Honest Alpaca Expeditions Review: Everything You Need to Know

Kendall and I hiked the 4-day/3 night classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and want to give you our honest Alpaca Expeditions review. They are a fantastic company and did an incredible job. Here are all the details so you can make your own informed decision.

Some of the things we loved were the following: amazing meals (multiple courses for breakfast/lunch/dinner), great resources for porters, access to some of the best campsites, and tips for how to stay safe in Cusco and on our hike.   

Why We Chose Alpaca Expeditions-10 Things We Loved

When it comes to hiking the Inca Trail, it is essential to choose a reputable tour company that prioritizes sustainability, ethical treatment of their porters, and provides excellent service. We think that Alpaca does a great job at all of these things. 

Alpaca Expeditions is completely locally owned and has been awarded Peru’s Leading Tour Operator for three consecutive years. They are known for their commitment to fair treatment of porters and guides, as well as their sustainable practices. The founder of Alpaca Expeditions, Raul Ccolque, was once a porter himself, which we thought was cool.

1. Great Location

Alpaca’s office is located right near the central Plaza de Armas.  It was super easy for Kendall and me to walk over after our activities in Cusco to ask questions (and then later for our briefing).  

2. Easy Booking Process

We liked that booking was fairly easy. We were able to pay our initial deposit online, and then we paid the rest with a credit card at their office before starting our trek.  However, one of the (very few) downsides of booking with Alpaca is that they don’t accept credit cards for the initial deposit of $200.  Paypal or wire transfers only.  

3. Organized Hike Briefing

We love how organized Alpaca was.  They gave us a detailed briefing before our trek and discussed what to expect on each day.  There was plenty of time to ask questions. 

They discussed things like altitude sickness in Cusco and on the trail, and how to prevent this.

Also, because we were planning to travel to Ollantaytambo the day before our trek, they willingly let us join a different briefing the day before. We really appreciated that flexibility.

Alpaca Expeditions route map classic Inca Trail 4 Days 3 Nights
Alpaca Expeditions route map; the route was thoroughly reviewed during our briefing.

5. Hotel-to-Hotel Service

Many of the top Inca Trail tour companies offer this, but not all of them!  We loved that Alpaca was willing to pick us up from our hotel and were flexible with the location.  They were happy to pick us up in the town of Ollantaytambo after picking up our other group members in Cusco.

6. The Food was AMAZING 

More on this later.  But the food was incredible.  We had multiple-course meals for each lunch and dinner.  We were served all kinds of traditional Peruvian dishes along with some other ‘mainstream’ options. 

Although Lima is considered the gastronomic capital of the world (this is one thing to consider when trying to decide how much time to spend in Lima vs Cusco), we had some incredible dishes with Alpaca that you won’t find anywhere else.

We had a few gluten-free people in our group and one vegetarian, and Alpaca was super awesome about making sure that they had plenty of food options as well.  

Kendall sitting at the dining table with Alpaca Expeditions enjoying a multiple course meal
Our first lunch was a huge spread of meat dishes, salads, and Peruvian rice and potatoes

7. Going Above and Beyond for their Porters

Most reputable tour companies give their porters adequate equipment and set appropriate weight limits, but Alpaca does a couple of other things that we thought were exceptional.

First, they pay for dedicated ‘porter trips’ to Machu Picchu.  Many tourists don’t know this, but the majority of porters don’t enter the Machu Picchu site while working.  Alpaca focuses on giving the porters the chance to see the site for themselves.  

Additionally, the porters have a dedicated ‘porter house’ in Ollantaytambo where they can stay before and after the trek.  This is important as many of them travel from far away to complete the trek. 

8. Good Quality Equipment

We thought the equipment that Alpaca provides was fantastic (better quality than much of our own hiking equipment).  Kendall and I had a four-person tent for the two of us and had plenty of room at night.  We rented sleeping bags, foam mats, and trekking poles, and had a great experience with everything.  

4-person tent set up at the second campsite with Alpaca Expeditions
The 4-person tent that Kendall and I shared, along with the green pack covers they provide

9. Sustainable Travel and Eco-Friendly Practices

Again, most tour companies follow the standard guidelines of leaving no trace, but Alpaca organizes trail-cleaning treks throughout the year to clean up what others may have left behind.

