The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a great option for those who want to hike to Machu Picchu but don't have the time for the longer 4-day Classic Inca Trail trek. This trail takes only 2 days and includes stops at the incredible archaeological sites of Chachabamba, Wiñaywayna, and the Sungate (Intipunku). You'll also spend a night in a comfortable hotel in Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), so you can explore the ancient citadel at your leisure the next day.

All about the Short Inca Trail difficulty & Altitude

The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu provides an excellent option for those without enough time or inclination to hike the entire Inca Trail, offering glimpses of historical sites, stunning scenery, and rich cultural experiences along this shorter version of the trail.

Short Inca Trail difficulty

The Short Inca Trail 2 days hike is an accessible hike of moderate difficulty, covering 10 miles (16 km). There are steep climbs, stairs and ancient Inca sites along its route; to prepare yourself properly it's important to have at least an intermediate level of physical fitness and be physically prepared before undertaking this hike. Along the route are beautiful landscapes such as ancient Inca Sites covered with dense forest before reaching Machu Picchu.

short inca trail
Short Inca trail 2-day group

The altitude of the Short 2-day Inca Trail Hike

During the Short Inca trail, youw ill be hiking at a lower altitude than Cusco city. The highest point on the Short 2-day Inca Trail hike is the Sungate, located at 2708 m  or 8884 ft. Hikers on the Short Inca Trail Tour will not have issues with altitude. 

  • Cusco is located at 3,399 m or 11151 ft.
  •  KM 104 - Chachabamba is located at 2170 m or 7120 ft.
  • Wiñaywayna is located at 2600m – 8530 ft.
  • The highest point is Sungate (Intipunku) at 2708 m  or 8884 ft.
  • Machu Picchu, where the Inca Trail ends, is 2,430 m 7972 ft.
  • Aguas Calientes town is located at 2,040 m or 6692 ft.

The distance of the Short Inca Trail

The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is only 16 kilometers (10 miles) and can be completed in about 7 hours until Machu Picchu. However, even though it is the shortest option, it could be a challenging hike if you are unprepared. 

The physical preparation for the trek

Here are a few steps that can help prepare for the Short Inca Trail trek:

  • Prepare physically: Make sure your physical preparation includes working on cardio and leg strength.
  • Avoid Altitude Sickness: Spend few days in Cusco to adjust to its high altitude before embarking on your trek.
  • Pack Light but Pack Smart: Make sure that all essentials such as rain gear, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Train with your Backpack: Practice carrying it for long distances.
  • Get Travel Insurance: It is always advisable to invest in travel insurance prior to setting out on this adventure.

The weather conditions of the trek

The weather on the Short Inca Trail 2 days trek is unpredictable. It can be sunny and hot one day, and the next day it can be cold and rainy. This is why it's important to pack for all weather conditions. In Cusco we have 2 season, the dry and rainy seaosns:

  • The dry season runs from April to October. This is when the weather is usually the most stable, with warm days and cool nights. However, even during this time of year, there can be sudden changes in the weather, so it's always best to be prepared for anything.
  • During the rainy season (November to March), the trails can be very muddy and slippery, so it's important to take extra care when trekking during this time.
short inca trail
short Inca trail

Geography of the Short Inca Trail 2 days trek

Short Inca Trail tours provide breathtaking, diverse landscapes. Beginning in Cusco - which sits at an altitude of 3,400 meters - your ascent into the Andes Mountains begins and will lead through some truly incredible mountainous terrain before finally winding its way into lush cloud forests and back down again.

The cloud forest section of the Inca Trail boasts abundant wildlife, such as colorful birds and butterflies. As you near Machu Picchu, its beauty becomes even more stunning and misty.

The Short Inca Trail 2 Days is an ancient stone path network leading to Machu Picchu's lost city. There are parts with steep stairs up and down as well as narrow trails that could make this journey challenging.

The size of the group

The group size for a Short Inca Trail trek depends on how many people register. An average group consists of 10 participants with two tour guides leading them.

Small groups allow for an intimate experience and easier familiarization between trekkers. Larger groups are still great fun - we will assign 1 tour guide per 8 trekkers; large groups will receive two.

