The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: A Complete Guide

Apus Peru > Peru Hikes > The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: A Complete Guide

Did you know you can hike the Inca Trail in 2 days? You can! The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu isthe best way to get a taste of South America’s most famous hike even if you’re short on time, are not up to a multi-day camping trip, or if the classic 4-day Inca Trail hike is sold out.

In this guide, you will find all the details and tips required to do the Short Inca Trail hike. Though it still involves a lot of walking, if you are at an average fitness level there is no need to worry; you can definitely do this hike!

Inspired to book your Inca trail in 2 days RIGHT NOW?Contact us for personal service and the best quality Inca trail treks in Cusco. For full information and prices, or to book, check out our Short Inca Trail tour page.

What is the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

What can you expect on the shortest hike to Machu Picchu? Well, to start with, on the Short Inca Trail 1 day is spent hiking and the second day is spent visiting the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu – a full day dedicated to exploration of this fascinating site.

But first: we explore the original Inca Trail. After travelling from Cusco to Ollantaytambo by car and then from there to KM104 by train, the two day Inca Trail starts with a 6 to 8 hour hike up to the Inca site of Wiñay Wayna. After visiting that archaeological complex for a bit and a little tour of the site, you finish your journey by walking through the Sun Gate (also known as Inti Punku), the gateway into Machu Picchu. Here you’ll witness the first views of Machu Picchu.

Then, you hike down a side path, skirting the ruins themselves, in order to catch a bus down to Aguas Calientes. Relax in the late afternoon in Aguas Calientes, explore a local restaurant, and enjoy the night in a hotel. On the second day of your Short Inca Trail tour, get ready to explore the fascinating World Wonder of Machu Picchu!

Short Inca Trail Map

Short Inca trail Map

What is the difference between the Classic Inca Trail and the Short Inca Trail?

The main difference between the 2 day Inca Trail tour and the Classic Inca Trail lies in the duration and distance of the trek. The Short Inca Trail is a shorter version, typically completed in two days, where you get to explore the best bits of the Inca Trail in less time, whereas the Classic Inca Trail spans four days. The Short Inca Trail covers a distance of approximately 10 km of the trail, while the Classic Inca Trail extends for about 42 kilometers.

Additionally, the Short Inca Trail is less physically demanding, making it a popular choice for those with not much time or those seeking a less strenuous trekking experience. With fewer tourists compared to the Classic Trail, you’ll also have a more intimate experience. Besides, you don’t need to worry about camping, personal porters, or a sleeping bag for the 2-day Inca Trail. You’ll stay at a hotel along the way, making it a comfortable and hassle-free trek. Enjoy the stunning landscapes, incredible views of Machu Picchu, and explore the captivating Inca ruins, all without the extra gear or logistical concerns.

On the other hand, the Classic Inca Trail offers a more immersive and challenging adventure, with stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and a longer duration to fully appreciate the journey and the magnificence of Machu Picchu. Both options provide unique experiences, allowing visitors to marvel at the beauty and historical significance of the Inca ruins along the way.


Can You Hike to Machu Picchu in 1 Day?

Yes. The one day Inca Trail hike starts at KM 104, climbs up towards the Incan site of Wiñay Wayna where it joins the classic Inca Trail trek, and then carries on towards Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) into Machu Picchu itself. This is a 1 day hike to Machu Picchu, with the option of returning the next day for a complete tour of the ruins.

What is the difference between the 1 Day Inca Trail and the 2 Day Inca Trail?

The only difference between the 1 Day and 2 Day Inca Trail hike is that on the two day Inca Trail tour, hikers return to Machu Picchu on the second day for a guided tour of the Citadel, after spending a night in an Aguas Calientes hotel.

The actual hiking itinerary is the same – starting at KM 104, climbing up past Wiñay Wayna and the Sun Gate, arriving at Machu Picchu in the afternoon. This is one day hiking the Inca Trail; it is not possible to break this hike up into two days of hiking.

Two Day Inca Trail with Camping: Is it possible?

As the Short Inca Trail is one day of hiking, it is not possible to camp anywhere along the trail itself; campsites at Wiñay Wayna are reserved for classic Inca Trail hikers and not available to those doing the Short Inca Trail.

