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1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; Hike from the Km 104 to the Sun Gate

Written by: Incatrailhikeperu May 7, 2022

The Inca Trail is the most rewarding way to get to Machu Picchu. If you have a tight schedule and don’t have the time to do one of the multi day Inca Trail treks then the 1 day Inca Trail is a great option. On this trek you will get to hike the last section of the Inca Trail without having to camp or stay the night on the trail. If you don’t have a lot of time but still want to walk in the footsteps of the Inca, and enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, then this is a perfect hike for you.

Best Parts of the 1 Day Inca Trail

One day Inca Trail Information

On the 1 day Inca Trail, you hike the Short Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu Citadel all in 1 day. You will get to walk in the footsteps of the Inca. Visit the Incan ruins of Chachabamba, rest at nice waterfall, explore the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, which means forever young in Quechua, and finally walk through the iconic Sun Gate. The trek explores the last third of the famous Classic Inca Trail

**The highlights of the Inca Trail: This largely depends on the Individual’s experience. However, there are many different things to see such as the stunning Incan ruins, pristine mountain views, lush vegetation, and extraordinary biodiversity. “Only” the Inca Trail allows hikers to enter Machu Picchu through the Iconic Sun Gate, which offers unique views of Machu Picchu not available at other locations. This guided tour of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu will educate you on the history of the Inca as you explore many different interesting sites.

Discover this magnificent World Wonder: The Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu!

Reason to hike from the Km 104 to Machu Picchu?

  • You get the unique opportunity to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate!
  • Hike the last section of the famous Classic Inca Trail, which is on many people’s bucket list
  • Explore the Wiñay Wayna Inca Ruins, an amazing and unique archeological site discovered in 1940
  • Hike the same path the Incas walked on their pilgrimage to Machu Picchu more than 600 years ago
  • Get your iconic postcard pictures of Machu Picchu at the Guard house
  • Explore Machu Picchu in the late afternoon when it’s less crowded


It’s very important to understand that the 1 day Inca Trail is the same trail as the 2 Day Inca Trail, just faster. Hikers must be in moderate to excellent physical condition in order to complete this trek and arrive to Machu Picchu on time. If you think it might be too strenuous, consider booking the 2 day Inca Trail which gets you to Machu Picchu at a slower pace arriving later in the day.

ONE Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Map

Short Inca trail to Machu picchu map

1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Schedule

At 4:00 am: Your tour guide will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning and bring you to the Ollantayatambo train station.

At 6:10 am: Board the train from Ollantayatambo to Km 104 following the Urubamba River the entire way. Along the journey you will get great views of farmlands, snow-capped mountains and the mighty Urubamba River. The Urubamba River is one of the main tributaries of the Ucayali River, which flows into the Amazon River.

By 7:40 am: You’ll arrive at KM 104 (elevation:2000m), once you pass the checkpoint (you must take your original passport), you’ll stop at the first Inca site named Chachabamba. Here your guide will share a brief history about the site and give you some time to explore. You will then start the gradual climb to the Archeological site of Wiñay Wayna.

By 11:00 am: After hiking for three hours you’ll come to a waterfall with crystal clear water. This is a great place to take a break and catch your breath. To your right is arguably most beautiful site on the Inca Trail, Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young) at 2,600 m/8,500 ft. Few people get the opportunity to see these elaborate waterfalls, temples and agricultural terraces. Wiñay Wayna is a great opportunity to learn about Incan history and culture. There are beautiful views of the valley down below, don’t forget to take in the unique scenery.

By 12:00 pm: take a break at Wiñay Wayna, where you’ll stop to have lunch and use the restroom. Continue onward towards the Sun Gate, from here you’ll get your first view of Machu Picchu! The hour long hike will ascend and descend a few times before coming to a steep set of stairs. This set of stairs was carved out of bedrock by the incan and is your first indicator that you are close to the Sun Gate!

By 1:00 pm: Hike the last 45 minutes down to Machu Picchu arriving at the Guard House. Make sure to take the iconic Machu Picchu picture here and enjoy the absolutely stunning views. There are also a few important Inca sites between the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu, ask your guide about these historical places. Make sure to go slowly and enjoy your time walking in the footsteps of the Inca.

By 2 pm: Your guide will start the tour of Machu Picchu, which takes about 2 hours. You’ll see the most important parts of Machu Picchu, and learn about Machu Picchu’s three districts, agricultural, residential and religious. Take your time to enjoy this magical experience before taking the bus back down to Aguas Calientes.

By 4:30 pm: Take the 25 minute bus ride to Aguas Calientes.

At 6:20 pm; You will take the return Expedition train to Ollantaytambo and catch a ride to Cusco in your tour operators private vehicle.

By 10:00 pm; You’ll arrive at your hotel in Cusco. This is the end of the journey, relax, recuperate and prepare yourself for the next Adventure!

***PLEASE NOTE: All times are subject to change as they can be affected by a number of factors. The pace of this hike is much faster than the 2-day Inca trail, it’s important to arrive at Machu Picchu on time in order to have time to explore everything.

