The Inca Trail is part of the Peruvian National Heritage so access and trekking conditions are established and controlled by the Ministry of Culture Cusco. They give the rights to access the site (see also Regulations). The Ministry of Culture Cusco manages also the camping sites. They are responsible for the maintenance of the path and the campsites and toilet facilities which are in the middle of nowhere.
The Inca trail is a stone path built by the Incas 500 years ago to link their settlements disseminated all over the Tawantisuyo empire. This section, a protected archeological site open for tourism, goes from km 82 to Machu Picchu. It is located in the middle of the Andes and it is not accessible by car or any means of transportation. There is no electricity or water or convenient toilet infrastructure along the trail and/or in the campsites. There is no cellular network neither. Toilet facilities on campsites are not in good conditions, so most trekkers just prefer nature. Unfortunately, this is not agencies responsibility and there is nothing we can do about it.
We offer departures everyday. In the availability calendar we indicate available spaces for each day. The calendar also allows you to chose the departure date of your trek. Although we offer departures everyday, conditions may vary depending on the chosen day. These can be:
The Inca Trail connects Cuzco city to the Citadel of Machu Picchu. The Trek can begin a few miles outside the city (4-day Trek) or, for less athletic persons or for those in a hurry, it can begin at an intermediate spot (2-day Trek). Notice that the Inca Trail can be made in one way only, from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. The return is always motorized, by train and bus.
Obviously, the trek is made by groups (see the distribution), that is why you will join another group of trekkers. Since it is impossible to know in advance (and for confidentiality reasons) who will be part of your group, it is impossible to answer this question precisely. In general, they are trekkers from different nationalities and different ages. The Ministry imposes strict rules to the agencies, such as a limit of 40 persons per group, including at most 16 trekkers and at least 2 guides; the rest is reserved for assistance crew (porters, cooks). In fact, we can say that it is a small group of maximum 16 tourists. Notice that whenever it is possible (tourists without a fixed departure date, etc) we try to group in a same trek people of the same nationality and age.
Peru is a very large country with a variety of weathers that is why it is very difficult to define one best period to visit many places. Nevertheless, we can consider that the best season is from June to September. For the Inca Trail, the hottest season is from November to March but it is also the rainy season. We think it is better to have a cold but sunny trek than a warm but rainy one. This is why we recommend doing it from May to October. Please, notice that the Trail is open every day of the year except in February when it is closed for maintenance. For further information, we invite you to visit our weather page.
It is open 7 days per week, every day of the month, including holidays; but it is closed in February because the Ministry prefers this month to do maintenance. It is the less visited month because of the rain.
Yes, there is a "local" train between Cuzco and Aguas Calientes but the government has decided that it is only for Peruvians and Residents and they have to show a Peruvian ID. Tourists cannot take it.
No. Trekkers can only access the Inca Trail accompanied by guides authorized by the Ministry. Only some agencies including us (approximately 150 of over 35,000 travel agencies in Peru) are authorized to access the site.
Most of the places where you might stay (hotel, hostal) offer to guard your luggage for free during the Trek. But we can also gladly do it; just bring your luggage to our Agency the day before the Trek.
The ministerial regulation is very clear and unavoidable: no mechanical means are authorized.
The purpose of ethical commerce is, let's remember, that a commercial activity should respect social conditions (rights, guarantees for employees, decent salaries, etc) and environmental conditions (respect and protection of the environment, of sites, of fauna and flora). Since this is a very important goal, we are proud to claim that we respect our employees in general and our porters in particular (because they are numerous and they certainly do the most difficult job). We work with the same porters since the beginning, which is a guarantee for them, for us and for our customers. We don't choose porters depending on their availability (many of them are independent) because we have ours. Their salary is higher than the local and national average salary and it includes (which is sadly rare in Peru) a life insurance and a health insurance. Any misconduct or abuse from our company can (and must) be denounced to Peruvian authorities. At the end of the Trek we give trekkers a form to fill. Regarding the respect of the environment, we can mention for example that for the Trek we carry different garbage bags and we classify organic and inorganic waste, we carry all waste for 4 days in order to throw it away after the Trek, etc. To conclude, the answer is yes, not because we need to do it, but because of our own conviction and ethics.