It is possible to camp in Aguas Calientes itself, but the campground there does not provide an enjoyable camping experience due to its location and abundance of biting insects. You are much better off staying in a hotel (included in the price of our 2 day Inca Trail hike) – and getting a good night’s sleep before visiting Machu Picchu!

Day by Day on the Short Inca Trail: 2 Days on A World-Famous Trek

Short Inca Trail Day 1: From KM 104 to Wiñay Wayna & the Sun Gate


The 2 day 1 night Inca Trail trek begins with travel from your Cusco hotel to Ollantaytambo, where you will catch the train to the Short Inca Trail trailhead at KM104. To make sure you have a great spot and enjoy your train ride to the fullest, it’s a smart move to buy your train tickets in advance. After leaving Ollantaytambo train station, passengers can enjoy breathtaking views of the Urubamba River and changing Andean landscapes before the train reaches the stop at KM104, where everybody has to disembark and start walking.

When getting off the train at KM104, crossing the suspension bridge above the Urubamba River and passing the Inca Trail checkpoint, explorers will find themselves hiking in the middle of the dense cloud forest with its warmth, humidity, a variety of flora, and many different hues of green. In addition to the green colour of the forest, it is easy to admire yellow, red, and pink orchids as well as white, brown, yellow, and black butterflies. With every breath you take comes the fresh smell of dew. That fragrance and the roar of the river accompany hikers for most of the day.

When hiking past Chachabamba, the tour visits an administrative post located near the starting point very close to the river. In this part of the Inca trail it is possible to see, at a distance, the sites of Choquesuysuy, also by the river, and the important temple of Intipata, perched upon a hill, as you hike the 7 hours towards Wiñay Wayna.

An alternative 1 day Inca Trail hike via KM 106

Trekkers can also enter via an alternative route at KM106. Instead of visiting the archaeological site of Chachabamba, visitors on this alternative hike will be able to see the Choquesuysuy archaeological site. The KM 104 route is always uphill, but at a relatively gentle incline. The KM 106 route is a zig zag climb and steeper, and it takes only about 3 and a half hours to get to the Wiñay Wayna archaeological site. From Wiñay Wayna, the entire route follows the standard trail into Inti Punku, the Sun Gate.

KM 104


After passing through a few streams and a couple of waterfalls, hikers reach one of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites in the area known as Wiñay Wayna, (Forever Young), named for the orchid of the same name that can be found in this area. Wiñay Wayna features a ceremonial section with a double door and a room with 7 windows, as well as several finely carved water fountains. (Read more about Wiñay Wayna in our blog).

On this 2 day Inca trail tour, it is very common to spot different fauna species such as quetzals and hummingbirds playing cheerfully in the trees. Another famous endemic bird of the area that can be spotted is the Gallito de las Rocas, or Cock of the Rock, Peru’s national bird.

After a box lunch and a tour of Wiñay Wayna, hikers will reach a section of stairs: the last stretch before reaching the Sun Gate, or, Inti Punku. It is only about an hour’s hiking from Wiñay Wayna to Inti Punku, from where it is possible to attain a first spectacular view of Machu Picchu, the most important and magnificent archaeological site of the Americas.


After getting those classic photos, you continue to walk down, past the ancient city itself, in order to take a bus down to Aguas Calientes town (also known as Machupicchu Pueblo).

At this moment of the day is very common to observe tired but happy faces among travellers, not just because the two day Inca trail tour challenge has been completed but also because of the excitement of exploring Machu Picchu.

Once in Aguas Calientes, you will check into your accommodations for the night. Plan on getting to bed early in preparation for the next day’s early start.

Machu Picchu with plants

Short Inca Trail Day 2: Visiting Machu Picchu

Today you will be rewarded for all your effort the previous day! In the early morning after taking one of the first buses up to the ruins, you will have two to three hours to walk through Machu Picchu, taking in the historic sights and learning about their significance.

A guided tour at Machu Picchu adds an extra layer of excitement to your visit. With a knowledgeable tour guide by your side, you’ll uncover fascinating secrets, learn about the large site’s history and cultural significance, and explore the most important areas of the citadel you might have missed on your own.

