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Why trek The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu ?

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 17-03-2023

Peru has an incredible array of activities and historical sites to visit, and  Machu Picchu is pretty much an obligatory visit for anyone’s first trip to the country. When researching how to visit Machu Picchu, there are multiple options to visit the historic Inca site. The easiest and least expensive option is to simply get to Aguas Calientes and then take a bus up to Machu Picchu. The other options are more expensive and involve hiking the Inca Trail. The most common hiking options are either 2 or 4 days. The Classic Inca Trail is a 4-day hike. No matter which option you pick, you must hire a certified guide and have a permit purchased in advance. The permits are limited, so if you are going during a busy period or on a strict schedule, please book as early as possible! I messaged a few highly reviewed companies to get an idea of pricing. For the 4-day trek, prices ranged from $650 to $2000 depending on the level of luxury and whether the tour was in a group or private. For the 2-day hike, the prices ranged from $400 to $800 approximately depending on whether you want a private or group trek.  Here are some reasons why the short Inca Trail is an excellent option to visit Machu Picchu.


Short Inca Trail


The Hike Itself


The hike is 12.5 kilometers to the Sun Gate and then another 2 kilometers down to Machu Picchu. Although the title of the hike says 2 days and 1 night, it is actually just one day of hiking followed by a day exploring Machu Picchu. On the first day, you will head to Ollantaytambo in transport from Cusco and then stay on the train to a semi-invisible stop of kilometer 104. It is an early morning so be prepared for a full day´s hiking! There are actually multiple Inca Trails, but the Royal Inca Trail is the most famous and today is known as the Classic Inca Trail. The Inca rad network called the Qapaq Ñan, can be found all over the Andean region and proves just how excellent the Incas were at road construction! The Inca sure do love their stairs and given the geography of the region, it’s easy to understand why.


The Sungate


Advantages of the 2-Day Inca Trail

One of the main advantages of the 2-day 1 night hike is that it doesn’t require you to stay in a tent like the 4-day hike. The 12.5 kilometers is all uphill and is not for the faint of heart. Around two-thirds of the way through the hike, you arrive at Wiñay Wayna and your path joins the Royal Inca Trail which is the path the 4-day hike takes that will take you to the impressive Sungate and the original entrance to Machu Picchu.

The 2 Day Inca Trail will be cheaper than the traditional classic four-day version, but not by much since it still has to include permits, an overnight stay, trains, guides, etc. However, you will complete the dream of hiking straight into Machu Picchu which counts as an incredible bucket-list thing to do. 


View Over Wiñay Wayna


The 2-day option is perfect for those who are short on time yet still want to hike to Machu Picchu. The altitudes are not as high as on the classic Inca Trail which means that you should still acclimatize but for a lesser amount of time. The highest point during the entire hike is the Sun Gate or Inti Punku located at (2,720 m / 8,924 ft.)


You get to visit the lesser-known ruins of Chachabamba! 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.




Permit availability is much higher for the 2-day option For the 2-day Inca Trail you don’t need to reserve your space so far in advance as for the 4-day option. 


YOU WILL VISIT MACHU PICCHU TWICE! One of the best things that the 2-day Inca Trail can offer you is that it allows you to visit Machu Picchu two times. On the day of the trek, you will arrive at Machu Picchu in the afternoon just in time to see the sunset and the next day you will visit it again to see the sunrise.


View over Machu Picchu From The Sungate


The 2-Day Short Inca Trail is a generally peaceful trek for those who like tranquillity and nature. You’ll hike along 12 kilometers of this alternative Inca trail where you will discover archaeological remains, dense forests, waterfalls, and native flora and fauna all without the usual crowds along the 4-day trek.


You can add on the 2-day Inca Trail to other hikes in the area. Many people add the 2-day trail on to The Lares trek for example. Those looking for more cultural interaction and visiting the high Andes as well as The Inca trail experience generally choose this option. You can also add it to the Salkantay Trek or Huchuy Qosqo trek for a more complete trekking experience in the region! (Find out more here).


Inca Trail 


The 2-day Inca Trail is particularly popular with families that enjoy hiking and are looking for a taste of adventure. There is no camping involved, as travelers spend the night in a hotel after hiking to Machu Picchu, yet you can still experience the marvel of trekking into Machu Picchu via an original Inca Trail.


Wiñay Wayna Archaeological Site


If you would like to book The Short Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu, contact us here!