Inca Trail - Best Tours & Trips 2019
The Inca Trail is one of the most popular ways to access the incredible site at Machu Picchu. You must go with a guide, if you wish to hike the famous trek. This can be arranged in country, but a more sure way is to book a guided trip. They provide insights and support along the way to spectacular Machu Picchu.
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- Visit the village of Huayllabamba
- Experience 2-hours hike leads to Intipunku (Gate of the Sun) which overlooks the awesome Machu Picchu
- Enjoy the climb magnificent views of the mountain ranges.
- Visit the Runkuraqay and Sayacmarca ruins
- Explore Cusco
- Visit Soraypampa and experience with a hiking level of moderate to challenging is the most popular activity
- Explore the complete guided Machu Picchu
- Visit Santa Teresa River Valley
- Remote full-service camping trek through the beautiful Vilcabamba Range
- Walk on the classic Inca Trail and enjoy a guided tour of Machu Picchu
- Spectacular views of Mt Salcantay (6271m) and its glaciers
- Spend four nights in Cuzco, the old Inca capital
- Explore the fortresses and markets of the Sacred Valley
- Cruise the galápagos for four nights aboard the xavier iii
- Snorkel with sea lions
- Spot rare birds in secluded lagoons
- Find land iguanas feeding in the cactus forests on south plaza island
- Visit lake titicaca and opt to fly over the nazca lines
- Trek the inca trail to machu picchu
- Encounter wildlife in the amazon jungle
- Trek the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with magnificent mountain views
- Visit incredible Machu Picchu
- Enjoy three hearty meals a day on trek prepared by our cooks
- Journey on the train from Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley
- Enjoy a guided tour of Machu Picchu to discover the ruins
- Visit the Sacred Valley, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo
- Explore the museums and churches of the ancient Inca capital, Cuzco
- Have two days to acclimatise before the trek
- Alternative Moonstone Trek available when Inca Trail permits have sold out
- visit all of the sacred sites like Machu Picchu, The Sacred Valley
- Visit Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca and other monuments and ruins important to the Peruvian culture and people.
- Explore places truly have a mysterious, yet revered, feel to them.
- Our local guides will accompany you every step of the way
- Also experience delectable local cuisine and stay at fantastic four-star hotels along the way.
- Hike the famed Inca Trail from Pisacucho to Machu Picchu
- Experience the “Lost City of the Incas” through an on-site lecture or an optional hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu
- Learn about the remarkable Incan agriculture system in the Sacred Valley
- Board on rail to see Machu Picchu
- Visit the world renowned and colorful Indian market in Pisac
- Enjoy a guided walking tour around Cuzco
- Visit lake Titicaca
- Embark on an unforgettable boat journey to explore the magnificent scenery and fascinating life on and around the lake.
- Visit the floating islands of the Uros Indians
- Enjoy a guided afternoon tour of both colonial and modern Lima
- Explore Lima
- Visit the ruins on your own or explore Aguas Calientes
- Explore the walls, stairways, temples and terraces of Machu Picchu.
- Visit the colorful Pisac market where you'll be able to trade with locals for a variety of handicrafts
- Explore the heart of Amazon River on board of the Amatista River boat.
- Visit the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, Peru's largest national park
- Explore Iquitos
- Highest trek in Peru
- Stunning "Rainbow Mountain"
- Classic Peruvian llama trekking
- Enjoy full day at Machu Picchu
- Explore Lima
- Discover Cusco
- See Sacred Valley
- Visit to Machu Picchu
- Explore the amazing history of Cusco
- Enjoy hike Machu Picchu
- Amazing Inca ruins
- Wonderful Peruvian cuisine
- Explore Andes Mountains to Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire.
- Visit Machu Picchu
- Experience hike towards Ollantaytambo
- Discover Cusco
- Visit to the Cathedral, which is over 450 years old
- Explore the magnificent ruins of Saqsaywaman, Kenko and Tambomachay
- An excellent opportunity to take some photographs or maybe visit some of the other museums in town
- Visit other Inca sites such as Tipon (Temple of the water), Pikillacta ruins, or to the experimental terraces of Moray
- Enjoy spectacular show that Inti Raymi
- Explore Machu Picchu Sanctuary, one of the greatest archaeological wonders on the planet
- Visit Huayna Picchu or the Temple of the Moon
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Top Inca Trail Experiences
Reaching the famous archaeological site of Machu Picchu just as the sun was rising
Completing the full Inca Trail trek, a great achievement!