Add Huayna Picchu for Something Extra

The Huayna Picchu hike is the most popular of the hikes at Machu Picchu citadel. Huayna Picchu mountain is the sharp iconic mountain peak that rises above Machu Picchu and is seen in so many of those classic photos. From there, hikers can get an extraordinary view of Machu Picchu.

If you want to climb this majestic mountain or one of the other alternative routes, contact our diligent staff to add it to your 2 day Inca trail trek. Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain require special permits that can run out, so it’s best to book them in advance.

Trail to Machu Picchu

Short Inca Trail Difficulty

The Short Inca trail 2 days difficulty is moderate and is recommended for travellers who are in good physical shape. If you consider yourself fairly fit, you exercise regularly, and do not have any issues with your weight, knees, or ankles, then this version of the ancient Inca trail is perfect for you!

Some of our hikers have initially had concerns about the hike, but soon realized that it wasn’t as tough as they had feared. In fact, for most visitors, the experience exceeded all expectations, becoming a highlight of their journey. So, if you’re up for an adventure, don’t hesitate to lace up your hiking boots and embark on this unforgettable expedition!

Trail conditions During the first few hours you will walk a continuous climb. Then the trail becomes easier with a few sections with a minimum degree of difficulty.
Total distance 13 km / 8.08 miles
Hiking time (Approx) 6-7 hours
Acclimatization 2 days is recommended prior to starting the hike
Max altitude 2650 m / 8694 ft
Min altitude 2400 m / 7874 ft

Is the Two Day Inca Trail Worth It?

Is the 2 day Inca Trail worth it? Yes!

For explorers who can’t, for whatever reason, do the 4-day Inca Trail, the Short Inca trail to Machu Picchu 2 days is a suitable option. Not only do hikers have the opportunity to enjoy marvellous landscapes, you also get to see some beautiful Inca sites!

Retrace the footsteps of the ancients as you hike along original Inca paths, explore arguably the most fascinating archaeological complex on the whole Inca Trail, and experience that unique moment of walking through the Sun Gate for your first view of Machu Picchu. Honestly, what more could you ask for?


How to Prepare for Hiking the 2 Day Inca Trail

Get Fit

For all fellow travellers who are looking to have an enjoyable and pleasurable experience, we recommend doing some cardio exercises before travelling to Peru. If possible, it is also a good idea to walk or bike instead of taking public transport so you can get used to walking long distances.

If you want to read more about how to prepare for hiking, check out our trip preparation blog.

Get Your Permits

There are 200 permits available per day, which means that only 200 travellers are allowed to access the trail every day. Although permits for the Short Inca trail don’t tend to sell out as quickly as they do for the 4-day classic Inca Trail, it’s still a good idea to book your entrance ticket in advance if you are planning to do the hike during dry season (May-October).

Many travellers wonder why it is important to get a permit even for the two day Inca trail hike. Well, this is mainly to keep the trail in good condition.

Take the Time to Acclimatize

Why do we talk about altitude acclimatization? All treks in Cusco region and Machu Picchu area are at high altitude. Here in the Peruvian Andes, altitude sickness is a very common issue among foreign travellers because there is less oxygen in the air than at sea level cities.

At Apus Peru we recommend to all our fellow explorers to spend a couple of days acclimatizing in the Sacred Valley before hiking to Machu Picchu to ensure you’re in good physical condition to tackle the trail. If you want to know what to do in the Sacred Valley while you acclimatize, click the link to read our post.

Short Inca Trail ruins

What to Pack

Make sure you include in your packing list the following items for a memorable 2-day trek:

Comfortable trekking clothes

  • Trekking pants
  • Breathable dry fit top-wear
  • Long-sleeve fleece/sweater
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Casual evening wear for mountains
  • Flip-flops, sandals or other lightweight shoe

Sun protection

  • Sunscreen (SPF 35 is highly recommended)
  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball cap, sombrero, or bandana

Rain gear & protection against the cold

  • Rain gear or poncho (especially during rainy season)
  • Cold-weather jacket
  • Wool hat
  • Warm gloves

Other helpful items

  • Toilet paper (keep all toilet paper used and dispose of it at the end of the hike)
  • Ziploc bags
  • Original passport (a copy of your passport is not enough)
  • Day Pack
  • Insect repellent
  • Photo/video camera and chargers
  • Refillable water bottle

Read more in our blog on What to Pack for the Inca Trail.

