The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is one of the world’s most famous hiking trails, bringing in hundreds of visitors from around the world on a daily basis. With more than 150 licensed Inca Trail tour operators guiding visitors through this trek, and only 500 Inca Trail permits being issued on any given day, it’s recommended to get your trail permit or tour reservation early to avoid any disappointment.

Now you may be thinking 500 permits per day seems like plenty? However, when you factor in the guides, porters, and other trekking staff for each group, only about 200 of these permits are left for tourists.

While alternative treks can provide opportunities for last-minute hikes to Machu Picchu, trekking along the classic Inca Trail – be it for two days, four days or more – definitely requires an advance reservation. If you arrive in Cusco hoping to find space on the trail, there’s a very good chance you’ll be waiting a few weeks or months for an opening depending on the season.

How early do I need to make my Inca Trail booking?

Ideally, you should try to book the Inca Trail about six months in advance, especially if you want to go during high season (June, July, and August). During these months, trail permits are in high demand.

The months surrounding high season also tend to sell out ahead of time. If you want to hike the Inca Trail in April, May, September, October or November, we’d recommend you book at least three or four months in advance.

During the quieter months, typically December, January, and early-March, you might be alright booking as little as three to five weeks in advance (this also depends on when permits actually go on sale at the start of the year). However, note that the Holy Week and Easter period (varies year to year) can see another increase in visitors ready to hike the Inca Trail. If you’re wondering what happened to February, that’s the month during which the Inca Trail closes for maintenance. Machu Picchu itself does not close.

According to Orange Nation Peru, one of our recommended Inca Trail tour operators, Inca Trail permits seem to sell out earlier each year. With that in mind, trying to book six months in advance – for whatever time of the year – is the best way to avoid disappointment.

Making the Inca Trail Reservation

On the official government site you can check availability of permits for the dates you are interested in hiking the trail and you can also book a tour here. Inca Trail tour operators and intermediaries also have calendars showing availability. If you book with a tour agency, they will tell you whether they have permits for the trek – and usually the permit is included in the price of the tour if so.

If no permits are available for a particular date, unfortunately you’ll need to choose a new date as there are no waiting lists. If you do manage to find availability for your chosen date, the tour agency will request a deposit when making your reservation and this is usually non-refundable.

If you’re ready to start looking for a tour operator that’s right for you, read our guide on the 5 steps to choosing an Inca Trail company.

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