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The Short Inca Trail is a great way to hike to Machu Picchu in a short amount of time. Get a taste of the Classic Inca Trail, visit Wiñay Wayna and walk through Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, into Machu Picchu. Day 2 of this itinerary gives you a chance to fully explore the impressive Machu Picchu citadel.
The Short Inca Trail is a 2 day Inca Trail trek. On day 1, you’ll join the Inca Trail at Km 104 and hike up towards Winay Wayna. Visit these Incredible Inca ruins – the most impressive on the entire Inca Trail! – before continuing on to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). You’ll have your first glimpse of Machu Picchu from here. There is a lot of uphill walking on this trek, over the stone steps first laid by the ancient Inca. Along the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular vistas and a wealth of flora and fauna all along the Short Inca Trail. Bypassing Machu Picchu itself, you will walk or take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, to spend the night in a hotel.
On Day 2, take the bus back up to Machu Picchu to explore this fascinating site. You’ll have a guided tour and possibly time to visit some of the alternative attractions, like the Inca Bridge. You may also want to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. These hikes require an extra permit which must be requested at the time of booking.
Only a special few actually get to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu every year. Peru’s permit system means that just 500 people are allowed on the trail every day – approximately 200 visitors and 300 trekking staff. Permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and are in very high demand: they can sell out as much as 6 months in advance. Once spaces have been booked, NO OPERATOR CAN OFFER YOU A SPACE. All spaces are personal and non-transferable, and there is no waiting list, so if someone cancels, their spot cannot be taken by someone new. Also note that the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed in February for maintenance.
The Inca Trail is notorious for the mistreatment of porters and other trail staff who are asked to carry more than government regulation allow. At Apus Peru, we do things differently, going above and beyond these minimums. Read more about how we take care of all our staff, including porters and horsemen.
For our full packing list for treks in the Andes, see What to Bring.
Our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru will also give you some great tips for how to get ready for your trek, before you even leave home.
Our guides are all licensed and receive regular training. They share their experience, professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm with our passengers on every trek.
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General Information about Hiking with Apus Peru
Booking Your Short Inca Trail Tours 2D
Extras & Upgrades on the Short Inca Trail Tour
We start early (5:00 am!) as we travel by car from Cusco to the Ollantaytambo train station. From here, we travel by train on a very picturesque route for 2.5h until we reach kilometer 104, the start of the trail for us. Shortly after crossing the bridge over the Vilcanota River we visit the site of Chachabamba (2050m / 6,725 ft), a lovely archaeological site with water channels and fountains.
From here, we will hike upwards for about 8km (approximately 4 hours). The trail is well established, but there are many stairs and the hike is mostly upwards! While this is one of the easiest treks around the Cusco region, you still need to have a reasonable level of fitness to complete it. After our upwards climb, we arrive at the Inca site Wiñay Wayna (‘Forever Young’) (2670m / 8,759 ft) This is an impressive complex made up of an agricultural center with numerous terraces, a religious sector, and an urban sector. Many consider this the most impressive site on the whole Inca Trail!
After lunch, we continue for about another hour until we arrive at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate (2730m / 8,956 ft), where you will have your first dramatic view of Machu Picchu (2400m / 7,874 ft). After getting those classic photos, we will walk down the last part of the trail towards the ancient city itself. Before entering Machu Picchu, we will take a side path off the trail to go down to Aguas Calientes, as we will visit Machu Picchu on Day 2. From here, we take the bus down to Aguas Calientes. After checking into our accommodations for the night, we’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner and then it’s off to bed, in preparation for the next day’s early start.
If you’re feeling adventurous you may wish to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, but take note: this requires an extra permit, and they can sell out well in advance! Be sure to tell us at booking if you would like to add one of these hikes. For more tips on what to see, check out our Visiting Machu Picchu page.
After our site visit, we take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes. From here, we’ll take a train to Ollantaytambo where you’ll be picked up in our private vehicle to return to Cusco.
The short inca trail was very educational with beautiful scenery and vegetation, and the physical was moderate (very doable). We particularly loved learning about inca history, traditions, architecture and agricultural expertise from our guide; it was very edifying and inspiring.
Our family of 10, ages 8-75, took the KM 104 Inka Trail two day hike and it was absolutely perfect. We boarded the train in Ollantaytambo and got off the train about 1 hr before reaching Machu Picchu. We then hiked the last leg of the Inka Trail through the high jungle and arrived at Machu Picchu by 3 pm. We had a wonderful hike and arrived through the Sun Gate seeing Machu Picchu as the Inka’s did. We spent that night in Aguas Calientes and then spent the next day exploring the ruins. We each packed a little overnight pack for that night then returned to Ollantaytambo where we’d left our bags the next Eve. We then continued our tour of the Sacred Valley. Apus Peru made sure everything went smoothly.
It was a beautiful, challenging hike, loved hiking to the Sun Gate. Our guide was knowledgeable, prompt, considerate and flexible.
We knew we wanted go to Machu Picchu but we weren’t sure how to get there — with my wife, me and our two teenaged children. Apus Peru was the perfect guide. They made all of the arrangements, provided a friendly, well-informed guide and gave us the experience of a lifetime.
I highly recommend Apus Peru. They were great about staying in communication before our trip. They helped us select a trek that was appropriate for our family. We wanted to do some hiking but we felt the 4D trek might be too much.
Our guide was extremely well-informed about the region. He grew up in Cusco and talked about first visiting Machu Picchu as a toddler. He gave us great insights about the site. During the trek, he allowed us to walk at our own pace and informed us about the local fauna and history.
Apus Peru provided us with excellent lodging in Aguas Caliente and delicious food at high-quality restaurants.
Overall, this was a wonderful, memorable trip with a top-notch guide.