Hiking Machu Picchu - the GOOD way

Close to 1 million people visit Machu Picchu in the Andes of Peru each year. Approximately 500 of these visitors arrive each day along the Inca Trail and many more along the new alternative hikes to Machu Picchu such as Salkantay and Lares.

You can also take the train, but we highly recommend hiking if you can. The altitude and steep climbs make for some very challenging days but the journey is incredible and when you finally arrive in Machu Picchu, you’ll be completely in love with the Andes and your hiking team!

In fact the journey to Machu Picchu is possibly as beautiful and memorable as seeing Machu Picchu itself. The Inca Trail is a series of smaller and less crowded Machu Picchus and the alternative treks like Salkantay and Lares offer a unique way to experience life in the Andes.

As an ethical hiker, it is essential that you think about how you hike and who you hike with (see our post on ethical hiking). With the huge numbers of people hiking to Machu Picchu each day and the huge range of trekking companies out there, ethical hikers need to be especially mindful in Peru.

The first thing to be aware of is that you’re not allowed to hike the Inca Trail independently - you must be accompanied by a professionally qualified guide. All companies operating the Inca Trail must be registered and have a special Inca Trail operators license. With the alternative treks you can in theory hike independently but we don’t recommend it as the trails are not clearly marked and you can never be 100% sure how the altitude will affect you.

But with nearly 200 licensed Inca Trail operators out there and many more offering alternative hikes, how do you choose? You’ll probably want to look at online reviews and pricing, but we also recommend that you do some research to ensure that you sign-up with an ethical trekking company. You’ll not only be able to enjoy the trek more by knowing that you’re supporting a responsible company, but you’ll get way more out of the experience too.

Here are our top five GOOD tips for what to look for when choosing a company to hike with to Machu Picchu:

  1. Responsible tourism accreditations/awards: Explore the company’s website to see if they have been certified by any responsible tourism organisations or sustainability organisations such as Rainforest Alliance. Make sure you look into what the award/certification actually means too!
  2. Porter welfare: All ethical hiking companies will have defined policies to ensure porter welfare. Look for load weight limits (IPPG recommend a 25kgs limit) and fair wages as well as regulations around company-provided clothing, shelter, equipment and insurance.
  3. Muleteer and mule welfare: Many operators who offer alternative treks will work with muleteers and mules to help carry your equipment. Similar with porters, ensure that muleteers are paid fair wages and provided with suitable clothing, shelter, equipment and insurance. We also encourage you to ask about any regulations to guarantee good mule treatment and to provide positive feedback to muleteers who treat their mules well.
  4. Community projects: Several Inca Trail operators support great community and/or environmental projects. This is a great way to ensure that the benefits of tourism spread beyond the tourist centres and we encourage you to ask and learn about the projects supported by your hiking company.
  5. Environmental policies: Ethical hiking operators will have environmental policies to guide how they operate both at their office and on the trail. Many responsible hiking companies have also set up codes of conducts that all hikers are required to sign and adhere by.

Below we've featured one of our favourite hiking companies in Peru who we're proud to are part of our GOOD Business Network. If you have hiked with other great companies in Peru or have any additional tips you’d like to share with the GOOD Travel community, we'd love to hear from you! Please share your comments below or send us a message.

And last but not least, GOOD Travel loves working with travellers from all corners of the globe to develop the perfect trip for you. If you're looking for a unique tailor-made trip to Peru, visit our Destination Peru page for more information or join our GOOD Travel trip to Peru next year!

July 23, 2023
5 min read