G Adventures Inca Trail Review: The Machu Picchu Trek

G Adventures Inca Trail Review: The Machu Picchu Trek

If you look at any reputable list of bucket-list-worthy experiences, then most likely hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu will be on it. It certainly was near the top of mine!

Until 1911, the Lost City of the Inca remained forgotten until the explorer Hiram Bingham III discovered it whilst looking for a different ancient city. Machu Pichu has been beautifully preserved and now ranks up as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World along with the likes of Petra in Jordan and Chichen Itza in Mexico.

You can, of course, visit Machu Picchu as a day trip from the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, however, for the more authentic experience, I highly recommend walking The Inca Trail.

I”ve done quite a few trips already with G Adventures so I knew to expect top class small group tours. This article reviews the amazing experience I had while doing the G Adventures Inca Trail as well as telling you the good and the bad and how you can prepare and book your own once-in-a-lifetime experience.

‘I regret doing the Machu Picchu Trek’…said no one EVER! So grab a brew or your favourite tipple and let’s get stuck in.

What you can expect in this article...

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Why take a group tour anyway?

I nearly always travel solo. Mostly because I’m in a fortunate position where I can go away for long chunks of time whereas my friends are tied down with life. Although I’ve never once felt lonely, sometimes you just want to share an experience with like-minded people. The Inca Trail was one of those things.

I wanted some of the headache taken out of organising an epic trip like this by myself. I’ve done tours with quite a few tour companies before, however, I can 100% vouch that G Adventures provide excellent tours.

      • You get to share the experience with likeminded people
      • Someone else does all the planning for you
      • You get insider knowledge from your guide
      • You’ll make some great friends along the way
      • No more struggling to take selfies, you’ll have hundreds of photos to share documenting your trip. 
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Why choose G Adventures for the Inca Trail?

My ‘thing’ for ancient civilisations started when I was a kid. I used to love this cartoon called ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold‘ which followed the adventures of three children and their hunt for this ancient lost city in South America. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu had been on my bucket list for what felt like ever and was top of my must-see things on my 2 month trip to Peru.

Granted, there are so many companies out there offering the Machu Picchu trek, and after reading a ton of reviews, the G Adventures Inca Trail came out top for several reasons.

Because this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I wanted to make sure I was going with the best company. G Adventures are a little bit more expensive (but not insanely overpriced) and like everything in life, you get what you pay for. There are so many perks with doing the Inca Trail with G Adventures such as what was included, the equipment used, the crew and service. I’ll go into more detail later in the article.

Which G Adventures Machu Picchu adventure is right for me?

G Adventures offer a few tours that incorporate The Inca Trail. I opted for the 7-day tour because it also included other ruins and places of interest in the Sacred Valley that would have been a hassle to get to on my own.

THE INCA TRAIL & MACHU PICCHU
- USEFUL INFO

G Adventures Inca Trail Packing List

You’ll find a complete Inca Trail packing list here, but here are some essentials to consider:

      • A good quality comfortable hiking pack with a waist strap to take the weight off your shoulders.
      • Walking poles! I would have struggled without mine. There are a lot of stairs and elevations to go up and down, the Inca Trail really takes it out on your knees. It’s best to go for a spring-loaded lightweight set like these. 
      • A comfortable pair of walking shoes, that you’ve broken in BEFORE you do the Inca Trail.
      • The weather can be changeable in the mountains. My memory of the Dead Woman’s Pass section of the trail that it was wet and windy. Be sure to pack a waterproof windproof breathable jacket.
      • There are no power outlets on the Inca Trail, so make sure you have an external power bank to keep your phone/camera/etc charged up.
      • It’s also a good idea to bring a bit of extra money to tip the porters and chefs. They did a great job of looking after us throughout the 4 day Inca Trail hike. They recommend around 50 US Dollar. 

