If you’re beginning your search for an Inca Trail tour operator, this list is a good place to start. It’s not complete -- there are currently 175 licensed Inca Trail operators in Peru with new agencies springing up each year -- but it does include some of the most well established and reputable Peru-based companies. The agencies featured here also offer alternative treks to Machu Picchu as well as other treks and tours in the Sacred Valley.
The list takes a variety of recommendations into account, including Machu Picchu tour companies that feature regularly -- and positively -- in the latest Peru travel guidebooks, review sites and travel forums (as well as some personal insight).
All listed Inca Trail prices (US$ per person) are for the classic 4 day/3 night trek unless otherwise stated. Prices last updated in April 2013.
For more information about planning a trip to the Inca citadel, read Tips for Picking a Machu Picchu Tour.
Explorandes offers treks at the higher end of the price scale, but it is one of the more respected and established Peruvian tour operators. Since its foundation in 1975, the company has received plaudits for both its commitment to responsible tourism (a “verified” status from the Rainforest Alliance and an ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system) and the level of service it provides (various awards, including “World´s Leading Green Tour Operator” in the 2012 World Tourism Awards). Explorandes runs tours and treks throughout much of Peru, including private departures and tailor-made tours. Its fixed departure, 5 days/4 nights Inca Trail trek departs on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Inca Trail price: $813
In 2001, a Cusco native -- with 20 years of experience in adventure tourism in Peru -- joined forces with his North American business partner to found Andina Travel. The company has been an authorized Inca Trail operator since 2002, while also running numerous alternative treks and tours to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and other destinations throughout Peru. The company offers a 2 day/1 night short Inca Trail trek and the more classic 4 day/3 night trek, as well as “non-trekking soft adventures” through Cusco, the Sacred Valley and on to Machu Picchu (4d/3n and 6d/5n). Inca Trail prices are slightly higher than average, but Andina takes good care of its trekkers -- as well as its guides and porters.
Inca Trail price: $585 (classic 4 day/3 night trek)
Peru Treks specializes in the classic 4 day/3 night Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, a focus that has made it a consistently recommended operator. As well as frequent appearances in various Peru travel guides, the company has also received plaudits from Peru’s Ministry of Tourism (Best Travel Agency in Cusco 2006; Best Adventure Tour Operator 2011). Peru Treks prides itself on porter welfare (all 250 of them), its 20 bilingual Peruvian guides and its involvement with community projects.
Inca Trail price: $545
Andean Treks was founded in the late-1970s by a group of expatriate friends living in Cusco. But don’t let the non-local roots put you off: these guys have worked their way up through the highs and lows of Peru’s recent history, building an adventure travel agency that now operates throughout much of South America. The Andean people remain a fundamental part of what Andean Treks is all about, with local knowledge and expertise playing a key role in all treks and tours. The 5 day/4 night Inca Trail trek is significantly more expensive than most, but the extra day (most classic Inca Trail treks are 4d/3n) gives you much more time to explore Machu Picchu itself. Andean Treks is partnered with Inca Tours And Travel Adventure S.A.C., an officially licensed Inca Trail operator.
Inca Trail price: $825 (5 day/4 night)
Founded in 1987, United Mice has built a strong reputation over the years for trekking, horse riding, rafting and jungle trips in southeastern Peru. You can expect plenty of local knowledge from the porters and guides, as well as no-nonsense trekking with good food and equipment. The company also donates 1% of its profits to a foundation helping street children in Cusco.
Inca Trail price: $580
The latest editions of Lonely Planet Peru and Moon Peru both recommend Ecoinka as a trekking outfit, but it now caters only to global travel agencies. Individuals looking to trek the Inca Trail (and alternative Machu Picchu/Sacred Valley routes) should have a look at Aventours, a registered name of Ecoinka. Its 5 day/4 night classic Inca Trail trek is well crafted and environmentally conscious. If you’d prefer a 4 day/4 night trek at a slightly reduced price, you can skip the Sacred Valley stage of the tour.
Inca Trail price: $620 (5d/4n); $575 (4d/4n)
Founded in Cusco in 2002, Enigma Adventure is an adventure travel and trekking specialist with one foot placed firmly in the luxury market. Its classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (4 days/3 nights) is more expensive than many, but clients can expect a highly personalized experience, with a maximum of 12 people in each group (no minimum) and two guides for groups of more than eight people. Enigma also prides itself on the treatment of its guides and porters, as well as the quality of its food.
Inca Trail price: $662
Q'ente has been operating in the Peruvian Andes since 1995, primarily as an adventure tour and trekking company. Trekkers can choose from five different Inca Trail excursions, ranging from a short 2 day/1 night option to the lengthy Salkantay Inca Trail (7d/6n). Q'ente also offers a wide range of alternative routes to Machu Picchu, as well as five- to 20-day package tours. Inca Trail group sizes range from two to 16 people.
Inca Trail price: $598
Inca Trail price: from $1381 (5d/4n)
Don’t let the poorly written website put you off: SAS Travel is a solid option with almost two decades of experience leading tours and treks in Cusco and Peru. The company prides itself on its responsible outlook, including a dedicated “leave no trace” tourism ethic and concern for porter welfare. SAS also has a reputation for providing its trekkers with above average food, but that’s perhaps to be expected considering the above average price of its standard 4 day/3 night Inca Trail trek.
Inca Trail price: $620
Llama Path is one of the later additions to the Cusco circuit, but the agency has built a big reputation since its foundation in 2004. It offers group and private treks to Machu Picchu, including a variety of Inca Trail alternatives. Groups contain a maximum of 16 people, but the average group size (according to the Llama Path website) is from 8 to 10 people.
Inca Trail price: $599
More Inca Trail Companies to Consider...
As noted earlier, there are plenty of Inca Trail operators out there, some good, some bad, some in-between. Here are some more companies that seem to have a generally positive reputation:
- Big Foot
- Chaska Tours
- Culturas Peru
- Eco Trek Peru
- Machete Tours
- Naty's Travel
- Peruvian Odyssey (luxury)
- Sky Viajes Y Turismo
- Sun Gate Tours
- Wayki Trek
- X-Treme Tourbulencia
Again, don’t forget to do some additional research before you book your trek. Being listed here is a positive sign, but it doesn’t guarantee a faultless experience with any featured operator. Likewise, you shouldn’t completely dismiss a Peru-based tour agency just because it isn’t listed here -- you might just stumble upon a hidden gem...