The Complete List of Inca Trail Tour Operators and Which Company to Avoid when Booking a Machu Picchu Tour – WanderLawyer

There are many options when choosing a Machu Picchu guide, but one company you should avoid.
Machu Picchu in the evening from Circuit 1

The four primary options to enter Machu Picchu:

1. The classic 4-day Inca Trail trek. This trek is the most popular and the busiest. It requires four days of hiking along the famous Inca trail, traveled by Inca religious leaders and royalty in the 13-15th centuries. The hike is challenging and requires overnights at camping sites along the trail. This option requires a guide and spots fill up months in advance.

2. The 2-Day Inca Trail trek. This is a truncated version of the Inca trail that can be completed in one day. It requires a full day of backpacking and a guide, but offers trekkers a shorter version of the Inca trail.

3. The Salkantay trek. This is the most strenuous trek and takes between 4-5 days. However, this option does not requires a tour guide and there is no limit to the amount of trekkers on the trail. Because of this, its often considered a better and more popular option for those trekkers who can withstand long, high-altitude treks.

4. Bus from Agua Calienties. For those who do not have time or are not physically fit enough for a trek, its possible and popular to take a bus from Agua Calienties to Machu Picchu. This option does not require a guide, but is the busiest and arguably least rewarding path to Machu Picchu.

Do you need an authorized tour guide to hike the Inca Trail?

Yes, to hike along the Inca Trail you are required to use an authorized guide or tour company. You will not be permitted to enter the Inca Trail without a guide, and will be turned away if you arrive unaccompanied. At the end of this blog, we provide a list of all 60+ licensed Inca Trail Guides.

Our Bad Experience with Machu Picchu Reservations

We had wanted to visit Machu Picchu for years and decided this spring to pull the trigger and start planning a trip. Based upon our time and interests, we opted for the 2-Day Inca Trail trek. As experienced travelers who have navigated numerous tours worldwide, we knew thought we knew what to look for when selecting a for Machu Picchu. Admittedly, we have have with high standards for tour operators and search for operators which advertise comprehensive, detail oriented schedules to avoid any surprises.

After extensive research and comparison, we chose Machu Picchu Reservations, attracted by their seemingly comprehensive itineraries and positive online presence. Machu Picchu Reservations had many tour options, each with a very detailed itinerary. Based upon our internet research, they seemed like the best option. However, our experience starkly contrasted with our expectations, leading to considerable disappointment.

Choosing the Tour Operator

The decision to book with Machu Picchu Reservations was not made lightly. Their website boasted detailed itineraries and a range of options that promised a deep dive into the history and beauty of the Inca trail. As travelers who value thoroughness in both the planning and execution of travel, we were willing to pay a premium, assuming that a higher price would secure a superior experience. This assumption was based on detailed comparisons and reviews, which seemed to place Machu Picchu Reservations above their competitors.

Early Interactions and Red Flags

Our initial communications with Machu Picchu Reservations were promising. They responded promptly to my inquiries, providing information that helped cement my decision to book the 2-Day Inca Trail Trek. We had requested an extra night in the town near Machu Picchu, Agua Calienties. They assured me this would not be a problem, and were able to answer additional questions about the trip.

However, as the trek approached, red flags began to appear. A month before the trek, I received a packing list that curiously omitted a change of clothes, soap, toothpaste and other essentials for any any multi-day hike. This omission led me to believe that packing and luggage logistics were managed by the company. This was not an uncommon assumption given that most tour operators on the Inca Trail provide porters to carry luggage and essentials. Machu Picchu Reservations even stated on their website that porters were provided for the Inca Trail. At the time, we decided to wait for further details assuming we would be provided more information leading up to the trek.

Luggage Logistics and Last-Minute Chaos

Four days prior to the trek, I wrote an email to confirm arrangements for our luggage, only to be met with vague and unhelpful responses. Instead of answering my direct question about what to do with our luggage, the response I received from Machu Picchu told me “not to worry” and that everything would be answered before the hike.

My follow-up texts were ignored, and it wasn’t until eight hours before the trek that I was abruptly informed about the need to carry all our essentials. Given that had been in Peru for a month prior to the trek, we had quite a bit of luggage making it impossible to pack everything we had and carry it all with us on the trail. This led us to scramble the night before the hike to try and find luggage storage and a backpack rental which would allow us to carry essential clothing, medicine, and toiletries for the multiday trek.

This late disclosure added unnecessary stress and frustration right at the outset of what was supposed to be an exciting adventure.

Day One: Trekking Mishaps and Guide Disappointment

The day of the trek started on a sour note with us being unexpectedly required to carry our lunches, adding an unwelcome physical burden and logistical puzzle.

