Inca Trail tours

Best Inca Trail tours

The world-famous Inca Trail, which culminates at the lofty, mist-shrouded Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, is just one of several equally scenic and challenging treks in this region of Peru alone. For a memorable experience, book onto one of the impressive Inca Trail tours.

  1. Go with a reputable group which is committed to ethical practices
  2. Head to the Inca Trail on wheels
  3. Enjoy a sculpture trail like no other
  4. Discover the Inca Trail along with the ruins of Chachabamba
  5. Spot wildlife on your Inca Trail tour

Even though it’s just one among a multitude of paths across the Andes, the fabulous treasure of Machu Picchu at the end of its 43km path makes the Inca Trail one of the world’s most famous treks. Inca Trail tours are simply like no other and stand as one of the most memorable travelling experiences - check out our Cusco holiday packages for some fantastic options.

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1. Go with a reputable group which is committed to ethical practices

For the Classic Inca Trail most prices can range at around US$650-900, depending on the season, number of people in the group, quality of equipment and service. If you want the best, including luxuries such as inflatable mattresses or gourmet cuisine, expect to pay more. Make sure also that your agency adheres to the regulations governing proper wages and conditions for porters (at least US$15 per day, and carrying no more than 20kg); not all do, and especially not if they’re offering the cheapest rates. Even then, you should tip your porters as well as your guide. Most companies offer good value. Some agency rates include transport and entry to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu (S/345) in their price, but for others these are extra, so check before booking. Peru Treks is a fantastic option. It’s an experienced and responsible family-run business that only offers the classic four-day Inca Trail (around US$650), in groups of four to sixteen on set dates. The company is committed to ethical and sustainable practices, taking porter welfare seriously and supporting community projects.

Best for: General tour advice

Top tip: Whilst robberies on the Inca Trail are uncommon, travelling with someone else or in groups is always a good idea.

2. Head to the Inca Trail on wheels

A train journey through the Valle Sagrado, flanked by towering mountains and offering glimpses of sparkling snow-capped peaks, is one of the finest train journeys in the world, enhanced by very good service and comfortable, well-kept carriages. The longest of the train options, only offered occasionally by PeruRail, rumbles out of Poroy, fifteen to twenty minutes by taxi from the centre of Cusco (others leave from Urubamba and Ollantaytambo) before dropping rapidly down into the Valle de Urubamba via several major track switchbacks. Ollantaytambo’s pretty train station - the starting point for most train passengers these days - is right next to the river, which the train follows, as it winds its way down the valley, stopping briefly at Km 88, where the Inca Trail starts. The tracks then follow the Río Urubamba as the valley becomes more enclosed (which is why there’s no road) and the mountains become more and more forested, as well as steeper and seemingly taller.

Best for: Seeing Peru on two wheels

Top tip: Explore the coast of Peru for some glorious beaches, and more fascinating archeological sites such as the Nazca Lines.

3. Enjoy a sculpture trail like no other

Many people base themselves at the cramped resort town of Machu Picchu Pueblo (previously known as Aguas Calientes) - connected to Machu Picchu itself by bus - in order to visit the ruins at a more leisurely pace or in more depth. Its warm, humid climate and surrounding landscape of towering mountains covered in cloud forest make it a welcome change. There is the addition of a cultural sculpture trail around the place.

Best for: Spotting sculptures

Top tip: Tired from all the hiking? Enjoy a relaxing dip in the natural hot springs from where this town got its name.

4. Discover the Inca Trail along with the ruins of Chachabamba

The Camino Sagrado de los Incas, a truncated Inca Trail, starts at Km 104 of the railway line, 8km from Machu Picchu. The same costs and regulations regarding trail permits apply but you only have one full day of hiking (around 12km) and avoid camping. The route involves a steep climb (4-6hr) via the ruins of Chachabamba to reach Wiñay Wayna. Here most groups picnic before joining the remainder of the Inca Trail, which takes another two hours to complete. After soaking up the majestic vistas of Machu Picchu from Intipunku (the Sun Gate), you descend to spend the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo. The ruins are visited the following morning before you leave on the afternoon train. Earth Trekkers can organise a fantastic tour of the area for you.

Best for: For something a little extra

Top tip: The trek to the Sun Gate offers fantastic views of Machu Picchu across the valley - don’t forget your camera!

5. Spot wildlife on your Inca Trail tour

Acting as a bio-corridor between the Cusco Andes, the Valle Sagrado and the lowland Amazon rainforest, the Santuario Histórico de Machu Picchu possesses over 370 bird species, 47 mammal species and over seven hundred butterfly species. Some of the more notable residents include the cock-of-the-rock bird (Rupicola peruviana, known as tunkis in the Quechua-speaking Andes), spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and condor (Vultur gryphus). In addition, there are around three hundred different species of orchid hidden up in the trees of the cloud forest.

Best for: Looking for wildlife while you hike

Top tip: For more wildlife, you can paddle up to pink river dolphins, giant otters and monkeys in a dugout in Pacaya-Samiria.

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