Lining and Closing in on Machu Picchu
The third day of the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu begins with a morning full of ziplining! It’s a great thrill on a series of four long ziplines that crisscross over the river valley below.
For those opting not to zipline, their day instead included a 10-kilometer hike along a dirt road to the lunch point. Almost everyone in our group chose to zipline, which included a shuttle lift to the lunch point. We definitely recommend the ziplining! It was such a blast soaring back an forth high above the valley, in traditional fashion or like superman!
After lunch, it was a 2-3 hour walk along the scenic railway towards Machu Picchu. When hearing about this portion of the trek, it seemed that it would be boring and rather uneventful. Yet we found it to be a really nice flat walk along the river. It’s not called a “scenic” railway for nothing! We eventually walked into the beautiful valley that surrounds Machu Picchu. Our guide even pointed out the Sun Gate, way up in the mountains towering above. We were almost to the famed Incan site!
By mid-afternoon we reached the tourist town of Aguas Calientes (now renamed as Machu Picchu Pueblo). It’s a funny little place that is only accessible by trekking or train, so there are almost no cars here (aside from a few that were shipped in by train). The pueblo’s sole purpose is for Machu Picchu tourism, so it is thriving with hotels and tourist restaurants that each seem to offer a nearly identical menu.
We had plenty of time to walk around, explore, and stock up on snacks for the big day ahead. Day 3 of the Jungle Trek commenced with an early dinner at one of those tourist restaurants. It was here that we received our coveted Machu Picchu entrance ticket for the early morning that lay ahead. The feeling was like Christmas Eve as a child. We were so excited for the next morning, but knew we had to go to sleep.
Day 4 Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
The fourth and final day of the Jungle Trek is the main event. This is the day everyone had been waiting for. We were ready to experience Machu Picchu!
But “Pacha Mama” (Mother Nature) had different plans for us. We awoke at 3:30 am to pouring rain! But we weren’t going to let a little water spoil our adventure. So we dawned our rain gear and trekked towards the entrance gate, which opens at 5:00 am.
From there it was a one-hour hike in the dark up steep terrain to get to Machu Picchu. Alternatively there is a $12 bus up to the ruins, but where’s the adventure in that?
Finally we had arrived just as the sun came out and the weather began to clear. It was a glorious sight! We had finally reached Machu Picchu and the view surpassed all expectations we had of the ancient ruins! It’s really a place you need to experience in person as even the best pictures don’t do it justice.
Our guide during the past 4 days then took us on a 90-minute tour through the ruins informing us all about the ancient site. It was fascinating, although sometimes it was difficult to focus on his explanations given the incredible surroundings in addition to the resident llamas.
Once his tour commenced, we were on our own to explore and marvel at the ancient wonder for as long as we wanted. We were awed at how massive the site was and all the additional hiking trails you could take from Machu Picchu. We explored the Incan Bridge, hiked up to the Sun Gate, and even tackled the Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña) that looms above the ancient site (additional permit required). It was atop the Montaña where you can get stellar birds-eye views of Machu Picchu down below.
While most people spend just a few hours at the ruins, we found that those with enough energy could easily spend an entire day exploring Machu Picchu and its surroundings. Because of this, we had actually planned to stay an extra night, just so we would have plenty of time at the ruins all day long.
Meanwhile we bid farewell to our fellow Jungle Trek friends who opted for van transport back to Cusco, as they needed to depart Machu Picchu by 11:00 am. We were so glad we had planned to stay the extra night, which allowed us to explore Machu Picchu all day long. The site stays open until 5:00 pm, but after trekking for nearly 12 hours straight on this day, our sore legs had indicated to us that it was finally time to leave this world wonder.
So we descended the mountain the same way we came up, reflecting on the sheer awesomeness of Machu Picchu and the entire four day Jungle Trek.
Meals, Accommodation, & Guide – Jungle Trek Review
Jungle Trek Meals
Given the super low price of the Jungle Trek, we were a little nervous of what we would find in terms of our meals and accommodation. One of the higher priced operators makes a claim on their website that other tours just give rice for meals and nothing else. We found this and their other claims to be blatant lies.
The meals during our Jungle Trek were surprisingly good! It tended to be mostly Peruvian cuisine that definitely surpassed our expectations. Meals during the trek tended to be even better than some of the restaurant meals we had back in Cusco! Often there was a set meal, while a few instances you were given a choice. Vegetarians were always accommodated for.