Age of Hikers in the Short Inca Trail Tour

There is no exact age requirement to hike the Short Inca Trail 2 days, though most tour operators recommend hikers be at least 9 years old. Due to its challenging nature and physical challenges for younger hikers, it's essential that parents consider your child's physical abilities and fitness level before enrolling them on this trek. If an older child wishes to hike it as well, here are a few key points you should bear in mind when signing them up:

  • At altitude, hiking can be challenging for even fittest hikers, so ensuring your child is properly acclimatized prior to starting is vitally important.
  • Additionally, young children must always hike alongside their parents; and we strongly suggest private tours where possible.
short inca trail
short Inca trail - Flowers

Short Inca Trail Tours to Machu Picchu

Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with Hotel

The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a condensed version of the traditional Inca Trail, making it an excellent option for those who may not have the time or physical capacity to complete the whole four-day hike. This shorter trail still provides a challenging trek and the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in Peru, including a portion of the classic Inca Trail and the majestic arrival to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.

Day 1: Cusco - Km 104 - Wiñay Wayna - Aguas Calientes

  • Start early and board the train to Km 104, the starting point of the trek.
  • The trail starts visiting the Chachabamba Inca site
  • After 4 hours of hiking, you'll reach the famous Wiñay Wayna ruins, an impressive Inca site with terraces and ceremonial platforms.
  • Take your time to explore Wiñay Wayna and enjoy a packed lunch amidst the beautiful surroundings.
  • Afterward, continue the trek toward the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), which offers the first breathtaking panoramic view of Machu Picchu.
  • From the Sun Gate, it's a short descent to Machu Picchu and explore the viewpoints. 
  • After your visit, you'll take a bus to Aguas Calientes and spend the night in a hotel.

Day 2: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

  • Wake up early to take the first buses back up to Machu Picchu.
  • Enjoy a guided tour of Machu Picchu, where you'll learn about the history, significance, and mysteries surrounding this ancient Inca city.
  • After the tour, you'll have free time to explore the site independently, take photos, or hike to the iconic viewpoint of Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (additional permits required).
  • In the afternoon, you'll take a bus back down to Aguas Calientes and have some free time to relax, visit the hot springs, or explore the town.
  • Finally, you'll board a Panoramic Vistadome train back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo, where your Short Inca Trail adventure concludes.

The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a fantastic way to experience the Andean landscape and immerse yourself in the Inca history. It's important to remember that this trek is physically demanding, so a moderate fitness level is required. Furthermore, the trail can sometimes be booked months in advance, so planning is crucial.

Short Inca Trail with camping

The Short Inca Trail with camping follows the same itinerary as the hotel version; the main difference is that you will stay in comfortable tents. TreXperience organizes premium Short IncaTrail tours with a glamping experience.

Day 1: Cusco – Km 104 – Wiñay Wayna – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes

  • Pickup from your Hotel in Cusco. You'll be driven to Ollantaytambo to board a train bound for Km 104, the start of your short Inca Trail trek. You will enjoy a picnic breakfast at the trailhead.
  • You will visit Chachabamba and ascent for 4 hours towards Wiñay Wayna.
  • You will enjoy a picnic lunch prepared by our expert chefs
  • From Wiñay Wayna, you'll hike for 1 hour to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). From here, you'll have your first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
  • You'll descend into  Machu Picchu and the bus down to Puente Ruinas, where you will spend the night in comfortable walk-in tents.

The Short Inca Trail with camping is a GLAMPING EXPERIENCE where you will sleep in walking tents and camping cots and have excellent meals.

Day 2: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

  • On the second day, you'll wake up in the tents and enjoy an early picnic breakfast.
  • You will hike for 20 minutes to Aguas Calientes to catch one of the first buses back up to Machu Picchu.
  • A guided tour will provide insight into the history and significance of the different structures, including the Sun Temple, the Room of the Three Windows, and the Intihuatana stone.
  • After the guided tour, you'll have free time to explore Machu Picchu independently. Some may wish to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (note: these require separate tickets, which should be booked well in advance).
  • You'll take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes to have lunch 8Not included)
  • In the afternoon, you'll board a train Panoramic to Ollantaytambo and then be transferred by road back to Cusco, where your short Inca Trail adventure will end.

What is the main difference between the Hotel and the camping Tour?

Both tours follow the same route, same tour guides, same trains. The differences are: 

  • The Short Inca Trail with Hotel includes 1 box lunch, 1 dinner in a local restaurant, and 1 breakfast at the Hotel. This tour does not include the first breakfast. 
  • The Short Inca trail with camping includes the first Picnic breakfast, 1 Picnic lunch, 1 Picnic Dinner, and 1 picnic breakfast on day 2. 
  • Also another difference is sleeping in a hotel and having a comfortable camping night. 

The best part of the Short Inca trail with camping is the picnic meal prepared by our expert chefs and the glamping experience. 

