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The Two Day Inca Trail

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 27-04-2023


If you are trying to decide which Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu works best for you, then this article is especially for you. You may be thinking to yourself that the Inca Trail is something you HAVE to do when visiting Peru, but all you know about is the information about the classic 4-day Inca Trail hike. If you don’t want to take up too much of your trip hiking the Classic Inca Trail because you only have a short time on vacation and there’s just so much you want to see, don't worry, there is a perfect solution to this problem! The 2-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.


The 2 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu offers a shorter version of The Classic Machu Picchu Inca Trail tour. This allows you to immerse yourself in the ancient Inca pathways without committing to a longer, multi-day trek. Imagine hiking along the same trails that once echoed with the footsteps of the Inca elite.

View of Wiñay Wayna from The Short Inca Trail


2-Day Inca Trail Summary

The Short 2-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a shorter and less strenuous way to experience the original Inca steps and still hike the trail directly into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate or "Inti Punku". The 2-dayInca Trail trek passes 2 archaeological sites along the way, a variety of flora and fauna, and is rich in an iconic history, just the same as the 4-day option, The 2-day trek is 14km/8.7m, reaches up to 2,700 m/8,858 ft, and is classified as an easy-moderate trek with minimal altitude gain. If you love the idea of hiking directly into Machu Picchu via the Sungate but want a shorter hike, then the 2D/1N Inca Trail Trek is the trek for you!


 The 2-day trail starts at KM 104 at an altitude of 2,200m (7,218 ft). It follows a one-day trail via Wiñay Huayna to Machu Picchu arriving at the Sun Gate. You will hike approximately 6.21 miles (10 kilometers) on this day,  which is why some call it the one-day Inca Trail trek.

View over The Valley from The 2 -day Inca Trail


The 2-day Inca Trail requires a permit and a limited number of people are allowed to trek per day, the same as the classic Inca Trail these permits sell out quickly so booking well in advance (at least 3 months recommended) is essential. There are 200 permits available per day, which means that only 200 travelers 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 trek, it’s still a good idea to book your tickets in advance if you are planning to do the hike during peak season (May-October). Remember there are no porters on the Inca Trail and or camping, therefore the permits are generally reserved for trekkers!


  Wiñay Wayna is built into a steep hillside, overlooking the Urubamba River. This impressive site is surrounded by well-preserved areas of agricultural terraces, called andenes. Wiñay Wayna sits at an elevation of 2,650 meters (8,694 feet) above sea level and is a highlight on Peru adventure tours.

The trail to Wiñay Wayna


Bird Watching


For any budding ornithologists, the 2 day Short Inca Trail is a dream come true. The 2-day trail is right in between two different altitude levels, between the jungle lowlands and the higher jungle of Peru. This cloud forest is home to different ecosystems, with humid montane forests. The incredible diversity is home to different mosses, bromeliads, ferns, and orchids, making for an excellent feeding ground for the wide range of bird species in the area.


 Along your 2-day Inca Trail express, you'll traverse diverse ecosystems. These range from misty cloud forests to rugged mountain passes, each offering its own unique plant and animal life. Listen closely, and you might hear the song of The Andean cock-of-the-rock or catch a glimpse of the elusive spectacled bear, a symbol of the region's rich biodiversity.

Cock of The Rock


The Hike


The two-day hike involves one day of hiking to meet up with the 3rd day of The Classic the Inca Trail, followed by a late afternoon arrival at Machu Picchu. It’s a lot of walking but achievable with an average fitness level. 


As you ascend higher into the Andean mountains, the landscape transforms into a rugged alpine wilderness. This is where hardy shrubs and grasses cling to rocky slopes and snow-capped peaks pierce the sky. On a Machu Picchu Inca Trail tour, spectacular scenery is literally everywhere!