They’ve also been involved in a reforestation project and have planted over 10,000 native Queuna trees in various villages along the Sacred Valley and Ausangate area.  Read more about their efforts here. 

10. Long List of Recognitions and Awards

Alpaca not only has fantastic reviews, they’ve got a long list of impressive awards. Alpaca has received four ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certifications, and has also been honored with various World Travel Awards and Trip Advisor certificates of excellence. 

Classic 4-Day Inca Trail Itinerary with Alpaca

This is a breakdown of our experience with Alpaca day by day.  The things we loved, and the (very few) things that could have been improved. 

Day 1: Cusco – KM 82 – Ayapata Campsite

  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Our Hiking Time: 7.5 hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 3300m
  • Day 1 Weather: warm and humid

We were picked up around 7:00 am by an Alpaca van.  We got to sleep in a little since we were staying in the town of Ollantaytambo. After that, we headed over to the porterhouse where we had breakfast with our porters. This initial meal gave us a taste of the amazing food we would have on this trip. We enjoyed a delicious spread of eggs, different hot cereals, and fresh fruits.

We then hopped into our shuttle vans and made our way to the starting point at kilometer 82. Initially, our guide took a slow pace on the first day and we took frequent rest breaks. This seemed to frustrate some of our group members who were eager to get going on the trail. Fortunately, we had a fairly fit group and shortly into the trek, we were able to pick up the pace.

Kendall and I standing in front of the Inca Trail sign at Kilometer 82
Our starting point at Km 82

Our guide was fantastic at stopping and explaining things along the trail. One of my favorite stops was near a cactus plant. Our guide showed us a fungus growing on the cactus leaves, which turned into a vibrant red dye when pressed. He explained how this dye was used to make some of the earliest textiles.

On the first day of the Inca Trail, we covered a distance of 14 kilometers, equivalent to 8.6 miles. Starting at an elevation of 8,429 feet at Piskacucho, we reached the Ayapata Campground at an elevation of 10,857 feet. The total hiking time from the start of the trail to our arrival at Ayapata was around 8 hours, starting at 8:45 a.m. and arriving just before 5 pm.  The weather was warm and muggy (but not overly uncomfortable).

Day 2: Dead Woman’s Pass – Runcuraccay Pass – Chaquiccocha

Day 2 is considered the most challenging day of the trek. We hiked two mountain passes, including the infamous Dead Woman’s Pass at 4215m. The hike was steep with a LOT of stairs, but the views up at Dead Woman’s Pass are incredible (and there are llamas).

  • Distance: just shy of 10 miles
  • Our Hike Time: 9 hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 3600 meters
  • Day 2 Weather: chilly, cloudy, and misty

We were woken up fairly early with one of our porters bringing coca tea around to the tents (coca tea can help with altitude sickness).  We then hiked for about four and a half hours up to the highest point on the trail, Dead Woman’s Pass. This ascent involves a lot of stone stair climbing, and we were glad to have our trekking poles. I brought my own but the rest of our group members rented from Alpaca.

We took a long rest break at the summit, where there is a large open area with llamas grazing. also, there were a few women selling snacks up at the top. our guide told us that these women make the climb to the top of the past early every morning to be able to sell to tour groups.

Grazing llama up at Dead Woman's Pass
Grazing llama up at Dead Woman’s Pass

The top of Dead Woman’s Pass was fairly cloudy and chilly. We recommend packing layers and having at least a light jacket. 

scenic overview of the chilly/clouded over canyon at Dead Woman's Pass on the classic Inca Trail with Alpaca Expeditions
The chilly/cloudy weather up at Dead Woman’s Pass

Descending to Pacaymayu Valley

We then spent the next few hours descending to Buckeye Mayu Valley, and this was when I was really glad I had the tracking polls. Descending stairs is often hard on my knees but we did okay. 

We had another fantastic lunch right after Pacaymayu Valley. We were served a traditional Peruvian corn roll called Causa Rellena along with sides of vegetables and potatoes.

 Runcuraccay Pass and Sayacmarca

After lunch, we climbed another 2 hours to the second pass, Runcuraccay.

After our visit to Runcuraccay, we descended again to the magnificent Inca site of Sayacmarca, which took about an hour.

We stopped for a while at Sayacmarca for photos. This Is one of the Fantastic sites that you don’t get to see unless you are hiking the Inca Trail itself.