Best time to hike The Inca Trail

Peru has two seasons; dry season (April – November) and wet season (December – March). You can hike The Inca Trail all year round, although the peak season for doing the Machu Picchu hike is between April and August. Permits frequently sell out during this time.

Your G Adventures Inca Trail tour includes this permit, just be sure to book well in advance. You can check availability here.

The Inca Trail does close during February (although dates vary) each year for essential maintenance work, so be sure to check this when you book. The ruins of Machu Picchu itself is open all year round, and there are alternate hiking routes if the official Inca Trail is shut.

The Inca Trail Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a very real thing, although it affects everyone slightly differently. Ideally, you’ll want to spend a couple of days in Cusco before starting the G Adventures Inca Trail hike so your body can acclimatise.

I was in Lake Titicaca (3,810 meters above sea level) and Cusco (3,249 meters above sea level) for about a week before I did the Inca Trai, so my body had gotten used to the thinner air. At first, I had mild headaches and was a bit out of breath. This passed in a couple of days.

As a generalisation, to feel the effects of altitude sickness, you’ll need to be above 2,500 meters. The highest part of the Inca Trail is a section called ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ which is around 4,215 meters above sea level. The ruins of Machu Picchu sit at 2,430 meters above sea level.

Inca Trail hike difficulty

The Inca Trail is a relatively demanding hike. This is down to the high-altitude and the steep inclines. As long as you have a good level of fitness you will be fine, you can prepare by doing local day hikes in your home country.

The great thing with going with G Adventures, they give you two guides. One will lead from the front of the group, and the other guide stays at the back of the group. There was no pressure at any point to have to keep up with the fastest people in the group.

We had a girl in our group who was suffering from altitude sickness on one of the hike days, the guide at the back walked with her the entire day at her pace so she wasn’t left behind.

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There are A LOT of stairs on the Inca Trail

Insurance for the Inca Trail

Because of the nature of The Inca Trail, you need to make sure you have suitable travel insurance. At the briefing, the day before we set off on the G Adventures Inca Trail, our guides checked our insurance documents to see if we were covered.

Your policy must cover you for high altitude hiking, most general travel insurances don’t cover this as standard. If you’re not insured, they won’t let you on the tour. A great insurer to use are Wolrd Nomads, they cover all sort of adventure activities for travellers including altitude hiking.

Fill out the form below to get a competitive travel insurance quote from World Nomads.

Inca Trail Fitness Level Required

You don’t need to do any specialist training before doing hiking The Inca Trail, although as a generalisation, the fitter you are the easier you will find the hike.

If you have never hiked or at least not for a long time, I would suggest doing some regular (full-day) hikes in your home country in the lead up to your trip. Make sure you to break in your walking shoes and try out you walking poles.

What's the typical G Adventures age range?

There is no strict age limit on the G Adventure Inca Trail tour, however, under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. G Adventures attracts travellers who are wanting to experience the culture of destination with like-minded people regardless of age. I have been on G Adventures tours with 20-somethings right up to people who had retired!

Although our group certainly knew how to have fun, if you are looking for a party-style tour company, I wouldn’t recommend G Adventures.

What does the price include?

Depending which of the tour you choose (I opted for full 7 days G Adventures Inca Trail with the additional days to see the Sacred Valley). The Inca Trail section of the tour includes the following:

  • Hotel night in Cusco the night before you depart
  • Inca Trail guided hike with cooks and porters (4 days)
  • Guided tour of Machu Picchu
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities
  • Your breakfast, lunches and dinners (while on the Inca Trail)
  • Private vehicle, (train ticket back from Aguas Calientes)
  • Your G Adventures Representative in Cusco
  • Specialist Inca Trail CEO (Chief Experience Officer)
  • Camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mattress etc)
  • Inca Trail Permit and entrance ticket to Machu Picchu

How much money to take on a G adventures Inca trail tour

There are no ATMs on the Inca Trail, so take a bit of cash with you to buy anything along the way (you’ll sometimes come across locals selling snacks and things). Personally, I didn’t spend anything extra on the Inca Trail part of the tour as I stocked up on snacks before we left.

