When the Inca constructed Machu Picchu, they - with their great sense for drama - built the entrance gate at a mountain ridge at about 1 mile from the center of the site and from where the views, especially when the sun is rising or setting of the site are majestic and cannot other than overwhelm you. In order to be able to enjoy this feeling, the way visitors to the Inca king Pachacuti did hundreds of years ago you basically have two options; one of the two actual treks to Machu Picchu - either the four or 2 day version of the Inca Trail trek. The two other hikes that are often promoted to be treks to machu Picchu are the Lares trek and the Salkantay trek. Even though these lead to Machu Picchu you will not get there through the Sun Gate as in most cases you will also arrive by train to Aguas Calientes on the last day of these hikes. As you can imagine Inca Trail hike ranks among the finest of South America and for some experienced hikers even among the world. The Inca Trail hike takes you, as the names already says, over 42km (26mi) of original Inca Trail leading from the end of the Sacred Valley, the outskirts of Ollantaytambo, all the way to the site of Machu Picchu. The trail used to run from Cusco but nowadays no longer used and parts of it have been destroyed.
The shorter two day version of the Inca Trail was created for those looking to discover the beauty of the hike and entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate but not looking to camp on the trail. The two day Inca trail starts at the so called km104 (104 km on the train tracks which used to run from Cusco) where you cross the Urubamba (Vilcanote) River and after passing through the checkpoint visit a small Inca site next to the river. From here you will slowly and gradually start climbing till you reach the impressive Inca site of Winay Wayna. Here you climb the stairs to the of of the site where you meet up with the hikers of the four day classic Inca Trail. From here it takes another hour and half to get to the Sun Gate or Inti Punku. Before walking through the Sun Gate you will be challenged by one last long and steep staircase for which most people need their hands and feet at one point or another. The view from the Sun Gate is the best reward after this last physical challenge and the pain in your calves easily forgotten with Machu Picchu at the tip of your fingers.
The four day Inca Trail is a lot more challenging as this will involve hiking about 42km (26mi) of original Inca Trail as well as camping for three nights along the trail. The hike is an amazing experience full of beautiful Inca sites, amazing views of the highlands as well as cloud forest and unforgettable sunrises and sunsets in company of a nice cup of joe or coca tea and the company of your fellow hikers with whom you are sharing this once in a lifetime experience. The first day starts at km82 from where the first couple of hours are relatively flat. Towards the afternoon the path starts climbing gradually till you find your first camping spot. The second day is by far the toughest day and the day you will have to tackle the...wait for it...Dead Woman’s Pass...This pass is the longest climb you will encounter on the trip as well as the highest point on the trail. The pass stands tall at 4,200 metres (13,780 ft) making that the altitude together with the sometimes harsh weather conditions make it the biggest challenge for most people during the hike. From here it is a couple of hours mostly downhill till you get to the second campsite. Day three is a little bit of everything; uphill hiking, downhill hiking, Inca sites, amazing views and changing countryside as you will slowly get closer to the cloud forest. Day four is the final day and the big day. Today most hikers start before sun rise in order to be able to get to Machu Picchu around 6.00am and be able to see the sun rising over Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. From the Sun Gate it takes about an hour to get the central part of the site and enjoy this marvel from up close.
Now with regards to the Inca Trail permits availability 2019; as in former years as well as for the Inca Trail permits availability 2020 they allow 500 people daily for the four day Inca trail and 250 daily for the two day Inca trail. The sale of these Inca Trail permits availability 2019 have started earlier this month and since then hundreds of spaces have been sold already. On average throughout the year one can say that ticket sell out about 3 months in advance. For the high season months (June through September) this can even be 5 months. For the Inca Trail permits availability 2019 for the 4 day Inca Trail, at moment there are still tickets for every month available but this can change fast. Tickets for January will start selling out in the coming weeks. For June these will probably be sold out by March next year. As you can read, Inca trail permits availability 2019 is a key issue to keep in mind when looking to hike the four day Inca Trail.
For the short Inca Trail permits availability 2019 as well as the Inca Trail permits availability 2020 will not be that much an issue as these do not sell out that often. For some days in the high season (June through September) these will sell out but for most days of the year will be available. This was still the case for 2018 but please keep in mind that this can possible change due to changes within the ministry of culture (INC) or the popularity of the Inca Trail permits availability 2019 for the four day Inca Trail.
Some tips for booking the Inca Trail;
- Make sure that you know what is included in the price; train tickets, Huayna Picchu tickets, bus tickets, overnights, meals, water, camping equipment, etc…)
- Remember that the 2 Inca Trail permit does give access to visit the main part of the site on day one - only on day two.
- Remember that the 2 or 4 day Inca Trail permit does not include the hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain - for these you will need to get a new ticket.
- Make clear agreements with where you will meet your guide (hotel , train station, km82 or 104…)
- Bathrooms are only available at the camping sites or some lunch areas. Some operators carry chemical toilets as the local infrastructure is not always agreeable.
- Make sure you are acclimatized before starting the Inca Trail hikes to Machu Picchu.
- Inca Trail permits can only be purchased with the full name as on the passport, passport number, date of birth and nationality.
- You need be certain about your start date or at least the preferred date so the ticket can be purchased for this day (changing this later on may prove difficult).
Therefore the best recommendation is purchase your tickets for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as soon as you have confirmed your travel dates. Most other services can be arranged around the dates for the Inca Trail. Keep in mind that you can only purchase your Inca Trail permits availability 2019 or Inca Trail permits availability 2020 (these will be available from November 2019 onward) as well as do the actual Inca Trail only with an officially licenced operator and guides.