Although we were provided notice ahead of time that lunch would be provided, there was no disclosure that we would have to pack the lunch ourselves. This normally would not have been an issue, but the lunch itself was bulky and heavy. Instead of a sandwich and a plastic water bottle, we were saddled with a large precooked meal and drink that came in a heavy glass bottle. We had, of course, already packed a sufficient amount of water and had no desire to lug a heavy glass bottle up the trail. But we had no option to decline the lunch, and no trash receptacles were available on the trail. The food quality was poor, contributing further to my discomfort as it made me sick during the hike.

To make matters more unpleasant, the guides provided by Machu Picchu Reservations lacked the enthusiasm and depth of knowledge compared to the vibrant, informative narratives offered by other guides we encountered on the trail. Our guides, it seemed, were either less prepared to share information about Inca history or were uninterested in providing any additional information about the Inca civilization beyond one or two sentences at a time. During the trek, I felt as if the guides were merely our chaperones. Although this would be fine if Machu Picchu Reservations had disclosed the level of detail our guides would provide, the website made the experience appear as if we would be learning about Inca history along our trek. In fact, the high prices of the tour operator suggested a more comprehensive experience.

Accommodation and Hotel Chaos

The accommodation booked on our behalf by Machu Picchu Reservations in Agua Calientes was a significant letdown. The hotel was not only one of the least appealing in the area but also lacked basic comforts expected after a demanding day of hiking, such as hot water and a quiet room. Although we have no problem roughin’ it, the fact that we paid Machu Picchu Reservations a premium made it appear that they literally found the cheapest hotel in town for the tour to stay to increase their margins.

The mismanagement peaked when I discovered that an additional night I had booked was mishandled. We had earlier asked Machu Picchu Reservations to book an additional night at the same hotel in Agua Callienties for us on the second day of the trek, instead of returning to Cusco on the afternoon of the second day. I was assured this would not be a problem. Weary of this flippant assurance, I double checked both with the hotel staff and the guide on the morning of the second day. “Don’t worry!” I was told again, and so we left the morning on the second day assuming we would be able to return to the same room.

Despite these multiple confirmations, I returned to find our belongings had been moved to a different hotel without my knowledge or consent. When I asked the hotel clerk why this happened, the clerk told me Machu Picchu Reservations “made a mistake” and did not book an additional night at the original hotel.

I later discovered that some of our belonging were lost in the move from the first hotel to the second resulting – a glaring testament to the disorganization that plagued the tour from start to finish.

Cautionary Advice

The series of failures by Machu Picchu Reservations from logistical mishaps to poor service quality starkly highlighted the gap between promise and delivery. This experience has reinforced the importance of not only thorough research but also the need for consistent follow-through and clear communication from tour operators.

For fellow travelers eager to explore the wonders of Machu Picchu, I do not recommend booking a tour with Machu Picchu Reservations, and I encourage you to proceed with caution and ensure that your chosen company can truly deliver on its commitments.

The breathtaking beauty of Machu Picchu deserves a seamless and enriching journey, free from the distractions and disappointments that overshadowed my experience.

Alternatives to Machu Picchu Reservations

How can you avoid our negative experience when choosing your own tour? We’ve pasted the entire list of licensed tour operators below.

Romarie Travels does a decent job breaking down the pros and cons of other tour companies, as do numerous reddit forums. We’ve bolded the names our tour companies which others have recommended. Please be aware, though, that we have not personally vetted each of these tour companies and so it’s incumbent upon you to do thorough research to ensure you are comfortable with the guide before booking your tour.

