Everything You Need to Know about the Inca Trail Permits!
The Inca Trail is the most popular hike to Machu Picchu. Whether you do this hike in 2, 4, or more days, it is an amazing experience to walk along the same historic path that the Incas themselves used to get to Machu Picchu. You arrive at the Sun Gate (Intipunku) and have the incredible experience of getting your first view of Machu Picchu below. Along the way there are many archaeological sites and beautiful scenery. However, in order to be able to do this hike, you have to get an Inca Trail permit. In order to protect the National Park which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, there is a limit of 500 permits per day. This number also includes our team that accompanies you along the hike such as chefs, guides, and Quechuas (porters). That means that on a given day, there may be a total of 2,000 people hiking the trail.
In order to get a permit, it is necessary to book a tour with a tour operator that is authorized to operate the Inca Trail, so you cannot purchase your permits on your own. Permits sell out on a first come first serve basis. So once you book your Inca Trail hike with us, we will purchase your permits, and the total number of permits remaining will drop. Each permit must be purchased with the hiker’s full name, nationality, passport number, age, and gender. Once Inca Trail permits are sold out, there is no possibility that they will become available again, since the permits are nonrefundable and nontransferable. That means that there is no waiting list, since even if someone cancels their hike, their permit will not be made available to the public again. Also, once purchased, the date of the permit cannot be changed, nor the person’s name. If you get a new passport number, it is possible to change the number if you send us a copy of your new passport at least 15 days before your hike, or you can bring a copy of your original passport with to the hike.
Permits for the upcoming year always become available in the first part of January. For some months such as April and May, the only way to get permits is to reserve your hike before the permits become available, so that we have all of your information and can purchase your permits the day permits are made available. For 2015, the whole month of May sold out the very day that the permits became available in January. Because of that, if you are planning to do the Inca Trail during March, April, or May, we recommend booking your hike by December. So far for 2015, all months have been selling out 6 months ahead of time, so as a general rule we recommend trying to book at least 7 months in advance, although this can vary depending on when you want to go. Permits for March through September can sell out very quickly, but from October to January it may be possible to get your permits only a few months in advance. Please note that in February the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance.
Another thing to remember if you want to do the Traditional 4-Day Inca Trail, is that there are different campsites on the third night, and they have a limited number of spaces. The best campsite is closest to Machu Picchu and sells out first since it has a limited number for each day. Usually when there are at least 200 permits left for your date we can still reserve this campsite for you. When there are less than 200 permits, we generally need to book the second campsite option, which although it is in a beautiful location, it is farther away from Machu Picchu meaning that on the fourth day you must hike an extra 2 hours to reach Machu Picchu (which is different from the itinerary on our website). Because of this, it is also best to book the Traditional 4-Day Inca Trail well in advance if possible, so that we can reserve the best campsite for you before it runs out.
So how can you find out how many permits are left? We recommend visiting the Ministry of Culture’s website for the official count of permits available. You will need to enter their website here, then click towards the top where it says “Queries,” and then under “Archeological Center” select “Camino Inka.” It will show the number of permits out of 500 available for each day up until December of the current year.
What can you do if Inca Trail permits are sold out for your date? If your dates are flexible, you can check for the next available date that has permits available. If you cannot change your dates, then you may want to consider an alternative hike to Machu Picchu instead. The alternative hikes are less crowded, and also pass through stunning scenery and some hikes include Inca ruins. Since they do not require permits, these hikes can be organized at anytime, for the date that you choose. Popular alternative hikes to Machu Picchu include the 5-Day Salkantay Hike which is great for nature lovers since you hike through a variety of ecological zones, the 4-Day Lares Hike which is very cultural since you pass through Andean villages where the locals speak Quechua and wear traditional ponchos, or the 4-Day Mantanay Hike which is very remote and you get to hike by beautiful lakes and mountains.
If you have any other questions about Inca Trail permits, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to answer your questions and provide more information!