Learning the ancient history of the Incas along the trail, and walking among the famous Machu Picchu ruins
Passing through other ancient settlements on the way to Machu Picchu
Getting up early to catch the bus from Aguas Calientes and feeling the excitement of fellow travelers completing a bucket list item
Inca Trail Trip Reviews
730 Inca Trail Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend
Inca Trail Tours and Travel Guide
Inca Trail Attractions & Landmarks Guide
The Inca Trail is one of the most popular ways to access the incredible site at Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is one of the most popular ways to access the incredible site at Machu Picchu. You must go with a guide, if you wish to hike the famous trek. This can be arranged in country, but a more sure way is to book a guided Machu Picchu tour. They provide insights and support along the way to spectacular Machu Picchu.
What is the Inca Trail?
Part of the draw of travelers to the Inca Trail is the sensation of literally walking through history. Originally a pilgrimage route used by the Inca, the trail was part of an intricate and advanced road system created by the Inca people. Approximately 24,800 miles, the road system was used to transport goods and send messages as efficiently as possible.
When the Spanish arrived, these roads became important methods of evasion from groups of explorers and colonists. The Spanish, with their clothing ill suited to the area, lack of experience with altitude, and no frame of reference for where to go, had difficulty tracking the Inca warriors through this web.
The Inca Trail portion of this complex road system, as we know it today, is 26 miles long, and typically takes 4-5 days to hike.
Planning Your Inca Trail Tour
The process of embarking on your Inca Trail trek begins at least six months prior to your arrival in Peru, at which time you’ll need to purchase your Inca Trail permit. These sell out extremely fast, so the earlier you can plan ahead the better.
One of the reasons they sell out so quickly is that a limited number of hikers are allowed on the trail a day - 500 to be exact, and this includes porters and guides. You may only travel on the Inca Trail with a guide, which includes a porter for carrying food and camping gear. It is possible to find a guide in country, but do so at your own risk. Some may be scams ready to pray on the many tourists milling around Aguas Calientes or Cusco preparing to visit Machu Picchu.
The safer option is to plan to travel with a guided tour company. Most major travel companies have trips along the Inca Trail, and there's a lot of variety in terms of group size, and age range. They company will help ensure you get your permits in time and allows you more time to enjoy preparing for the trip and the actual journey, without having to worry about hiring legitimate guides and porters to take you along the trail.
The Inca Trail winds its way, 26 miles long, through many ancient settlements, each one providing clues to the history of the Inca Empire’s history; where and how they lived, their customs and culture. You will reach Machu Picchu with a more detailed context of the life led by ancient Inca people, allowing you to fully appreciate the incredible archaeological site.
You can check out our article on the best time to visit Machu Picchu for more information about weather and crowds.
What to Pack for the Inca Trail
You’re going to want sturdy, broken in equipment. Prepare by going on long hikes with your pack and hiking shoes at least six to eight months prior to your trip. This will minimize any surprises you have along the way in terms of rubbing, chafing, and blisters. It will also get you used to the weight.
It will most likely rain or be damp at least part of the time along your trek. You’re hiking through jungle after all! Appropriate, light, rain gear, will be essential. This includes a jacket and cover for your backpack. You’ll want lots of layers with breathable material. Avoid cotton as it absorbs sweat and aside from being smelly, will get warm and uncomfortable as you heat up throughout the day. The best materials are Polyester and Nylon.
You’ll be hiking in mud, over slick rock in some area, up and down steep hills. For this you’ll want good hiking boots with a lot of ankle support. Bring sock liners to help prevent blisters and make your shoes more comfortable. Wool hiking socks overtop are the final ingredient for perfect Inca Trail hiking feet!
Hiking poles are also a very good idea. You may scoff and think they aren’t necessary, but once you’re out on the trail you may find them more useful than you think! Small, light, collapsible poles are available at most major outdoor gear outfitters. And even if you don’t end up using them, someone else in your group will most certainly be able to.
Nighttime can get very chilly. Bring a down sleeping bag and liner. The tour company will provide tents, cooking materials, and other accessories.
Besides clothing, you’ll want to bring some first aid. Bandaids, antiseptic, vaseline, bug repellant, water purification tablets, and moleskin, will all prove themselves useful.
