In 2000 and 2001 the Peruvian government created and approved several laws to regulate the use of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Most of these rules were given to preserve and protect the park and the environment surrounding the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Before these laws were given, the entrance to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was not regulated and only an entrance ticket was necessary to be able to hike the Inca Trail. This lack of regulation resulted in many travelers’ choosing a multitude of areas in which to camp, in their failure to clean up after themselves when camping, and in their building fires with no regard for the surrounding environment. This behavior thus ended free hiking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We hope that trekkers using other trails, such us the Salkantay Trek or the Choquequirao Trek, respect the environment and pick up their trash so that these treks remain free of severe regulations.
After the Peruvian government approved the laws that regulate the use of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, whoever wants to hike this trail has to hire the services of an Inca Trail Tour Operator. This means that nobody is able to hike the Inca Trail by himself/herself. The law established that only 500 people are allowed to enter the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu per day. This number includes tourists, tour guides, and porters, meaning that only about 200 to 220 tourists are able to hike the Inca Trail per day.
Permits are sold by the National Institute of Culture located in Cusco, and they are sold on a first come, first served basis to registered tour operators only. At the time that a tour operator purchases a permit for a tourist, the tour operator needs to provide information such as first name, last name, date of birth, gender, nationality, passport number, and ISIC Student ID Card in cases where the student discount is offered. The tour operator also needs to purchase the permits of porters. (The information of porters does not need to be provided at that time.)
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is open from March 1 to January 31 of the following year. During the month of February the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance and because this is the most rainy month of the year.
Every year during the months of November and December all Inca Trail Tour Operators are required to apply for an authorization to operate hikes along the Inca Trail. In order to be authorized to operate, companies need to observe a few minimum requirements:
In addition, every year tour guides and porters need to be authorized by the INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources) in order to work as an Inca Trail crew. Tour guides need to obtain their authorization to enter the Inca Trail during the same period while porters need to obtain their authorization during the month of January.
In 2005, the Peruvian government discovered that several tour operators were underpaying and abusing their porters. As a consequence, the Porter Law was approved, requiring companies to provide a fair pay, life insurance, proper equipment, and social security benefits. This law also established that a porter carries 20 kilograms (12.5 pounds). Unfortunately, the majority of companies operating the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are not complying with these rules and are still abusing their hard-working porters.
This site provides relevant tips and FAQs regarding the Classic Inca Trail.
Is hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu worth it?
It’s definitely a privilege to trek this trail, which was in use more than 500 years ago. If you enjoy nature and human history, the Inca Trail, with its ruins, beautiful landscapes, and Machu Picchu, will be one of the greatest adventures you will ever take.
In order to fully enjoy the Inca Trail it is important to be in good physical shape, healthy, acclimatized to high altitudes, and prepared with the correct gear. You do not need to be a super athlete, but it is important to be an active person who exercises or hikes regularly. A flu or bad cough can easily end in a more serious illness or even death in extreme situations. Usually two days are good enough for most bodies to acclimatize to the altitude, but some bodies need longer than that. (Read more at our Altitude Sickness site.) For a list of gear, check out our What to Bring Site.
How difficult is the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
This 4-Day version of the Inca Trail is considered a moderate to difficult trek with the second day the most difficult one because the majority of elevation is gained this day. Travelers need to be accustomed to hiking or trekking and acclimatized to high elevations in order to fully enjoy this trek.
When is the best time to hike the Classic Inca Trail?
The dry season is generally the best time to do the trek. The dry season runs from April to November, while the wet season runs from December to March. Even during rainy season it doesn’t usually rain all day long. June to September are the most popular months for treks. May and October offer the nicest weather. The Inca Trail is closed in February.
Could I hike the Classic Inca Trail at any time?
Yes, as long as there is availability on the day you will start the trek. You don’t need to check for availability for all the days you will be on the trek, just the starting day. However, during the month of February the trail is closed for maintenance.
How far in advance should I book my Classic Inca Trail?
Due to limited availability, we recommend that you book your Inca Trail trek at least 3 months in advance for the low season. If you plan to hike the Inca Trail during busy season (May through September), you should book it 5 or 6 months in advance.
Why do I need to check availability?
Availability is restricted by the Peruvian government. Only 500 people per day are allowed to hike the Inca Trail. Of this number, only 200 to 230 are tourists. The remaining number includes porters, guides, and cooks.
We are in November or December and I want to book a permit for the month of May of next year. All companies show 0 or 500 permits available. Why is that?
The National Institute of Culture starts selling permits for the March to January season during the month of January. For instance, permits for March 2019 will be available for sale in November 2018.
Can I buy the Classic Inca Trail permit on my own and hike the trail on my own?
No, you are not allowed to buy the permit or hike the trail by yourself. The National Institute of Culture sells permits only to authorized tour operators.
Can I change my starting date for the Classic Inca Trail?