1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Itinerary

  • 01: Cusco – Ollantaytambo – KM104 – Wiñay Wayna – Sun Gate – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Cusco
Times are approximate and depend on the groups fitness level

The adventure of a lifetime begins with our driver picking you up at the crack of dawn (around 4am). You’ll be taken on a 1 hour and 45 minute drive through the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas. Take this opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest. Although the drive is scenic, it will be too dark to see anything so getting some rest makes the most sense. You’ll arrive at the Ollantaytambo train station at 6:10am to catch the Expedition Train. If you haven’t already, take this opportunity to catch up on some sleep. If you are staying in Ollantaytambo, your driver will pick you up at around 5:20am. Make sure to let your tour operator know if you are staying in Cusco or Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo it’s only a short drive to the train station.

You’ll arrive at the station just as the sky begins to brighten. Listen to the early morning birds, take in the peace of the morning, and prepare yourself for the adventure ahead. If you’re not too tired try to take in the scenery, along the way there are beautiful valleys, meandering rivers, and stunning mountain peaks. To your left, the Urubamba River curves gently like a highway to the mountains. On your right are thick forests and rugged snow capped peaks.

The Expedition Train

The Expedition Train will take you to KM104 (elevation 2,100m/6,927ft) which is the checkpoint and starting point of the trek (Make sure you have your Passport). At the checkpoint you’ll have the opportunity to use the restroom, apply insect repellent and sunscreen, purchase snacks, and fill up on water.

What places will you see along the 1 day Inca Trail Trail?

1. Chachabamba

Chachabamba is the first Archeological site you’ll visit, it’s just 1 minute from the checkpoint. Listen to your guide as they explain the ruins and the intricate history of the Inca Empire. During the hike you’ll pass by unique flora and fauna native to the Andean Cloud Forest. Continue on the path with the Urubamba river on your left and the snow capped Andes on your right. You’ll pass a small peaceful waterfall cascading onto the rocks creating a shallow pool below. Splash your face with the clear waters of this small tranquil pool. Make sure to take pictures to better remember this scenic spot.

2. Waterfall

You’ll pass a small peaceful waterfall cascading onto the rocks creating a shallow pool below. Splash your face or take a swim in the clear waters of this small tranquil pool. Make sure to take pictures to better remember this scenic spot.

3. Wiñay Wayna

Now start the moderate climb up to the archeological site of Wiñay Wayna, (2,650m/8747 ft). Wiñay Wayna menas “Forever Young” and gets its name from the Wiñay Wayna orchid which, depending on the time of year, covers this area. Legends say extracts from the flower preserve youth and increase vitality. Take a second to appreciate the landscape from this spot the views are absolutely incredible. You should be thrilled with your achievement so far! If you’re hungry don’t worry, lunch is on the way! Once you reach the campsite of Wiñayhuana, stop and take a breather. Relax, talk with your fellow hikers, and enjoy a much deserved meal. 

4. Sun Gate

The rest of the trek is fairly easy except for one small section called the monkey steps; you may need to climb on all fours like a real monkey! Once you reach the top of Sun Gate, Elevation (2,730mts/9,007ft), trust me, the feeling you get is just indescribable. The size and majesty of Machu Picchu will simply take your breath away. Take lots of pictures, there is no better view in the world! There are a few more small ruins between Machu Picchu and the Sun Gate. As you descend to Machu Picchu make sure to ask your guide about the passing ruins. You’ll eventually arrive at the first site in Machu Picchu, the famous Guard House, here you can take the picture perfect postcard photos.

5. Guard House

In the late afternoon you’ll finally arrive at the first site in Machu Picchu, the famous Guard House, here you can take the picture perfect postcard photos.

Exploring Machu Picchu

You will explore Machu Picchu in the afternoon with minimum tourists around. If you arrive on time, you’ll get a full 2-hour guided tour of the incredible Machu Picchu Citadel, one of the 7 Wonders of The World. Be mesmerized by the sheer brilliance, genius, and precision of Incan Engineering. They were able to construct an amazing site with great structural integrity, very little tools, and on some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world. Their mastering of the Ashlar, a masonry technique that uses no mortar, is to be admired. Immerse yourself in the rich historical and cultural legacy of the great Inca Empire.

At around 4pm, you’ll make your way by bus down the winding roads to the quaint town of Aguas Calientes. Browse the local flea markets in town, enjoy a walk down the cobblestone streets and have a delicious dinner at one of the local restaurants.

At around 6:30pm you’ll get back on the Expedition Train to Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo take your tour operators private transportation back to Cusco. The estimated arrival time in Cusco is 10pm.