Kendall on the stone steps of the Incan site Sayacmarca on the classic 4-day Inca Trek with Alpaca Expeditions
Kendall at Sayacmarca, our group had the place to ourselves

Camp at Chaquiccocha

We made it to our campsite Chaquiccocha fairly late (some of our group members had taken longer breaks throughout the day).  We were glad to have our headlamps as we used them for the very final portion of today’s trek.

A line of tents on a hill at the scenic campsite of Chaquiccocha with Alpaca Expeditions
A neighboring camp at the scenic campsite at Chaquiccocha

Day 3: Chaquiccocha – Phuyupatamarca – Wiñaywayna Camp

  • Distance: 10km / 6.4 miles
  • Our Hike Time: Around 4.5 hours
  • Campsite Altitude: 2600m
  • Day 3 Weather: warm and humid

Day 3 was a shorter, more relaxed hike compared to the previous days. 

We started with a two-hour hike along what the locals call “Inca flat,” a series of gradual inclines that allow you to appreciate the surrounding scenery. We were also able to see Salkantay, the second-highest mountain in the Sacred Valley.

What we loved about today was just how Lush and green everything was. there were butterflies, unique flowers, and all kinds of awesome things to see. 

We ended up at Phuyupatamarka, located at an altitude of 3600 meters. From here we were able to see some awesome views of the Urubamba River and catch our first glimpse of Machu Picchu Mountain.

The Incan site of Phuyupatamarka with the Andes mountains in the background
Incan site of Phuyupatamarka

Wiñay Wayna: Our Favorite Inca Site

This Inca site was our absolute favorite. We enjoyed it even more than Machu Picchu (yes, you read that right!). The site itself is huge and has numerous staggered terraces, ancient dwellings, and an impressive waterway system. 

view of the incredible Incan site of Wiñay Wayna, as seen from above
Our view of Wiñay Wayna from above

Our guide provided a detailed explanation of the site before letting us explore on our own. There were only two tour groups present, making us feel as though we had the entire place to ourselves.

This is precisely why we wholeheartedly recommend hiking the Inca Trail. By doing so, we were able to see these incredible, lesser-known gems.

Marie sitting in front of the terraces of the Incan site Wiñay Wayna
The impressive terraces of Wiñay Wayna

Celebration with our Porters and Guides in the Evening

On our final day, we enjoyed an incredible dinner with a mix of traditional dishes and a delicious pizza. Our chefs even surprised us by baking a cake in the mountains (seriously impressive!).

Afterward, we had a special gathering with our Porters, guides, and chefs. We each had the chance to introduce ourselves and connect with all of our amazing porters.

We loved this experience, and we love that Alpaca offers it. During this time, we also pooled our resources to provide tips for our Porters and chefs. We tipped our guides later, just before our bus ride back to our hotel.

Day 4: Machu Picchu

  • Distance: 3.2 miles to Machu Picchu (then 1.7 miles to Huayna Picchu)
  • Our Hike Time: 2 hours (then 1.5 more hours to Huayna Picchu and back)
  • Day 4 Weather: chilly in the morning, then clear and warm

We were woken up very early on day 4, around 3:30 a.m. Our guide explained that we needed to get such an early start so that our Porters had time to catch one of the first trains back to Aguascalientes. we hiked the few miles to the entrance checkpoint which didn’t open until 5:30. 

This was our least favorite part of the trek. It was fairly chilly in the morning and we had about an hour and a half wait until the gate opened.

The one upside is that with Alpaca you will be one of the first tour groups to walk through the Sun gate. However, to me, this wasn’t as important and I would have preferred a shorter wait time in the cold.

group of tourists waiting in the dark with headlamps at the Sun Gate checkpoint
Our group waiting in the dark at the Sun Gate checkpoint

The Trek to the Sun Gate

At 5:30 a.m. we were finally able to show our passports and start our trip to the Sun Gate; we arrived at the classic viewpoint around 6:45. We got super lucky with completely clear skies and had some fantastic photo opportunities. Our guides and porters were super awesome about offering to take photos for everyone. 

Marie and Kendall at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu
We were the first group of the day to walk through the Sun Gate

Exploring Machu Picchu

We started our tour of Machu Picchu just before 8:00, and I had underestimated how busy this Inca site would be. Even by 7:30 a.m. when we arrived, the whole area was swarming with people.

