It’s hard to believe hiking the world famous 26-mile Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is akin to taking the express train. Sure, it takes the better part of a day before you reach the Lost City, but if you take the longer and less crowded Salkantay Trek (i.e. local train), then you’re looking at a four or five-day hike. This “backway” to Machu Picchu is the most popular alternative to the Inca Trail. It climbs nearly 6,000 feet over the course of 37.5 miles, but because of the high altitude (it tops out at 15,200 feet) and the challenging terrain, it’s not advisable to go alone. Yes, it’s easy to find local guides in Cusco, but to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, go with a trusted tour operator like U.S.-based Austin Adventures who partners with local Peruvian guides.