G Adventures has received many questions from travel agents and individuals throughout our community who are confused because they have heard there may be problems securing permits for the Inca Trail this year. G Adventures is operating tours on the Inca Trail as we have for many years, and we have not had any issues securing permits.
Sean Benner, Destination Manager, South America, clears the air and answers the most frequently asked questions:
You need permits to travel on the Inca Trail. Why does Peru require permits?
Before permits were introduced, there were no regulations, and many trekkers camped wherever they wanted, used the ruins as latrines and disposed of rubbish along the Trail. In 2002, Inca Trail Regulations were introduced in order to protect the monument and the ecosystem. These regulations restrict the number of visitors and prevent hiking the Inca Trail without a permit.
We have detailed information about Inca Trail policies and guidelines, so travelers can be smart about planning their adventure trip. That web page is: http://www.gadventures.com/trips/inca-advisory/
What is the process for securing permits like?
There isn’t much that is different in the process so far from last year. The lottery system is not new this year. The governance of the Inca Trail used to be an entity called the INC. This changed in 2011, and the Trail is now governed by the "Ministerio de Cultura."
Every year as a part of this annual "mass purchase" period there is a "lottery" of sorts in which tour operators’ names are drawn for the order in which they can buy permits. This was implemented as a way to avoid the mass chaos that used to happen. We would have people go the night before and sleep in front of the building in order to secure our place in line!
Usually, the mass ticket purchases for the year are done in January, but this month it got pushed back, given that these governing bodies changed hands, and also because they wanted to implement a system for online purchases.
People still have to go in-person to the office and purchase the permits. Once the ticket window opens, permits are sold by month. So the first few days they sold permits for March, the next few days they sold April permits, and so on. Right now, we are purchasing permits for September, and I believe they will just open the remainder of the year for sale shortly.
Can individuals obtain permits, or only recognized tour operators?
Only recognized tour operators can obtain permits. These recognized tour operators are subject to intense annual inspections and scrutiny by the governing bodies of the Inca Trail, in order to qualify for the operating permit.
How long has G Adventures been bringing travellers hiking on the Inca Trail?
We've been bringing travellers on the Inca Trail for well over 15 years, and we started operating the Inca Trail 100% with G Adventures staff and operations in 2006. Because we run our own treks, we can ensure the fair treatment of our porters and the quality of food and equipment so that our travellers are free to enjoy the beauty of the region.
Why is the Inca Trail a popular tour for G Adventures?
The Inca Trail is one of our most popular trips in the region. It’s ideal for travellers looking to combine the cultural highlights of the Sacred Valley with the challenge of one of the world’s best-known hikes. It’s beautiful, ancient, historical, and still mysterious. Since its rediscovery, over the last 100 years, a lot of work has been done on excavating and studying the site, but many questions remain unanswered. And now, with the discovery of 9 tombs near Cusco from the Wari civilization, which could provide new details about the origins of the Inca Empire, there are more reasons to visit Peru.
The stretch referred to as "the" Inca Trail today is in fact merely the final, dramatic and most popular stretch of the Incan road leading to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is a challenging 4-day trek from the Sacred Valley floor through cloud forest and jungle, which traverses high mountain passes that test both mind and body. It’s physically challenging but within the ability of most reasonably fit travellers. It is a 40-kilometer (25 mile) hike. Some of it is steep, with 3 high passes to cross, one of which reaches an elevation of 4,200 meters (13,776 feet). The end of the trail is the aptly-named the “Sun Gate”, where a first misty glimpse of the lost city of Machu Picchu is made all the more meaningful when the journey was fueled by your own sweat and determination.
At G Adventures we price our adventure trips very competitively, and the Inca Trail is no exception, starting at only $899 USD per person for our 7-day trip, aptly called “The Inca Trail” (http://www.gadventures.com/trips/the-inca-trail/SPIT/2011/). Travellers enjoy three nights camping along the Inca Trail.
How many travellers does G Adventures expect on the Inca Trail in 2011?
More than 10,000 travellers hike the Inca Trail with G Adventures each year. This year we expect at least 12,000 travellers – a 20% increase – to join us.
How does this compare with previous years?
There is no doubt that the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s rediscovery of Machu Picchu is boosting global interest in the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu in particular. We saw an uptick in interest last year, and that trend continues. G Adventures took steps to prepare for additional traveller capacity. We are expecting an increase of approximately 20% over 2010, though the flooding in January 2010 did have impact on the number of people who were able to visit Machu Picchu. We’ll see significant interest – especially from media – in July, the anniversary of the rediscovery.
How many travellers hike the Inca Trail annually – with all tour operators?
There are 500 spaces per day available to hikers, including support staff, so there are only about 200 spots per day for travellers. During February the Trail is always closed for maintenance, so 200 people per day times 335 days available to hike each year equals 67,000 travellers per year.
Because space is limited we encourage travellers booking any trip involving the Inca Trail to please book as far in advance as possible, in order to increase the likelihood of securing space on the Trail, especially during the peak periods of the year.
When are the best times to hike the Inca Trail?
During February the Trail is closed for maintenance, so any other time of year the Trial is usually open. Depending on the time of year there are some challenges, with potential weather complications and the like, but everyone who’s travelled with G Adventures knows that the rewards of hiking the Inca Trail are worth it!
When researching the Inca Trail, what are some key questions travellers should ask before they book their trip?
Travellers can find some great FAQs that will help them plan their adventure here: http://www.gadventures.com/faqs/inca-trail/
About G Adventures
G Adventures is a world leader in the adventure travel industry offering small group adventures on all seven continents and beyond to more than 100,000 global travelers annually. The award-winning trips, which focus on culture, nature and active travel, are ideal for those with a sense of adventure – people who want to leave the beaten path and authentically immerse themselves in a local culture or environment to experience the real world in a sustainable manner. Demonstrating its ongoing cultural, social and economic commitment to responsible tourism, G Adventures established the Planeterra Foundation, as a way the company and its travellers can give back to the communities visited. For more information, please visit www.gadventures.com and www.planeterra.org.