Lonely Planet Writer

Hoping to trek the Inca Trail in 2018? Permits are to be released four months early

If you’re hoping to trek the Inca Trail in Peru in 2018, you’ll need to make your plans soon. It has been announced by the Ministry of Culture that all of the permits for the year will be released on 1 October, four months earlier than usual.

Salkantay mountain in the background on the Inca trail. Image by picturegarden/Getty Images

The most famous 24-mile hike in South America is walked by thousands of people every year over a four-day period, and it ends at the 550-year old Incan citadel of of Machu Picchu. Only 500 permits are issued for each day and these are allocated to officially-licensed companies who operate the four-day trek. They issue them to travellers, but some are kept back for the guides, cooks and porters. Up to now, the initial tranche of permits were released in January of the same year and the rest in February, and tickets usually sell out almost instantly for the most popular trekking months of April, May and August.

Permits to trek the Inca Trail in Peru in 2018 will be released on October 1. Image: Morten Elm/Getty Images

As a Unesco World Heritage site, Machu Picchu is so popular that a system was introduced earlier this year where visitors had to enter the site in shifts.  It was built in the 15th Century during the Inca Empire, and covers more than 32,000 hectares and contains nearly 200 structures. As one of the most iconic ancient sites in the world, it has become a victim of its own popularity in recent years, with Unesco threatening to place it on its endangered list.

Permits to trek the Inca Trail in Peru in 2018 will be released on October 1. Image: Blake Burton/Lonely Planet

For those who miss out on Inca Trail permits, the option to trek to Machu Picchu on an alternative route is still an option. No permit is required for the Salkantay trek, in which trekkers pass through small communities and farmsteads and approach Machu Picchu from the other side.