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Can You Hike The Inca Trail Without A Guide? Official Regulations And Our Helpful Tips

Alison Macallister

For the free-spirited adventurer, hiking the Inca Trail without a guide may sound like the ideal way to experience this trail. Unfortunately, this is one dream you are going to have to let go of.

Hiking the Inca Trail without a guide is simply not an option. We love an independent hike more than anyone. And yes, there are extra costs associated with using a tour operator. However, the Peruvian authorities have good reasons for this policy.

Don't feel too down. There are many advantages to hiking the Inca Trail with an expert guide.

In this article, we will take a closer look at your options and regulations for hiking the Inca Trail.

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Can You Hike The Inca Trail Without A Guide?

Is It Possible to Hike The Inca Trail Without A Guide?

It is not permitted to hike the Inca Trail without a guide. In 2001, a regulation was passed that prohibits visitors from walking the Inca Trail solo. All hikers on the trail must be accompanied by a professional, registered guide.

If you can’t hike the Inca Trail without a guide, what is the next best option?

Hiring an independent guide.

Hiring a solo guide will cut out the tour operator aspect. It will just be one other person with you and your partner or friends on the trail. This also means you won't have support staff. Be prepared to carry all your own equipment and food though.

When considering a private guide, make sure they are registered with Unidad de Gestión del Santuario Histórico de Machupicchu (UGM). Independent guides buy the permits and may take a maximum of 6 hikers.

Fair warning: It is difficult to check the credentials of these solo operators. Ask around and find a good guide with reliable, first-hand references.

Advantages To Hiking The Inca Trail With A Guide

Just because you can’t hike the Inca Trail without a guide doesn’t mean you can’t have the most magical experience.

In fact, a guide can add a lot of value to your trek by helping you learn more about the region.

Most Inca trail guides are locals who have been working on the trail for years. They have a wealth of knowledge on the history of the Inca ruins, plants, wildlife, and geology of the trail.

A good guide can enrich your experience through interesting stories and fun Inca trail facts. You would never come across this information on your own if you hiked the Inca Trail without a guide.

Personally, I take every opportunity to spend time with locals when traveling. Like me, you will also find yourself in more casual conversations about daily life in the country you are visiting. You'll learn lots more personalised information this way about the place you're visiting instead of just relying solely on internet searches. 

The big advantage to booking with a tour operator is that you don’t need to stress about logistics. A good company will do all the admin work for you. This includes buying permits and arranging transport. This leaves you free to relax and enjoy the trail without the usual headaches of organised travel.

In Peru, there are around 180 registered tour offices offering Inca Trail packages. This means you have plenty of options. Prices and quality of tours vary, so choose your Inca Trail tour operator wisely!

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Alternative Hikes To The Inca Trail You Can Do Without A Guide

Is your heart set on a solo hike?

There are some alternative routes to Machu Picchu that you can do without a guide and for a fraction of the cost.

The Salkantay Trek is the most popular multi-day alternative trek to the Inca Trail. This 5-6 day trek is over 46 miles (72 km) and is more challenging than the Inca Trail. There is no permit required to hike this route. This makes it an affordable option that is easier to book at the last minute. You can also hike the Salkantay solo.

The Lares Trek is the best option for those who want to experience the local culture. The trail passes communities that have remained unaffected by modern society. You will get to learn about rural life and traditions that date back hundreds of years. This 21-mile (33km) route is easier than the Inca Trail. 

You may want to compare the Lares with the Inca trail.

If you are looking for an even more challenging trek, you can go for the Choquequirao Trek. This 4-day, 36 mile (54km) hike is considered a tougher walk to Machu Picchu. With good planning, you can hike Choquequirao without a guide.

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Other Inca Trail Regulations That You Should Know About

There are a few other rules and regulations when it comes to hiking the Inca trail. These are in place in order to keep the trails safe for visitors and protect the environment.

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Please Note: Only 500 permits are issued for the Inca Trail each day. This is the total number and includes guides, cooks, and porters. Once you deduct the companies, it leaves around 200 permits per day available for hikers. See more on Inca trail permits and availability.

The regulations also stipulate that there may be a maximum of 16 tourists per group. Operator groups may be up to 45. Sounds excessive right? Don’t freak out. This number includes all the staff. Not everyone is going to be hiking with you.


I hope my article on hiking the Inca Trail without a guide helped you! Even though a solo hike along the Inca Trail isn't in the cards, it doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy an epic adventure on this trail or others like it in exotic Peru. 

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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  1. Thank you for this article ! As an experienced solo trekker I will consider the option of a private guide shared with other trekkers for the Incas trail. How to find one considering that permits need to be purchased months in advance? Guide can be hired on the spot?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Mirjana, for thew Inca Trail unfortunately it’s not possible to hire a guide on the spot. Permits can only be purchased by registered operators / guides. In addition to arranging your permit, these guides / operators will also organise your trip. You can get a quote from our recommended operators here: https://www.machupicchutrek.net/go/

  2. Thank you for all of the great articles Alison! Do you know if it is possible to hike the Salkantay solo and then join the Inca trail in Huayllabamba (booking permits and organizing a guide in advance) or would you need to organize a guided tour for the entire trip?

    1. Hi Sky, glad you are finding these useful! I’m not 100% sure but I suspect it would be a bit complicated to arrange. Some companies offer Salkantay-Inca combo treks, your best bet would be to find an operator that offers this and see if you can negotiate a better price to join an existing group at Huayllabamba. Be very sure about when and where you are meeting the group. Hope that’s helpful!

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