Dinner consisted of dishes like lomo saltado and chicken milanese. Lunch was grilled chicken with rice one day, and spaghetti with tomato sauce and shredded cheese on another day. Breakfast was usually pancake with banana, eggs, bread, juice, coffee, and tea.
While the meals were tasty, sometimes we found them to be a little bit on the light side, given how much calories we were burning each day.
Jungle Trek Accommodation
We were also happy with the accommodation provided. Traveling as a couple, our guide always gave us a private room, although that was not guaranteed. Other solo travelers, shared dorm rooms that housed 4-6 people.
Rooms were very basic, but beds and linens were always clean and comfortable. The first two places we stayed at had shared bathrooms with cold water showers. Whereas the final night in Aguas Caliente had a private bathroom with the best hot water shower we experienced in all of Peru. There was decent wifi available at all hostels, except for the first night in Santa Maria.
Jungle Trek Guide
It’s luck of the draw with what guide you get paired up with for the Jungle Trek. Our guide Richard was awesome. He was totally professional, helpful, patient, caring, and provided loads of interesting information throughout the trek. He was certainly one of the better guides we’ve had during our travels.
Tips for the Machu Picchu Jungle Trek
There’s a lot you should know before embarking on the Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu. You should consider what to pack, the logistics of returning to Cusco, how to get the best price, when to go, and so much more. We’ve tried to detail everything you should know, to prepare anyone considering tackling the Jungle Trek.
The Best Time To Go on the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
Don’t Rule Out the Rainy Season
If you want to experience Machu Picchu with those picture-perfect clear blue skies in the background, it may seem obvious to avoid the rainy season, December to March. But there are also some benefits to going during this timeframe. Rainy season also means fewer tourists visiting the site. There are 2,500 permits provided for Machu Picchu each day. Yet during our March visit, in the morning we shared the site with just a few hundred people. There were only a few other groups on the Jungle Trek as the same time as us. Meanwhile, our guide explained to us that during peak season, he has a very difficult time guiding people at Machu Picchu because it’s hard to find a place to stand to give the lecture.
Also, rainy season doesn’t mean it will rain all day, everyday. Rather, there is an increased probability of rain during this time. During our March Jungle Trek, it never rained the first two days, sprinkled for an hour on Day 3, and on Day 4 only rained prior to us reaching Machu Picchu. Perhaps we did get lucky though. Talking to those who visited the site the day after us, we discovered they experienced lots of fog. So it can be a gamble, but going during rainy season does not guarantee rain. And you can enjoy site not being swamped with visitors taking selfies and bumping into you.
For us, the lack of tourist hoards is a big draw to attempting the trek during the rainy season. The picture below was taken later in the afternoon when even more people had descended onto Machu Picchu. Yet as you can see, it was still fairly sparse.
Considerations for a High Season Jungle Trek
High season, June to August, tends to have the nicest weather, but it is also the busiest time. You may find higher prices, perhaps the need for advanced booking, and you’ll definitely find more hoards of people. Also, for the Jungle Trek, you must consider that the water levels on the Urubamba River will be lower, making the whitewater rafting slower, longer, and perhaps less exciting.
A Shoulder Season Jungle Trek Could Be Best
How To Get a Good Price for the Jungle Trek
The best way to book the Jungle Trek at a low price is to book directly with an agency on the ground in Cusco. That’s how we secured booked the tour for only $159 USD. There were other people our Jungle Trek tour who booked online in advance and paid substantially more for the exact same tour.
The Jungle Trek is often listed for nearly $500 with online tour aggregators. Meanwhile, Cusco hostels and online tour operators tend to offer the Jungle Trek tour at a price of $250, but that price doesn’t include the whitewater rafting nor the ziplining. Those activities bring the true price to $310 if you partake in them. When booking the Jungle Trek, be absolutely clear on understanding what is included and what’s not.
We found there was no need to book in advance during our March visit. We booked the night before and departed the very next day.
Booking the Jungle Trek Online In Advance
Yet if you’re on a tight time crunch or booking during the peak of high season (June, July), it could be worth making an advanced booking. You’ll pay a bit more for this convenience. Otherwise it’s probably worth waiting until arriving to Cusco and book on the ground to get the lowest price.