Tips for Hiking the 2-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Be well prepared before beginning, as this trail can be challenging, particularly on the first day. Here are our top tips for hiking the Short Inca Trail:

Book in Advance:

Due to limited permits being available daily, planning ahead for your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu is key.

Peru's government limits daily visitor numbers to 250; this limit aims at protecting both natural and historic wonders on the Inca Trail.

Physical Preparation

Although 2-day trails may be shorter and less strenuous than 4-day ones, they still require physical fitness training to prepare properly for them. You should begin preparations several months in advance by engaging in cardio exercises like running, swimming or cycling as well as developing leg strength.

Acclimatize to Altitude

Before setting out on your hike, if possible spend several days in Cusco or another high-altitude region to allow your body to adapt. Altitude sickness can be serious and even ruin your journey if unprepared - spending some time here could help avoid that problem!

 Pack Light

Only carry essential items in your day pack, such as water, snacks, camera and rain gear - your overnight bag for Aguas Calientes should be sent ahead so it will not weigh you down while hiking.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated at high altitudes is of utmost importance, so remember to consume plenty of water throughout your trek. Drink lots of fluid before and during each stage.

Dress in Layers

Weather can be unpredictable, with cold mornings giving way to hot afternoons and cool evenings. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to these changing temperatures with ease..

Wear Good Hiking Boots

Trail conditions can be harsh and uneven; therefore it is essential that appropriate hiking boots provide ample ankle support.

Use a Walking Stick

A walking stick can provide balance and relieve some pressure off of your knees during descents.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

High altitude sun exposure can be intense. Use a hat, sunglasses and sunblock to shield yourself.

Respect the Environment

The Inca Trail is an invaluable historical and natural site, so please abide by all trail regulations, such as carrying away trash and not taking stones or plants from it.

Hire a Local Tour Operator

Guides can add depth to your visit by explaining the historical and cultural significance of each site you will be touring, while at the same time supporting local economies. TreXperience Tours in Peru provides excellent tours such as their Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu journey.

Bring plenty of water and snacks

As there are no resupply points on the trail, make sure that you bring all of the items necessary for survival with you - including plenty of drinking water as well as enough food to fuel you onwards journey.

Remember that every experience on a trail will differ; therefore it is key to listen to your body and go at your own pace if you wish to have an enjoyable journey and destination.

2 day Inca Trail FAQs

 How difficult is the 2-day Inca Trail trek?

The 2-day Inca Trail trek is considered moderate in difficulty. On day 1, expect to spend roughly six to seven hours hiking uphill - though still less strenuous than its 4-day equivalent.

What is the highest altitude reached on the 2-day Inca Trail?

Your trip will reach its highest elevation at Sun Gate (Inti Punku), approximately 2,720 meters (8,923 feet).

How can I prepare for the altitude on the Inca Trail?

In order to acclimatize, it's best to spend at least a couple days before trekking in Cusco or another high-altitude location acclimatizing. Stay hydrated, consume light meals without alcohol and seek advice from your physician regarding altitude sickness medication if required.t.

How physically fit do I need to be for the 2-day Inca Trail trek?

No athlete is necessary; however, an acceptable level of fitness should suffice; comfortably walking 10-15 km per day on hilly terrain should suffice; try doing training hikes prior to leaving home to prepare yourself adequately.

I have a medical condition. Can I still do the Inca Trail trek?

Before undertaking any trek on the Inca Trail, it's essential that you consult with your physician beforehand as high altitude and physical exertion may exacerbate certain medical conditions, especially cardiovascular and respiratory ones.

Is the trail dangerous?

Although most trails are considered safe, accidents may still happen if improper footwear is worn or you stray off of the marked path. Listen to your guide, keep to the designated route, and use caution when walking on uneven or slippery surfaces.

What happens if I can't complete the trek?

In case of incapacity to finish your trek, your guide will assess your situation and make plans to transport you back to Aguas Calientes where transportation back to Cusco can be arranged.

Do I need a guide for the 2-day Inca Trail trek?

Yes, having a guide is mandatory as part of protecting its cultural heritage and for your own safety. Your guide can explain historical and cultural significance of each site you pass while also helping resolve any problems that arise along your journey

Can children do the Short Inca Trail trek?

Most children over the age of 12 can complete the 2-day Inca Trail trek provided they are physically fit and used to hiking. But parents should carefully consider your child's comfort and enjoyment while on this challenging adventure - remember it can be especially taxing on young trekkers!

What time of year is best for the Inca Trail trek?

The ideal time of year to undertake the Inca Trail is during its dry season from May to September; however, this period also marks its busiest timespan and maintenance work will likely occur on February.

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