Everything is very controlled and certain areas are roped off. Please be respectful of this. All tourists must follow the designated path that flows in one direction through the site. 

Ancient compass at the Machu Picchu archeological site
Ancient compass at the Machu Picchu archeological site

Our tour was supposed to last about 2 hours, but our guide explained to us that those of us who were planning on hiking Huayna Picchu would need to cut our tour a little short because our timed entrance tickets were for 9:30 a.m.

This was one of the other few things that I didn’t love. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to experience the full tour, and wish that we would have had some say in our timed entrance ticket times.

Huayna Picchu

Huayna Picchu is the pointed mountain located behind the Machu Picchu Inca site. The climb to the top is fairly short, but very steep and involves a lot of (somewhat narrow) stone steps.  Most tour companies recommend giving yourself around 3 hours to complete the hike round trip, although it only took Kendall and me around 90 minutes. 

We loved hiking Huayna Picchu because it gave us a way to experience this famous site away from the crowds and truly made our visit to Machu Picchu worth it for us.

 Many tour companies offer this as an add-on experience, and that’s exactly what we did. We paid $75 each and Alpaca reserved our tickets for us. Important note: these must be reserved ahead of time, you are not able to purchase these tickets the day of. so if you’d like to climb this mountain (which we highly recommend, it was awesome), be sure to ask about this when booking with your tour company.

From the top of Huayna Picchu, we had some pretty incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Again, this claim is pretty steep, but we were able to make it back down with plenty of time to catch our bus down to Aguas Calientes. 

The incredible views of the Andes mountains from the top of Huayna Picchu
The incredible views of the Andes mountains from the top of Huayna Picchu

Optional Lunch in Aguas Calientes

After taking the short bus ride back down to Aguas Calientes, Alpaca offered us the chance to have lunch together as a group at a local restaurant.  This was not included in the cost of our tour but is something that we loved doing and would highly recommend. 

It was fun to spend that last meal together as a group and Kendall and I got to try a really fun dish with alpaca steak and roasted potatoes. 

Our alpaca steak dish at a local restaurant in Aguas Calientes
Our alpaca steak dish at a local restaurant in Aguas Calientes

Some of the other big tour companies offer an add-on option to stay in Aguas Calientes for an extra night, but Alpaca does not offer this.  We were fine with this as we had other plans for the rest of our itinerary in Peru, but if this is important to you be sure to look into it before booking.

Notable Inclusions and Exclusions

All of the top Inca Trail tour companies provide the basics that include: experienced guides fluent in both English and Spanish, permits for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, camping equipment and meals for every hiker, purified water, essential first aid supplies, satellite phones for emergencies, as well as transportation from Machu Picchu back to Aguascalientes and then to Ollantaytambo.

However, there are variations among tour companies when it comes to additional inclusions. For instance, some tour companies may include your sleeping bag as part of the upfront cost, while others may not. Additionally, certain tour companies may offer extras like the upgraded Vista Dome train ride.

To give an overview, I’ve made a detailed list of these additional inclusions and exclusions with Alpaca, along with a comparison to other tour companies.

Notable Inclusions

Breakfast on the First Day

This is something that many (if not most) tour groups do not offer and Alpaca does. We had a fantastic breakfast on our first day at the Porter House in Ollantaytambo. This was an incredible spread of eggs, cereals, fruits, and more.  We thought this was an awesome addition and a great way to start our trek. 

Personal Duffel Bag 

Again, almost all tour companies carry tents and cooking equipment, but many do not offer to carry any personal items for trekkers. Alpaca offers each hiker a duffel bag in which they can put up to 7 kg.  3 kg of this will be your sleeping bag and sleeping mat, which leaves 4 kg for clothes or other personal items.

You’ll only have access to your duffel bag at night after arriving at the campsite so be sure to keep anything that you will want to use during the day with you in your day pack.

Trekking Chef and Multi-course Meals

One thing that truly sets Alpaca apart from many of the other companies is the quality of the meals.  We had multi-course meals for every lunch and dinner as well as filling breakfasts. 

As mentioned before, we had a couple of gluten-free hikers with us as well as a vegetarian, and there were always multiple options for them as well. Alpaca requests that if you have any dietary restrictions you just let them know ahead of time and they were so awesome to make accommodations. 

