In the latter half of the 20th century, the Inca Trail was unregulated and in many ways over-run. You can hear horror stories of the overcrowded campsites, the trash and human waste lining the trail, and the general misuse of the historical resource. Just as with Machu Picchu itself, though, the Peruvian government has recognized the importance of protecting that resource, and has therefore implemented a strict permitting system to limit the number of travelers on the trail at any one time, where they camp, what happens to their waste, and how the local porters are paid and protected from exploitation. While it can be frustrating for folks who miss out on the permits, or folks seeking to do the trail on a ridiculously shoestring budget, the system is working! I was truly impressed with the state of the trail, the degree to which so many hikers can be distributed evenly and safely on the trail, and the orderliness of the entire operation.
The Peruvian government actually issues 500 permits for each day of the year (200 actual travelers and 300 porters/guides/cooks) – except February. These permits go on sale each October for the following year. The most prime dates (May through July) can sell out within a matter of days, or even hours! So it is imperative that folks plan for this trip well in advance. I recommend having the dates selected, the deposits paid, and passport details shared with our Operations Team by September 1st of the year prior to your trip. This allows us to have a local representative securing permits for you on the first day those permits are released.