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Inca Trail Availability And Permits – Securing Your Golden Ticket

Mark Whitman

The Inca Trail is now so famous that it's almost a rite of passage for travellers. Its iconic status as one of the most incredible trails on earth means that thousands of trekkers hike the ancient pilgrimage route every year.

Because so many tourists trek the Inca Trail each year, there are stringent laws that govern the trail and anyone wishing to trek will need to obtain a permit and guide.

Below, I will discuss permit options and Inca Trail availability in greater detail.

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Inca Trail Availability and Permits

Although other Inca trail alternatives are available, such as bus, train and other lesser known routes, there is something special about taking the original route that the Incas would have used. The Inca Trail itself takes you through changing environments from sub-tropical forests to alpine tundra and jungle.

It's cultural significance, architectural brilliance and beautiful landscape is certainly worth visiting and any traveller worth their salt will want to hike it. Being the original pilgrimage route, the Inca Trail is by far the most popular way of reaching and exploring the ancient city of Machu Picchu.


Inca Trail Routes

Whilst there is only one 'classic' 4-day Inca Trail, there are actually two other options for the trail that many people overlook.

The classic option is by far the most popular and takes 4 days to complete.

However, people with less time have the option of trekking what is known as the 'Short 2-Day Inca Trail'. This is a 2 day 1 night version that starts further up the classic route and an ideal option for families or retirees that get tired easily. 

The other option is to combine the Classic Inca Trail with the Salkantay route. This is the longest option, taking 7 days and 6 nights. However, it is also the most beautiful journey as you trek through incredible mountain scenery, including past the iconic Mount Salkantay!

See our guide to hiking to Machu Picchu.

2 day inca trail

Inca Trail Permits

Because of its huge popularity, the Peruvian Government has initiated a number of schemes to reduce the negative impact on the trail and the ancient city.

The most notable of these came in 2001 when the government installed a quota scheme whereby only a set number of people would be allowed to trek the route each day. This scheme is still in effect today and means that anyone wishing to trek the Inca Trail will need to obtain a permit prior to their departure.

The scheme allocates 500 permits a day.

These 500 daily permits are not just for tourists, and include porters and guides. Because the permits are sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, you need to book your permit well in advance because they're like gold dust.

A second Peruvian government scheme was to insist that every trekker on the Inca Trail be accompanied by a registered guide. Therefore, only authorised tour companies can obtain permits and you'll need to go through an operator to purchase one.

I often get asked if you can purchase last minute cancellation permits. Sadly, the answer is no as all permits are paired with an individual's passport number and the government has strict control policies at Inca Trail check points.

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Please Note: If you plan on trekking the Inca Trail, I would suggest booking your permit at least 6 months in advance, particularly if you plan on trekking in the high season. Tour companies can never guarantee you'll get a permit; however, the earlier you book, the better chance you have of securing a permit. 

When booking with a tour company, be sure to write down all your details accurately as any error in personal details cannot be changed and you won't be allowed onto the trail as a result. 

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Inca Trail Availability

Inca Trail availability can be checked on the Ministry of Culture's website. Information on Inca Trail availability for each new year is released in mid January when permits go on sale.

Please Note: The Inca Trail is closed in February each year for maintenance and repairs. However, Machu Picchu remains open all year-round during this time.


If you have any further questions regarding Inca Trail availability and permits, then please leave a reply in the comments section below and we will respond as soon as possible. 

Thank you and happy trekking!

Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Machu Picchu Trek Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Machu Picchu. I started this guide to help trekkers like yourself get the information you need to plan for an awesome Machu Picchu trekking experience. Over 1 million people have used Machu Picchu Trek to plan their adventure to the famous Incan ruins. We hope we can help you too! If you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below! Happy Trekking!

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  1. Hi,

    Thank you for your very informative site.

    We will be in Peru around March 2017. We are driving down the panamericana by car and it is hard to book an exact date in advance, because we don´t know when we will be there exactly. Does the permit have to be for a specific date?