Our chefs were truly amazing and we were blown away by what we were they were able to cook on the trail.  We had dishes with meat and vegetables for every lunch and dinner. We had a pizza option one day, and our chef even baked us a cake on our final night.  

Spacious Tents

The size and quality of tents are one thing that can vary significantly between tour companies. Alpaca provides a four-person tent for every two hikers. Kendall and I had plenty of room in our tent and slept well.

Single tents are also available for an additional cost. Additionally, Alpaca Expeditions provides foam sleeping pads and pillows(although the sleeping bag is an additional cost). 

We also loved the large dining tents. We liked feeling like we were somewhat out of the elements during our meals and being all together as a group.

Toilet Tents

Many tour companies offer toilet tents but not all, and we appreciated having toilet tents that were just for our tour group.  They still get gross by the end of each day, but it was much better than using the hole-in-the-ground bathrooms at some of the campsites. 

Hotel-to-Hotel Service

Alpaca not only offers hotel-to-hotel pick-up service, but they are flexible with the pickup location.  Kendall and I were staying in Ollantaytambo the night before our trek instead of Cusco, and Alpaca was happy to pick us up from the plaza near our hotel.  This made things super smooth for us and also allowed us to sleep in a little on that first day.

The Alpaca vans are very comfortable and well-maintained, and we had an excellent experience with all of our drivers. 

Small Details and Extra Perks

Finally, Alpaca includes a few other perks that many other tour companies do not, including the following:

  • A rain poncho (We had brought our own not knowing if our tour company would provide this, but I’ll pack it does)
  • A rain fly to cover our day packs
  • Hot water bins every morning outside of our tent to wash our hands and faces. 
  • Hand washing bins with soap before each meal.
  • Tea time before dinner, with various beverages (non-alcoholic) and snacks such as popcorn and chips

Notable Exclusions

We want to note that the majority of Inca Trail tour companies, Alpaca included, do not include things like trekking poles, your sleeping bag, or an inflatable air mattress. Alpaca does include a more simple foam pad that is part of the upfront cost. The following is a full list of exclusions from the Alpaca Expeditions website. 

  • Trekking poles ($20 to rent)
  • Sleeping bag ($25 to rent)
  • Air mattress ($20 to rent)
  • Single tent ($30 to rent)
  • Optional lunch with the tour group in Aguas Calientes after visiting Machu Picchu
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain Hike/permit ($75)
  • Vistadome train ($75)
  • Hiram Bingham Luxury Train ($550)

Understanding Tipping Guidelines

During our briefing with Alpaca before our Trek, we liked that they mentioned tipping. Alpaca pays their employees well but tipping is a great way to show additional appreciation.

Although we still found ourselves a bit short on cash (check out our post on “11 Tips to Have a Great Experience on the Inca Trail“), we were grateful that Alpaca mentioned recommended amounts so we could withdraw the money we needed before our hike.

When it comes to tipping during our trek with Alpaca, the general practice is for the group to pool their funds together towards the end of the journey to tip the porters and chefs.

In our case, Kendall and I tipped our porters and chefs with our group while on the trail, and then we tipped our guides once we got back to Ollantaytambo before being transported back to our hotel. 

Our group had three guides: our main guide, and two assistant guides. It’s important to remember that many tour groups have multiple guides as you will want to tip all of them. 

Cash is the preferred method of tipping, in Peruvian soles or US dollars.

 Below are the recommended tipping amounts per hiker. 

How Much to Tip

This is, of course, entirely dependent on your experience.  However, Kendall and I think that generously tipping is very important.  Again, Alpaca pays all of their porters a fair wage, but the job is extremely difficult and our guides and porters went above and beyond.  We paid the following when we went. 

Per Porter: 60 – 80 soles (Kendall and I each paid 70 soles per Porter and we pulled this with the rest of our group while on the trail. 

Chef: 150 soles (Also pooled with the rest of our group while on the trail) 

Guides: Kendall and I paid 100 soles to our primary guide and 80 soles to each of the two additional guides.

What Other Tours Does Alpaca Offer?

Another thing we love about Alpaca Expeditions is that they’ve got a HUGE range of route options as well as alternative tricks to Machu Picchu.  Here’s a full breakdown of the different routes and tours that they offer.

