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2-Day Inca Trail – The Ultimate Short And Sweet Route To Machu Picchu

Alison Macallister

Do you dream of entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate but are short on time and / or worried about your fitness levels?

The 2-Day Inca Trail is for you!

Spend one-day hiking and appreciating the Andean wilderness. Visit hidden Incan ruins and arrive at Machu Picchu in the style of Incan royalty.

In this article, we will take a look at the selling points and typical itinerary of the short 1-2 day Inca Trail.

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2 Day Inca Trail - Everything You Need To Know To Get To Machu Picchu Quicker

The 2-day Inca trail starts at KM104 (located in the middle of our handy route map below) at an altitude of 2,200m / 7,218 ft. From there, trekkers follow a one-day route via Wiñay Huayna (2,650m / 8,694 ft) to Machu Picchu (2,430m / 7,972 ft). Most tours include a ticket and guided tour of Machu Picchu for the second day of the trek.

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Inca 2 day trail Map

A typical 1-2-day Inca Trail trek begins along KM104 (located in the middle of the route map).

In total, you will be hiking 6,21 miles / 10 kilometres, all on the first day. For this reason, the route is sometimes called a one-day Inca Trail.

Acclimatization is less of an issue on this Short Inca Trail as the highest altitude reached is just under 2,700m at Wiñay Huayna. This is well below the altitude you would have acclimatized to in Cusco, which is situated at 3,399m / 11,151 ft.

Why Hike the Inca Trail in 2 Days?

The Short 2 Day Inca Trail (aka the ‘one day route’, ‘two-day hike’, ‘Sacred Trail’ or ‘Camino Real de Los Incas’), is ideal for trekkers who don’t have much time. It is also for those who would like to do some light trekking that doesn’t result in tired legs and blisters!

Here is our handy altitude profile for the 2-day Inca Trail below to give you a better idea of what elevation to expect during your trek. 

Inca 2 day trail Altitude

The 2 Day Inca trail can also be hiked all year round. Unlike the Classic Trail, it is not closed in February. Best of all, you will get to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate (2,730m / 8,956 ft) at the end of this trek. This is the same experience as for those ending the 4-day Inca Trail.

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Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

See more Cusco accommodation options.

What You Need To Know Before Booking The 2-Day Inca Trail

Like the Classic Trail, the 2 Day Inca Trail is regulated. You will need to book with a registered Inca trail trekking agency. Secure your dates well in advance as permits sell out quickly.

In the past, hikers could split this one-day trek into 2 days. A basic hostel was situated at Winay Wayna which provided an option to stay over. Sadly, due to very poor upkeep and a ton of complaints, the hostel was closed at the end of 2014.

If you have very limited time, it is possible to complete the hike and visit Machu Picchu on the same day. You can also add-on a hike up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.

Booking Tips: Make sure that you book your Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain tickets well in advance as these tours are very popular and tickets sell out very quickly. 

Even though this is the shortest hiking option for the Inca Trail, it is no walk in the park. The trail is moderately difficult with a few steep ascents. You should be healthy and fairly active to sign up for the short Inca Trail.

See more in our guide on how to train for the Inca Trail

Let's look more in depth at a Typical Short Inca Trail Itinerary.

winay-wayna-inca-trail

Wiñay Wayna, an Inca site near the final campsite of the same name, is located on the Inca Trail.

Day 1: KM104 – Winay Wayna – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes

Day 1 starts with an early train ride from Cusco into the Sacred Valley. Your hotel pick-up may be as early as 4 am to get to the train station in Ollyantambo (2,792m / 9,160 ft) by 6 am. The train takes you to the starting point on KM104 (named as such as it is 104km by train from Cusco).

The 1.5hr train journey is very picturesque. You will get to see the amazing snow-capped peaks of the Urubamba Mountain range.

You will disembark the train at KM104. From here, you will cross a bridge over Rio Vilcanota and head towards the first stop, Chachabamba (2,200m / 7,218 ft). This Inca ruin was discovered in 1940 and was likely used as a religious administrative center and checkpoint guarding the Eastern side of Machu Picchu.

After a brief tour of Chachabamba, you will continue up a cloud-forested trail towards Winay Wayna. At this point, the Short Trail joins the Classic Inca Trail.

Wiñay Huayna is a good 2–3-hour hike from Chachabamba. Expect to climb 300 vertical meters (about 984 feet), most of which ascend up stone steps. Some people will start feeling the altitude at this point.

See more in our guide on proper acclimatisation and effective ways to prevent altitude sickness

There is a waterfall between Chachabamba and Wiñay Huayna. This is a greener, more jungle-like part of the trail and the perfect spot for a lunch break.

At Wiñay Huayna, your guide will show you around the ruins. The structures were likely used for food storage and as a final ritual point on the pilgrimage trail. The amphitheater-style terraces are some of the most impressive Inca Trail ruins. Nearby is the last campsite (of the same name) for folks on the Classic Trail.

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After a quick tour of the Wiñay Huayna ruins, you will continue along the contour path that leads toward Machu Picchu.

After trekking for another 2 hours, you will reach a steep and stoned Inca staircase. The stairs lead to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) – prepare yourself for an amazing view of Machu Picchu at the top.

The first day is only a brief visit to Machu Picchu. From here, you will be transported to Aguas Calientes (the town in the valley below Machu Picchu) situated at 2,040m / 6,693 ft. Depending on the package you booked, you will spend the night in a hotel or hostel in Aguas Calientes.

putucusi-mountain-machu-picchu

Machu Picchu with Putukusi (aka Happy Mountain) seen in the background.

Day 2: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

The following day, you will wake up relatively early to catch a bus back up to Machu Picchu. Your guide will take you on a full 2–3-hour tour of the Citadel. If you still have the energy, you have the option of walking to Machu Picchu. This is a fair walk of 5.5miles / 8.9km, so I recommend getting started around 6 am.

Many trekkers select to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain on this day. This additional activity is only recommended to people who have the energy. It is also not recommended for those afraid of heights (get Huayna Picchu tickets here).

Permits for both mountains are limited. Inform your tour company at the time of booking your trek that you would like to climb either mountain. 

After exploring Machu Picchu for the whole morning, you will make your way back to Aguas Calientes. Choose between taking the bus (30 minutes) or by walking (∓2 hours). You will once again catch the train to Ollantaytambo. From here, you will be transported by bus or car back to Cusco, arriving back at your hotel around 19:00.

Inca Trail Availability

Short Inca Trail To Machu Picchu FAQs

How long Is the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The 2 Day Inca Trail is 10km or 6,21 miles long. Most of the trekking for this route is done on the first day. It takes most hikers about 6 hours to reach the end of the 2-Day Inca Trail. 

How Much Does the 2-Day Inca Trail cost?

Prices range from $360-$590 for the short Inca Trail.

Can I hike the short Inca Trail without a guide?

No, you may not hike the 2-day Inca Trail without a guide. You will need to sign up with a registered tour operator.

Can I do a 1 Day Inca Trail?

Yes, you can do a 1-day Inca Trail tour. The 1-day Inca Trail is the same as the 2-day Inca Trail with some people choosing to visit Machu Picchu on the first day.

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Conclusion

And that's a wrap on my 2 Day Inca Trail article! Now, you can explore the Andean wilderness in half the time and still enjoy everything this shorter Inca Trail has to offer.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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