How Far in Advance Do You Need to Book the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail is perhaps Peru’s most well-known and popular hike. It is a 4-day pilgrimage that culminates at the Sun Gate in Machu Picchu.
Over the course of the Inca Trail’s rugged terrain, you summit two nearly 14,000-foot mountains, including the aptly named Dead Woman’s Pass, before descending into a misty cloud forest replete with delicate orchids and colorful birds.
You can hike the Inca Trail anytime of the year except February—when it is closed for maintenance. The most popular time to hike the trail is during June through August. Not only does this time frame coincide with summer vacation, but it also is the dry season in the Andes, making it less likely that rain will increase the difficulty of the hike.
Because the Inca Trail is popular, Peru’s INC—the organization responsible for regulating the Inca Trail—limits the number of hikers to 500 per day. This includes all guides, porters, and tourists who are on the trail. As a result, Inca Trail permits, especially for the popular summer months, sell out quickly.
If you want to hike the Inca Trail between June and August, I recommend that you book your Inca Trail tour six months in advance. If you are open to hiking the Inca Trail during shoulder season (April–May or September–October), book four to five months in advance. If you plan to hike during low (rainy) season, you may be able to get away with booking three to four months in advance.
Once you book your tour, the tour company will immediately purchase permits for you and for the support staff (guides and porters) who will be on your trek. These permits are nonrefundable. So, make sure that you are truly able to go before you book your tour.
If you are thinking about hiking the Inca Trail in 2013, take a look at our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu tour. This tour offers the Inca Trail and more, including a guided tour of Cusco and the Sacred Valley.