Trekking the Trail



The first Inca site you will pass will be Chachabamba, shortly after which comes to an ascent through a beautiful cloud forest before arriving at Wiñay Wayna. After exploring this ancient site you will climb ancient Inca stairwells through terraces, exploring water features and buildings of times gone by. From here, the most beautiful section of the entire Inca Trail takes over. Lush vegetation flanks you on either side. The scent of wild orchids fills the air. And all around you, brightly colored songbirds fill your ears with song.


Chachabamba is a lesser-visited archaeological site found along the short Inca Trail. This is the first archaeological site long waiting to be discovered by trekkers who hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.



The first 4 hours of The Short Inca Trail, are generally considered the hardest part of the hike. A constant four-hour climb will loop around the edges of the mountains on a well-maintained path and what seems to be endless stairs. The Urubamba River will keep getting smaller and smaller, below you, until it is simply a line in the distance as you ascend. Just before the four-hour mark, you will pass in front of the Winay Wayna Waterfall, a true oasis in the Inca trail "desert".


 Along the Inca Trail Express, the most challenging section of The Trail is when you first set off hiking. This initial climb can be physically demanding, especially as trekkers adjust to the altitude and terrain. Inca Trail trips are all about the stunning scenery as well as the physical challenge.

A Trekkers Delight!



Wiñay Wayna

For the four-day Inca Trail hikers, this would be their last Inca ruin before Machu Picchu. They would have passed six others before arriving at this point. Wiñay Wayna has an upper level containing house structures. The remains of window frames and drainage holes give an idea of how people would have lived. The views from the windows put top-notch real estate to shame. To the side of the houses are terraces, which are common in several Inca sights throughout the regions and were likely agricultural terraces. 


Wiñay Wayna is a living testament to the prowess of the Inca Civilization. Its name, "Forever Young," in Quechua, the ancient Inca language, speaks to the eternal spirit of exploration and Discovery. It draws adventurers from around the world to the rugged mountains of Peru as they Trek the Machu Picchu Inca Trail tour.

Terraces at Wiñay Wayna


The Sungate

The last few hours of the hike are much easier. The trail is much flatter until Just before reaching the Sun Gate, you will have one last climb. The stairs are somewhat steep but eventually, you will make it to the top for your first glimpse of Machu Picchu.


The Sun Gate holds a sacred significance in Andean cosmology, serving as a ceremonial entrance to the spiritual realm of Machu Picchu. For centuries, pilgrims and priests traversed these rugged paths of the Inca Trail. Inca Trail treks are the only treks in the region that allow you to hike directly into Machu Picchu!

Sun Gate

The Second Day


Generally, once you pass the sun gate you will then head down to Aguas Calientes and spend the evening in a hotel. On the second day, you will catch a bus back up to Machu Picchu for your complete tour of the archaeological site. Some tours may even allow you to visit Machu Picchu on the first afternoon but it is recommended to visit in a hurry and go in on the second day, after all, it is included in the entrance permit. On the first day, you will see Machu Picchu from the top and have a great view of the Inca city from above; the classic post-card view. Since the hike started early, you should arrive at the top of Machu Picchu at around 3:15 PM. before dark. On the second day, you will visit Machu Picchu and walk through the whole complex with a guide who will explain the meaning and history. This guided tour in Machu Picchu will take about two and a half hours. and then you will head back down o Aguas Calientes for lunch before you take the train back to Cusco. You may wish to indulge in a few of the following activities on your own  Climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain– to appreciate the scenery and magnificence of Machu Picchu from above. These extra hikes sell out fast and must be requested at the time of booking. Other optional activities in Aguas Calientes include a visit to the new local museum or to the hot springs.


s you reach the Sun Gate, you will finally have your first glimpse of the magical Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, stands as a testament to Inca ingenuity and their reverence for nature. Visit the ancient citadel of The Incas on a Machu Picchu vacation package.

Machu Picchu


If you are interested in booking the 2-day Inca Trail contact us here and trek the awe-inspiring Inca Trail, as the Incas once did!