Once the Inca Trail permit has been purchased, you cannot change the starting date without incurring an additional cost. The permits are issued by the Peruvian government and are non-refundable and non-transferable. If the permit has been issued and you need to change your starting date, you will lose your deposit and a new security deposit will be required.
What should I do if there is no availability for the days that I will be in Cusco?
There are alternative treks, such as Salkantay, Lares, Huchuy Qosqo, Inca Jungle or Choquequirao. You can also take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu. If you are planning on visiting Machu Picchu, we recommend spending the night in Aguas Calientes; that way you will have enough time to really enjoy the magic and mysticism of Machu Picchu.
How do I reserve a spot for the Classic Inca Trail?
Booking the Classic Inca Trail through a Peruvian Tour Operator or a Foreign Travel Agency
Some Inca Trail informative websites are opposed to travelers’ booking the Inca Trail through a Travel Agency; however using the services of a Travel Agency can be a smart thing to do when a traveler is looking for a small group and good service. Using the services of well-known Peruvian Tour Operators guarantees a good service and a group of 16 people. When travelers are looking for small groups with reputable companies that are not going to dump you on another operator because just one person signed up, the task can be complicated. In these cases, a smart thing to do is to book with a reputable Foreign Travel Agency which is going to offer you a good service. The use of a reliable Foreign Travel Agency usually means a higher price, but it will also usually mean complete satisfaction. It is most likely that a Foreign Travel Agency is going to give you a refund when services are not as advertised. Refunds are unfamiliar to most Peruvian Tour Operators.
Do all the tour operators provide the same service?
No. Make sure that you are hiring a professionally run tour operator that will take proper care of you and the environment. If you see prices that are too low, be careful. Some companies have hidden extra charges or fees. Also some companies won’t provide all the services they claim they are offering. Do not expect refunds if you are working with an Inca Trail Tour Operator based only in Peru.
Service provided during the Inca Trail
Since there are several Inca Trail Tour Operators, the service from one to another can be different, affecting the price that is charged. Some differences can be observed in the following areas:
What do I need to carry during the Classic Inca Trail?
Most companies will ask you to carry your personal belongings, sleeping bags, and mattress foam. If you are not willing to carry anything other than a small backpack, you should hire the services of an extra porter through your Inca Trail Tour Operator.
We include in our price the service of a porter to carry up to 15 pounds (7 kilograms) and 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of your personal belongings.
The Inca Trail Porters and Cooks
These amazing guys are usually from local Cusco communities. Our staff of porters and cooks have been trained to avoid injuries while carrying the equipment needed for the trek, and also to prepare high quality meals.
Tipping Inca Trail Porters and Cooks
Travelers are not obligated to tip porters and cooks, but it is a custom that at the end of Day 3 guides ask the entire group of travelers for a tip for the hard work of these guys. (If you do not want to be ashamed, you might consider tipping.) If you decide to tip them, you should handle the money to the porters and cook as a group. Most travelers who decide to contribute usually give around USD 20.00 to USD 30.00 for the entire crew.
Restrooms in the Classic Inca Trail
The Classic Inca Trail offers basic restrooms with no toilet seats or showers from Day 1 to 3. Some tour operators bring portable toilets. Also, the majority of restrooms have no potable running water. (Use filters or purification pills.) Once at Machu Picchu toilet seats can be found.
Is water provided during the trek?
We will provide boiled water every morning.
What should I bring on the trek?
Can I hike the Inca Trail the same day that I arrive at Cusco?
The main effects of altitude sickness show the first or second day. For that reason, we highly recommend that you hike the Inca Trail at least a couple of days after arriving in Cusco.
What should I do to avoid altitude sickness?
To avoid altitude sickness, give yourself time to acclimatize to the change in altitude (2 to 3 days). For instance, if you are trekking the Inca Trail, you should rest the day before. Try to avoid alcohol, and make sure you eat lightly and drink plenty of water. Make sure to stay hydrated, walk slowly, and take frequent breaks. Drinking coca leaf tea always helps. It is widely available, and your hotel in Cusco will probably offer it as well. For further details, please click here.
What should I do if I get altitude sickness in Cusco City or in the middle of the trek?
Drink plenty of liquids, (coca leaf tea will definitely help), take a nap, and try to rest.
If you are in the middle of the trek and start feeling dizzy, extremely tired, nauseated, and headachy, ask for advice from your guide. You will probably need to go back in search of a lower altitude. Usually symptoms go away once you are in a lower elevation. If not, you should contact a doctor.
Below is a suggested check list for the Classic Inca Trail Trek:
This is a list of reasons to book the Classic Inca Trail with GoTrekPeru.com:
Walking from one Incan ruin to the next one through a magical path full of beautiful landscapes is an unforgettable experience. Our 4 Day Inca Trail package provides the experience of trained cooks, the knowledge of professional and bilingual guides, the detail-oriented organization of a US Tour Operator, and the first class equipment necessary to make of this trek a memorable experience. Entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are limited. Extension Available!
