The Inca Trail

Inca Trail Permits – How Permits Work and Why You Need Them In Peru

The Inca Trail Permit System was created by the Peruvian government to help prevent serious overcrowding, overuse, and erosion on the historic Inca Trail. A limited number of total permits are available each day to hike the Inca Trail. Permits are required for all hikers – including porters, guides, and trekking customers. The Inca Trail is the classic trail created in the 15th century by the Incas to get to Machu Picchu. The 51-55 mile trail enters Machu Picchu through the famous Sun Gate.  The tightly controlled number of daily hiking permits is why it’s essential to book your Inca Trail Trek early, as permits sell out 3 to 6 months in advance, for popular May through August trekking dates. Alpaca Expeditions has a 99% success rate at helping customers get the permit dates they want, with advance planning.  Watch this video to learn more about the permit system.

How Inca Trail Permits Work & Why Must Reserve Early - 2024 Inca Trail Permits Released Oct 10, 2023

UPDATED October 5, 2023, for 2024 Inca Trail Permits Release Date
Hello Trekkers! We are very excited to announce that the Peruvian government is going to release the 2024 Inca trail permits (for all treks in 2023) from October 10 on. The Inca Trail is very regulated, and the Peruvian government requires that every trekker has a permit to enter the park. Due to this, these permits can sell out quickly. So, we need to secure the permits as soon as possible for every single trekker. Our booking team is ready to provide assistance for the whole process so we can make your trip a reality. Remember, the busy Inca Trail trekking season starts in May and ends in August, so permits for those months run out quickly. Don’t forget to follow us on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We will keep you updated on everything there. We cannot wait to get you here, see you in 2024!

Read on for a more in-depth description of the Inca Trail Permit System.

Why The Inca Trail Permit System Was Created

Rediscovered in 1911, Machu Picchu was eventually declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1983. Its popularity skyrocketed, and the number of people hiking along the Inca Trail rose from 6,000 in 1984 to 82,000 in 2000. Erosion and trash became an increasingly bigger threat to the pristine Andean mountains and ancient ruins.

Geologists, studying the area’s land movement, announced that it was in danger of collapse. So, in 2000, the government of Peru chose to limit the number of daily visitors to the Inca Trail to 500 people. This included everyone – trekkers/tourists, but also porters and guides. The fear of losing the ancient trail and the need to protect people from Peru and around the world led the government to enact the first-ever limit for the Inca Trail. Learn more about hikes to Machu Picchu in this Guide to Hiking to Machu Picchu

Permits are necessary to keep the Inca Trail protected. Alpaca Expeditions is also committed to protecting and preserving our area by cleanup and reforestation efforts. Learn more about our sustainable tourism practices here.

Porters are included in the permit limit from the Peruvian government

How Many Inca Trail Permits are Available for each Trekking Season?

Then in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic further limited the permit system. Concerned for the health of tourists and native Peruvians, the government implemented health and safety restrictions that allow even fewer trekkers to Machu Picchu. As of late 2022, we are pleased to report that the number of available daily permits to hike the Inca Trail is back up to the pre-pandemic full amount. 

The Details on Inca Trail Permit Government Regulations available annually per Season (January 1 – December 31):

  • Only 500 total permits are available per day for trekking.
  • This limit includes 300 permits total for guides, porters, and other staff, and 200 permits for all customer trekkers
  • You can only hike the Inca Trail with a licensed tour operator (like Alpaca Expeditions)
  • Entry points and camping spots were pre-determined on your permit and at ranger-protected checkpoints.
  • Permits are non-refundable and non-transferrable. Dates and names can not be moved.
  • All Inca Trail Permit regulations are controlled by the Peruvian government, not by individual trekking companies.
  • Note that the Inca Trail is closed every February for trail maintenance. This is often the rainiest month of the season as well.

How Do You Get a Permit for the Inca Trail?

Example of an Incan Trail permit

Reserve 3 to 6 Months Early due to Limited Permits

Inca Trail permits always sell out fast for the most popular trekking months every year in Peru.  Only licensed Inca Trail Tour Operators, such as Alpaca Expeditions, can obtain these permits from the Peruvian government. The limit is strictly followed and the total number of daily permits includes everyone – trekkers, porters, and guides, alike. Since tickets sell out fast, you will want to start the process three to six months in advance in order to get your preferred dates. Spring and Fall dates do not sell out as fast, so you could get permits more easily for March – April and September – December dates.

It is possible to book your permit with an old passport or even a license, but we would need to know the new passport number and have a copy sent to us as soon as it arrives to update with the passport office. Note: If your passport will expire within 6 months of your trek, you also must renew it before you come to Peru.

Trekkers crossing a bridge on the Inca Trail

What To Do If You Don’t Get Your First Choice Permit Date For the Inca Trail

If you don’t get a permit for your preferred date, the good news is that you have a few other options.

First, when booking with Alpaca Expeditions, you not only choose your first preferred date, but we also ask for your two alternative dates right up front. This gives you the best shot of getting a permit on the very first time we submit your request in the permit system. Be sure to have three possible dates for hiking the Inca Trail in mind when you start your booking process.

Choose a Stunning, Less Crowded Alternative Trek

Your other option is to do one of many Alternative Treks. Alternative Treks are literally “alternative” hiking trips to hiking on the actual classic Inca Trail. They take many other incredibly scenic trails through the Andes mountains, and you still get to go to Machu Picchu! Alternative Treks end at the town before Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – and you will take a bus up to Machu Picchu the next morning. You can’t go wrong with any of these amazing trek choices:

Each of these treks still highlights the lush and historic beauty of the ancient paths of the Incas in the Andes. They don’t require a permit because you are not traveling on the specific trail known as the classic Inca Trail. Huge plus, you’ll avoid the more crowded Inca Trail!

If you really only want to hike the Inca Trail and can’t get your preferred dates because permits are sold out, then you really want to plan ahead for the next year and get to be first in line. The Peruvian government releases permits on a rolling basis, typically in the fall prior to the year you want to trek (for example, permits for 2024 will be released in October of 2023). Mark it on your calendar, and prioritize booking your trip in the summer or early fall, a full year before your trip. This will help you all but guarantee you can get a permit for the dates you want.

Alpaca Expeditions Leads with 99% Inca Trail Permits Success Rate

Alpaca Expeditions has a 99% permit securement rate, compared to less than 75% for other companies. We are so successful for our customers because we help them understand how the permit system works so that they reserve as early as possible to get their dates. Popular dates sell out 3 to 6 months in advance!

Along with the Inca Trail permit to hike the Inca Trail, you will also need a separate ticket to visit Machu Picchu itself. All Machu Picchu tickets are included in your trek if it goes to Machu Picchu. Alpaca Expeditions takes care of securing these tickets as well,  so you don’t have to deal with it! Machu Picchu is a World UNESCO Heritage Site, and also has a (much higher) limit of daily entrance tickets in order to protect this historic site from overuse, erosion, overcrowding, and degradation.

The challenges of overcrowding, erosion concerns and overtourism over the last several decades have required protection for the Inca Trail. Thankfully, these protections of limiting daily trekkers and visitors preserve the ancient Inca Trail itself and historic Machu Picchu.  They do also make it more competitive to get the dates you want for your trip. With advance preparation and planning, you can experience this unforgettable trip of a lifetime in the magical Andes!


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