Inca Trail Route Options 

  • Classic Inca Trail 4 Day 3 Night Group Tour ($795/person)
  • Inca Trail 4 Day 3 Night Private Tour ($1660/person)
  • Machu Picchu Inca Trail 5D/4N ($950/person)
  • Short Inca Trail with camping 2D/1N ($590/person)
  • Short Inca Trail with hotel 2D/1N ($550/person)
  • Inca Trail + Saltkantay Trek 7D/6N ($1,150/person)

Inca Trails+Day Tours

Sacred Valley: These tours allow you to experience the Sacred Valley as well as the Inca Trail. Explore a local village, marvel at the ancient ruins of Pisaq, and spend time in the town of Ollantaytambo.

Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain has recently become one of the most popular things to do in this part of Peru. the colors of the mountain make it truly stunning, especially if you are lucky enough to visit on a clear day. 

  • Sacred Valley+Classic Inca Trail 7D/6N ($1095/person)
  • Inca Trail Hike 4D/3N and Rainbow Mountain+Red Valley 1Day ($940/person)
  • Inca Trail Hike 2D/1N and Rainbow Mountain + Red Valley 1 Day ($745/person)
  • Sacred Valley Tour 1 Day & Inca Trail Hike 2D/1N ($775/person)
  • Sacred Valley Tour 1 Day & Inca Trail 2D/1N & Rainbow Mountain+ Red Valley 1 Day ($845/person)

Luxury Tours

  • Luxury Inca Trail 4D/3N ($2795/person)
  • Luxury Inca Trail 2D/1N ($2350/person)
  • Luxury Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu 2D/1N ($1790/person)
  • Luxury Peruvian Andes 6D/5N (new tour, price not listed)
  • Luxury Cusco & Sacred Valley Tour 6D/5N (new tour, price not listed)

Alpaca includes the following with each luxury tour:

  • Certified massage therapist at each campsite
  • A la carte menu along with the meals cooked on the trail
  • One lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
  • Open bar at each campsite
  • Private bedroom tent with lanterns
  • Air mattress and camping cot
  • Trekking poles
  • Bed feather duvets, cotton sheets, blankets and pillows
  • Silk robe
  • Hot shower tent with towels
  • Luxury Hiram Bingham train back to Cusco
  • Welcome gift

Salkantay Treks to Machu Picchu

Salkantay is the most popular trick behind the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and for good reason. Trekkers get the opportunity to see Humanity Blue Lagoon and camp out in glass cabanas.  Also included with alpaca are outdoor Jacuzzis and unique Hobbit houses. 

  • Ultimate Classic Salkantay Trek 5D/5N ($650/person)
  • Sacred Valley & Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 6D/5N ($795/person)
  • Salkantay Trek+Inca Trail 7D/6N ($1150/person)
  • Women’s Only Sacred Valley and Salkantay Trek 7 days (must contact company for availability and prices)

Lares Treks to Machu Picchu

The Lares and Choquequirao treks are two of the lesser-traveled trails to Machu Picchu. For those wanting to have a more secluded experience, these tricks are an awesome alternative. Also, they’re often easier to book. 

  • Lares Trek to Machu Picchu 4D/3N ($600/person)
  • Lares & 2-Day Inca Trail with Camping 5D/4N ($905/person)

Choquequirao Treks

  • Choquequirao Trek+Machu Picchu 6D/5N ($825/person)
  • Choquequirao Trek 5D/4N ($700/person)

Other Tours

  • Humantay Blue Lagoon Day Hike ($150/person)
  • Huchuy Qosqo 3D/2N trek ($550/person)
  • Ausangate, Rainbow Mountain, & Machu Picchu 4D/3N ($750/person)
  • Rainbow Mountain Hike & Red Valley Tour in one Day ($160/person)
  • 7 Lakes Trek in Ausangate Full-Day Trip ($160/person)

Additionally, Alpaca offers a whole number of full Peru packages.  

How Far in Advance Should I Reserve with Alpaca?

Kendall and I reserved our 4-day/3 night classic Inca Trail Trek about 7 months in advance. Because Alpaca is one of the largest and most popular tour companies, Inca Trail spots sell out fast, especially if wanting to do the classic 4-day/3 night trail.

