Easy 1-Day Hike to Machu Picchu

The easy 1-day Inca Trail hike can be included in most multi-day trips we offer, or as a private packaged 2-day getaway to Machu Picchu. This activity gives you the adventure of a hike combined with the comfort of a hotel including a visit and tour of Machu Picchu. The 1-Day Inca Trail hike can also be included in any itinerary. The 1-day Inca Trail hike is best suited for people who enjoy nature and walking vacations, but may not have the time or the top level fitness needed to hike the 4-day Inca Trail. No camping on this hike. Includes one night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes. We take care of all the logistics including the permits. Here's a link to our 7-Day Machu Picchu Walking Vacation

Will our Inca Trail hike be private?

We may combine people into small groups from time to time up a maximum of 8 people  But if no one else signs up for your hiking dates, you will have a private hike. If you want to guarantee your hike is private, you can pay a little extra. 

Where do I make a reservation for the Inca Trail Hike?

Contact our office for custom dates or to talk to a human.

We only need 3 things:  a copy of your passport, a non-refundable deposit, and the dates you want to hike  We list everything included in the cost. We will never ask you to pay any portion of your trip in cash. We pay all local, state and federal taxes. (Tip: permits for the 1 day hike don't normally sell out but we need 7 days advance notice)

Are permits needed for the Inca Trail?

Yes, permits are required to hike the Inca Trail. Individuals cannot buy their own permits. Only licensed tour operators can get permits. We will buy the permits for you. While there is a limited number available, it's rare for the 2-day permits to sell out. And we need at least 7 days advance notice, assuming they are available. The permits are part of a 2-day package trip to Machu Picchu. We also get train tickets, bus tickets, tour guides, box lunches for the hike and we include 1 night hotel in the village of Aguas Calientes

Is it possible to arrange a 1 day trip with the Inca Trail hike?

Yes. The 2-day package trip can be customized on request for travelers who only need 1 day guide service for the hike. Contact our US office by phone 757-714-6649 or email from our contact page, and we will prepare a quote based on the number of people in your group and the services you need. It is preferable for us to arrange the train service from Ollantaytambo to KM 104. Not all trains stop at KM 104. 

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Can the 1 day Inca Trail hike be included in longer tours or trips?

The easy 1-day Inca Trail hike can be added to any itinerary including the 5 or 7-day Machu Picchu trip by train.  

Should kids hike the Inca Trail?  Go to the parent checklist for info about hiking the Inca Trail with kids. 

And what about the other end of the spectrum? Is there an age limit to hike the Inca Trail? Here's link to more information about how to decide.

Are there any hikes that are easier than the Inca Trail? YES! Other easy day hikes can be customized to your needs and include support vehicle. No permits needed.  Can be set up last minute

Here is an overview of the 2 day Inca Trail hike itinerary:

Day 1: Cusco - Chachabamba - Winaywayna - Machu Picchu - 12 KM/7.5MI

Pickup from hotel (about 5 am) to transfer you by car to the Ollantaytambo train station, where we board the train. The train winds us through the mountains and cloud forests with breathtaking scenery about 1 hour until it stops in the jungle at Km 104, the starting point of our trek. After crossing the Urubamba river on a footbridge, we check in with park rangers at the control point, then continue our hike to the archaeological site of Chachabamba, with an elevation of 2150m. From here we ascend a hill for about 2 hours until we reach a beautiful secluded waterfall and in a few more minutes, will hike into the fascinating archaeological site of Wiñaywayna 2650 m (8,694.23 ft). After we explore the ancient ruins. we continue to hike through the semitropical cloud forest area, until we cross over the mountain through Intipunku (The Sun Gate) to get our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. After a short hike down (about 45 minutes), hikers have exclusive access to the Guard Shack on the upper terrace for more of the classic view of Machu Picchu. before we descend by bus to Aguas Calientes for a comfortable night in our hotel. 

Note:  although this hike is considered "easy" when compared to the 4 day Inca Trail hike, hikers have a 5:30 pm deadline to reach Machu Picchu before closing if you want to take the shuttle bus down to the village. Once you get off the train in the morning to begin the hike at KM 104, there is no other option but to hike. Even if we wanted to send a car to pick you up, there are no roads, and you cannot board trains. It takes an average of 6 hours to do the entire hike. If you have any concerns about being able to complete the hike in 7 hours, let us know when you contact us to make your reservations. We can discuss your concerns and make adjustments to the schedule to give you more time or set up alternative hikes in the Sacred Valley with support vehicle.