If you do want the convenience of booking in advance without having the hassle of dealing with tour agencies in Cusco, the lowest price we found that you can book online was this tour on Viator.com. You’ll certainly pay more than the prices we were seeing in Cusco, but this Viator tour DOES include the return by train, has a track record of great reviews, allows for the option of climbing Huayna Picchu (usually sold out by the time you get to Cusco) and provides you with the certainty of having secured a reservation for the Jungle Trek upon arrival to Cusco.
Jungle Trek Prices Booking In Cusco
Meanwhile in Cusco, you can negotiate with the hundreds (thousands?) of agencies to secure a more competitive price. They each sell what seems to be the same Jungle Trek tour. Some agencies may claim better food, hostels, or equipment, but we don’t believe that. All the other groups we ran into seemed to have a very comparable experience, stayed at the same/similar places, and ate at some of the same places as us. Yet each tour agency may include different options in their Jungle Trek package, which makes comparing prices slightly confusing. We’ll try to clear up that confusion here with this chart, showing the approximate prices we saw agencies selling the Jungle Trek tour in Cusco during our March 2017 visit.
The Jungle Trek prices tend to be different based upon whether or not the agency includes the adventure activities and also what mode of transportation you return in. Whitewater rafting and ziplining can add as little as $20 to your total (a $60 value). Taking the train back to Cusco adds another $70. We think having the adventure activities included is most definitely worth it. You should also consider splurging for the return by train, and we’ll explain why in the next section.
Note: You will also find agencies with prices higher than what we’ve outlined above. Use these example prices as a point of reference. If you see prices much higher than this, find another agency. (Note: If multiple agencies in Cusco are quoting higher prices, it is possible that costs have increased since our March 2017 trek. Please let us know in the comments, so we’ll attempt to keep this post up-to-date.)
To get the best price for the Jungle Trek, we suggest popping into a handful of agencies in Cusco to compare. We only visited a few and found the best price from Lisbeth at Peru Andean Hop, who offered us the $159 price including activities in March 2017, without us having to negotiate. So that’s a price you can try to beat when you’re shopping around in Cusco. Otherwise, go see Lisbeth. We were happy with our tour that we booked through her.
Optional Whitewater Rafting and Ziplining
We really enjoyed both the whitewater rafting & the ziplining and highly recommend them! It’s these adventure activities that really makes the Jungle Trek such a fun way to get to Machu Picchu. It breaks up the hike with some awesome thrills. Don’t miss them! If you’re not interested in the adventure activities, we recommend considering a different trek to Machu Picchu.
For those who don’t go whitewater rafting, you’ll just be sitting around the village by yourself. By opting not to partake in the ziplining, you’ll be on your own (without the guide) walking an extra 10 kilometers across a dirt road.
It is possible to change your mind and do the whitewater rafting and ziplining while on the Jungle Trek, but you’ll end up paying more than if you had the agency include it from the start. These activities were $30 extra each ($60 for both) when booked on the spot, while we were able to get them both included in our package for only an extra $20 total!
These adventure activities is what made the Jungle Trek so much fun and a complete bargain when having them included for an extra $10 each.
How To Return To Cusco After the Jungle Trek
There are three ways to return from the Jungle Trek that you should carefully consider. Most agencies in Cusco will not clearly explain this, so it’s important to understand your options before booking.
Option 1 Returning from Jungle Trek: Shuttle
Included in the cost of most Jungle Trek packages is a return shuttle to Cusco. But to reach the shuttle pick-up point, you must walk 2-3 hours along the way you walked in during Day 3 on the railroad tracks. From there, it’s a 6.5-hour van ride on some pretty rough dirt roads. In total this route from Machu Picchu takes about 10+ hours once you factor in the walk, waiting for the shuttle, and the shuttle ride itself.
Also to catch the shuttle you should depart Machu Picchu no later than 11:00 am. While that would give you enough time to explore the site in the morning hours, you won’t have time to pursue one of the optional hikes like Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Furthermore, this option, which brings you back to Cusco after 10pm, makes for a very long day after waking at 3:30 am that same morning. The rough roads make it virtually impossible to snooze during the ride back.
It’s all a pretty dismal way to end what started out as a spectacular morning in Machu Picchu. As such, we don’t recommend it. But don’t worry, there are two other great options to consider.
