Permits to trek the Inca Trail are selling out more quickly than ever before. South America Product Manager Linda Harris explains why this is and what you can do to secure your place on the trail.
"The Inca Trail is a wonderful trek walking through beautiful landscapes and past fascinating ruins, culminating at the iconic Machu Picchu. It's definitely one of those ‘things you should do before you die’. It is the best known and most popular hike in South America, and Machu Picchu features in the new Seven Wonders of the World list.
However, all of this means that it is not as simple as deciding you want to do this trek and booking on a tour. Every person who treks the Inca Trail has to have a permit. There are only 500 permits available every day and they go pretty quickly. To put the 500 permits into context, that number does not just include the number of tourists trekking the trail but also all the support staff that they need as well. For example, on one of our tours where the maximum group size is 17, we would need 29 porters and 3 guides making a total of 49 permits, almost 10% of the total available for that day worldwide just for one Explore group!
The reason for the permits is to protect the fragile environment. During the high season of July and August from 1996 to 2001, as many as 1600 people were starting the Inca Trail every day (about 1000 tourists and 600 porters), there were no regulations and many trekkers camped wherever they wanted, using the ruins as latrines and disposing rubbish along the trail. The Inca Trail was starting to get a lot of negative press and UNESCO threatened to remove its status as a World Heritage Site.
Therefore, in 2002, Inca Trail Regulations were introduced to protect the monument. These regulations restrict the number of visitors and prevent hiking the Inca Trail without a permit, plus the Inca Trail is now closed every February for conservation.
My message to you is book early to avoid disappointment. Where possible, booking 6 months in advance is recommended. Trekking the Inca Trail is a truly magical experience not to be missed. Find out more about how you can trek the Inca Trail, or check out the tours below to see the options we have available."