Day 2: Machu Picchu - Cusco

After an early breakfast, we will take the shuttle bus up to Machu Picchu to enjoy the magic of the morning light and a private, guided tour on the lower circuit. You return to Aguas Calientes by bus, then on to Cusco by train & private vehicle. With advance notice, we can make arrangements for you to spend one more day in Aguas Calientes and defer your return to Cusco at no extra cost except for the cost of an additional night hotel in Aguas Calientes.

It's easy to make a reservation for the 2-day Inca Trail hike:

  • choose your dates: open departures for small groups at $637 USD pp, or any date for private groups at $702 USD pp (min 2)
  • contact our US office by phone or email to ask questions or confirm availability - 757-714-6649 (eastern time) 
  • use our website link to submit photos of the passport for each person (the passport you send us is the same passport you much show to enter the hike!)
  • group members can pay together or separately. Each person paying will get an email with a link to process your payment with any major credit card

Here is a detailed description of both days of the 2 day Inca Trail hiking trip to Machu Picchu:

Day 1.

Begins from your hotel in Cusco (or the Sacred Valley) and Day 2 ends at the same place. Or you can begin in one place and end in another. We include one night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.  Choose from 3* – 5 * accommodations.  Prices for this 2-day package can be found by clicking here. Includes full-time, English-speaking guide. We take care of all the details, so you can enjoy your vacation to Machu Picchu.

Pack a small backpack with everything you need for the hike hike: and one night in a hotel. This may include sunscreen, camera, hat, warm layers, rain gear, snacks, bottled water & all your valuables.  You will leave your excess luggage in your hotel. For your overnight in Aguas Calientes, pack a few extra things including minimal toiletries, a change of clothes and jammies.  The train does not have baggage cars and the limit is one carryon size bag or backpack per person, which must be stowed under your seat or at the end of the carriage. (It's not like the airline where they measure your bag unless you try to sneak a megalithic bag on board!)  The thing to remember is that you are walking everywhere and you have to carry all your luggage. Guides are incredibly helpful and will go all out to assist you, but one guide can only carry so many extra bags. Here's a link to read up on how to choose the best luggage for your trip to Machu Picchu. 

The guide will meet with you in your hotel lobby the day before the hike to review the logistics. In the morning the driver and the guide pick you up from your hotel for 1.5 hour drive to the train station where you and your backpack will board the early train. When we book your train tickets we always use Perurail and we submit a petition asking them to allow you to get off. This is why you cannot set up your own trip.  At km 104, the train comes to a complete stop in the jungle and you jump down onto the side of the tracks.  At this point, you wave goodby to the train.

It's a pretty awesome experience to watch as the train pulls away and your little group is left standing in the jungle with no signs of civilization, not even a platform!  You cross a sturdy footbridge over the crashing Urubamba River, to the check-in station.  Your guide will present your permits (we take care of all this ahead of time) and you use the toilet one more time before you start hiking.  Now is a good time to slather sunscreen.  

The hike winds diagonally up the side of the canyon away from the river and the railroad tracks. It dips in and out of the shade and can get quite warm.  But never fear, cool temperatures are always nearby.

You'll pass some impressive waterfalls, but more impressive are the stone steps that take you up through the center of  the steep, but fascinating Winay-Wayna ruins. Next thing you know, you'll pass through a wooden gate that takes you to the campground where everyone who hikes the 4-day Inca Trail sleeps on their last night.  You will not sleep here.

You'll stop to use rustic restrooms and pass through another check-point. The trail continues a little up and a little down through lush wooded terrain. Before you know it, you see a short steep wall of stone steps referred to as "the gringo killer," that literally requires you to use your hands as well as your feet, This is a clue that you're close to the Sungate. Inti-punku. The forest becomes dank and dark and might be raining as you tread over ancient roots and stone steps. It looks like a place where fairies and gnomes live.

Once you hike up the final approach to the Sungate, the sky opens and if it's clear, below you will see the hallowed ruins in the all their glory. If it's cloudy, just wait 5 minutes, things could change and you could still see the ruins. Take your photos quickly if it's clear and save the ooing and aaawwing for the cloudy moments. Rest a bit, then start the descent to the ancient city below. You'll tread on rough stone paths and stairs for at least 30 – 40 minutes.  

