Never underestimate the importance of advanced Inca Trail reservations. Only 500 Inca Trail permits are issued for any given day, with about 200 of those going to tourists and the rest going to guides, porters, and other trekking staff. If you think that sounds limited, you’d be right.
While alternative treks provide opportunities for last-minute hikes to Machu Picchu, trekking along the classic Inca Trail -- be it for two days, four days or more -- requires an advanced reservation.
If you arrive in Cusco hoping to find space on the trail, there’s a very good chance you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Inca Trail Reservations
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 can sell out four or five months in advance.
The months surrounding high season can also sell out ahead of time. If you want to hike the Inca Trail in April, May, September, October or November, try to book at least three or four months in advance.
In some of the quieter months, typically December, January, and early-March, you might be OK 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). Bear in mind that the Holy Week and Easter period (moveable) is also a popular time 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 does not close).
According to Chaska Tours, 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.