Q&A: The Inca Trail and the Permit Process

Daniel Sendecki May 1, 2014 14

 Interested in trekking the Inca Trail but have questions about the trail and the permit process? We asked G Adventures Product Innovation Manager Alistair Butchers to address a few of them here.

Why is the Inca Trail so popular?

The Inca Trail is one of G Adventures’ most popular trips in the region, and is ideal for travellers eager to combine the cultural highlights of the Sacred Valley with the challenge of one of the world’s best-known hikes.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Since its rediscovery over a century ago, much has been done to excavate and study the site. The stretch referred to as the ‘Inca Trail’ today is in fact merely the final, dramatic stretch of the Incan road to Machu Picchu. This part of the trail is a challenging 4-day trek from the floor of the Sacred Valley up high mountain passes and through cloud forest and jungle that test the limits of mind, body and spirit.

While it is physically demanding, the 40 km (25 mile) hike remains within the reach of most reasonably fit travellers. Some parts are steep, especially the three high passes—one of which reaches an elevation of 4,200 meters (13,776 feet)! The end is appropriately nicknamed the “Sun Gate,” where mist-shrouded views of Machu Picchu prove to all who make it that the climb was undeniably worth it.

Can individuals obtain their own permits, or only recognized tour operators?

Only tour operators can acquire permits. Tour operators are subject to thorough annual inspections by the government agencies that govern the Inca Trail.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Why do I need an Inca Trail permit?

Before permits were introduced, there were no regulations and many trekkers camped wherever they pleased, used the ruins as latrines and generally made a mess of the place. In 2002, Inca Trail regulations were introduced to protect the site and the surrounding ecosystem. These regulations restrict the number of annual visitors and prevent undocumented trekkers from hiking the trail.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

How are permits secured?

G Adventures has been running trips here for years and as the world’s largest Inca Trail operator, has an established set of protocols in place to secure permits. Every year, tour operators like us participate in a lottery of sorts to determine the order in which they can purchase trail permits. With years of experience, our Cuzco-based team is on hand to book and collect your permit in person. This means that as soon as your permit is confirmed, your spot on the trail is confirmed.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

Photo courtesy Leonardo Tamburri.

How long has G Adventures been trekking the Inca Trail?

We’ve been bringing travellers to the Inca Trail for over 15 years. Because we run our own treks with our own staff and equipment, we can ensure our porters are treated fairly and that the quality of our food and equipment is always top-notch.

Getting there

G Adventures runs a number of departures to Peru encompassing a wide range of  dates and activities to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you the Inca Trail as you’ve never seen it — check out our small group trips to Peru here.


  1. Marcy May 1, 2014 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I hiked the Inca Trail with G Adventures last summer, and it was an amazing trip.

  2. Veronica May 2, 2014 at 7:01 am - Reply

    I will do it in 3 weeks and so looking forward to it:-)

  3. Sanja Cabric May 2, 2014 at 7:17 am - Reply

    just wondering how is the weather on Inca Trails during the months of July and August

    • Daniel Sendecki May 2, 2014 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Some of the best months to do the Inca Trail are from May to September when the conditions are fairly dry and the weather generally sunny. However, the months of June, July and August can also be very cold at night — so be sure to bring layers. Thermal sleeping pads are available locally — so no worries!

  4. Susan May 4, 2014 at 3:13 am - Reply

    G Adventures are an excellent company. I did the Inca trail with them in March as part of a 21 day Peru tour and I cannot recommend them enough. I’ve also done a trip to Vietnam Cambodia and Thailand in 2013 with G. Excellent!!

  5. Rick Strong May 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Have booked the trek for March 2015, on my bucket list. G Adventures has been amazingly helpful.

  6. Peter May 17, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    I hiked the Sacred Trail of the Incas in late June 2005 with G Adventures (GAP back then). A great adventure I will never forget.

  7. David Brown May 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    A buddy and I are thinking about late March. Temperatures are about the same in April, just a bit more rain in March?

    At any rate, when should we apply for a permit?

    Your advice please. David

  8. Niki June 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    We walked the Inca Trail with G in January 2014 – it was an absolute highlight of our SA trip. Made even more special by amazing porters, extraordinary guides, a genuinely sustainable approach by G and then there’s that scenery! Not bad for a girl with vertigo….wouldn’t have done it without G!

  9. Alison July 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    I’m booked on the Inca Trail towards the end of October. I know its not the ideal time recommended to go but will the weather/conditions still be OK?

  10. Kat January 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I am planning on this trip in just a week and a halp. Am I to do anything to receive the permit? Can’t wait! Took the hike, bike, kayak tour back in January 2014 – it couldn’t have been any better. Please advise what I should be doing for this chapter! :)

  11. Matti January 20, 2015 at 8:27 pm - Reply


    I am coming to Peru at the end of May and want to do the Inca Trail, like thousands of others. I have been told that I will not be able to obtain a permit myself and that i need to go through a tour operator. Is this true and, if yes, how could I get myself one? How much is it and do I need to know the exact days?



    • Sacha Mlynek January 21, 2015 at 10:29 am - Reply

      Hi Matti,

      You got it. The Inca Trail requires a permit which is extended to 500 people per day. Your best bet would be to have a chat to of our reservations team to see if there are still permits available (they book up in advance) and to help book you onto a tour that is just right for you!

      Find their details here.

      Happy planning!


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