Day 1: CUSCO - OLLANTAYTAMBO - PISCACUCHO - HUAYLLABAMBA (About 4:30hrs. - 12 Km/7.5 ml) (B), (L), (D)
Day 2: WAYLLABAMBA - WARMIWAÑUSKA - PACAYMAYU (About 7:00hrs. - 12 Km/7.5 ml) (B), (L), (D)
Day 3: PACAYMAYU - CHAQUIQOCHA - WIÑAYWAYNA (About 8:30hrs - 16 Km/10 ml) (B), (L), (D)
Day 4: WIÑAYWAYNA - INTIPUNKU - MACHU PICCHU - OLLANTAYTAMBO - CUSCO (About 2:15hrs - 6 Km/4ml) (B), (L)
Around 6:15a.m. your guide will pick you up from your hotel. At this time you will meet your co-trekkers and will begin your journey in a bus to Ollantaytambo which will take approximately an hour and a half. Once in Ollantaytambo, you will enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant and you will be able to make your last-minute purchases for your trek (walking sticks, water bottles, snacks, etc.) After leaving Ollantaytambo, the ride to Piscacucho will take approximately 30 more minutes. This point is also called Kilometer 82. Here a snack will be provided by your tour guide and you will give your personal belongings to our porters.
At 9,000 feet above sea level, you will start your trek by going up short hills and walking on flat land for about two hours. At your arrival at Meskay, you will enjoy your lunch and a short rest. After another two and a half hours of hiking, you will arrive at your first campsite, called Huayllabamba, at 9,840 feet above sea level. Here dinner will be served at about 7:00p.m.
Today you will be able to observe the ruins of Q’anabamba and Willkarakay and visit the ruins of Patallacta during your trek. Also, you will enjoy an unforgettable astronomical view at night.
The cook’s assistant will awaken you about 6:00a.m., offering you hot tea. Breakfast will be served at about 6:30a.m. and after that you will officially meet your crew.
Today will be the most difficult day of hiking with mostly uphill walking for the entire morning. Once again, you will receive an energizing snack for the day. The first hour and a half will take you to the first resting point, called Yuncachimpa – Ayabacha, at 10,820 feet above sea level. After another hour of hiking, you will arrive at the second resting point, called Lulluchapampa. Sport drinks, candies, and other groceries will be sold here.
The hardest part of the trek will take you to the “Dead Woman Pass” or “Abra Warmiwañusca” at 13,776 feet above sea level. This portion of the trek will take you about two hours. Here you will have an amazing view of both sides of the valley. A descent on native stairs will take you to the next campsite, called Pacaymayu, at about 11,800 feet above sea level. Here, lunch and dinner will be served.
Today you will enjoy different views of the trail, including a small waterfall, a view of the morning’s campsite from far above, and various vegetation. If you are lucky, you may even see a condor. At the end of the day, you will experience a feeling of great accomplishment for a hard day’s work!
Once again your cook’s assistant will wake you up around 6:00a.m. with a cup of hot tea. After breakfast at about 6:30a.m., you will start the most beautiful day of the trek. Your hike will start with a snack and a short ascending hike until get to the ruins of Runkuraqay or “Egg Hut.” After a presentation from your guide, you will continue your hike until you reach the second pass, called “Abra Runkuraqay,” at 12,400 feet above sea level. Your next stop will be the ruins of Sayacmarca at 11,472 feet above sea level, where your guide will talk to you about the ruins. Your last lunch with your group will be served at Chaquiqocha at about 11:30a.m.
After lunch, a stony road will take you to your next campsite, called Wiñaywayna, at 8,692 feet above sea level. On the way you will enjoy the amazing views of the green mountains, rivers, and snowy peaks, as well as the ruins of the Phuyupatamarca, where again your guide will make a presentation. This portion may take you about four and a half hours. Once at the campsite, you might visit the ruins of Wiñaywayna, take a shower, or just rest. After your last dinner, there will be a small ceremony to say thanks to the hard work done by your crew. You will also have the opportunity to tip your crew at this time.
Today you will need to wake up at 4:30a.m. and eat an early breakfast because the police control office opens at 5:30a.m. A hike of an hour and a half will take you to the Gate of the Sun, also called Intipunku, at 8,920 feet above sea level. If it is not cloudy, you will be able to get an amazing view of Machu Picchu, which is located at 7,875 feet above sea level. At about 9:00a.m., your guide will start your tour of the “Lost City of the Incas.”
Around 12:00pm, you will take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant (buffet style). At 16:22 hours, you will be taking the expedition train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, transportation to your hotel in Cusco will be provided (approximate time of arrival is 19:45 hours).
|Travelers - Shared Service||1|
|Price per person - USD||695.00|
Travelers Private Service
|2||3||4||5 - 6||7 - 9||10+|
|Price per person USD||1175.00||1050.00||950.00||890.00||850.00||800.00|
We offer daily departures for the Classic Inca Trail (Before booking make sure there are available permits.)