Though it may seem inaccessible and exotic to some, the truth is that the Inca Trail is hugely popular, and receives a metric ton of demand from travelers from all over the world every year. In the 80’s and 90’s, what began as a small number of companies offering guides to hike this four day trek quickly turned into an avalanche of tourism that ultimately threatened the health of the environment, and the priceless Inca ruins along the route.
The Peruvian government quickly saw the risk of destroying its natural and cultural resources. Today, Peru’s Ministry of Culture caps the number of people allowed to hike the trail at 500 per day. Of that number, only 200 are actual tourist hikers, the rest being accompanying guides and porters. Predictably, snagging a permit to hike the trail is a hectic affair. Only a select number of companies are allowed to buy them directly. They are assigned to a specific hiker’s name to prevent a black market of permits. And they sell out quickly. In 2013, Inca Trail permits through July were completely sold out by March.