Choosing an Inca Trail tour operator can be a giant headache. Which company is the best? Is the trek overpriced? Are the porters well paid or mistreated? Where and when and who and what and why… it’s not an easy decision.
To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of Inca Trail companies that are well worth considering. And while I haven’t personally trekked to Machu Picchu with all of them (that would be kind of crazy), I do have first-hand experience with some. The other operators are included due to their generally positive reputations (they regularly feature in the latest editions of various Peru guidebooks and on respected travel websites) or they were recommended to me by friends of mine, including guides in Cusco.
I also want your feedback: if you’ve used any of the Inca Trail tour operators listed below, please leave a comment — positive or negative — in the comments section. Also feel free to review any tour operator not listed here; with more than 170 licensed Inca Trail operators in Peru, there are certainly some hidden gems out there — and some best avoided.
The Best Inca Trail Tour Companies in Peru
The following companies are all based in Peru (mainly in Cusco). All prices are for the classic four-day/three-night Inca Trail trek unless otherwise stated (all prices in US$; current as of October 2016). Most if not all of these companies also offer alternative treks and tours to Machu Picchu and other destinations in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
- Valencia Travel Cusco — $695: I did the three-day Huchuy Qosqo trek to Machu Picchu with Valencia in October 2015 and it was great fun. I had an excellent guide and incredible local porters. I’m sure that a classic Inca Trail trek with Valencia would be a positive experience, too.
- Alpaca Expeditions — $645: With some of the best ratings on TripAdvisor, Alpaca Expeditions should definitely be on your shortlist of Inca Trail operators.
- Peru Treks — $650: Peru Treks specializes in the classic 4 day/3 night Inca Trail rather than offering a wide array of different treks and tours. That focus seems to have served them well, earning the agency a number of awards from Peru’s Ministry of Tourism.
- SAS Travel — $690: A well-established and well-known tour operator offering a wide range of tours and treks in Cusco.
- Chaska Tours — $630: Founded in 1999, Chaska Tours certainly has plenty of experience. The prices are competitive, too.
- Wayki Trek — $760: Formed in 1998 by a group of experienced tour guides from different rural communities, Wayki Trek has excellent reviews in TripAdvisor.
- United Mice — $670: Has run trekking, horse riding, rafting and jungle trips in southeastern Peru since 1987.
- Andina Travel — $665: An authorized Inca Trail operator since 2002, Andina Travel runs numerous treks and tours to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and other destinations throughout Peru.
- Sun Gate Tours — $616 per person with more than four people; $665 with three people; $742 per person with two people: Formed in 2004, Sun Gate Tours operates various treks and tours throughout much of Peru.
- Q’ente — $630: Operating since 1995, Q’ente offers various Inca Trail and alternative trek options to Machu Picchu, as well as five- to 20-day package tours.
- Llama Path — $650: With loads of positive reviews on TripAdvisor, Llama Path definitely looks like a good option. They seem to be very responsive to emails, too.
- Enigma Adventure — $755: Enigma prides itself on the treatment of its guides and porters, as well as the quality of its food, the latter perhaps accounting for the slightly elevated price.
- Explorandes — $775 not including entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and Inca Trail (US$129) (5 days/4 nights): I’ve never gone trekking with Explorandes, but I have been kayaking with them twice (once near Cusco and once on Lake Titicaca) and it was all good. I’d happily recommend them for the Inca Trail, for which they have an excellent reputation anyway.
- Andean Treks — listed as “$990 + $120 Machu Picchu Sanctuary Trail Fee” (5 days/4 nights): Founded by two North Americans but based in Cusco and with solid local connections, Andean Treks has a huge amount of experience (more than 30 years). The 5 day/4 night Inca Trail trek gives you a full final day at Machu Picchu.
- Amazonas Explorer — $1395 (5 days/4 nights): A luxury option that uses its longer five-day Inca Trail trek to strategically avoid the crowds.
- Culturas Peru — $1605: Private services with excellent personalized attention and highly experienced guides.
As you can see, there’s quite a range of prices among the Inca Trail operators. The $600 to $700 range is perfectly reasonable, but you should be wary of any classic Inca Trail trek (4d/3n) offered at a significantly lower price (less than $500).
Once you pass the $800 mark, you’ll be entering the higher-end and luxury options. If you spend much more than $2,000 for your four-day trek, you should expect real luxury.
International Companies Offering Inca Trail Treks
Some people might feel more comfortable booking an Inca Trail trek through an internationally recognized tour agency, or one based in the USA or UK (for example). If that’s the case, you might want to try one of the following:
- Guiding Peru — Based in the USA but with touring operations and staff located in Cusco. Classic four-day Inca Trail trek at $750 per person.
- G Adventures (formerly GAP) — Eight-day “Inca Discovery” starting in Lima, prices from $1599.
- Wilderness Travel — “Inca Trail to Machu Picchu” package starting and ending in Lima, prices from $4795.
I honestly don’t know how the majority of the international companies get their licenses, but I believe most of them contract local agencies or have their own operators in Peru.
This is what Phil Prendergast of G Adventures told me about the company’s Inca Trail operation:
“We have a Peruvian arm of the company that acts as our legal entity in the country to purchase and license Inca Trail permits for our passengers. We are on the agency list provided by the Government; however, it’s under our Peruvian name, Grandes Aventuras del Peru S.A.C (AG0113).
We can’t really comment on how other international companies operate and how their licensing works (as in if they have their own Peruvian companies or go through a locally license agency)”
If you want more of your money to stay in Peru, it’s probably best to support the local Inca Trail agencies before plowing more cash into the big international companies.