Option 2: Stay in Aguas Calientes an Extra Night
You can stay in Aguas Calientes an extra night, delaying the shuttle ride for the following day. This is what we did and we were so glad we did it this way. We got down from Machu Picchu around 4 in the afternoon and we were so happy to return to our room to immediately take a hot shower. Rather than spend the rest of the day rushing to get to that dreadful shuttle, we were able to rest, relax, enjoy a nice dinner, and indulge in some well-deserved beers.
You can then have a leisurely morning during a “Day 5” of a Jungle Trek on your own. We can recommend beginning the day with a great yet economical breakfast at La Boulangerie de Paris French Bakery.
You’ll eventually need to walk the 2+ hours along the railroad tracks to get to the shuttle point. But along the route is a very good museum about Machu Picchu that few visitors actually make it to. So consider checking out Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon. We found it to be a bit overpriced, but it gives you something to do and breaks up the trek.
To stay this extra night in Aguas Calientes, a mere $10 per person was added to the price of our Jungle Trek (becoming $169). Meals during this time were also at our own expense, of course, as the Jungle Trek tour had officially ended.
Most of the travel agencies in Cusco don’t push or even mention this option of staying an extra night. You must ask for it. And we strongly recommend that you do. If you have the time to spare, doing this is so worth it.
Option 3: Return by Train
If you have more money than you do time, then returning to Cusco by train seems like the best way to go. This journey departs directly from Machu Picchu Pueblo, so no extra trekking is involved like the shuttle option. The evening departures also allow you to spend the entire day at Machu Picchu and return that same evening. The train back to Cusco only takes about 4 hours, compared to the 10+ needed with the walking + shuttle option. The only downside to the train is the cost. It’s an extra $70 per person to return by train, instead of the otherwise included shuttle transportation.
If you have the cash to spend, we think it may be worth the splurge on the train to avoid the dreadful shuttle ride. Yet for us, since we had the time, we opted to save $140 between the two of us to instead spend on further traveling.
Questions to Ask Before Booking the Jungle Trek
Most of the agencies in Cusco are all using the same tour operators for the Jungle Trek, yet just selling it a bit differently and at different prices. Here are some things you should ask about before booking the Jungle Trek to ensure all your expectations are met:
✔️Is Machu Picchu ticket included?
✔️Is whitewater rafting and ziplining included? (If not, ask for a price with both activities included.)
✔️What will the meals be like? (Expect hot meals, local Peruvian cuisine.)
✔️Does the guide speak English?
✔️Is there a full briefing with the actual guide the day/night before the Jungle Trek. (This should be provided)
✔️How many people will be on the tour?
(Take this answer with a grain of salt. One couple were told 10 people and ended up on a private tour, just the two of them. We were also told to expect 10 people and there were 20 people in our big group.)
✔️What is the difference in cost between returning by the shuttle and the train? (It should be $70.)
✔️What extra costs will you be responsible for covering during the Jungle Trek. (This should be minimal and we’ve outlined the below.)
Extra Costs During the Jungle Trek
Here are some extra costs you can expect to pay out of pocket during the Jungle Trek. Note that you will not have access to an ATM until arriving at Aguas Calientes on the afternoon of Day 3, so bring enough soles to sustain you at least until then. US Dollars were not widely accepted along the Jungle Trek although there were a few places along the way that would happily change your dollars to soles at an inflated rate. Here’s what you should budget for:
💵Optional hot springs on Day 2: The 10 Sole entrance is usually not included in the Jungle Trek price, but be sure to enjoy the hot pools after trekking all day.
💵Optional shuttle from hot springs to Santa Teresa: It’s only an extra 5 soles to stay clean after your hot springs soak and avoid walking down the road in the dark.
💵Mandatory cable car river crossing: There’s no other way to cross, so you must pay 10 Soles to the local people who run this cable car.
💵Bottled Water: Many bottled waters are a necessity along the Jungle Trek to keep hydrated. Water along the way is not drinkable from the tap or river. Thankfully, bottled water is readily available at random huts throughout the Jungle Trek. But expect to pay 2 and 3 times the prices found throughout the rest of Peru. Meanwhile drink prices at Machu Picchu are astronomical. Plan accordingly.