Other useful items include a travel towel, rope which has several uses - a popular one being as a clothes line, swiss army knife, bathing suit, and plastic bags for trash.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Of the three main treks to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail is by far the most popular. Seen as a rite of passage by many, the trek is challenging, but by no means impossible for the vast majority of travelers. You’ll pass through some incredible history as you make your way to the classic bucket list item that is Machu Picchu.
Guided tours along the Inca Trail typically begin in Cusco, where you’ll spend a few days to get used to the altitude and visiting some other significant archaeological sites from the time of the Inca Empire. These sites have less notoriety than Machu Picchu, but are no less fascinating.
When you leave Cusco you'll transport to “kilometer 82” which is the beginning mark for hikers. Here you’ll present your pass and be permitted into the park where you will meet your group, guides, and porters.
Most Inca Trail tours last 4 to 5 days, hovering between 5-8 hours a day. Even despite the strictly enforced restrictions on the number of hikers per day, in most months of the year, you will see and pass other hikers along the way. Campsites are usually buzzing with the activity of multiple groups settling in for the night.
For most people, the toughest day along the Inca Trail is Day 2, Dead Woman’s Pass. This section includes around 5 hours of constant uphill, after which you’ll get a slight respite. The days following are difficult, with uphill and downhill portions, but not as tough as the summit to Dead Woman’s Pass (for most).
If you are moderately in shape, the Inca Trail will be challenging but definitely doable. If you have difficulty walking, or have health complications, the trail is probably not the best choice. But this doesn't mean your days of visiting Machu Picchu are over! Many opt to take one of the three popular trains (of varying comfort levels from luxury to basic) from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes. This is the perfect trip for active senior travelers. Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes you can arrange to stay a few days, giving you plenty of time to explore the ruins and take advantage of the towns nearby hot springs.
Is the Inca Trail Ever Closed?
Yes. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February, when Peru experiences the heaviest rainfall during the year. This causes mudslides, and dangerous hiking conditions. Not to mention, it would just be uncomfortable and underwhelming - with dense fog obstructing most of the incredible views there are to see along the way.
However, the site of Machu Picchu itself is open year round. So while the Inca Trail is closed in February, you can still visit Machu Picchu via one of the three different rail options, which leave from Cusco, or the Salkantay Trek. While crowds will be minimal, it will be extremely wet, muddy, and rainy.
Trekking in Altitude
If you’re not prepared for it, high altitude can cause mild to severe discomfort. Machu Picchu is at nearly 8000 ft above sea level, and it’s important to acclimate before heading off on the Inca Trail trek.
Most people spend a few days in Cusco getting used to the altitude. Guided tours to Machu Picchu will often include this time in their tour itinerary. If not, however, it will be a good idea to plan on arriving in Cusco a few days before your tour begins.
Along the way, as you hike the Inca Trail your tour guide will have any number of remedies to help if you experience altitude sickness, including the most popular - eating raw cocoa leaves. Know the signs so you can recognize as soon as possible when you need to take a break - these include nausea, headache, and disorientation. Drink plenty of water and take it slow. You will adapt, but it takes different amounts of time for everyone.
A Sunrise to Remember
One major benefit of hiking the Inca Trail, instead of taking the train, is the opportunity to be among the first to see Machu Picchu as day breaks. Arrive as the early dawn sun filters through the misty fog, welcoming you to step into history.
While hoards of tourists staying in Aguas Calientes line up at 4am to catch the bus and reach the Sun Gate before the afternoon crowds, hikers on the Inca Tail get the opportunity to enter the site even before these eager travelers. Beware though - the fog can be dense in the morning and you may not see the sun until it rises dramatically above the clouds a few hours into the morning.
Alternatives to the Inca Trail
If you don’t want to hike, or are seeking a less crowded route, fear not. There are multiple routes and ways to reach Machu Picchu; the Inca Trail just happens to be the most well known.
Many opt for the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. This is a beautiful rail journey through the Andean countryside, where you can sit back and relax, visiting various historical stops along the way.
You’ll arrive in Aguas Calientes, the small yet mighty hub at the base of Machu Picchu, 5 miles from the Sun Gate. You can opt to stay here for a few days, which allows you ample time to visit the site two days in a row, as well as take advantage of the nearby hot springs.
Other routes to Machu Picchu include the Salkantay Trek and the Lares Trek. The Salkantay Trek is 37 miles, and very challenging, while the Lares Trek is slightly shorter than the Inca Trail (21 miles) and moderately challenging.
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