Inca Trail Trek Permit Availability
The Inca Trail trek permits can sell out several months in advance. Unlike the Machu Picchu entrance tickets you can't buy the trek permits yourself. Only licensed Inca Trail Tour Operators are able to purchase the permits. When you make a booking with a tour operator they will take care of buying the permits for you, it will be included in the price of your trek. You'll need to give them your name, nationality, passport number, gender and date of birth. Inca Trail trek permits are required for the Classic 4-day Inca Trail trek, the Short 2-day Inca Trail trek and the 7-day Salkantay Inca Trail trek all of which enter Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and not through the main entrance. Alternative treks such as the 5-day Salkantay Santa Teresa trek don't require a trek permit, just a Machu Picchu entrance ticket, because with this trek you end the trek in the town of Aguas Calientes and then you take the bus up to the Machu Picchu ruins and eneter through the main gate.
If the Inca Trail trek permits have sold out then you won't be able to book an Inca Trail trek with any company. Even if a person cancels their booking then the cancelled space cannot be filled with another person. Therefore when the Inca Trail is fully booked you can't be added to a waiting list you'll have to do an alternative trek such as the 5-day Salkantay Santa Teresa Trek or maybe one of the Lares Valley treks.
Checking Inca Trail Availability Online
Visit the official government website www.machupicchu.gob.pe (Ministry of Culture)
Close any pop-ups. The default version is in Spanish. To select the English version just click on the British flag. The screen should now look like this:
Click on the 4th tab along QUERIES to bring you to a page that looks like this
In the drop down menu on the left hand side select CAMINO INKA (Spanish for Inca Trail)
Now select the year and month that you plan to do the trek. In this example I've selected December 2016.
You can now see how many Inca Trail trek permits are still available for each day of the month, the information is updated in real time. The maximum number of trek permits per day is 500. If the number is zero then all the trek permits have sold out for that day so you'll have to choose another departure date. In this example there are still 319 permits available for the 15th December 2016 but you can see that the permits have all sold out from 26th to 30th December 2016. Remember that the trek staff such as cooks and porters require a trek permit so the 500 permits a day figure equates to about 200 visitors and 300 trekking staff.
[At the moment of updating this webpage trek permits for 2017 were not on sale. Trek permits for January 2017 are expected to go on sale at the beginning of december and trek permits for March 2017 onwards are expected to go on sale sometime during the first 2 weeks of January - we'll update this page when we know more)