Inca Trail Trekking Regulations


Nearly 10 years ago the Peruvian Government proposed a series of changes to the administration of the Inca Trail in a bid to protect its fragile eco-structure from over-use. Most of these proposals have been aimed at reducing the number of trekkers on the trail, improving the quality of the tour operators and offering a reservation system whereby trekkers will be forced to make their reservations many weeks (even months) in advance. Some of the proposals were introduced slowly throughout 2003 and 2004 but the Government started to enforce the majority of the regulations more strictly in 2005. Further regulations have been introduced at the beginning of 2006 with the main aim at improving porter welfare. All trekking companies that operate the Inca Trail must have an operating license which is issued every year in March.

We recommend that you make a reservation for the Inca Trail and pay for your entrance fee well in advance. In the low season (Oct-Mar) in order to guarantee spaces we advise making a reservation at least 4 weeks in advance. For the months of April and September we recommend making a reservation 6 to 8 weeks in advance and for the peak months of June, July and August we recommend a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks in advance, preferably earlier. If you don’t make a reservation and pay your trek deposit in advance it means that Adventures to Peru won’t be able to buy your trek permits. Once we have confirmed your reservation and bought your permits then it can be very difficult to change the date of trek departure and prohibited to change the name or passport number on the permit. 

Restricted Numbers of Trekkers

Over the last decade Peru has become a more popular travel destination. There are many great treks throughout Peru but the Inca Trail is the most well known. During the peak season of 2000 many campsites became crowded and the trail became littered with rubbish. In early 2001 the Government proposed to reduce the number of people on the trail to 500 per day. This figure roughly comprises 200 tourists and 300 trekking staff (guides, cooks and porters).
In 2002 and 2003 the government tried to enforce the 500-person limit but due to many complaints by the local tour operators, they gave into pressure during the busy months of July and August and allowed an extra 200 persons. In 2004 and 2005 the government strictly enforced the 500 limit, and many trekkers were disappointed that there were no spaces available.
The figure of 200 tourists includes trekkers on both the 2-day and 4-day treks as well as the Salkantay 7-day trek. As an estimate we would say that about 160 trekkers per day are starting the 4-day trek, 25 on the 2-day trek and 15 on the Salkantay Trek. In March 2005, 150 tour operators in Cusco were awarded licenses to operate the Inca Trail. With about 500 tourists looking for just 160 available spaces divided between 150 companies it doesn’t take much to realize that things can become a little complicated.

Making an Inca Trail trek booking

Since only 500 trek permits are issued per day for the Inca Trail (trek permits are also required for the porters and cooks) it is important to try to make a trek reservation as far ahead as possible. There is no clear rule as to how far ahead is enough to guarantee you a space since this depends on demand.

As a guide, however, we recommend the following
December, January, March: 3-5 weeks in advance
April, October, November: 6-8 weeks in advance
May, September: 2-3 months in advance
June, July, and August: 3-4 months in advance

Independent Trekkers

Since June 2002 trekking independently on the Inca Trail has been prohibited. Regulations state that a professionally qualified guide must accompany each trekker on the Inca Trail. Trying to organize a guide in advance is difficult since tour agencies just aren’t interested in hiring out their guides. If you wait until you arrive in Cusco to arrange a guide then you are liable to be left with only the worst guides and the very high probability that all the spaces on the trail are fully booked.
Let Adventures to Peru take the hassle out of hiking in Cusco. If we have enough forewarning we will get you on the Inca Trail. If you want to get away from it all and trek on your own then there are some excellent alternative treks such as Lares Valley. 

Maximum Group Size

The maximum allowable group size on the Inca Trail is 16 persons. However, at Adventures to Peru, we want to keep your hike intimate, so we limit our group sizes to a maximum of 10 hikers. 

Porters Working Conditions

In April 2002 a new law was introduced to set a minimum wage for all porters on the Inca Trail. This has followed years of exploitation. This wage is about US$10 per day. It may not seem a lot but wages are all relative to livings costs. To put things in perspective teachers earn between US$150 and US$200 per month. Even though the law exists it is not being enforced and many companies are still paying their porters as low as US$5 per day. In 2002 the maximum weight that a porter can carry was limited to 25kg (20kg load + 5kg personal items). All porters have their weight checked by government officials at the start of the trail. However even this system is open to abuse and many tour operators get their guides and assistants to carry large loads across the checkpoint where they are dropped and left for the porters to pick up. 

Adventures to Peru uses only one premium local tour operator and we guarantee that porters are not carrying more than legally permissible.
These two regulations have dramatically improved the porters working conditions compared to those just four or five years ago when wages of US$4 per day and loads of 45kg were the norm. There is still a long way to go though when it comes to the provision of adequate meals, backpacks and warm dry sleeping accommodation. Adventures to Peru is working vigilantly to uphold these regulations and constantly improve porters well being, as you will see when you hike with us.

Inca Trail Closure

During the month of February The route of the classic 4-day Inca Trail will be closed each year during the month of February to allow conservation projects to be undertaken as well as giving the vegetation a chance to recover. This is a good month to close the trail since it is also the wettest month of the year. Machu Picchu and the shorter 2-day trail will remain open as usual.

Licensed trek operators

The UGM (Unidad de Gestion Machu Picchu) is the regulatory body responsible for controlling access to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. The license to operate the Inca Trail is renewed each year in early March. Due to legal problems the Government has found it hard to withdraw licenses from poor performing companies and every tour operator that has satisfied the basic requirements has so far been given a license. Legislation is likely to be introduced later in 2006 or early 2007 to give more power to the Ministry of Tourism and allow them to fine, suspend or close badly performing companies. (Return to top)

Adventures to Peru works with only one distinguished and licensed Inca Trail operator that annually meets requirements proving that they have professional guides/staff and superior camping gear, radio communications and emergency first aid including oxygen. .

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