If joining the Inca Trail is one of your goals for your trip through Peru, but you are limited on time, you will be delighted to know that there is a 2-day alternative that will allow you to explore the last part of the trek while camping in the cloud forest.
The Short Inca Trail is one of the options to experience this ancient Inca route and experience the most amazing views of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. In addition, this itinerary will take you through one of the most distinctive archaeological sites on the route.
As you may know, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is only a small fraction of what it actually was during pre-Columbian times. Also known as the Qhapaq Ñan, it was a network of roads that connected the entire Tahuantinsuyo Empire.
The Qhapaq Ñan extended for more than 30,000 kilometers and passed through countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. However, the route that led to Machu Picchu was never discovered, so the road remained almost intact to the hangout.
Today, the Classic Inca Trail is one of the most popular options to reach the famous Historic Sanctuary and receives only 500 visitors a day. However, this route takes 4 days to complete, so some travelers prefer to take the short alternative of this ancient route.
Short Inca Trail Itinerary
Although this short itinerary only lasts two days, it passes through the most beautiful landscapes of the route, allowing its visitors to get in touch with the nature and history of the place before discovering the citadel of Machu Picchu.
Day 1 | Cusco – Wiñay Wayna – Machu Picchu – Bridge Ruins
Our adventure will begin early in the morning from the city of Cusco, to begin the journey to Ollantaytambo, a place full of history and culture located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. From there, we will take the train to Km 104, a trip that lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The train ride will take you through the most impressive natural landscapes of the region, where the Urubamba River will accompany you along the route, making a transition to an exuberant jungle landscape minutes before our arrival.
Once we arrive at our stop, we will start walking towards the Inca Trail checkpoint, called Chachabamba, a small Inca settlement located in the cloud forest. After our short break, we will continue walking for about 2-3 hours, the route provides a total immersion in the vegetation of the region.
We will be arriving at the Wiñay Wayna Archaeological Site, one of the best preserved ruins along the way. We will take a short tour of the attraction and then we will have free time to appreciate the scenery and take photos.
Continuing with our itinerary, we will arrive at the Puerta del Sol (Inti Punku) around 05:00 pm From here you will have an impressive view of the entire citadel of Machu Picchu and its surroundings. We will take some time to take in the beauty that surrounds us as we watch the sunset.
Our guide will take you to the entrance of Machu Picchu so you can go down to Aguas Calientes by bus, from where we will take a short walk to our campsite at Puente Ruinas. Everything will be completely prepared so that we only have to relax, have a good dinner and sleep.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 13 km approx.
- Maximum Height: 2,720 meters above sea level
Day 1 | Bridge Ruins – Machu Picchu – Cusco
We will wake up early in the morning with a cup of tea and an energizing breakfast to start the most exciting adventure of this itinerary. Afterwards, we will go to the bus station to take our transportation to Machu Picchu. We will be arriving around 06:00 am at the Inca Citadel, just as dawn breaks.
Once we have arrived at the historical sanctuary, we will have a two-hour tour through the different sectors of Machu Picchu. Our guide will tell you all about the history and enigmas that this wonder of the world encompasses. After. We will have free time to explore the city or climb the Huayna Picchu Mountain, which must be reserved in advance.
Finishing the tour of Machu Picchu, we will go down to Aguas Calientes by bus. Depending on the departure of your train, you will have time to get to know Aguas Calientes, buy some souvenirs and take pictures of this authentic setting.
There are two options to return to Cusco, where you can take the train to Poroy, located 30 minutes from Cusco, or to Ollantaytambo. Please note that this must be arranged at the time of booking the activity.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Maximum Altitude: 2,430 meters above sea level
Important Information: The Huayna Picchu Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Inca citadel, so you must reserve the admission ticket well before your trip. Please contact our travel agents for more information.
What to bring to Short Inca Trail?
- trekking poles For long and demanding hikes, be sure to bring them.
- A waterproof backpack. This could be more useful during the rainy season.
- Rain jacket or poncho. An item that cannot be missing in the backpack of every hiker.
- Solar protection. Be sure to bring high protection factor sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for this adventure.
- A reusable water bottle. Stay hydrated throughout the hike. Some trails, such as the Salkantay trail, take you to altitudes above 4,000 meters, make sure you drink enough water to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness.
- Warm clothing. Especially for cold nights, since you will be camping in the mountains.
- Always carry your personal identification.
- Insect repellent and after-bite. These and sunscreen will be your best friends during the walk.
- Medicine for altitude sickness. Make sure to bring Diamox pills or soroche just in case.
- Photo camera. Please don’t forget this. Please note that professional cameras need a special permit for use at the archaeological site. Please consult your travel agent.
Tour operators include camping and cooking equipment in their packages. The muleteers and porters will take care of it, as well as your large bag so you can travel light and with only the essentials.
Quick Tip: There is a lot to know before you join this adventure. Be sure to read this blog for more information on what to bring to Machu Picchu.
Classic or Short Inca Trail: Which is the ideal for you?
If you have not yet decided on which alternative you should take to get to Machu Picchu, it all comes down to two factors: the time you have for your trip and your physical condition. As you should know, there are different ways to get to the famous citadel and the Inca Trail is definitely the most popular option.
- Short Inca Trail with Camping 2D/1N
- Short Inca Trail To Machu Picchu 2 Days with Hotel
- Expert Local Guides to Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Classic Inca Trail is a 4-day adventure with a moderate/challenging difficulty. This is the most popular option since it is possible to explore more than 40 kilometers of this ancient road built hundreds of years ago by the Inca civilization.
