Built by the Inca over 500 years ago, the Trail winds through majestic snow-capped mountains as it passes numerous mysterious archaeological sites. The highlight, of course, is arriving at Machu Picchu at the end of the hike, an emotional finale that has led it to become one of the most sought after treks in the world.
The classic four day Inca Trail has become so popular, in fact, that SERNANP has been forced to limit the number of participants in order to avoid severe erosion. Only 500 permits are granted each day, of which 300 are allocated to support staff such as cooks, guides and porters.
The remaining 200 spots might seem like a lot, but they get snapped up pretty quick due to huge demand from all over the globe. Many dates during the most popular hiking months of May and June sell out completely within just hours of going on sale.
Previously, SERNANP would sell permits for the upcoming year in January. This year, however, they have changed their process and will begin allocating precious 2018 permits on October 01, 2017. This means travelers have just 10 days to making a booking to be sure of securing a spot on their preferred dates, especially important for those looking to hike during the high season or school holidays.
The downside is that travelers need to be certain they will be able to hike on their selected dates. SERNANP are extremely unforgiving to those who need to make a date change or cancel, offering zero refunds in these situations. Furthermore, great care must be taken to make a reservation using the exact spelling as the traveler’s passport, otherwise guards will deny entry at the beginning of the route.
Most importantly, however, is that travelers need to be in good physical condition. The Inca Trail in undeniably demanding, requiring trekkers to scale thousands of steps each day while struggling to breathe in the thin high altitude air. At its highest point, the trail reaches 4,215m (13,828 ft), meaning it is of utmost importance for hikers to be properly acclimatized before tackling the route.