Peruvian Andean Treks, ExplorAndes, and Tambo Treks are the longest established trekking companies in Cusco; they pioneered the contemporary trekking culture. We recommend them, not only for their unsurpassed experience and professionalism, but also because they consistently recycle their trash, pack out all human waste, treat water carefully, and pay porters fair wages.
Over the last three decades, these operators have developed ties with a number of Quechua communities in the Cusco area, where they are embarking on a new brand of participatory cultural activities such as harvesting potatoes, building adobe homes, and even herding llamas.
Trekking prices vary greatly based on the season, the number of people in the group, the length of the trek, the trek itself, and other factors. Because of licensing requirements the four-night Machu Picchu trek now costs US$1,500, though most agencies charge US$500–600 for group bookings. The shorter two-day Inca Trail is around $200–250 for group bookings.
The alternative five-day Salcantay Trek to Machu Picchu is in the US$300–850 range, though most operators offer group Salcantay treks for around US$500. Other treks in the Cusco area, such as in the Lares Valley, generally run about US$100 per day.
Be careful to ask your agency whether the price includes all entry fees (an important consideration for Salcantay in particular).
Peruvian Andean Treks
Peruvian Andean Treks (Pardo 705, tel. 084/22-5701, www.andeantreks.com) is owned by American and long-time Cusco resident Tom Hendrickson. It operates on the Inca Trail and runs treks through jungle areas and the Lares Valley in the Cordillera. It is also the best option for climbing expeditions in the snow-covered peaks around Cusco. This company was voted Cusco’s best tour operator in 2006.
ExplorAndes (Av. Garcilaso 316-A, tel. 084/23-8380 or Lima tel. 01/715-2323, www.explorandes.com) is Peru’s most established adventure sports agency. It offers the traditional Inca Trail hike, as well as variations that combine it with treks above the Sacred Valley or around Nevado Salcantay and Nevado Ausangate. Kayaking on Lake Titicaca, rafting down the Tambopata or Apurímac, and llama-supported treks around the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash near Huaraz are also offered. Recently it has operated a variety of special-interest tours around Peru, focusing on orchids, potatoes and maize, camelids, ceramics, cacti, textiles, coca, and other medicinal plants. ExplorAndes was voted Peru’s best overall tour operator by the Ministry of Tourism in 2005.
Tambo Treks (Casilla 912, tel. 084/23-7718, www.tambotreks.net) is owned by Andreas Holland and has been operating for over 30 years. It offers diverse treks and tours with tailor-made itineraries (six people minimum), which accommodate group specifications and a wide range of special interests. The staff are very knowledgeable, and since its foundation Tambo Treks has had a profound commitment to helping local communities. Most importantly, however, the welfare of all their staff has always been a priority, as has working in an ecologically sustainable and responsible manner. Tambo Treks’ sister company, Tambo Film (www.tambofilm.com), specializes in outfitting film and television productions throughout Peru.
Two long-standing, reputable and very professional trekking agencies are Auqui Mountain Spirit and Ecoinka.
Auqui Mountain Spirit
Auqui Mountain Spirit (José Gabriel 307, Urb. Magisterial, tel. 084/26-1517, www.auqui.com.pe), run by Roger Valencia, has been operating for over 20 years. This high-end agency has a very experienced team and specializes in customized trips, especially for corporate clients.
Ecoinka (Saphy 456, tel. 084/22-4050, www.ecoinka.com) was founded by Ricky Schiller, who has been involved in the tourism industry for over 30 years. The expert staff provide excellent service.
Among the more than 150 licensed agencies operating in Cusco, the standard of service and social and environmental responsibilities vary greatly. It is up to the client to be discerning and to research thoroughly before booking. The agencies listed here are all recommended.
Perú Sur Nativa
Perú Sur Nativa (Magisterio 2da Etapa K-7-302, tel. 084/22-4156, www.perusurnativa.com) is owned by long-time Cusco adventurer extraordinaire Raúl Montes. Montes has a real eye for adventure and an unflappable sense of humor (we confirmed this after spending two weeks with him on a balsa raft in the Manu jungle eating only green bananas and red-bellied piraña!). Perú Sur Nativa also runs trips in other parts of South America as well as nearby Choquequirao, Carabaya, Vilcabamba, and to the Manu rainforest.
Enigma (Clorinda Matto de Turner 100, tel. 084/22-2155, www.enigmaperu.com) is one of the newer agencies; it has gourmet cooks. It offers Inca Trail treks combined with Nevado Salcantay, Vilcabamba, and the ruins of Choquequirao. Alternative adventures include horseback riding, ayahuasca therapy, and bird-watching.
Inca Explorers (Ruinas 427, tel. 084/24-1070, www.incaexplorers.com) has a range of longer trips to Vilcabamba, Choquequirao, and the Cordillera Vilcanota, as well as participative tourism such as weaving, farming, and traditional healing.
Q’ente ((Choquechaca 229, tel. 084/22-2535, www.qente.com) has been running since 1995 and provides a good service and trained staff.
The following Inca Trail operators are at the bottom of the price range but have been reported to be environmentally responsible.
Peru Treks & Adventure
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition