Hiking the Inca Trail with my 66-year-old mother will be an experience I never forget. I remember before I started this RTW journey I asked my mom if she wanted to do the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu together. She immediately said yes, even though she had no idea what the trek entailed and wasn’t too sure what Machu Picchu was. My mom thought we would be staying in hotels, but instead we spent 4 days and 3 nights hiking and camping 3000m above sea level. The Inca Trail was definitely hard, but also rewarding. There is so much history on the paths we walked, and every morning waking up in the clouds I felt accomplished. Below are some of my favorite shots.

 

Inca Trail Tips – Booking the Inca Trail 101

When to Book:

Early! If you want to book the Inca Trail you must book in advance, since there are only 500 passes available per day. During peak season I would recommend booking at least 6-7 months in advance. For example when I checked availability on March 6, 2016 all passes were sold out until August 24, 2016. During rainy season (November – January) I would recommend booking at least 4 months in advance, although sometimes people were able to find availability one month in advance. (Note: The Inca trail is closed in February). You can find availability on this site: Inca Trail Availability

Best Companies:

There are a lot of third party vendors that sell the Inca Trail, so I would recommend booking the trek directly with one of the 3 companies versus with a 3rd party booking agency in order to get the best price.

1. Best Value Option: X- Treme Tourbulencia

I have the most information for this tour group since I booked with them. X-Treme Tourbulencia is the cheapest option and has good reviews. I would recommend this tour, but if I were to do the Inca Trail again I would go with Llama Path.

Pros:
  • Cheapest Option – $490 + $60 for porter
  • Delicious Food! – I was amazed by how good the food was. There was always more than enough and great presentation skills. (i.e – making a parrot out of a cucumber and some carrots)
  • Great Guide – Our guide was very passionate and proud of his heritage and the history of the Inca Trail. It was interesting to have a guide who shared a connection with the Aztecs.
  • Small Group – The total group size was 5, which was really nice since I was with my mom. If I was traveling solo I would’ve wanted a bigger group, but since I had my mom a smaller group was more intimate and felt like a private tour.
Cons:
  • Disorganized – The company does not give a lot of information before the trek and is slow at responding to emails. Often times the prices would be different on various bills that they sent.
2. Best Overall Option: Llama Path

During my trip I crossed paths with various tour groups and Llama Path stood out from the rest.  You could tell everything was tightly organized and that the porters were treated better than other tour groups. (The porters have a very hard job carrying 20 kg of camping supplies everyday and running through the Inca Trail in order to set up lunch and dinner before their groups arrive).  Llama Path offers a bit more luxury than Xtreme Tourbulencia, for example after 8 hours of hiking I would walk by the Llama Path tents and see that their air mattresses and sleeping bags were already made, whereas with my tour group I would have to set up my sleeping bag myself. The cons with Llama Path are that is is more expensive and has a larger group. Even though Llama Path is more expensive ($675 + $90 for porter), it is worth the extra ~$200. The Inca Trail is a once in a lifetime experience, so paying extra to get the best of the best is not that much in the grand scheme.

3. Highly Recommended Option: Peru Treks 

Peru Treks is another great option to book the Inca Trail. They are ethical and pay their porters a good wage. It’s well organized, they really take care of you and the food is amazing (Option to have gluten free food) . This trek is also more expensive ($650 + $ for porter).

Inca Trail Tips Before Going

  • Rent walking sticks and sleeping bags once in Cusco, it will be much cheaper, than booking through the tour agency
  • Arrive in Cusco 48 hours before your hike to get acclimated to the high elevation.
  • Buy Coca leaves or coca products and other snacks for your trek.
  • Hire a porter – unless you are an experienced hiker.

Highlights of the Trip

  • Everyone knowing me and my mom: My mom and I stuck together the entire trek and I guess we are memorable since I have an afro and my mom was the oldest one out there. When we finally got to Machu Picchu, people from other tour groups would clap for us and we had countless people come up to us to congratulate us for finishing.
  • Finally reaching Machu Picchu – I wouldn’t want to see Machu Picchu any other way. After hiking for 4 days Machu Picchu was the perfect ending and reward.
  • Sipping champagne after a 3 hour vertical hike to Dead Woman’s Pass.
  • Walking on a path with so much history and being able to see several Inca Ruins.
  • Meeting the porters at the end. The porters are amazing, and although they only speak Quechua, on the last night it was nice to learn more about them.
  • Meeting llamas

Worst Parts

  • Bathroom situation especially when you have the runs
  • The second day is very a long and tough day.
  • Unfortunately the moment we got to Machu Picchu clouds came

Alternative Options to Machu Picchu

If you didn’t book the Inca Trail in advance, do not fret, there are other hiking options once you get to Cusco. I spent a month in Cusco and I heard the most about these treks, which are cheaper than the Inca trail and you can book them with a tour agency in Cusco. There are also train options to get to Machu Picchu that can be done in 1 or 2 days, but my advice is to hike to Machu Picchu. The whole hiking experience makes Machu Picchu more worth it. Machu Picchu is extremely touristy and crowded, so going on a trek allows scenic views without the crowd.

Trek Pros Cons Price Length Where to Book
Lares Less touristy and more cultural since walk through local villages Need to take train to Machu Picchu so often more expensive $400-$635 4 days Ask around in Cusco
Salkantay Most popular alternative due to best scenery More challenging than Inca Trail $275 - $655 5 days American Incan Trail (German Flores): http://www.americanincatrailcusco.com/salkantay-trek-5d-4n.html#peru
Inca Jungle Trek Includes biking, and can add rafting and ziplining for nominal price. Available in February No camping $245 4 days Loki Travel: http://lokihostel.com/en/travel/tour/inka-jungle-trek-machu-picchu