You’ll also need some cash so you can tip the crew (they do an outstanding job, and I felt they were worthy of a generous tip). G Adventures give a suggested amount of $50USD per person – this gets split between all the crew.

If you opt to do the 7 Day G Adventures tour as I did, then you’ll want a bit extra spending money. Breakfast is always included throughout the 7 days, but some lunches or dinners are not. Check the full itinerary as it states on here which meals are provided on a specific day.

G Adventure Group Size

G Adventures specialise in small group experiences. For the G Adventure Inca Trail tour, the average group size was 12 people although the maximum can be up to 16 people. Our group had 10 people.

G Adventures Inca Trail experience - review

Before you travel to Peru, have you remembered to book your travel insurance?

I mentioned earlier that I chose the 7 day Inca Tour because I wanted to see more of the Sacred Valley for the fully immersive Inca Trail experience. This trip included the four-day Inca Trail tour.

Day 1 - Cusco

I had already been in Cusco for a few days before starting the tour, so I had a fairly relaxed day sightseeing around the UNESCO city waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.

In the late afternoon, we had our briefing. We got to meet the rest of our group as well as our guides. In the briefing, we were told more details on what to expect, any questions were answered as well as doing an equipment check. 

One of the things the guides will need to see is your travel insurance, so make sure your policy covers you for high altitude hiking. 

Day 2 - The Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo

We had an early start and after a tasty breakfast and our last minute packing, we were set.

Our tour of the Sacred Valley started with a visit to the Women’s Weaving Co-op and then a local pottery making Ccaccaccollo Community. Both of these projects are supported by G Adventures Planeterra scheme. Part of G Adventures mission is to put tourist money straight back into the local communities, and these women-owned initiatives were two successful outcomes from this.

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Womens Weaving Co-Op

We stopped for a hearty lunch at the G Adventures-supported Parwa Community Restaurant in Huchuy Qosco. On a side note – ALL the food I ate on this trip was phenomenal!

After lunch, you’ll head to the town of Ollantaytambo, where you’ll have a guided tour around the ruins and the valley before heading back to the picturesque cobblestoned town.

If you get the opportunity, visit one of the local Chicherias. This is their locally made purple beer made from fermented corn!

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Ollyantaytambo
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Day 3 - The Inca Trail

Another early start (there’s a theme running here!) and we did our final check on all of our equipment. We could leave our large pieces of luggage at the hotel, so only pack what you will need for the next few days.

Note: This is the last piece of civilisation you’ll see for a few days. If you don’t have walking poles, then one of the local shops actually sell what look like broom handles that some people used.

From Ollantaytambo, it’s an 82km drive to the start of the Inca Trail. When we arrived, of course, we took advantage of a great photo op at the start of the trail. This is where we met the rest of our crew, the porters and the cooks with all the camping equipment. The Inca Trail begins.

This first day of hiking feels more like a pleasant stroll through the countryside. There’s nothing over strenuous today. Our group stopped regularly at smaller ruins along the way.

by van to km 82 where the Inca Trail begins. Ease into the adventure with a straightforward day of hiking the meandering streams, stunning Andean scenery, and ancient Incan ruins.

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Day 4 - The Inca Trail

Another early start, we’re woken by a delicious warming cup of coco tea.

Note: Coco tea is legal in lots of South America, it’s made using the dried leaves of the coca plant, it can help alleviate the effects of altitude sickness. It also has a slight numbing effect if you chew the leaves. However, don’t try to bring it back as a souvenir, it’s illegal in lots of countries.

I talked about a high altitude climb earlier on in this article, well today is when you get to climb it. The Inca Trail follows a long and steady incline to Warmiwañusca – aka Dead Woman’s Pass.

It was also on this day that it rained! A LOT! So needless to say, this wasn’t my favourite day of the Inca Trail. If you suffered badly from altitude sickness, you will feel it the most today. The hike, at the highest point, reaches 4,198m.