We recommend booking at least 6 months in advance. If you’ve already missed the 6-month mark, no worries. Alpaca has a ton of alternative tricks that, in some ways, are even better and don’t sell out as quickly.

Be sure to read our full guide on planning an international trip, including timeframes for each step.

How to Prepare for the Inca Trail

Preparation is key to an enjoyable trek on the Inca Trail. Here are a few tips we think are most important.

Physical Fitness

While you don’t need to be an expert hiker, it’s important to be in good physical condition. The Inca Trail involves several days of hiking, often at high altitudes, and a lot of stairs. 

Kendall and I hike very frequently and had no issues during the trek. However, our most recent hiking had been on the lower-altitude and less-steep trails near Spokane, Washington, and we could feel the altitude difference on the Inca Trail.

If you aren’t a big hiker or athlete, we still think the hike is very doable. we just recommend training consistently beforehand.

And again, make sure to acclimatize to the altitude for a few days in Cusco before your trek.

Packing List

In addition to everything that we pack for international travel, here’s what we had with us on the trail:

  • Hiking boots (I love Colombia Newton Ridge)
  • Backpack
  • Hiking socks 
  • Quick-dry t-shirts, a NEW one for each day ( (your clothes will get wet and they don’t dry well in the humidity)
  • 2 pairs of leggings or other appropriate hiking pants (Kendall did this hiking in jeans, but we don’t recommend it
  • Sleepwear
  • Enough underclothing for each day
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Toiletries and personal medications
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen (this is important!)
  • Water bottles (Alpaca provides plenty of purified water)
  • Snacks
  • Headphones
  • Headlamp 
  • Your passport (this is essential for getting past the trail checkpoints)
  • Enough cash for tipping guides/porters/chefs, and to buy snacks along the trail
  • Phone and additional power bank to charge

Travel Insurance

We always recommend travel insurance.  My favorite insurance company is TinLeg.  They offer comprehensive coverage for an affordable price.  Make sure to check your policy’s coverage for high-altitude hiking and adventure activities.

When is the Best Time of Year to Do the Inca Trail with Alpaca?

That entirely depends on the experience you want to have.  There are many factors to consider when deciding the best time of year to hike to Machu Picchu, including weather conditions and peak tourist seasons.

Kendall and I hiked in May and loved it.  We were lucky and had clear weather almost the entire time.  The mornings were chilly and the afternoons were warm, but nothing too extreme.  

Because May is the shoulder season, the crowds were not as bad as they would have been later in the summer (June-August). 

Alpaca Expeditions FAQ

  • Are you allowed to use the bathroom on the trail if you need to?
    • Yes, but most companies offer toilet tents. also, many of the campsites have bathrooms as well. 
  • Do I have to tip?
    •  It is not a requirement but please do. our guides and porters did such an amazing job and they worked incredibly hard.
  • Do people get constipated on the trail?
    • Apparently, yes, although we didn’t have any problems. Our guide said that this is a pretty frequent problem with hikers. due to the altitude changes and different diet. he recommended making sure to find a bathroom as soon as you need one. also, alpaca gave us mint tea each evening which is thought to aid digestion.
  • Can I leave the rest of my luggage somewhere during the trek?
    • Alpaca is very generous about letting visitors leave their luggage in the office where it is safely stored until the end of the trip. 

Alpaca Expeditions Review Summary

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is still one of my all-time favorite multi-day hikes.  It’s an awesome combination of beautiful landscapes, culture, and interesting history.  We thought Alpaca Expeditions did a fantastic job and set us up for success. 

No tour company is completely perfect, but we thought Alpaca came pretty darn close.  We love their treatment of porters, their involvement in the community, their attention to detail, and just the fact that they’re such a robust and long-standing company.  We highly recommend them to everyone. 

Our favorite things about our experience with Alpaca:

  • Fantastic, attentive guides, porters, and chefs
  • Incredible food
  • Access to some of the best campsites
  • Detailed instructions and briefings
  • Well-organized website with a ton of great information
  • Great resources for porters and involvement in community projects
  • Quick response times
  • Easy payment options
  • Hotel-to-hotel pickup with flexible departure location

The few things we thought could have been improved:

  • Very early morning on the 4th day and a very long wait at the Sun Gate checkpoint
  • We had no say in our timed entrance to Huayna Picchu, causing us to miss a portion of our Machu Picchu tour

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