    Thanks for your information,

    Kind Regards,


    1. Hi Kai, Unfortunatley Inca Trail permit regulation is really strict. You can only secure a permit for a specific day and the permit is tied to the name in your passport and passport number, therefore they are not transferable or refundable. The sales process is really convoluted as well. There are only 500 permits a day and they only officially go on sale in January of the year you want to trek. So in your case the permits go on sale in January 2017. Registered tour operators are the only ones who can secure permits. Tours are pre-sold by these companies before the permits are released so their is no guarantee that they will be able to get you a permit until they are released and availability for any given day is made transparent. March usually sells out very quickly, within a few days of permits being released in January, March will sell out. I recommend pre-booking with a company, but if they don’t manage to secure your permit you can always do the Lares or Salkantay treks – which in my opinion or just as nice, especially the latter. Hope this helps!

  2. Hello! I’m looking to do a 4D/3N trek to Machu Picchu at some point in late March or early April. I understand that there are a limited number of permits, so I was wondering how I should go about booking this? I took a look at the website referenced above but am not sure what the numbers under availability mean. Could you help me out? I’d also be happy to speak over the phone. Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie, it’s best to chat with a tour operator as they have access to the permit booking system and can give you accurate numbers on permits available for any day, at any given time. You can use our tour recommendation service to get in touch with our preferred operator: https://www.machupicchutrek.net/go/

  3. Thanks for the excellent blog. I am planning to go to MP in december. Would I need permit to go to MP if I hike by myself? What is the shortest trek (how many days) with guided tour? Do I need permit for that short trek in December too?


  4. Hi,

    My daughter and I are planning to trek the 4 day MP in the middle of May 2019, can you firstly let me know if there are any permits available please and how much this would be for a group trek.

    Many Thanks

  5. Hi mark. Thank you for such a great overview of machu picchu. I was overwhelmed by choice and your article helped me a lot. We are planning a cruise to the galapogos not
    Sept 26 2020 and we hope to do machu pitching before or after. Do you have a recommendable? I am an avid hiker and have hiked day trips to 10,400ft in palm springs. My husband is very fit but not as avid a hiker. I am thinking of the classic Inca trail. What are the accommodations? Tent? Do we pack our own gear or does our guide help? I also see that the permits are not issued until kauai
    January. Do you think we will have an issue? Thanks for your input. Kate

  6. Hello! I am not a hiker but still will want to see the beautiful ruins. What options are there for the least amount of hiking? Thank you!

  7. Do you need your own camping gear to do this amazing trek? I have a sleeping bag and wet weather stuff for a potential December visit (I am in Argentina at the moment), but not a tent.

    1. Hi Phil, you don’t need your own camping gear as this will be provided by the tour operator. You will need your own personal gear though (hiking shoes, clothes etc.).

  8. Hi,
    If I don’t plan to do the full 4 day trek and just want to take the bus to day hike Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes do I still need a trail pass?

    1. Hi Erica, no, you don’t need a permit to hike from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. You do need a permit to enter Machu Picchu though.

  9. Hi! I am planning to visit Peru October 25-31 and two of us would like to do the trek from Agua Calientes to Macchu Picchu on October 28. I was just on the Ministerio De Cultura website trying to book permits for that week but I'm not able to. It looks like the following, week, however, there are plenty of open permits still available. Do you know if it is possible to still book permits for the dates I'll be in Peru, possibly?

    Thank you so much for your help on this!


    1. Hi Cali, I’m not too sure if permits are available during the week in question. If in doubt, feel free to contact my recommended local parter: [email protected], and they can hopefully clarify availability. Cheers.

  10. Hi!

    Planning a trip for May 2023 (5/9-5/16!), and looking to find the right time to book MachuPicchu and Huayna Picchu. Should I be on the website everyday in January 2023 to book that? Should MachuPicchu an H Picchu be done on two different days or the same day ?

    Thanks for all the help!

    1. Hi Rachel, Generally your Machu Picchu tickets are arranged by your tour operator. This is especially true if you plan to hike the Inca Trail as well. If you are just visiting Machu Picchu, then you can book MP and HP tickets directly. There are around 2500 available a day so as long as you book well in advance you shouldn’t have a problem. HP entrance tickets need to be booked at the same time as MP entrance tickets, and you will need to hike HP on the same day as entering MP. Here is some detail on Huayna Picchu: https://www.machupicchutrek.net/hike-to-machu-picchu/climbing-huayna-picchu/

  11. Hi I am trying to decide if going to Machu pitchy for 10 days in Mid December is too short the time and if permits are available?

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