Peru’s Inca Trail permits go on sale for the first time since March 2020, with limited capacity

Jun 25, 2021

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After nearly 16 months, Inca Trail permits go on sale for the first time today through licensed operators at 50 percent reduced capacity for the remainder of the year starting July 15, according to Intrepid Travel.

Today marks the first opportunity for hikers to resume booking guided tours to explore the infamous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu since the Peruvian government closed its borders last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travelers can only reserve a permit through authorized travel companies and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The number of hikers allowed on the trail has been cut in half from 500 to 250 until at least the end of 2021 and includes tourists, porters and guides, which means travelers will be limited to 100-120 per day.

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In addition to the reduced capacity to accommodate for social distancing, other pandemic-related modifications include smaller walking groups, temperature screenings, enhanced cleaning protocols for tents and equipment, social distancing between tents and trekkers and mask-wearing policies.

Inca Trail spans the former Inca Empire capital Cusco, through the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo, and leads to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu. Photo by Intrepid Travel.

Related: 7 best ways to get to Peru on points and miles

“This is the lowest capacity Inca Trail has ever seen,” said the Intrepid spokeswoman, who also noted they operated 3,000 trekkers annually before the pandemic as the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company. As a result, various tour operators, including Intrepid, SAM Travel Peru and Adios Adventure Travel, are encouraging travelers vying for a permit to book as early as six to seven months in advance.

“Book early and consider booking through a certified local tour guide,” the spokeswoman said.

Rules for the 2022 season for the trail have not yet been released.

Although Peru is a year-round destination, April to October is considered to be the best time to visit given that it’s the country’s dry season, with June and July being the most popular among hikers. The trail is closed yearly in February for maintenance.

While there is no minimum age for hiking Inca, most travel companies recommend children be at least 10-years-old and able to handle a “moderate trek” surpassing 10,000 feet. Highlights include WinayhuaynaInti Punku, also known as Sun Gate, Llactapata Dead Woman’s Pass and of course Machu Picchu, one of the world’s top tourist destinations. For those looking to skip straight to Machu Picchu, you can book directly through the Peruvian government, with the similar caveat of booking ahead and being flexible due to capacity limitations and social distancing measures.

On June 22, it was reported that Peru is now responsible for the world’s highest known COVID-19 death toll based on population, as the government severely underestimated its official Covid-19 death toll, with actual numbers at nearly three times their official count. As previously reported by TPG, Peru instituted regional risk metrics of High, Very High and Extreme, based on COVID-19 risk and Lima remains listed as Very High. On June 21, the Arequipa Region went under strict lockdown for 15 days and the U.S. government is advising U.S. citizens to review their travel plans accordingly.

Related: Peru waives quarantine requirements — here’s what you need to know

Featured photo of Inca Trail by Intrepid Travel.

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