Is this trail really worth the high cost ($500)? I am going to Buenos Aires this summer to visit friends around the middle to end of June but wanted to stop off in Peru for 6-7 days and try to hike up to Machu Picchu. I am on a tight budget but want to make the most of this experience.
Any advice is much appreciated...if the trail really is worth the cost, what are some recommended agencies to go through for a 22 year old male. I am by myself for this leg of the trip, so I need to make sure I choose well, and does anyone know any companies that are usually made up of younger travelers?
On a last thought, anyone going to Machu Picchu around June 11-19? Kind of a stretch, would be great though to have at least one other contact on this leg of the trip going into it, my parents are extremely worried about me traveling in Peru on my own, so maybe being around another person I somewhat meet before hand would calm their fears for the time being.
I've done it, and thought it totally worth the cost, yes. Though obviously I can't compare with any of the "alternative" treks which exist in the neighbourhood. The hike itself is just a moderately easy three day hike (with a few long stretches of continuous climbing), but during the course of this you pass a surprisingly large number of landscapes, with some amazing views, and of course all the inca ruins. Seeing those ruins (and having your guide explain the best thinking about their function) really gives you a sense of context of just how absolutely amazing Machu Picchu itself is. (All those other ruins are quite wonderful by themselves, but not even Winay Wayna comes close to the scale of Machu Picchu.)
As for which agency to go with: I'd pick one with a checkmark from this list. (Personally I went with United Mice; superb service on the trek itself, and we had a really small group which left earlier than anyone else, which meant we had the trek to ourselves for a significant amount of time - but communication with their office was rather bad, and I've heard from many people that this wasn't unique to just me.)
Do take into account that you'll want to acclimatize to the height for at least three days before setting out on the inca trail. Doing it in steps (e.g. first spend two days in Arequipa (2350 meters), then two days in Cuzco (3300 meters)) would be even better. And then it's three days hiking, and a fourth day at Machu Picchu. (And you would be justified staying in Aguas Calientes for another day at Machu Picchu, too, imo, especially if you climb Wayna Picchu, which can take up half a day if you go the long way around.) So that already takes up more time than you've allotted...
Totally worth it, one of the best treks in the world to do. Hope you get the weather. Bring your puncho!
Thanks for the advice. I actually am not really worried at all about the altitude as I currently live in Denver and probably will be doing some hikes before the trip in the mountains to prepare my lungs, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Appreciate the help though.
I totally agree with the previous posts as I have done it several times for 5 years while I was leading groups in Peru. Because your trip is so short, I suggest to focus in Cuzco area. Spend 2 days there before leaving for the Inca Trail (another 4 days including Machu Picchu's visit).
Regarding the weather, don't worry as June is sunny and nice during the day. It gets cold at night though (just below 0 °C or 32 °F). Bring a good sleeping bag for this or rent one rated for this temperatures in Cuzco.
My last advice is to book it in advance (at least 3 months before). June is the beginning of the high season and it gets full quite fast. There is a limit of 500 people per day and more than half of those spots are for the support staff (guides, cook, porters, etc.) for each group.
In regard to safety, provide the contact information of the tour operator where you book your Inca trail tour, thus, your parents can contact them in case they need to reach you.
Have a great time in Peru,