We just completed the Inca Trail last week. It was an amazing experience and, based on what we saw, Llama Path is the only way to go for guides (with the exception of SAS which also appeared to have a well-run organization).
Llama Path was well run and very organized. Our guides Marco and Roger made the trip fun but kept things organized and moving on schedule. The porters do a fantastic job of making sure you are comfortable and the backbreaking work they put in is unbelievable (I watched a porter pull a grill-size propane tank from his ruck-sack and the sack remained half-full). Llama Path clearly cares about its porters though – they had uniforms and proper gear and clearly worked as team which was not the case for the majority of the other outfits. To food is good especially for camp food and solid quality. You won’t go hungry. They provide a number of different dishes each meal so even the pickiest person can find something they like and rice is served pretty much with every meal so that’s always an option.
A couple notes –
Many people think the hike is something anyone can do. While most people in moderate physical condition can finish the trail it is very physically demanding. Putting aside concerns of altitude, being in great shape will allow you to spend more time enjoying the amazing sights and less time thinking about how miserable you are. Our group was compromised of folks in their late 20s/early 30s and we are in excellent shape for the most part and still found the hike challenging (particularly Day 2).
Llama Path’s schedule is different from other groups and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I think it’s the best schedule but be warned. The first day is a very early start (4:00 a.m. from Cusco) but that allows you to get started early on the trail. We went further on the first day that most other groups but still finished before dark (some groups came in after dark). This sets you up for a long second day (including dead women’s pass – the trail high point and a second high pass) but leaves you an easy half-day hike on the third-day into the final camp which was nice. It was nice having the afternoon of the third day to relax, take pictures, explore nearby Inca sights and taking a (cold) shower if you dare.
The third campsite was supposed to have hot pay showers and beers and other concessions but was under construction when we arrived so those amenities weren’t available in mid-sept. 2011.
Lastly, the bugs were outrageously bad. I didn’t take seriously warnings of bugs thinking the altitude would kill them off, but mosquitoes are vicious throughout the trip and the second campsite (the highest altitude) featured swarms of gnats that forced us into the tents until the sun went down.
Indispensable items you may forget: Bug spray, head lamp, toilet paper, camp shoes (I took crocs – lightweight and allowed you to wear socks).
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