Inca Trail permits, which are required for all those wishing to trek the famous route to Machu Picchu, have traditionally been released in February, but it’s just been announced that the first tranche of permits for 2018 will now be released on the 1st October this year. This means that anyone keen to secure their place on the iconic trek needs to start planning a lot more quickly than anyone anticipated!
Only 500 permits a day for the 4-day trek through the Andes are issued by Peru’s Ministry of Culture, and such is the demand that Inca Trail permits for the most popular months (in particular April, May and August) typically sell out almost immediately, with even less popular dates selling out months in advance. 500 permits may seem like quite a high number, but because no pack animals are allowed on the trail, all the equipment, food and water for each group has to be carried by porters, each of whom also requires a permit. When you then add on the permits required for the guides, cooks, and any other members of the trek team, you can see how 500 permits can disappear very quickly indeed!
With organisations like UNESCO expressing concern about the environmental protection of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, and looking to the Peruvian government to restrict visitor numbers accordingly, conditions around the permits are very strict. They can only be purchased by approved companies, and at the time of purchase, they are issued to a named individual and tied to their passport number. This means that there is no way to transfer an unused Inca Trail permit to anyone else and there’s no way of getting in via a cancellation. Every year the peak months sell out quicker and quicker, and although there are some really good alternative treks to Machu Picchu which don’t require a permit, none of them quite have the cachet of the Inca Trail.
So with this in mind, if you had 2018 planned as ‘your’ year for trekking the Inca Trail, you might want to start your planning process a little earlier than you’d intended…