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The Short Inca Trail is a great way to hike to Machu Picchu in a short amount of time. It is essentially a one day Inca Trail hike followed by a Machu Picchu tour the next day, after spending a night in a comfortable hotel in Aguas Calientes.
On this 2 day Inca Trail adventure, you’ll get a taste of the “classic” Inca Trail hike, 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 with an experienced guide.
The Short Inca Trail hike is also a great option for people who want to experience hiking in the Andes, but then sleep in a comfortable hotel before visiting Machu Picchu the next day.
Click FULL DESCRIPTION to read more about this amazing one day Inca Trail hike, or check out our complete Short Inca Trail guide!
The Short Inca Trail is a 2 day Inca Trail trek, with one day hiking the Inca Trail and one day visiting Machu Picchu.
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 one day Inca Trail hike. 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 then an impressive buffet lunch just outside the gates. 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.
For a more detailed description of each day, with times and distances, read the full Itinerary below.
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.
We offer you the opportunity to personalize your trek and make your experience more comfortable through our Optional Extras and Upgrades. All options are available during the reservation process; please ask your sales consultant for more information.
We recommend that you bring the following items with you:
For our full packing list for treks in the Andes, see What to Pack for the Inca Trail.
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 whole trekking team is native to the Lares region and know the Inca Trail like the back of their hand! They are some of the warmest, endearing and wonderful people you are ever likely to meet.
Our guides are all licensed and receive regular training. They share their experience, professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm with our passengers on every trek.
Get to know our team!
Want to join a trek? Ready to confirm a departure date of your own, but interested in having others join you? Then Trekkers Wanted is for you! Our innovative Trekkers Wanted system matches people up who are interested in hiking the same trek, bringing costs down and multiplying the fun for everyone! Visit the link to read more about Trekkers Wanted, post your trek or search for confirmed departures!
Note: Trekkers Wanted for the Inca Trail ONLY available while permits last for your departure date.
General Information about Hiking with Apus Peru
Booking Your Short Inca Trail Tour 2 Days
Extras & Upgrades on the Short Inca Trail Tour
Does this trek sound like just what you were looking for? If you’re ready to book or just want to find out a bit more information, fill out the Inquiry Form in the top right-hand corner of this page to get the ball rolling. You’ll be connected with one of our amazing sales people who will be able to turn your dream of hiking in the Andes into a reality. For more information on the entire booking process, please see our How To Book page.
Travel insurance is a must! World Nomads offers travel insurance for adventure activities.
We start early (5:00 AM!) as we travel by car from Cusco to the Ollantaytambo train station. You should ask your hotel in advance about preparing a box breakfast to take with you on the journey. If you are not keen on such an early start, ask us about staying in Ollantaytambo or Yanahuara the night before your hike.
From Ollantaytambo, we travel by train on a very picturesque route for 1.5h until we reach kilometer 104, the start of the Short Inca Trail for us. Shortly after crossing the bridge over the Vilcanota River we visit the site of Chachabamba (2050m / 6725 ft), a lovely archaeological site with water channels and fountains.
From here, we will hike upwards for about 5km (3 mi), approximately 3.5 hours. This part of the Inca Trail is well established, but there are many stairs and the hike is mostly upwards! There are also some sharp drops down towards the river which can be challenging for those who don’t like heights. While this is one of the shortest treks around the Cusco region, it is definitely not the easiest, especially in the hot sun. You still need to have a reasonable level of fitness to complete it.
Following our upwards climb, we arrive at the Inca site Wiñay Wayna (“forever young”) (2700m / 8858 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 and a half across undulating terrain until we arrive at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate (2730m / 8,956 ft). There is a final, steep climb up stone steps until we reach this point, where you will have your first dramatic view of Machu Picchu (2400m / 7,874 ft).
We’ll have a moment to capture those classic photos, then 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 where we will catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes, as we will visit Machu Picchu on Day 2.
After checking into our Aguas Calientes hotel 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.
After a restful night’s sleep in your comfortable hotel, you will have time for a delicious breakfast at a reasonable hour before we make our way to the bus stop at 7:15 AM. At Apus Peru, we believe that having time to rest and have a good breakfast are important; if you get up too early, you might be too tired to really enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime visit to Machu Picchu.
We will have to wait in line for a bit to board the bus up to this marvellous site, but we will arrive in time for an 8 AM entry. 8 o’clock is the best time to visit Machu Picchu because any fog or clouds that often obscure the site in the morning will have burned off by this time, and the site is likely to be a little less busy. It’s the best time of day to visit Machu Picchu, with great views, and a window of time between the Classic Inca Trail hikers and the day trippers arriving by train at around 11 AM or 12 noon. If you book late or have different requirements, we may need to buy a different entry time.
Once we reach Machu Picchu, your guide will give you a 2 hour walking tour of the historic citadel. After the tour has completed, we will head to the Tinkuy Restaurant located inside the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge hotel and enjoy a wonderful buffet lunch while you reflect on our visit.
Then we will take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes (if you are feeling adventurous you can walk, but your bus ticket is included) where there are lots of markets for keen shoppers while you wait for your train.
We will take a 2-hour train ride to Ollantaytambo and then connect with our private transport back to Cusco. (Total travel time is around 4 hours). Our carefully planned itinerary sees you travelling during the day, getting to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Urubamba Valley and the Sacred Valley mountains.
If so, 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, and your Travel Consultant will discuss how adding one of these Machu Picchu hikes may change the itinerary on Day 2 of your 2-day Inca Trail hike.
Not sure which hike to choose? While Huayna Picchu is the more famous of the two hikes, we think that Machu Picchu Mountain offers better views, plus an incredible understanding of why the Incas built this sacred city in such a special place. For more details about each hike, see our Machu Picchu Hikes blog.
For more tips on what to see, check out our Comprehensive Guide on Visiting Machu Picchu.
Ask your Travel Consultant about adding an extra day at Machu Picchu.
[Our guide Arturo] is a very kind person, and assertive when he needs to be. The boxed lunch was so good! [Apus Peru] met all our needs.
Care of people was evident & excellent.
The hike to Machu Picchu was amazing. [Our guide] Erick was fabulous and very attentive to our baby which made us feel extra taken care of.
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.