  • Meals: Depends on tour package
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
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Packing Checklist

Packing list for the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 1 day:

  • Day Bag: A small backpack (25 or 30L) to carry your personal belongings such as water, snacks, sunscreen, camera, and other essentials.
  • Good Footwear: Broken in running shoes or hiking boots with good soles that will provide good traction, especially on slick stone steps.
  • Hiking socks: Good quality socks will help prevent blisters and keep your feet dry and comfortable.
  • Lightweight clothes: Quick dry and moisture wicking clothes are recommended for hiking.
  • Warm layers: It will get cold at night, so it’s essential to pack warm layers such as a fleece or down jacket.
  • Rain gear: It’s always a good idea to carry rain gear both jacket and pants, or a poncho as it can rain anytime.
  • Hat and sunglasses: Being at decently high elevation it’s important to protect yourself from the sun and UV rays by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen: Use a high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
  • Insect repellent (very important): The trail is in the forest, and there are insects around, so it’s essential to carry insect repellent.
  • Water bottle: It’s important to stay hydrated, bring a refillable water bottle.
  • Snacks: Snacks are allowed into Machu Picchu. Bring some energy bars, nuts, or fruit to keep your energy levels up.
  • Personal medication: If you have any medical conditions or take regular medication, bring it with you in your day bag.
  • Camera: Bring a camera to capture the beautiful scenery along the trail.
  • Original Passport: You must bring your Passport in order to start the Inca Trail and to enter Machu Picchu.
  • Original Student ID: If you booked the Inca Trail as a student, you must present your original student ID card and passport at the checkpoint, located at km 104 at start of the Inca Trail.

The weather on the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is in the Andean Cloud Forest where the weather can change in an instant. This region is dominated by the two main seasons, the dry season from May to October, and the rainy season from November to April. The 1 day inca trail takes place in an area 1,000m (3,000 ft) lower than Cusco. The lower elevation makes this area a bit warmer than Cusco during both the day and at night.

Don’t let the dry season fool you. Although it will be much drier than the rainy season, you’ll still be in the Andean Cloud Forest, where it can rain at any moment even during the dry season. During the rainy season the showers will last much longer and occur nearly every day. The conditions during this time of year are a bit more dangerous when considering much of the trial is comprised of stone steps. These steps can get very slippery during a downpour.

One day Inca Trail safety tips

  • The majority of the hike is uphill and has lots of steps. There are also tons of precipices, steep cliffs, and far drops. Be careful while on the trail!
  • You must hike the Inca Trail with a licensed Tour operator, there is NO WAY to do this hike by yourself. See the above for link for recommended tour operators.
  • The total distance of the hike is 12 km / 7.5 miles which can be covered in about 5 to 6 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difficulty of the one day Inca Trail?

The most crucial thing to understand about the 1 day Inca Trail is that you will be hiking the same trail as the 2 day Inca Trail but, you will be completing it in half the time. Due to the time constraint, hikers will need to move quickly, and have to be in moderate to exceptional physical shape. Remember, the porters will be carrying your main bag and you will be left with a small day bag. If you are an experienced backpacker and are accustomed to carrying all your own gear then perhaps this hike won’t be a challenge. If you think the hike might be too difficult and demanding, consider booking the 2 day Inca trail. On the 2 day Inca Trail tour you will hike more slowly arriving at Machu Picchu later in the day.

Where is the starting point of the hike?

The trailhead is at KM 104, from here it’s a 12km 7.5 m hike to Machu Picchu.

Do I need permits for this hike?

YES, permits for any and all Inca Trail tours are required and can only be purchased from a licensed tour operator such as Orange Nation Peru.
Remember, there are only 250 permits per day for the Short Inca Trail. All visitors and trail staff need permits, including cooks, porters, and guides. Tickets sell out fast (Peak season sells out within days) it’s recommended to book your tour as soon as there’s availability.

How long does it take to hike from Km 104 to Machu Picchu City?

Depending on the individual it usually takes around 5 to 6 hours to cover the 12km to Machu Picchu.

What about the altitude?

Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level, which is much lower than Cusco — 3,400 meters or 11,152 feet. It’s unlikely you’ll suffer from altitude sickness at Machu Picchu if you’ve already spent time acclimatizing in Cusco. However the 1 day Inca Trail has a peak elevation of about 2,700 meters (~8,858 feet) above sea level, so it’s possible however unlikely, that while on the move you could get sick. If you are concerned about the altitude make sure to keep a slow steady pace, and drink plenty of water. Sipping coca tea, chewing coca leaves or taking a soroche pill can help a lot.

What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

Generally speaking, the dry season from May to October is the best time to visit Machu Picchu. The views during this time are almost never obstructed by fog making it the best time to take pictures. Keep in mind however, that during this time of year you will have the biggest crowds, and the most expensive transportation and accommodation.

When was Machu Picchu discovered?

Machu Picchu was never lost; in fact many local communities always knew of its existence. The first person from outside the region to “rediscover” Machu Picchu was a Peruvian explorer and farmer by the name of Agustin Lizárraga. Lizárraga’s signature was found in Machu Picchu on one of the walls inside Temple of the Three Windows with the date 1902 written along with it.

Nine years later, American explorer Hiram Bingham was brought to Machu Picchu by one of the locals. While exploring the site he found Agustin Lizárraga’s signature and wrote in his field journal “Agustín Lizárraga is discoverer of Machu Picchu and lives at San Miguel Bridge just before passing”. He made his findings public wrongfully calling it “The Lost City of the Incas” and omitted Agustin Lizárraga having found it before him

*** The 1 – Day Inca Trail Information updated in March 2024!

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