The 1 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

OVERVIEW

Why Choose the One Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu which is the best short hiking to Machu Picchu?

If you are strapped for time, and still want to be able to check off your bucket list the famous short Inca Trail, then look no further than the One Day Inca Trail! On this trek, you hike the Short Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu Citadel all in one day. You will get to walk in the footsteps of the Inca, and visit marvelous Inca constructions along the trail like the Wiñaywayna ruins and the Sun Gate. The trek explores the last one third of the famous Classic Inca Trail and passes by the amazing Wiñay Wayna ancient Inca archeological site. 

The appeal of the Inca Trail is the stunning cultural show of Inca ruins, exotic mountain views, primitive lush vegetation and extraordinary ecological varieties. Only the Inca Trail allows hikers to enter the incredible Machu Picchu Citadel through the famous Sun Gate and take those picture-perfect postcard photos. The 2 hour guided tour of this mysterious Inca monument will educate you on its history as you explore many of its hidden corners and surprises. Discover the magnificent New 7th Wonder of the World: the Machu Picchu Citadel!

The 1 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Places to Visit: Wiñaywayna ruisn, the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu
Physical Level: Moderated

IMPORTANT:

It is very important to note that the route for the 1 Day Inca Trail is the same as the 2 Day Inca Trail, but you are just doing it quicker – less breaks and no overnight stay. You therefore need to be in moderate to excellent physical condition to be able to do this trek and arrive at Machu Picchu Citadel in time. If you think the trek may be too strenuous, consider the 2 day Inca Trail.

THE 1 DAY INCA TRAIL ITINERARY

Times are approximate and depend on your fitness levels.

Your adventure begins as our driver picks you up at the crack of dawn (around 4am). You´ll have a short drive through the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas, with its valleys and mountain peaks on the way to Ollantaytambo to catch the Expedition Train at 6:10am. If you desire, take this opportunity to catch a short nap. If you are staying in Ollantaytambo, your driver will pick you up at around 5:20am. Be sure to let our the office know. From there it is only a short drive to the train station.

You arrive at the train station as the sky begins to brighten and the peace of the morning breaks open and sooths our souls for the adventure ahead. The train ride in itself is magical. On your left, the Urubamba River curves gently, acting as a road to the mountains and forest on your right. You are flanked on your right by rugged mountains. You can´t help but gaze up at the rugged and rough-hewn mountains with a sense of awe. Passing snow-hooded mountains, encased in a necklace of white snow. The ruggedness of the mountains transforms to lush trees, with dazzling splashes of color. The aroma of the forest fresh and organic.

The Expedition Train takes you to KM104 (elevation 2,100m/6,927ft) the checkpoint and starting point of your trek. Be ready to meet likeminded people once you cross the bridge over the Urubamba River. Once at the checkpoint take the opportunity to use the restrooms, apply insect repellent and sunscreen, pack your gourmet box lunch, purchase extra snacks if needed and fill up on water.

The first Archeological site you get to see is just a minute outside the checkpoint. Learn the history and thriving culture of the Incas from a 100% authentic and knowledgeable Peruvian guide. The trek passes by flora and fauna unique to the Inca trail, with its vivid and radiant colors. The Urubamba River guides your path to your left and a brooch of snow draped, heaven-kissing mountains to your right. You pass a small waterfall with its waters cascading into the rocks. Splash your face with the glistening, clear waters of the small serenity pool below. Take pictures of the vegetation nodding gently.

Now take the moderate climb up to the chiseled remnants and remote archaeological site of Wiñay Wayna, (2,650m/8747 ft). The views from this point are absolutely spectacular. You should be thrilled with your achievement so far. Lunch is only a few minutes away. Once you reach the campsite of Wiñayhuana, stop and take a breather. Enjoy the camaraderie with the other trekkers. Your scrumptious box lunch is a quinoa salad complete with beef, chicken or vegetarian options. 

The rest of the trek is pretty gradual. Climb up the monkey steps, using your hands like a real monkey. Once you reach the top of Sun Gate Elevation (2,730mts/9,007ft) be prepared to be blown away with awe. The size and majesty of Machu Picchu at the bottom will simply take your breath away. Take loads of pictures, there is no better view in the world. As you make your way down to Machu Picchu be sure to ask your guide as many questions as possible. At the “Guardian Gate”, you will be able to take the famous picture perfect postcard photos that will rival any screen saver your desktop computer has.

Your exploration of Machu Picchu is in the afternoon with minimum tourists around. Very low probability of getting photo bombed. If you arrive in time, you will get a full 2-hour guided tour of the incredible Machu Picchu Citadel, one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Be mesmerized by the sheer brilliance, genius and precision of Incan Engineering, to have constructed a site with such great structural integrity, with very little tools and in such unforgiving terrain. Their mastering of the Ashlar technique is to be marveled. Immerse yourself in its rich historical-cultural legacy and their long and layered history.

At around 4pm, you make your way down the winding roads of Machu Picchu by bus to the quaint town of Aguas Caliente. Browse the many local flea markets in town, enjoy the walkability of the coble stone streets and have a delicious dinner at a local restaurant.

At 6:20pm you will then return on the Expedition Train to Ollantaytambo and catch our private transportation back to Cusco. Estimated arrival time in Cusco is 10pm.

  • Meals: Box Lunch & Dinner (Included)

***Please note: It is not possible to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain due to time restraints.  

***If you choose, you can stay the night in Aguas Calientes, and we will book your return train for the next day. 

*** You can start the trek from Ollantaytambo, if you do we recommend  that you stay in our own lodge; Veronica View Hotel.

