You CAN still hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu this summer 2016!

Machu Picchu Windows to the World

Thinking of traveling to Peru this summer? Always wanted to hike the world famous Inca Trail so you arrive at Machu Picchu on foot? Too late! Permits to trek the regular Inca Trail are already sold out from April until the latter part of August. And once permits are gone there is no chance to hike the Inca Trail.

Or is there? The Government of Peru has just decided to create an additional 250 permits per day for the 1-Day Inca Trail, also known as the Royal Inca Trail, that joins the regular trek for the final stretch of trail to Machu Picchu. These permits are in addition to the 500 permits for the full Inca Trail and mean that, yes, you can still hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu this summer!

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Previously, 500 permits were issued per day for any stretch of the Inca Trail. And, while this sounds like a lot, the 500 permits are for both tourists and trekking staff, meaning at best there are 200 – 250 trekkers allowed to start the trek each day. Most of these permits were booked by trekking groups on the full Inca Trail, and the permits always sell out months in advance. If you didn’t start planning your Inca Trail trip in January, odds are you wouldn’t be able to get a permit for prime summer dates.

The new regulations separate permits for the full Inca Trail (still 500 permits per day) and the 1-Day Inca Trail. There are now 250 additional permits just for the 1-day Inca Trail, meaning there should be plenty of permits available for people wanting to do this trek, even in mid summer. Yes, you can still trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu this year.

But wait. Just because there probably are permits available for the 1-Day Inca Trail trek, why would you want to do it? Let’s start with the big draws of trekking the Inca Trail in the first place. 

One of the biggest attractions is that the Inca Trail is the only trek that allows you to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot on a trail (yes, you could arrive on foot if you walk the road from Machu Picchu Pueblo, but that would be silly). The 1-Day Inca trail joins the last day of the regular Inca Trail trek and enters Machu Picchu via trail through Inti Punku, or the Gate of the Sun. So, by doing just the 1-Day Inca Trail you still get to arrive on foot to Machu Picchu!

Another big draw of the Inca Trail is that you pass numerous ruins along the trail, thus getting to experience more Inca history. You will see some amazing ruins on the 1-Day Inca Trail, including some of the best on the full Inca Trail. As you begin your hike you will visit the recently restored ruins of Chachabamba, then after ascending through the tropical cloud forest you will arrive to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, where you will ascend a steep Inca staircase through the terraces to finally reach the Inca Trail itself.

Wiñay Wayna Ruins on the Inca Trail
Wiñay Wayna Ruins on the Inca Trail

Others want to hike the Inca Trail for the chance to walk on a well-preserved Inca Trail (keep in mind there are LOTS of Inca Trails throughout this area of Peru). As mentioned, just getting to the Inca Trail you will climb an Inca stone staircase at Wiñay Wayna to reach the Inca Trail. Once on the Inca Trail itself you will hike along what is probably the prettiest part of the Inca Trail as the trail is surrounded by lush vegetation. Finally you will descend another Inca stone staircase as you descend to Inti Punku and your impressive views of Machu Picchu.

Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Not Interested in Trekking the Full Inca Trail? Why you should consider the 1-day Inca Trail anyway: 

If you have thought you’d never want to hike the full Inca Trail, you may still want to consider the 1-Day Inca Trail. For one thing, instead of a long trek, it is only one day of hiking! This makes it perfect for those who want to experience the trail and arrive on foot to Machu Picchu, but who aren’t interested in committing to a long trek.

Or, maybe you like to hike but don’t want to camp? Again, the 1-day Inca Trail lets you experience the best of the trail but with no need to camp like on the full Inca Trail trek. You can even combine the 1-day trek with another trek, such as a lodge-based hiking trip in the Sacred Valley, and get the best of all worlds.

Avoiding the Inca Trail because of the crowds? Yep, the 1-Day trek helps here, too. Yes, the 1-Day trek will be crowded (relatively speaking – you will see other trekkers), but it is short and you won’t spend 3 or 4 more days hiking and camping with large groups of people. So, you could choose a more remote trek (Lares or Choquequirao anyone?) and still walk into Machu Picchu on the 1-Day trek.

Basically, the new permits for the 1-Day Inca Trail are a pretty great option for almost anyone (at least those willing and able to hike all day). You really should go to Peru this year as now you can hike into Machu Picchu, even in mid summer!

Suggested Trips That Include The 1-Day The Inca Trail

A fantastic adventure for families who want to experience a little bit of everything in the Machu Picchu and Cusco region: whitewater rafting, hiking, biking and Inca ruins, including arriving on foot into Machu Picchu on the 1-Day Inca Trail trek. Trip Length: 8 Days Destination: Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, 1-day Inca Trail Lodging: boutique hotels Activities: Moderate hike, kayak, stand up paddle board, bike, Inca ruins, cultural experiences