Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu: Standard tour or luxury service?

by on 12th December, 2013

Luxury or standard Inca Trail?

The iconic Inca Trail trek to the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru is deservedly the most famous walk in South America.

This once-in-a-lifetime hike requires planning, permits and porters – and the decision of whether to go on the standard trek or the luxury trek or, of course, by train.

To some, our standard Inca Trail trek is comfortable beyond belief, with food cooked, tents pitched, walks guided and kit carried; to others our luxury Inca Trail trek with the best-a-camper-can-buy still means sleepless night under canvass.

Most importantly, both follow exactly the same A-B route, visiting the same ruins, and here’s a quick comparison of the two treks so you can pick the best to hike to Machu Picchu.

And whichever you choose you will have a great trek simply because the Inca Trail is a fantastic walk as our dedicated and experienced staff do everything they can to make sure you enjoy yourself en route to the famous Inca mountain top citadel. Watch a trek video here.


Inca trail start, Peru

Standard Inca Trail trek

The standard trek is a bit quicker, uses the most popular campsites, and you arrive at the ruins early AM on day four. Campsite toilets are very basic.

This four day standard trek is more popular and it is normally easier to join a group. It is better for people with limited time and/or budget and a great trail if you want to meet fellow travellers, some of whom are on short holidays, others one long trips and sometimes some locals too.

Food is plentiful and classic camping food; porridge, toast, omelettes and warm drinks for breakfast, packed lunches of sandwiches and snacks and then dinner will be soups, pasta and – if lucky – freshly caught trout. All dietary requirements can be catered for.

There is a main dining tent where hikers like to socialise after a good day’s walking with camp stools and a table for games of cards and chats.

At extra cost you can add a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of the ruins, on day four of the hike, giving you more time in the ruins plus a free day on day five, to either return to the ruins, enjoy the hot springs or relax.

inca-trail huinay huayna-campsites-peru

Inca trail, Huayna campsites, Peru

Luxury Inca Trail trek

The luxury trek uses campsites, private toilet tents, high quality and very spacious tents and good camping equipment plus more varied meals.

It has a slightly slower pace and is out of synch with the timings of the standard trek, meaning you rarely see any other groups or tourists and adding to the trek’s wilderness feel. On day three we camp at Phuyllupatamarca, the only place you see a proper sunrise on the trail.

Groups tend to be smaller and it’s a more relaxed pace. You arrive at the ruins in the afternoon of day 4, when they are almost empty, have a quick look (not a tour) and then a good night’s sleep in Aguas Calientes.

You have a full tour on day five before catching the train, relaxed, back to Cusco that afternoon.

The extra expense also allows us to hire more porters, so more home comforts can be carried around, and more time allows us to prepare and provide a gourmet menu throughout the trek, with more fruits and salads.

The dining tent is sturdy and spacious and the most luxurious trek features the chance of a massage at the end of the day’s walking, to rest those aching muscles.

This is as comfortable as life can get while camping in these fabulous, remote mountains.

The non-camping options

If you can’t stand the thought of camping, then you can take the train to Aguas Calientes, spend the night there and then have guided tour in the morning.

Or, for the ultimate in luxury, trek the Salkantay Mountain Lodges route and stay at luxury lodges en route to Machu Picchu.

Note: For both standard and luxury Inca Trail treks, Andean Trails makes a donation to a Porter’s Community Project near Cusco. Currently, this money is being used to buy school equipment in the towns and villages where our porters live.


Aguas Calientes, Peru

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