List of all authorized Inca Trail Tour Guides and Operators

  • 69 Explorer Peru
  • AB Expeditions E.I.R.L.
  • Action Peru E.I.R.L.
  • ADV Gregory Cusco Peru.S.A.C.
  • Adventours-SAS E.I.R.L.
  • Adventure Peru Tour Operator S.A.C.
  • Agencia De Viajes Ecotime Peru E.I.R.L
  • Agencia De Viajes Y Turismo Apu Salkantay E.I.R.L.
  • Agencia De Viajes Y Turismo Ethnias Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Agencia De Viajes Y Turismo Peru Top Adventure S.R.L
  • Agencia De Viajes Y Turismo Raices Tours E.I.R.L.
  • Agencia Prueba S.A.C.
  • Agencia Turismo K.B. Adventures S.A.C
  • Alpaca Expeditions
  • Allyn Pacha Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Altura Travel S.A.C.
  • Amazin Adventures E.I.R.L.
  • Amazon Andes Peru S.C.R.L.
  • Amazonas Explorer S.A.C.
  • America Trek SAC.
  • Andean Adventures S.R.L.
  • Andean Amazon E.I.R.L.
  • Andean Expeditions & Adventures S.A.C.
  • Andean Killa Tours SAC.
  • Andean Treks & Adventures SAC.
  • Andean Hiking.
  • Andes Amazon Trails Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Andina Travel Treks & Eco Adventure E.I.R.L.
  • Apu Andino Travel E.I.R.L
  • Apu Travel Service E.I.R.L.
  • Apumayo Expediciones S.A.C.
  • Apus Peru Adventure Travel SpecialistsS.A.C.
  • Auqui Mountain Spirit E.I.R.L.
  • Auqui Peru Mountain Spirit E.I.R.L.
  • Ausangate Travels SRL.
  • Aventuras Ecotrek Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Aventuras X-Treme Tourbulencia En Cusco E.I.R.L.
  • Andean Spiritual Path EIRL.
  • Best Andes Travel SRL.
  • Caminos De Llama S.A.C.
  • Camping Tours E.I.R.L.
  • Ceci’s Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Chaska Tours Agencia De Viajes Y Turismo E.I.R.L.
  • Chaski Tours S.A.C.
  • Conde Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Condor Travel S.A.C.
  • Corporation BECRI SAC.
  • Crossover Peru SAC.
  • Cultural Immersion Travel Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Culturas Peru Viajes Y Servicios S.R.L.
  • Cusco Native Travel Agency E.I.R.L
  • Cusco Peruvian Adventures SAC
  • Cusco Sunrise Peru Trek Tour Operator E.I.R.L.
  • Cusi Travel International S.C.R.L
  • DHSG E.I.R.L.
  • Daily Tours E.I.R.L.
  • Danzak Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Destinos Turisticos Group Peru S.A.C.
  • Discover South America E.I.R.L
  • Eco Path Trek E.I.R.L
  • Eco Wayky’s Tour Aventura E.I.R.L.
  • Ecoinka S.R.L
  • Ecs Travel S.A.C.
  • Enigma Adventure Tour Operator S.A.C.
  • Epitour’s Trek E.I.R.L.
  • EricXpeditions SAC
  • Evolution Treks Peru E.I.R.L
  • Experience Colibri Peru EIRL
  • Explora Peru Co SAC
  • Explorandes S.A.C.
  • Explore Adventures S.R.L
  • Exploring Peru Travel Service E.I.R.L.
  • Fiesta Tours International S.A.
  • G Adventures
  • Go2Inkas S.A.C
  • Golden Empire Tours E.I.R.L.
  • Grand America Tour SAC
  • Green River Expedition SAC
  • Group Empire Tours EIRL
  • Grupo Caminos del Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Grupo Peru Raymi Travel S.A.C.
  • Grupo Tourbulencia En Peru S.C.R.L.
  • Hatun Qhapaq Nan Expeditions EIRL
  • Illa Yaku S.A.C.
  • Illapa Culturas Andinas Inversiones S.R.L.
  • Inca Peru Travel Tour Operator E.I.R.L.
  • Inca Trail Bamba Experience E.I.R.L.
  • Inca Trail Machu EIRL
  • Inca Trail Peru Treks S.A.C (Peru Treks)
  • Inca Wonders Travel EIRL
  • Incas Journey Adventure E.I.R.L.
  • Inca’s Discovery & Eco Lodges S.A.C
  • Incredible Peru Tours SAC
  • Infocusco S.A.C
  • Inka Sites Adventures S.C.R.L.
  • Inka Trail Expeditions Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Inka Trail Machupicchu E.I.R.L.
  • Inkaland Group S.A.C.
  • Inkanatura Travel S.A.C.
  • Inkayni Peru Tours S.C.R.L
  • Instinct S.C.R.L..
  • Intense Peru S.A.C.
  • Inti Kuntur EIRL
  • Into Paths
  • Inti Sun Trek E.I..R.L.
  • Inversiones Inca Trail Reservations E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones Arsa Tours S.R.L
  • Inversiones Cusco Explorer’s E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones En Turismo Coavoy Peru Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones Mako’s S.R.L
  • Inversiones Receptour S.A.
  • Inversiones TP E.I.R.L