This trekking option is not suitable for the faint of heart as it can be very exhausting, especially for those who are not in good physical condition or are not used to the altitude. The Inca Trail will take you up to 4,200 meters above sea level, along steep slopes and narrow paths.
Many travelers tend to underestimate the challenge that awaits them and join the adventure without even being properly acclimatized. Remember that access to the Inca Trail is limited and only cooks, porters, guides and visitors can take this trek.
The Inca Trail takes you through remote places where the nearest towns are several kilometers away. We do not intend to scare you by saying this, but if we want you to see everything clearly, our team is also highly qualified to assist you in case of any eventuality or emergency.
Keeping that in mind, the Classic Inca Trail offers one of the most beautiful natural and historical settings in the Andes and the cloud forest. Here you will be one with nature and the legacy of the Incas that has prevailed for centuries.
Without a doubt, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and if you feel like you have what it takes to complete this adventure, then you should go for it.
But what about the Short Inca Trail?
The Short Inca Trail was structured for those travelers who still want to enjoy the authenticity of this route in a short itinerary without having to walk for days before reaching the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
As you can see in the itinerary above, you will be able to get to know a large part of the Inca Trail, where impressive viewpoints, abundant vegetation and historical attractions will accompany you along the way.
Although the route may be short, it is the best option for those who wish to live a different experience between the Andean region and the jungle. A great alternative that will allow you to travel off the beaten track, visiting unique places and adding a special touch to your adventure in Peru.
We always encourage our passengers to travel responsibly, being aware of their available time to optimize the experience throughout their itinerary.
For this reason, if you want to visit other places, but you are limited in time, we recommend you to take the Short Inca Trail so that you can do this and other things during your stay.
How to book the Inca Trail?
For those looking to trek the Inca Trail, there are a few things to keep in mind when organizing this trip. As we have already mentioned, to reduce the human impact on the road, the Peruvian government has implemented a system to regulate the entrance to this ancient route.
Therefore, to experience this famous trail to Machu Picchu, one must purchase a special ticket that is only available through a government-certified tour company. Inca Trail permits are limited to 500 per day, including hikers, cooks, guides, and porters.
However, if you were thinking of doing the walk on your own, it will not be possible since the accompaniment of a professional tour guide is mandatory. There are many tour operators that offer this experience, which means that you will find different price ranges.
Therefore, we want to be totally honest with you, choosing the cheapest is not always the best option. Remember that you will get the service you paid for, no more and no less. Likewise, having a sense of security is the main goal here. Keep in mind that you are going to do a trek that exceeds 4,000 meters of altitude and crosses the most remote places.
In this sense, we recommend that you do your research to find a company that offers you reliability and comfort. Yes, we know, among the sea of tour operators this can be a bit tedious, but you don’t have to go through this alone since hiring a local travel agency will take that stress away.
SULLPAYKY EXPERIENCES offers you everything you need for an authentic, fun and safe experience on the Inca Trail and Peru. Check our travel packages and start planning the trip of your life as you ever dreamed.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Inca Trail
- What is the Short Inca Trail Permit?
Whether you want to do the classic or short Inca Trail, you will need a special permit for this adventure. As we mentioned before, the Peruvian government implemented some restrictions to control the human impact on the road.
Inca Trail tickets are limited to 500 people per day, that includes cook, porters, guides and tourists. For that reason, you should book your adventure well in advance.
- How to know the availability of the Short Inca Trail?
Only certified operators can see the availability of the Inca Trail. If you already know when you want to do this walk, make sure to contact our team immediately.
- How far in advance should I book the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
We recommend you book the Short Inca Trail at least 6 months before your trip due to limited entrance tickets.
- What is the difficulty of the Short Inca Trail?
Unlike the Classic Inca Trail, this alternative has an easy to moderate difficulty. The maximum height you will reach will be 2,720 meters above sea level and the distance of the walk is 13 kilometers.
- What types of trains are included?
We include the Expedition train of the Perurail company in our travel packages for the Inca Trail. However, we do have the option of the Vistadome train at an extra cost.
- Can I reserve seats for the train ride?
Unfortunately, Perurail does not allow passengers to choose their seats on any of its train types. Distribution is done automatically by the company’s system.
- Can you camp in Machu Picchu?
To avoid human impact and contamination in the historical sanctuary, the private government limited access to visitors only. Unfortunately, it is not possible to spend the night inside the archaeological site.
- What are the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains?
These are the surrounding mountains in the Inca citadel. Huayna Picchu is located at 2,720 meters above sea level and offers a spectacular view of the archaeological complex, as well as some Inca buildings on its top.
The Machu Picchu Mountain has a height of 3,082 meters, and functions as a natural viewpoint towards the historical sanctuary. However, the hike to its top is significantly less challenging than that of Huayna Picchu Mountain.
To visit these imposing peaks, you must purchase an additional ticket in advance. For more information, contact our travel agents.
- Is it necessary to have travel insurance?
Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Although many travelers choose not to purchase travel insurance, we believe this should be the case for everyone.
Travel insurance not only covers medical problems, depending on your plan, but it can also cover the costs of lost luggage, trip cancellations, loss of documents and bank cards, and even repatriation.
We know that there are some questions that you may be wondering about, so we invite you to contact us to clarify any doubts you may have.