Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an incredibly special experience and a privilege to undertake. Traversing the mountain passes and cloud forests over four days en route to the fascinatingly beautiful Incan citadel, and reaching it at sunrise, is an experience reserved for a lucky handful of travellers.
To preserve the archaeological site and the ecosystems that encircle it, only 500 people are permitted to start the Inca Trail trek on any given day. While this may sound like a lot, the limit includes 300 permits for guides, porters and cooks and given the demand of this iconic experience, it means many travellers miss out.
To trek the Inca Trail, you must join an official tour operator, who will arrange the permits on your behalf. You can book your Inca Trail tour in advance with Global Journeys, and our experienced tour operators will secure the permits for your group upon the official permit release.
In recent years, the Peruvian government has released permits in early October for the following year, so it makes sense to have your tour booked beforehand to reserve your place on the trail. As a general guide, it is recommended to book your tour at least six months in advance for high season departures (May – October) and three to four months in advance for low season departures (November – April). The earlier you book, the better chance of securing your Inca Trail permit.
If you do happen to miss out on a permit, are time poor or don’t think the full four day Inca Trail is for you, there are also tours that offer the Short Inca Trail from KM104. You can get a taste of the trail on Peregrine’s One Day Inca Trail itinerary. This day long trek, growing in popularity, has you arriving at Machu Picchu in the afternoon, followed by a guided tour the next day. You still need a permit (limited to 250 per day) for this trek, so booking well in advance is still advised.
There are also alternative routes that currently do not require permits. The most well known is the Lares Trek, however you might also consider the Salkantay Trek and the Quarry Trail as alternative routes to Machu Picchu. Find out how the Quarry Trail and the Lares Trek compare to the iconic Inca Trail.
If you have your heart set on the classic Inca Trail route, while there are over 90 tours to choose from, be sure to book your Inca Trail tour early so you don’t miss out.