Inca Trail Trek: The Wild Difference

Wildland Adventures founding director, Kurt Kutay, first backpacked on the Inca Trail in 1975. Peru was one of our first destinations and we have been leading treks on the Inca Trail since 1986. There are many trekking companies offering Inca Trail Treks and many outfitters offer very low prices. In Peru, these local companies are referred to as “machiteros,” in reference to the machete, and indicative of how these local outfitters cut prices so low that they end up offering a corresponding substandard experience. Here are some reasons why you can expect a superior experience with Wildland Adventures on our Inca Trail Trek itineraries. 

Superlative guides

We work with the most seasoned professional mountain guides recognized not only for their skill and mountain guiding expertise, but also especially for their intelligence, sensitivity and fun personalities! They know the secrets of the trail and its history to make the experience richer by describing the Inca sites you see along the way, how the trail was used by the Incas and “re-discovered” by Hiram Bingham, as well as the latest archaeological findings and theories. They share some of the more mysterious and spiritual aspects of the Incas that are still very much a part of the beliefs and practices of your Quechua porters.

“We want you to know that our guide Wilfredo went far, far beyond the expected to oversee our safety, education and enjoyment. His knowledge of the flora, fauna, history, archeology, geology, and anthropology of the Andes was exceptional. His level of attentiveness to our needs was never-ending and his always-warm-and-friendly manor genuine. His knowledge of the Quechua language and customs enhanced our experiences with the people of the Andes.”- D. and F. Solt

Best Campsites

One important difference you’ll find between our trips and other Inca Trail Treks are the campsites. Most other trekking groups camp in open public areas where tents are set up side by side for several hundred people to camp in the same space. We avoid these crowded sites for more private and more beautiful camp areas affording spectacular views and quiet settings.

First Day “Leg Up”

We set our first camp near the Urubamba River the first night. Most trekking groups hop off the train and start trekking the same day. Instead, we camp near the river and enjoy the day hiking around the first ruins that most trekkers bypass with little notice or time to explore. This not only gives us an extra day of acclimatization, but the next morning we set out on the trail long before the next day’s group of trekkers disembarks from the train so we have the trail more to ourselves ahead of the new day’s arrivals from Cusco and our porters are in the lead to set camp in the best spot.

Meals and Equipment

We provide a healthy and balanced diet with three delicious hot meals a day; complete nourishment is provided with a full breakfast and a hot lunch on the trail with a three course dinner to replenish you from a long day trekking. Plenty of trail snacks are also provided. We use spacious 3-person tents for two people which have some headroom to sit up comfortably rather than standard dome tents. Our covered sleeping pads provide ample thickness for comfort and insulation. Synthetic down sleeping bags are available for rent, in which case we recommend you bring a thick winter liner. However, we do recommend bringing your own bag rated for freezing if you have one.

“I want to praise the food on the trek – delicious Andean recipes, beautifully presented, well-balanced to take account of the effects of altitude and exertion, well timed. Chef Bernardo was amazing and he even looked the part – wearing his chef’s hat and buttoned shirt! Plentiful purified, great tasting drinking water. Nutritious, natural snacks handed out each morning. Yummy cake at afternoon teatime! Plentiful portions but no wastefulness. Of course, the location of the dining areas in the high Andes did much to enhance the experience! Very relieved to note the emphasis on hygiene – much hand washing and liberal use of gel –hence total absence of stomach problems.” -M. Metcalf

Rules and Regulations for Best Practices

Since we launched an “Inca Trail Cleanup Trek” in 1985 long before there was any governmental management or control of the trail, we have supported efforts to establish rules and regulations for better management to protect the sensitive landscape and archaeological resources, and take better care of the Quechua porters. We have also been working in the same communities where our porters live so our guides have familial relations with them as well. We supply tents and carry equipment for the safety and comfort of porters that also comply with the existing regulations for porters including providing balanced food rations.

Superior Quality and Environmental Management

Our trekking outfit is ISO rated, an international quality control rating system for the overall environmental quality of our trekking operation from the quality of the kitchen equipment, to low impact management and disposal systems, overall safety, security, and social responsibility for the staff and the nearby communities where they reside.

“This trip surpassed my wildest expectations of excellence.” - M. Belforte

Timing and Experience

Many outfitters camp the last night at the site of Winay Wayna, a public camp and facility where many trekking outfitters congregate. On our final day trekking we depart from our last camp the night before at Phuyupatamarca. Therefore, we have lunch at Winay Wayna and see all the best sites of this day on the Inca Trail more to ourselves since most of the other trekkers are ahead of us; we arrive at the Inti Punku, Gate of the Sun, overlooking Machu Picchu in the afternoon behind the majority of trekkers who have camped closer the night before.

“The Inca Trail was organized brilliantly to avoid crowds and see all the sights at a leisurely pace.” - D. Starrett

The Machu Picchu Experience

Our program does not end with arrival and a quick visit to Machu Picchu but includes an overnight at the best boutique accommodation in the area: the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel located next to the Urubamba River surrounded by lush subtropical forest and flowering gardens teeming with birds. There are a few other suitable hotels in Aguas Calientes if the Pueblo Hotel is full. We can also reserve an upgrade at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Hotel up on the mountain next to the entrance to the ruins, although our preference for ambiance, character, service and value is the 4* Pueblo Hotel below the mountain. Please ask for further details if interested.

The next day early in the morning long before the next tourist train arrives, we provide an extensive guided visit throughout the citadel apart from the experience of arriving and viewing Machu Picchu the previous last day of our trek. After our fully guided walking tour of the site we allow for free time to wander, photograph and contemplate Machu Picchu on your own before returning to Cusco. On the way back we disembark near Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba Valley to board a private vehicle for the last leg of the journey which is much faster than taking the train all the back to Cusco. We arrive back in Cusco around 7 PM so dinner is free to enjoy at your leisure and to allow time for you to repack for the next leg of your Wildland Adventure in Peru.

“With her archeology degree our Machu Picchu guide Martha knew every nook and cranny. Clearly she knew more about this site than any of the other guides at Machu Picchu. We went thru the Gate of the Sun at dusk, in light rain, and it was magical.” - Mark Vandelist