Most people regard trekking to Machu Picchu a once in a lifetime experience, so undoubtedly, you will want to make sure you choose the best Inca Trail tour operator for your unforgettable adventure. One with a good reputation, that fits your budget, and that offers the style of trek you really want. (budget or luxury/two-or four-day/group tour or private)
The historically renowned Inca trail was built approximately 900 years ago by the Incas to connect their capital city of Cusco to the Sacred Citadel of Machu Picchu. Today, tourists begin their hike from Km 82, which is located along the railway leading to the town just south of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. This challenging hike offers trekkers views of incredible Andean landscapes, ancient Incan sites, and enchanting flora and fauna as they travel the total distance of 43km/26 miles.
Understandably, the Peruvian government regulates access to the Classic Inca Trail. The authorities restrict entrance to the trail using a permit process and they only issue 500 permits per day. While that may seem like a lot, the tickets are usually divided between 150 trekkers and 350 trekking staff made up of guides, chef’s and porters. You can only secure one of these permits through an approved tour operator. Space is limited, so unsurprisingly, its important that you plan and book in advance!
The Inca trail tour companies that operate in the Inca Trail Network must register and have the authorization of the National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the State (SERNANP) to operate officially. This year 2023 there are exactly 197 travel companies operating the Inca trail.
New travel Inca trail trekking companies are introduced every year. Usually, new companies are given permission to operate for one or two years before they have to renew their license.
There are also agencies that have been operating the Inca trail for many years, like Sam Travel and Orange Nation Peru. These agencies are given a 7-10 year permit. The more established agencies are usually the ones that have groups every day and when booking with them you can guarantee your trip to the Inca trail. They are the most reliable and dependable.
BEST RATED INCA INCA TRAIL TOUR OPERATORS & COMPANIES IN CUSCO
There are more than 200 travel companies that are licensed to operate the Inca Trail. The list we have provided includes some of the most well-established and reputable Cusco-based travel companies. In order to choose the best ones, we take a variety of factors into account. Included are companies that are featured frequently in the latest Peru travel guidebooks, review sites like Trip Advisor and travel forums.
To add to the glowing recommendations that these companies have received, it’s also important to note that they are all based in Peru. You get the benefit of local guides with a wealth of knowledge and information. Your money also helps the economical development of the communities of Peru and contributes to sustaining the ecosystem.
All these companies offer alternative treks to Machu Picchu, as well as various other tours around Cusco and beyond.
*** Inca Trail Permits are officially on sale for 2024 season!***
SAM Travel Peru
SAM Travel Peru is a highly professional tour & trekking company that caters for travellers of all age groups, making sure everyone makes it to their intended destination. A key feature offered by SAM Travel is small group sizes. They never exceed 8 trekkers per group, unlike many operators who will happily reach the maximum group limit of 16 people. This ensures a more personalized and tailored experience. They can gurantee any trek as long as a minimum of 2 people are booked. What’s more, the company’s Peruvian owner, Saul Alvarez, has been working along the Inca Trail since the age of 18, as a porter and later as a guide.
Orange Nation Peru
This company is focused on long term community growth and sustanaibility. They have been growing in leaps and bounds since their humble beginnings. It’s diligent employees are driven by hardwork and have a desire to upkeep the companies ongoing reputation. The owner of this establishment has always focused on the people in small isolated communities, who have very few employment opportunities. The tour guides, porters and cooks have shares in the company, with people earning a fair amount for their level of contribution. When you choose this company, you make a direct impact to all the lives of the people that make your adventure memorable. The company also has plenty of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. This is definitely one to consider.
Glamping Peru Treks
Glamping Peru Treks create treks and tours that offer unsurpassed luxury and comfort while hiking off the beaten track. All accommodations, food, and services are of the highest quality and standard. If you are looking for something upscale and luxurious while trekking or touring, this is the absolute best option for you. Do not be afraid to work with their service operators to create your dream personalized luxury trek or tour. The company group size averages 2 to 4 people, not exceeding 8 people. If you love your privacy, be sure to ask for a private tour. This company is the birth child of the well established and experienced Sam Travel Peru.
Spider Travel Perú
Spider Travel is a new & innovative local tour operator in Cusco, covering the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Lares Trek, Tour Packages to Machu Picchu, Luxury glamping treks, Rainbow Mountain and the Choquequirao trek.
APPLE TRAVEL PERU
Apple Travel was established in 2021, by a group of experienced tour guides from around the Cusco region. Their main feature is their competitive pricing. They work to ensure that they don´t comprimise on quality, while saving you a buck. Striving to provide simplified quality service. Experience, small group sizes, and reasonable prizes, what more could you need?
Other things to consider from a Top Inca Trail Tour Operator
As noted earlier, there are plenty of Inca Trail operators out there. We suggest you browse their websites, have a look at whats on offer for yourself and get in contact with them yourself. You can expect fluent english speakers to pick up and happily answer any questions you may have. This is also a great way to test their efficiency and effectiveness.
As for non-Peruvian international Inca Trail operators, they typically offer this trek as part of a larger package. These larger international tour operators often use local operators to actually run their Inca Trail treks.
Generally speaking, if you just want to book a trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it’s best to use a local company. But if you want a full travel package (e.g, Lima- Cusco-Machu Picchu- Lima, all inclusive), try companies like SAMCORPORATIONS. They offer package tours to all major spots around Peru. Including hot spots like Iquitos, Huacachina, Paracas, Puno, Areiquipa, Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca among many other locations. They can make any dream adventure you may have a reality!
What requirements should a tour company meet to be an Inca Trail operator?
Inca Trail operator licences are only given to local Peruvian companies that have a business address in Cusco City. International travel trekking companies have to outsource their groups to local operators.
Also, Inca Trail tour companies should have storage facilities with all equipment needed for Inca Trail. Such as, first aid aquipment, dinning tents, kitchen tents, cooking equipment, mattress, and cloths for the porters. SERNANP (the entity in charge of Inca Trail tour companies) visits each companies storage site yearly to supervise/audit.
How to know if a travel company is good?
We recommend you checkout tripadvisor reviews, reviews on google business, independent blogs and if its actually a registered business. Each company offers a different type of service. Some lead large groups, whereas others lead smaller more personalized groups. The size is usually a big factor in determining pricing and service standard. While big groups are more common we recommend you find a tour with a small and more personalized group size. This will ensure you get a more intimate and memorable experience.
Note: Believe it or not, all travel agencies offer the Inca trail, even though they do not have a permit. Those who do not have permission, only pass their passengers to companies that have permission. It is not advisable to book with them. Better to book with a direct local company like Spider Travel Peru, or SamCorporations.