You will have walked 12 km by the time you arrive at the upper terrace of Machu Picchu ruins. Hikers have the exclusive access to the terrace next to the Guard Shack with the classic view of Machu Picchu below.  After a little time to enjoy the scenery, you head a steep path to the park entry and the shuttle buses. The 30 minute bus ride stops in Aguas Calientes. The town is small and aside from the shuttle buses and train, there are no vehicles or modes of transportation other than your feet. From there you walk to your hotel to checkin.

A little rest, a shower, then it's time to check out the town. Remember, what goes up, must come down.  The town is steep and there are only 2 streets that go up. Enjoy your evening in Aguas Calientes, then get a good nights sleep so you can enjoy your 2nd visit to the ruins the next morning.  (Hikers must finish the hike to Machu Picchu main entry no later than 5:30 pm in order to ride the bus to the village. In case you do not make it by the last bus -around 5:45 pm- the only option to get to the village is to continue walking in the dark about 1.5-2 hours. There are no taxis or cars)

Day 2.

7-8AM. Your tour guide will meet you at your hotel lobby and walk with you to the bus stop. The ride is about 30 minutes to the Machu Picchu Llaqta main entrance.  You may leave your backpack at the hotel and take a small bag with camera, sunscreen, hat, rain gear, bottled water, mini-first aid kit and snacks (or picnic lunch). All hotels offer an early breakfast.The first bus gets loaded by 5:20 am for visitors who want to arrive by 6 am for the park opening. The line to board the buses varies but is not as bad as it used to be since the Machu Picchu tickets chenged to hourly entry time.  Sometimes, there is no line. But it is unpredictable. Starting in 2019, buses only give preference to people with the earliest entry tickets to Machu Picchu. The bus ride is 25 minutes to the main entry.  There is one restroom located at the bus stop near the entry to Machu Picchu national park. The cost is 2 soles per person. There are no restrooms inside the park. You cannot exit the park to use the restroom and then re-enter the ruins.

Your guide will handle the tickets and steer you through the entry then assist you up the stone steps for about 20 minutes as you enter the magnificent Machu Picchu ruins.  There are 2 marked trails to choose from inside the park. All trails move in one direction and effective September 1, 2016, will leave through the next exit gate.  If you plan to hike to the Sungate or Inca Bridge you will need to do so before the guided tour. (general ticket entry limited to 1 per ticket).  Tickets for hikers are for morning from 6 am - 12 noon.  They will not chase you out at 12, however if you exit the park you will not be permitted to re-enter. 

Not wanting to spoil your visit, I won't go in to the details of the guided tour.  Rest assured you will be amazed.  Each tour is different.  Each guide is different.  Each group of visitors is different.  Your tour will be unique. The park is 32 acres of terraces and stone buildings, gardens & open spaces. There is something for everyone.  Adios guided tours can take up to 4 hours. If you prefer shorter tour, just discuss it with your guide.

Maintenance of the ruins is a year-round initiative and caretakers scrape plants from the cracks of the structures and plant grass in worn areas.  The treasure of Machu Picchu belongs to all of us and while the Peruvians bear the burden of the upkeep, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to do our part.  Whatever that is.  I'm sure you'll figure it out.

Your guide will make sure you know what time your train departs so that you know when your visit is over. It's usually before mid day. After the guided tour, the only way to re-enter is if you pre-booked tickets to hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montana. Be sure to allow enough time for the entire route as you are not allowed to turn around. Take the shuttle down to Aguas Calientes where you collect your luggage and (like running the gauntlet) passengers pass through the market to enter the station. Just try not to buy something. HA! 

You board your train which rambles through the Urubamba valley for 1H 45M to 2H, to Ollantaytambo, while stewards serve tea and coffee. You deboard with your daypack in Ollantaytambo and walk to the vehicle waiting to drive 2 hours back to your hotel in the Sacred Valley or Cusco.  

So ends your 2-day adventure to Machu Picchu.  A little hiking with the comfort of a hotel.  And your adventure to the Lost City of the Inkas becomes one of your fondest memories. 

Got questions? Ready to book? Click Here to send an email to our US office!