💵Beer/soda/alcohol: Lunches included juice. Coffee and tea is included with breakfast. But any extra drinks need to be purchased on your own.
💵Snacks: There are places to pick up small snacks along the way.
💵Tip for the guide: It is customary to tip your guide if you were happy with him during the 4-Day Jungle Trek. Our guide was great and we tipped accordingly. The other operators, like the ziplining guides, also made pleas for tips. We didn’t find it warranted, but you may want to consider a tip for them too.
💵Permit to Climb Huayna Picchu or Montaña: These trails that traverse mountains neighboring Machu Picchu are worthwhile add-ons to your Jungle Trek. This must be arranged with the agency you booked with when organizing your Jungle Trek. Huayna Picchu permits tend to be sold out at least a week prior even during low season. But Machu Picchu Montaña permits are often still available in the days leading up to your trek. This permit will add 48 soles ($15 USD) to your total and the agency you book with may tack on just a bit more.
More Jungle Trek Tips and Recommendations:
✔️Pick the right seat. The van ride to and from the Jungle Trek can be nauseating due to the combination of twists and high altitude. Sit in the middle front seat to avoid motion sickness.
✔️Do The Full 4-Day Jungle Trek. There is a 3-day / 2-night Jungle Trek option that omits the entire trekking day (Day 2) of the 4-day Jungle Trek. It’s a fantastic hike that takes in part of the Inca Trail. Don’t miss this unless you’re really short on time.
✔️Try the coca. If you’re feeling tired or the altitude is affecting you, do as the locals do and chew on some coca leaves. It’ll give you an energy boost and calm your nausea.
✔️Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water during the trek.
✔️Protect yourself from the sun and mosquitos. The Jungle Trek does venture through the jungle after all, and mosquitos love it there, so protect yourself accordingly for getting those annoying bites. Also protect yourself from the harsh Andean sun.
✔️Know your alcohol limit. On “party night” some jungle trekkers stayed out to 4:00 am! Wake-up the next day was 7:00. A few of them seemed to handle the next day miraculously well, while others were miserable during the Day 3 trek. If you can recover well, then have a good time! But if in doubt, call it an early night and party once you’re back in Cusco.
✔️Stay and enjoy the ruins! The guide gives a 90-minute tour of Machu Picchu that only covers a small portion of the massive site. You’re then left to explore Machu Picchu on your own. We were baffled that many people in our group left immediately. There was so much more to explore! You’ve come a very long way to get to Machu Picchu. Stay and marvel at this world wonder! If you’re tired from the early start, go ahead and get a cup of overpriced coffee. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Be sure to enjoy it!
✔️Plan to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña. These additional treks from Machu Picchu require an additional permit. The agency that books your Jungle Trek can add this to your package. The permit is an extra $15 but when booking through an agency as part of the Jungle Trek, you may be charged slightly more.
✔️Don’t return by shuttle the same day as you go to Machu Picchu. Although we’ve already covered in detail in one of the previous sections, it’s worth repeating. Take the train or make plans to return by shuttle the next day.
Be Considerate to Others on the Jungle Trek
The following tips should be common sense for most people. Yet during our trek, there were some unaware hikers that we wished were more mindful to their fellow travelers.
✔️Be on time. Don’t make the rest of the group wait for you. If there’s a 7:00 departure time, be packed and ready to go at 6:55.
✔️Use earphones. Somebody in another group hiking the Jungle Trek blasted his speakers throughout the entire hike. Meanwhile those of us who were there to connect with nature, listening to the sounds of the birds and the river, were forced to endure his noise pollution whenever our paths cross. Don’t be that jerk.
✔️Don’t litter. This should go without saying, yet we did notice a few empty bottles along the way.
✔️Don’t smoke near other hikers. We were amazed at how many smokers were able to accomplish the Jungle Trek. If you smoke and want to go on the trek, we say go for it. But please, just step away to have your cigarette. Don’t smoke when the rest of us our trying to catch our breathe after a steep ascent.
What To Pack for the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
We recommend to bring as little as possible, yet be sure you pack the essentials. Store your extra luggage at a hotel or hostel in Cusco while you’re off on the Jungle Trek.
