Inca Jungle, The Ultimate Inca Experience
The Inca Jungle trek to Machu Picchu is by far the most adventurous trekking option in the Cusco region. It is also the most varied in terms of activities.
The ‘trek’ includes a massive downhill mountain biking experience, followed by possible river rafting on Grade III and IV rapids, jungle trekking, and optional zip-lining. It culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu.
Most trekking companies offer the Inca Jungle trek on a 4D/3N itinerary, although it is possible to complete the trek on a 3D/2N itinerary (more on this below). Accommodation on the trek is in hostel or home-stays, with a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
The trek naturally appears to adventurous types who like thrilling adrenaline-filled experiences.
If you are looking for a pure Andean trekking experience, hate mountain biking and enjoying camping, then this trek is not for you. Rather check out these alternative treks to Machu Picchu or indeed, the Classic Inca Trail.
Below we have provided detailed information on the Inca Jungle trail itinerary and it’s route map. We have also provided guidance on the best time for this trek, acclimatisation and altitude sickness, and equipment packing lists.
Inca Jungle Trek Route Map
The Inca Jungle trek map below illustrates the route from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to Abra Malaga. From here trekkers cycle to Santa Maria, and then trek to Aguas Calientes via Santa Theresa.
Best Time for an Inca Jungle Trek
There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes – a dry season which runs from May through to September, and a wet season from October to April.
The Inca Jungle trek can be completed all year round, however, heavy rains during January and February often lead to landslides on the trail and road that connect Santa Maria with Santa Theresa and hence Some activities such as rafting or trekking often closes during this time of the year.
The best time to do an Inca Jungle trek is either during the dry season, or on the dry season shoulder months of March / April and October / November. The latter shoulder months are particularly good if you are keen to do some rafting in Santa Maria.
The trail is busier during the dry season, but nowhere near as busy as the Classic Inca Trail.
Temperatures are fairly consistent all year round, with warm days reaching into the high 20s (Celsius). Nights and early mornings are cold (in the single digits and sometimes drop below zero degrees, especially in the dry season).
You will want to bring layered trekking clothing so that you can layer up or down as the daily temperatures fluctuate (see packing list below for details on layering).
Finally, micro-climates are the dominant weather force in the Andes. Make sure to bring some wet weather gear, like a basic poncho, as it is possible to encounter rain at anytime in the year.
For interesting historical weather charts of Machu Picchu.
Acclimatisation and Altitude Sickness
The Inca Jungle trail is technically a high altitude trek, although the amount of time you spend at altitude is in fact very short.
The highest altitude you will reach is Abra Malaga Pass at just over 4,300m. From this point you descend relatively quickly, as you are cycling, and end the day at a rather low altitude for the Andes, just under 1,200m.
For the rest of the tour the trail undulates, but never goes higher than 2,000m. Machu Picchu itself sits at 2,430m, which is still relatively low.
This means that altitude sickness on the Inca Jungle trail is rare and nowhere near as prevalent on some of the other trails in this region where trekkers spend good portions of time hiking over 4,000m passes.
You are in fact at greater risk of succumbing to altitude sickness symptoms before you start the trek. Most visitors to Machu Picchu fly into Cusco which is situated at high altitude, over 3,400m. Experiencing mild altitude sickness, like a headache or nausea, is common for many visitors to Cusco.
It is important that you spend a few days acclimatising at this altitude before going any higher.
Another good option, if you have the time, is to immediately descend from Cusco into the Sacred Valley, which is a good 1,000m lower, and rest here for a few days before returning to Cusco to join your Inca Jungle trek.
Either way, acclimatising for a few days in Cusco or in the Sacred Valley before you begin your trek is a worthwhile investment.
We have written a detailed guide on acclimatisation and altitude sickness which we recommend you take a moment to read.
Inca Jungle Trek Packing List
The packing list for an Inca Jungle trek is very similar to that of a Classic Inca Trail trek. We have written a very detailed guide on the required gear for an Inca trail trek and we suggest you use this as a template for the Inca Jungle trail.
The key difference on the Inca Jungle trek is that you will not be camping, and hence you won’t need a sleeping bag or thermal mat as blankets will be provided at the hostels in Santa Maria and Santa Theresa.
Click here for our Packing List. link
Training, Fitness and Preparation
To help you prepare for the trek we recommend you check out our trek training programme.