  • Inversiones Turisticas Andean Explorer’s Cusco E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones Turisticas K’intu E.I.R.Ltda.
  • Inversiones Turisticas Maza E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones Turisticas Peruinca Explorer E.I.R.L.
  • Inversiones Unitours S.A.C
  • Ittacca Experience SAC
  • Inca Trail Company SAC
  • Journey Experience S.A.C.
  • Karavaniers Peru EIRL.
  • Katachillay Travel EIRL.
  • Kaypi Peru S.R.L.
  • Killa Expeditions EIRL.
  • Kondor Path Tours E.I.R.L.
  • Kusa Treks Peru EIRL.
  • Kusisqa Travel EIRL.
  • Liberty Peru SAC.
  • Lima Tours S.A.C.
  • Llama Path
  • Llama Tours Peru S.R.L.
  • Lorenzo Expeditions EIRL.
  • Machete Tours S.R.L.
  • Machu Picchu INC EIRL.
  • Machupicchu & Beyond E.I.R.L.
  • Machupicchu Mega Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Machupicchu Reservations SAC
  • Machupicchu Travel Adventure E.I.R.L
  • Manu Expeditions E.I.R.L.
  • Marquez Viajes Y Servicios Turisticos E.I.R.L. (SAS)
  • Matours EIRL
  • Mava Travel Service S.R.L.
  • Mayuc Cusco EIRL
  • Mire S.R.L
  • Naty’s Travel Agency E.I.R.L.
  • NC Travel Cusco E.I.R.L.
  • New Inca Wasi Travel Corp EIRL.
  • Nikkand EIRL.
  • Operador de Aventura Superior EIRL.
  • Orange Nation Peru
  • Pachatusantrek S.A.C.
  • Papi’s Treks E.I.R.L
  • Peak DMC South America SAC.
  • Peak South America S.A.C.
  • Personal Travel Experience S.A.C.
  • Peru Adventures Paradise S.C.R.L.
  • Peru Andes Top Grupo Path of the Andes E.I.R.L.
  • Peru By Locals S.A.C
  • Peru Eco Adventures And Cultural Trips E.I.R.L.
  • Peru Fantastic Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Peru Grand Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Peru Inka s Collection SRL.
  • Peru Nao Tours S.A.C.
  • Peru On Road E.I.R.L.
  • Peru Top Times SRL.
  • Peru Sur Nativa E.I.R.L
  • Peru Tours And Adventure S.A.C.
  • Peru Tours Incorporation SAC.
  • Peru Travel Conexion S.A.C.
  • Peru Travel And Healing S.A.C.
  • Peru View Tours SRL.
  • Peru Winayhuayna Adventure EIRL
  • . Peru XP Travel SAC
  • Peruvian Highland Trek Expedition E.I.R.L.
  • Peruvian Sacred & Adventure S.R.L.
  • Peru Travel Dos Manos SRL
  • Private Machupicchu E.I.R.L
  • Pukupuku Travel SRL.
  • Pumadventures SAC.
  • Pumapath Adventures Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Peru Unique destination EIRL.
  • Qhapaqnan Adventure S.A.C.
  • Quechua Treks Peru E.I.R.L
  • Quechuas Expeditions Peru S.A.C
  • Q’ente South American Trek Tours EIRL
  • Raices Peru Operadores Mayoristas S.A.C.
  • Rasgos Cusco Tours Operator E.I.R.L
  • River Explorers Specialists In River And Adventure E.I.R.L.
  • Royal Crown Adventures E.I.R.L.
  • Saca Expeditions Servicios Turisticos S.C.R.L.
  • Salkantay Trekking E.I.R.L
  • Sam Travel Peru Expeditions E.I.R.L.
  • SAM Corporations Peru
  • Scenic Peru EIRL
  • Sky Viajes Y Turismo S.R.L
  • South Adventure Peru Tours E.I.R.L.
  • South American Travel Services S.R.L.
  • Southern Peru Explorers E.I.R.L
  • Southwild S.A.C.
  • Sun Gate Tours S.A.C.
  • Sunshine Travel Peru E.I.R.L
  • Terra Explorer Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Tierra Biru Expeditions SAC.
  • Tierras De Los Andes S.A.C.
  • Tierras Vivas E.I.R.L.
  • Tour in Peru E.I.R.L.
  • TreXperience
  • Tucano Representaciones Peru Latin Trails S.A.C.
  • Tucanos Peru E.I.R.L.
  • Turismo Perufull EIRL.
  • United Mice Tour Operator E.I.R.L.
  • Valencia Travel Agency S.A.C.
  • Valentin s Pachamama Journeys SRL.
  • Vamos Expeditions S.A.C.
  • Viajes Colon E.I.R.L.
  • Viajes Pacifico SAC.
  • Viajes y Servicios Turisticos Flamenco S.A.C.
  • Viracocha Turismo Internacional SAC.
  • Wake Up Peru Trekking E.I.R.L.
  • Wari Adventures SAC.
  • Wayki Trek Transportes Turisticos S.A.C.
  • Welcome South America Travel E.I.R.L.
  • Worldwide Exotic Adventures SAC.
  • Www Happy Gringo Tours EIRL.
  • Yupi Adventure E.I.R.L.

Authors

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat is a startup attorney and co-founder of WanderLawyer. Anthony believes travel unlocks potential and opens minds. He’s been wandering and lawyering since 2014.