Planning an Inca Trail trek is a long process. The Inca Trail is a major attraction that, together with Machu Picchu, draws millions of travelers to Peru every year. Personal fitness and weather are among the top considerations, but so are technical details such as permits and other bookings. Here are some trips for Inca Trail hiking:
Availability is probably the most important factor and the most potentially voluble because there are several elements at play. After you determine the dates for your Peru travel package, you will want to immediately start looking into Inca Trail permits. These are limited to 500 per day except for the month of February when the trail is closed (explained below). To do any portion of the Inca Trail, be it the classic Inca Trail, the one-day trek from KM 104, or the Inca Trail via Salkantay, you will need to secure an Inca Trail permit for the starting day of your trek.
The high season is from June to August.
Inca Trail permits for these months can sell out 5 or 6 months in advance, so if this is the only time when you can travel to Peru, then you will want to book as soon as the new year begins. In some years, the same is true for the months of May and September. By February, many of the dates for the high season have sold out, so if your travel dates are not negotiable, then you will want to book as early as possible. Secure your flights first and then hotels and other tours.
The low season for hiking the Inca Trail coincides almost exactly with the rainy season, which begins in October and ends around March. The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance and repairs to the trail and archaeological sites. If you will be traveling during the rainy season, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is still a great experience, but it is important to pack appropriate rain gear for the most enjoyable experience. You can book your Inca Trail permits 6 to 8 weeks in advance, but again, the sooner the better to secure your exact dates.
The Weather: From May until September, the dry season, travelers can expect very warm days and cold nights when hiking to Machu Picchu. During the rainy season, there is more vegetation along the trail but cloudy mists tend to obscure the high mountain peaks. There is no “typical” day on the trail in the rainy or the dry season. In the wet season in particular, there might be an hour-long downpour and then clear weather for the rest of the day or it might constantly shower all day long. It’s really unpredictable, so it’s most important to be prepared with a rain jacket, rainproof hiking shoes, changes of socks, and garbage bags to wrap your clothes and keep them dry, and also plastic baggies to protect important documents.
Finally, once you arrive to the Inca citadel via the Sun Gate, there is more optional Machu Picchu hiking to do. After your Machu Picchu tour, you can choose to descend to Aguas Calientes and return to Cusco. But you can also stay overnight in Aguas Calientes and return the next morning. Climbing Huayna Picchu is the most popular activity, and this requires an additional fee on top of the regular Machu Picchu entry ticket. There are only 400 permits available for Huayna Picchu and if these are sold out, you can also climb the higher Montana Machu Picchu.