It’s exhausting. By the time I reached the top, the rain was beginning to ease. This just meant the route down the other side was very slippery scrambling over the boulders and steps. I was thankful today for my walking poles.

Of course, ur fabulous porters and cooks had run on ahead and set up camp by the time we arrived.

Day 5 - The Inca Trail

After a well-deserved rest after yesterdays tough hike, I was glad to hear today would be a little gentler….a little.

Today’s section of The Inca Trail covered two passes. The first one is Runquraqay at 3,950m. Our guide stopped up at the top and pointed out to the horizon where on a clear day, we should have been able to see a snow-capped mountain called Cordillera Vilcabamba. There was too much cloud!

The trail heads down and into the Cloud Forest, before ascending again. I kept my fingers crossed to see one of the shy Spectacled Bears (the same bear as the cute childhood character Paddington is based on, according to the book, he came from deepest darkest Peru!)

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The trail heads down and into the Cloud Forest, before ascending again. I kept my fingers crossed to see one of the shy Spectacled Bears (the same bear as the cute childhood character Paddington is based on, according to the book, he came from deepest darkest Peru!)

This section of the trail we got to walk amongst the ruins an ancient Incan settlement. The highest part of this pass is 3,700m. The trail looks down on the Urubamba Valley, which makes an amazing panoramic shot.

Eventually, we reached reach the ruins of Phuyupatamarca which translated to the “town above the clouds.” Quite an apt name seeing as we’re at 3,650m! We stopped here for a short while before moving on to tonight’s camp at Wiñay Wayna ruins at a much more comfortable 2,650 meters.

Day 6 - Machu Picchu

So, if you through the previous few days were early, then get this. The final day of the hike starts before the sun is even up. We were woken at 3.30!

The idea is that we wanted to be at the Sun Gate to see the sun rising and then the first rays of the day over Machu Picchu. Alas, we had cloud that morning, so the ‘sun gate’ was certainly more of a ‘cloud gate’ on this day.

Our group made it down to Machu Picchu as the clouds began to break. It was every bit as stunning as the guide books stay. It was also a lot bigger than I thought it would be.

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The clouds were just beginigng to break as we arrived....
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...then the sun came out
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We had a guided tour of Machu Picchu before being given some free time to explore the runs by ourselves. The great thing with being at the site so early was that for the first part out our time there, we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Be sure to walk out to the Inca Bridge, this tiny looking bridge that looks like it’s just been balanced on the cliff face.

From Machu Pichhu, we caught the tourist bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes. After the insanely early start, most of our group were happy to relax and reminisce until our train arrived.

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The tiny Inca Bridge perched over the valley

Day 7 - Cusco

This was our final day, where we said goodbye to our guides and our tight-knit unit. I opted to stay another day in Cusco, exhilarated yet exhausted

So, was it worth it? 100% yes it was worth it, and I’m so glad I chose the G Adventures Inca Trail which more than exceeded my expectations. I can wholeheartedly say there is nothing I would change I would do the whole experience again if I ever had the opportunity.

Final Thoughts in the Inca Trail

There is no doubt that I would recommend this tour to anyone wanting to do The Inca Trail.
People are often so quick to complain, but there was not a single aspect of this trip that I would change.

If you’re looking to complete this once in a lifetime experience then I suggest before even looking at what other travel companies offer, you check out the G Adventures Inca Trail. Use that as the ‘standard’ and see if you can find a company that others a superb experience, top-class crew and are ethical.

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I hope after reading this article you’re excited about the idea of doing the Inca Trail with G Adventures. This article is purely based on my own experience funded by myself.

If you loved this post, or know someone that will, then please like and share. If you’re planning a trip to Peru then why not pin it for future reference? 

If you have a question or comment about the G Adventures Inca Trail? then please drop me a message in the space below, and I’ll try and answer it for you. 

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

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