It’s a given that you’ll want to choose one of the best TOP Inca Trail tour operators for your trek to Machu Picchu in 2019. One with a good reputation, that fits your budget, and that offers the style of trek you really want (simple or luxury, two-day or four-day, group tour or private).
The Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is considered to be one of the most amazing hikes in the world! This historically renowned 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 start their hike from KM82, which is located along the railway leading to the town just south of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. This challenging hike offers trekkers incredible vistas of the Andes as they travel the total distance of 45km /26 miles.
Understandably, access to the Inca Trail is extremely regulated by the Peruvian government. Entrance to the trail is restricted by a permit process and only 500 permits are issued per day. Everybody entering the trail, trekkers and trekking staff, needs a permit so they sell out quickly. A typical day on the trail consists of approximately 200 trekking tourists and 300 trekking staff made up of guides, chef’s and porters
If you are beginning your search for an Inca Trail tour operator, this list is a good place to start. There are more than 190 licensed Inca Trail operators in Peru. This list includes some of the most well-established and reputable Peru-based companies.
We have put together a list (below) featuring some of the best TOP Inca Trail operators based in Peru, based on a few different criteria. This includes personal experience with a number of companies (be it trekking, kayaking or other); recommendations from friends and colleagues working within the Peruvian tourism industry, especially in Cusco; and positive reviews in travel guides and travel websites, like TripAdvisor and travelers blogs.
We don’t claim that this is a definitive list; there are certainly other tour companies, both new and old, that probably deserve to be featured here but aren’t. You can recommend a company in the comments section below and we can add that one too.
The Best Top Inca Trail Tour Operators, based on information from 2020
The list takes a variety of recommendations into account including Machu Picchu tour companies that are featured regularly in the latest Peru travel guidebooks, review sites, travel forums, as well as some personal insight.
All of these companies are based in Peru, so the money you spend should stay in Peru. Besides being more sustainable, local companies have more updated information and usually have better guides too. All these companies offer alternative treks to Machu Picchu, as well as various other tours around Cusco and beyond.
Peru Treks & Adventure
Founded in 2002, Peru Treks focuses exclusively on the four day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. This specialization has served the company well, earning Peru Treks positive reviews from.
SAM Travel Peru is a highly professional Tour & trekking company that focuses on both young and older travelers alike, making sure everyone makes it to their intended destination. A key feature offered by SAM Travel is small group sizes. They never exceed eight trekkers per group, unlike many operators who will happily reach the maximum group limit of 16 people. What’s more, the company’s Peruvian owner, Saul Alvarez, has been working along the Inca Trail since the age of 18, including as porter and a guide.
For a while, this relatively new start-up company has been on my list of other Inca Trail tour operators to consider. The tour guides, porters and cooks have shares in the company, with people earning a fair amount for their level of contribution. The company has also had plenty of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Definitely one to consider.
Enigma Adventure offers group Inca Trail treks at a mid-range price, but they’re really known for their private luxury treks. These personalized treks can be more than double the price of budget 4 day/3 night treks to Machu Picchu, but you’ll be hiking in style with excellent service and gourmet food. Not for budget travelers, but worth considering if you want something a little more upscale (maybe for a honeymoon).
A Peruvian-owned Cusco-based tour operator founded in 2004, Sun Gate Tours ticks most if not all of the boxes for a solid and affordable Inca Trail option. No frills, perhaps, but it gets the job done in a reliable and conscientious way.
Wayki Trek was formed in 1998 by a group of experienced tour guides from different rural communities in the Cusco Region. A key feature offered by Wayki Trek is small group sizes. They never exceed eight trekkers per group, unlike many operators who will happily reach the maximum group limit of 16 people. So, plenty of local experience combined with small groups. What’s not to like?
As noted earlier, there are plenty of Inca Trail operators out there, some good, some bad, some in-between. Here are some more companies with a generally positive reputation:
Action Peru Treks: ($??): High price, good feedback in forums and on TripAdvisor, and a maximum of eight trekkers per Inca Trail group. Sounds promising!
Cusco Native ($700): This Inca Trail tour operator is owned by Renato Auca, a Quechua-speaking Cusco native (hence the company name) who also happens to be the current Vice President of ASOORCIC, the primary organization for Inca Trail guides and agents in Cusco. I don’t have any trekking experience with the company, but I have been in contact with them and they definitely seem like a good option. Good reviews on TripAdvisor, too.
As for non-Peruvian International Inca Trail operators, there are companies like G Adventures and Intrepid Travel that offer treks, typically as part of a larger package. These larger international tour operators often use local operators to actually run their treks.
Generally speaking, if you just want to book a trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or any alternative route, it’s best to use a truly local company. But if you want a full package (for example, Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu and back again, all included), then a well-known international tour company might be worth considering — but it will be more expensive than traveling to Cusco independently and then using a local company.
Sep, 12 2019
I would highly recommend Sam Travel as the ideal way to explore the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu City. We went on the 4 day trip from Cusco, to the trail, and then hike to Machu Picchu. It was a workout for a 56 year old man but well worth it. The food exceeded all our expectations. Our chef, Mario was the best of the best. I was able to taste a variety of Peruvian foods served with wonderful presentation and taste. Our guide Mauro and our group of Porters were so friendly, helpful, informative, and patient. Every detail was taken care of with a packing list, transportation to and from our trails and sites, and wonderful accommodations along the way. I will never forget this experience. It was a trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Sam Travel team.