One day Inca Trail Map – Best Hiking to Machu Picchu

Times are approximate and depend on your fitness levels.

1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu MAP

Packing Checklist for the 1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

  • Original passport (this has to match the passport used for the booking)
  • Good daypack (20-30 liters is recommended). You’ll need to make sure you can carry this yourself as no porters are available for the day hike.
  • Reusable water bottle (in an effort to reduce plastic waste, disposable bottles are not allowed)
  • Comfortable hiking boots with ankle support
  • Toilet paper
  • Windbreaker or warm jacket
  • Layers – so you are able to remove a layer or two if you become too hot during the hike.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Personal medication
  • Sun hat or woolen hat (depending on the season) and sunscreen
  • Rain gear (if it´s rainy season)
  • Snacks like chocolate bars, cereal bars or any dry fruits
  • Insect repellent
  • Rain plastic poncho
  • Camera
  • Extra money for souvenirs and tips

Preparing for the weather on the 1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Dry Season

May through September is dry season. That does not mean that it never rains in the dry season but it is mostly dry with an occasional light shower.

Rainy Season

The rainy season begins usually in November and last until April. In the rainy season, there can be frequent heavy tropical showers.

The Cusco region has a high altitude mountaineous climate, which means the weather can change very quickly – it can go from sunshine to rain showers within minutes. During the dry season, if it does rain, the rain rarely lasts long. In the rainy season however the rain can get pretty intense and landslides can happen, thats why the Inca Trail is closed in February. However, just because it´s raining in one part of Cusco, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s raining in other parts of Cusco.

On the Inca Trail, weather conditions vary depending on whether its dry season or wet season . The route for the 1 day Inca Trail, the altitude is 1000 meters or 3000 feet lower than Cusco. Therefore, it tends to be a bit warmer during the day and at night.

It is more tropical and more humid than Cusco. There is always a chance of rain showers, especially in the cloud forest areas. In the rainy season, these showers will last longer and may become intense tropical rain showers. The Inca Trail is made of flat stones laid on the ground, so it can be more slippery to walk on in the rainy season. It is important to have shoes with good traction.

  • Most of the trek is uphill and with a fair number of precipices, steep cliffs and a lot of steps (uphill and downhill)
  • It can get very humid so its important to stay hydrated to maintain energy
  • You cannot do the trek on your own – you must use a licensed tour operator, see above for some suggestions
  • The 1 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the same route as the 2 Day Inca Trail, just in less time. You need to be in moderate to excellent physical condition to be able to do this trek and arrive at Machu Picchu Citadel in time for your tour.
  • The Hike covers 12km/ 8 miles which can be done in about 5 to 6 hours

HOW DIFFICULT IS THE ONE DAY INCA TRAIL?

It is very important for potential trekkers of the 1 Day Inca Trail to understand that you are doing the same trail as the 2 Day Inca Trail, just quicker. Trekkers need to be in moderate to excellent physical condition to be able to do this trek and arrive at Machu Picchu Citadel on time. If you think the trek may be too strenuous, you may book the 2 day Inca Trai to Machu Picchu. It give the hiker more time to complete the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu on the 1st day and a tour of it on the second day.

WHERE IS THE STARTING POINT OF THIS HIKE?

The actual hike starts at KM 104, from this point to Machu Picchu is 12km.

DO I NEED PERMITS FOR THIS HIKE?

Yes – government issued permits are required and can only be bought by licensed tour operators.
There are only 250 permits per day including personel for the Short Inca Trail. All visitors and professional crew need a permit so we recommend booking as soon as there’s availability for your preferred dates.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FROM KM 104 TO MACHU PICCHU CITY?

It takes around 5 to 6 hours, depending on your fitness, it covers 12km in total.

WHAT ABOUT THE ALTITUDE?

Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level, which is much lower than the city of Cusco — 3,400 meters or 11,152 feet — so it’s likely you won’t suffer from altitude sickness if you’ve already spent time acclimatizing in Cusco first. If you’re concerned about the altitude, take it slow and drink plenty of water. Sipping coca tea, chewing coca leaves or taking a soroche pill are other effective ways to deal with the altitude.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU?

Consider visiting Machu Picchu from April through May or from September through October. The high-tourist season months are June, July and August when it doesn’t tend to rain.

What is the difference between the 1 Day Inca Trail and the 2 Day Inca Trail?


The only difference between the 1 Day and 2 Day Inca Trail to MachuPicchu hike is that on the two day Inca Trail tour, hikers return to Machu Picchu on the second day for a guided tour of the Citadel, after spending a night in an Aguas Calientes hotel.
The actual hiking itinerary is the same – starting at KM 104, climbing up past Wiñay Wayna and the Sun Gate, arriving at Machu Picchu in the afternoon. This is one day hiking the Inca Trail; it is not possible to break this hike up into two days of hiking.

1 day Inca Trail Difficulty

The 1 day Inca Trail difficulty is moderate and is recommended for travellers who are in good physical shape. If you consider yourself fairly fit, you exercise regularly, and do not have any issues with your weight, knees, or ankles, then this version of the ancient Inca trail is perfect for you!

When is the best time to hike the 1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The best time to visit Machu Picchu and hike the Inca Trail is from late March to May and from September to mid-December. These months fall before and after the rainy season, providing excellent weather conditions and fewer crowds.

However, the dry season from May to September is also great but may be crowded. During the buffer months, the hiking trails and Machu Picchu are less crowded, and the weather remains good for the most part, with occasional rains providing great photo opportunities.

Inca Trail Photos

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