More Hiking Tips

Use these extra tips to make the best of your Machu Picchu short hike experience:

  • Bring your own reusable water bottle and avoid the use of single-use plastic bottles
  • Try to keep your bag as light as possible
  • Bring healthy snacks to help you power through the trek, like nuts, energy bars, or dried fruits.
  • Use hiking poles / walking sticks to make your walk easier. If you don’t have walking poles, you can rent them from us.

For more useful tips read here.

Short Inca Trail Price

Prices for the Short Inca Trail trek vary depending on the size of your group and what style of hotel you stay at in Aguas Calientes. Find all the details about this 2 day Inca Trail here, including prices.

Additionally, for a more comfortable experience, you can also opt for the Vistadome train upgrade, available at an extra cost; make sure to book early to secure your spot.

Student Discount Tickets: Explore Machu Picchu on a Budget

Attention, students! Discover the Lost City of the Incas with student discount tickets. Save money while exploring this iconic UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t worry about the process – as a reliable tour operator, we can help you secure your discounted tickets hassle-free. Your student ID should be an original PVC card issued by your university and must include university details, your full name, a student photo, and a one-year expiration date that coincides with your visit to Machu Picchu. Simply provide all the information, and we’ll handle the rest. Book your Machu Picchu tickets in advance to secure your spot and make the most of this affordable adventure.

Lares and Short Inca Trail

Another Alternative: The Lares Trek & Short Inca Trail

This is a perfect trip for all of you who are looking for an immersion in the Andean culture and who also want an unforgettable experience hiking the Short Inca Trail trek. It’s also a great option for those who want to do a longer trek when 4-day Inca Trail permits have sold out.

Do not miss this great adventure that combines wilderness trekking, local culture, Inca history and the excitement of completing a popular Machu Picchu hike!

Check out our page, Lares & 2 Day Inca Trail, for more information about this tour.

Things to Consider Before Hiking the 2 Day Inca Trail

  • The best time to embark on this journey is during the dry season, from May to September, when the weather is favourable.
  • To secure your spot, it’s advisable to book in advance, and having a credit card handy will make the process smooth.
  • Don’t forget your travel insurance for peace of mind during your journey
  • Ensure you’re in good physical condition to tackle the whole length the trail.

Apus Peru prioritizes the health and safety of our guests by strictly adhering to the Peruvian government’s Health Guidelines for Covid-19 in tourist destinations. As you plan your Short Inca Trail tour in 2023, it’s important to be aware of the following information regarding health protocols and safety measures:

  • Please note that certain areas of the Machu Picchu archaeological site, such as the Inca bridge, may be temporarily closed to visitors. We will ensure that you have the latest information and guidance to make the most of your visit while maintaining a safe and enjoyable experience.
  • Rest assured that our staff is well-prepared with emergency contact numbers to promptly address any medical situations that may arise during your journey.

Just a friendly reminder: protocols and regulations may change at any moment. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, check our travel restrictions blog.

Short Inca Trail 2D

Ready to Book? We’ve Got the Best 2 Day Inca Trail Tour for You!

Don’t think any further and make the best of this Short Inca Trail tour. Once you board the train in Ollantaytambo, the beautiful scenery and vegetation will blow your mind. Then, get ready to hike along the remarkable Inca stone steps of the last leg of the Inca Trail through the high jungle and get a glimpse of the Machu Picchu citadel before heading down to Aguas Calientes. Recharge your energy overnight in a comfortable hotel to be ready for the awe-inspiring tour of Machu Picchu itself the next day.

Now is the perfect time to lace up your boots, embrace the challenge, and conquer the legendary One Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! Let the ancient ruins, breathtaking landscapes, and sense of accomplishment propel you forward on this extraordinary adventure of a lifetime.

For full information and prices, or to book, check out our 2 Day Inca Trail tour page.


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