Warm Weather Trekking Clothes: Remember, this trek is in the jungle – it’s warm and humid. The Jungle Trek goes through a completely different altitude and environment than the Inca Trail. Hence, lighter clothing is recommended. It does cool off at a bit at night, but while trekking during the day, you’ll want light dry-wicking clothing. To minimize the amount of clothes you carry with you, we recommend bringing just a single warm outfit that you can wear each night after you’re clean and when it’s cooler out. But definitely pack clean trekking clothes for each day of your hike.
Rain Gear: If you are attempting the Jungle Trek during rainy season, be sure to prepare for rain. A thin poncho may not cut it during a heavy downpour. Bring a proper rain jacket like this and also consider rain pants. It’s also a good idea to have a rain cover for your backpack to prevent all your belongings from getting soaked.
Shoes: Boots or trainers? Some people during our Jungle Trek had full-on boots while we (and others) simply wore trainers. Boots are a good bet to give you ankle support but can be big and bulky to travel with. We felt fine with trainers on the Jungle Trek. However, we most definitely recommend a pair of trail running shoes. You must have good grip on the soles. Don’t just wear a regular pair of sneakers., as that won’t cut it. We currently use New Balance trail running shoes which held up just fine during the Jungle Trek.
Bathing Suit: You’ll need something to wear in the water while whitewater rafting and in the hot springs.
A Travel Towel: Towels were NOT provided at any of the places we stayed at during the Jungle Trek. You’ll also want one to dry off after river rafting and at the hot springs. We recommend a lightweight quick-drying travel travel towel like this.
Mosquito Repellent: We often advocate natural mosquito repellent since repellent containing DEET can really harm the environment if you swim with it on. But there were lots of mosquitos here, so you may want to consider a stronger DEET repellent like this to prevent yourself from being covered in bites. Just don’t wear it in the water.
Flashlight: You’ll need a flashlight to navigate the trail to Machu Picchu in the early pre-morning hours. We use this Mini LED Flashlight, which we love as we found to be the most powerful flashlight for its small size and price. Better yet, trek to Machu Picchu handsfree with this headlamp.
Sun Protection: The sun can be pretty brutal out here. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen is a must. We found prices for sunscreen in Cusco to be relatively expensive, so stock up before you go. Amazon has good prices on Banana Boat. Pack some lip balm that contains SPF too.
The Usual Toiletries: Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, tampons, whatever. You know what you require. Don’t forget to pack the essentials.
Toilet Paper: Most of the bathrooms along the way did not have TP. Be sure to pack a roll.
Pain Reliever: Whether you’re sore from a day of trekking or have a headache from the higher altitude, pack something to help you deal with the pain. We like ibuprofen (Advil), but use what works best for you.
Snacks: Some meals were at odd hours, so it was good to have snacks to hold you off and give you energy. There were plenty of corner stores in Cusco to load up on your favorites. For an extra energy boost, try the coca cookies! There’s opportunities to buy snacks along the way too, but selection will be more limited and prices higher.
Cash Money: We recommend bringing a minimum of a few hundred soles. There’s no ATM until you reach Aguas Calientes, so you’ll need enough cash to be able to buy plenty of bottled water, extra drinks, the hot springs entrance, snacks, the cable car, shuttles, etc.
Passport: You MUST bring your passport with you to get to Machu Picchu. Don’t forget!
Be Sure To Have Travel Insurance: With all of these adventure activities while trekking on steep terrain, there’s certainly lots of room for the possibility of accidents. Whether it’s just sprained ankle or something much worse, you’ll want to be covered to get you out of a bad situation. We use World Nomads as we find they have the best coverage for the price. Enter your travel dates here to get a quick quote before your trip.
Jungle Trek vs Inca Trail vs Other Treks to Machu Picchu
We cannot say that the Jungle Trek is better or worse than the Inca Trail or other alternative treks to Machu Picchu. They are completely different experiences, which are all fantastic options on their own merit. All we can do is help point out some of the differences about the Jungle Trek to help you decide on which route is best for you. We don’t advocate one over another.
Jungle Trek vs Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is more about trekking along this historic route. It’s more about the Incan history, culture, mystique and tradition. We also think it probably has better vistas than the Jungle Trek, although that is subjective. Here are more objective points to consider between the Inca Trail and the Jungle Trek:
Costs: The Inca Trail costs more than the Jungle Trek. Low-cost Inca Trail tours start around $450.
Advance Planning: The Inca Trail often requires much advanced notice, while the Jungle Trek does not. You can sometimes score a last-minute Inca Trail permit in Cusco, but you should not plan on that. Many reliable sources cite a need to book an Inca Trail trip at least six months in advance during high season.
Activities: A key difference is that the Inca Trail is all trekking while the Jungle Trek includes adventure activities along the way. The Jungle Trek only has one full day of trekking on a trail, whereas the Inca Trail provides four days full of hiking along the ancient trail.
Elevation & Environments: The Inca Trail is higher altitude with mountain vistas, while the Jungle Trek stays lower in the jungle. The Inca Trail begins around 2,600 meters and climbs to 4,200 meters before descending to Machu Picchu Picchu. With the Inca Trail you’ll trek through much more diverse climates and environments. The Jungle Trek is flatter and stays mostly between 1,000-2,000 meters before climbing to Machu Picchu (~2,500 meters) on the final day.
Accommodation: The Inca Trail is camping, while the Jungle Trek you stay in basic accommodation in villages with beds.
Jungle Trek vs Salcantay Trek
Another popular route to Machu Picchu that we were highly considering is the Salcantay Trek. This high altitude trek to Machu Picchu was cited by National Geographic as being even more impressive than the Inca Trail. The Jungle Trek and Salcantay Trek prices are around the same range and there’s usually no need to book either in advance. Again, the Salcantay Trek is camping, whereas you sleep in beds during the Jungle Trek. The Salcantay Route is all about the amazing hiking through diverse landscapes, whereas Jungle Trek you have adventure activities between the trek through the jungle. The Salcantay Trek sure sounds tempting. But ultimately we were swayed to do the Jungle Trek based on the adventure and the great value for everything that is included.
Jungle Trek Key Differences
We think the Inca Trail and Salcantay Treks are likely to be visually more stunning than the Jungle Trek, you’ll trek across more diverse environments, and perhaps have a greater sense of accomplishment after reaching Machu Picchu on these tougher hikes while having the experience of camping along the way. Meanwhile, we think the Jungle Trek is arguably a more fun experience overall, filled with action & adventure, warmer, lower altitude, and easier physically. Each trek has its appeal and benefits. You really can’t go wrong any way, but those are some differences to consider.
Where To Stay In Cusco Before the Jungle Trek
You’ll definitely want to spend a few days in Cusco on either side of your Jungle Trek. Cusco is where to organize the trek from, and we found it to be an awesome city. We definitely recommend a few days here if time allows.
For Budget-Friendly Private Rooms
Be sure to stay somewhere centrally located that offers free luggage storage while you’re on the Jungle Trek. We also look for places that have private rooms, hot water showers, free hot breakfasts, and good wifi, without spending much. We found all those things at Pisko & Soul.
During the off-season on hotels.com we found they offer a “secret price” of $21.50 per night for a nice big ensuite private room at Pisko & Soul. You must be logged in to hotels.com to see that price. Usually it’s $48 per night. So we found this to be the best deal in Cusco and really enjoyed our stay there. Check hotels.com to see if that deal is available for your dates.
If not available, try Casa Imperial Inn on Booking.com. It’s perhaps not quite as nice as Pisko & Soul, but it’s the least expensive private ensuite room we could find that was centrally located, included (very simple) breakfast, free luggage storage, and wifi …all for less than $20 per night! We stayed there too for a few nights to check it out. While it was fairly basic, it is a heck of a good value in Cusco.
For a Good Hostel with a Party
If you are looking for more of a party hostel vibe, we had some friends who stayed at Wild Rover and said it lived up to the good online reviews. Wild Rover features an awesome onsite pub that we enjoyed visiting, as they were quite generous with free shots throughout the night. Check rates and recent reviews for Wild Rover on HostelWorld.
For A Little Luxury for Less
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for somewhere classier in Cusco that still caries good value, try the Sonesta Hotel, which is one of the highest rated 4-star hotels in Cusco for under $100 per night.
Machu Picchu Jungle Trek Review
We hope you’ve found this Inca Jungle Trek review to be helpful in planning your adventure to Machu Picchu.
The Jungle Trek is an awesome journey to the famed ruins with loads of thrills and an incredible value. We definitely give the experience our recommendation for adventure and value! Please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions in the comments. Happy travels!