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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 1- Day Inca Trail trek or Day Hike to Machu Picchu from KM 104 is one of the best ways to reach the ancient sacred city of Machu Picchu and is perfect for those who have very tight schedule or those looking to experience a taste of trekking of the last section of the Inca Trail without camping overnight or embarking on a multi day trek, and also a great travel option for those who love the idea of walking like the Incas, admiring the magnificent scenery and discovering the mystery of the Incas while highlights the best part of the famous Inca Trail before arriving on foot to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World through the Sun Gate.

Highlights of the 1 DAY Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

One day Inca Trail Information

If you have tight schedule for Cusco and Machu Picchu, and still want to be able to check off your bucket list the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, “the 1- Day Inca Trail is a must!” On this trek, 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 marvelous Inca constructions along the trail like Wiñay Waina. The trek explores the last one third of the famous Classic Inca Trail and passes by the amazing Winay Wayna ancient Inca archeological site. 

**The highlight 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 a hiker to enter to the incredible Machu Picchu Citadel through the famous Iconic Sun Gate and take those picture, perfect postcard photographies of Machu Picchu. The 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!

Reason to hike from the Km 104 to Machu Picchu?

  • Hike the last section of the famous Classic Inca Trail, that is on bucket lists worldwide.
  • Explore the iconic Winay Wayna Inca Ruins, which is an amazing and unique Inca archeological site dicovered by 1940.
  • Hike the actual trail that the Ancient Incas hiked more than 600 years ago.
  • Hike into Machu Picchu passing through the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and arrive to the Guard House from where you can take the posscard pictures!
  • Experience the spectacular views over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.
  • Explore and visit Machu Picchu Citadel in the late afternoon when it is less crowded.


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 to Machu Picchu, just faster. 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 Trail which arrives in Machu Picchu in one day but at a slower pace later in the day.

ONE day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Map

Short Inca trail to Machu picchu map

Schedule for Hiking the 1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

At 4:00h; we start with you being picked up from your hotel, Then we drive to the train station in Ollantayatambo,
At 6:10h; we take the train to Km 104 following the Urubamba River until we reach our destination, where we’ll begin our trek and along the way you will see spectacular views of farmlands, snow-capped mountains and the mighty Urubamba River. The Urubamba River is one of the sources of the massive Amazon River so it’s very impressive to see.

By 7:40h at KM 104 (elevation:2000m), once we pass the checkpoint (you must take the original passport), we stop at our first Inca site of Chachabamba, where your guide will share a brief history about this site. You will than have some time to walk around explore. Take pictures of the beautiful fauna that surrounds this archeological site. Then we begin our gradual climb to the Archeological site of Wiñay Wayna. Our hike hugs the mountain side, with tremendous views of Machu Picchu, the Urubamba River and other surrounding Inca Sites.

By 11:00h

After hiking for three hours. we reach a waterfall, with crystal clear water. It´s a great spot to catch a breath, just to your right is the most beautiful Incan 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 water fountains, temples and agricultural terraces. These provide a perfect opportunity to learn about the history of the Incas. The site is build vertically on the mountain side. As you ascend, stop at every section and learn about the importance of each section. The backdrop of this site is a dramatic cliff drop with beautiful mountains surrounding the area.

By 12:00h

We arrive to Wiñay Wayna, where we stop to enjoy our box lunch and use the restrooms. Then we will walk to the Sun Gate, from which you have your first view of Machu Picchu! Though the hour long walk is a path that rises and falls, it does end with a set of steep stairs carved directly into the bedrock by the Inca. Once you reach the stairs you will know that you’re almost at the Sun Gate! Throug the Sun gate is your first jaw drapping view of Machu Picchu, so take some time to savor the moment and take photos.

By 13:00h

We start hiking the last 45 minutes down to Machu Picchu Inca city arriving to the Guard House, take the famouse picture and ejoy the view from the great viewpoint. …. “From this unique vintage point, we have the opportunity to take stunning pictures of the Citadel” There are also a couple more important Inca sites between the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu, so make sure to go slowly, enjoy your time walking in the footsteps of the Inca and ask your guide questions about these historical places that lead you to Machu Picchu.

By 14h

Your guide will give you the fully guided tour, which takes about 2 hours. You will see all of the most important parts of Machu Picchu. You will also learn about how Machu Picchu is divided into three sectors: agricultural, residential and religious.
Take your time to enjoy this magical experience before you take the bus down to Aguas Calientes.

By 16:30h

You will then take the 25m bus ride to Aguas Calientes.

At 18:20h

You will take the return Expedition train to Ollantaytambo and catch our private van to Cusco and your hotel.

By 22h

You arrive at your hotel in Cusco

Please Note: all times are estimates and can be affected by a number of different factors. The pace of this hike is much faster than the 2-day short Inca trail because its important to arrive at the Inca city timeously, in order to have time to explore.

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 your fitness levels.

The adventure of a lifetime begins as our driver picks you up at the crack of dawn (around 4am). You will 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 not 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. With an aroma of the forest thats fresh and organic.

The Expedition Train

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.

The chiseled remnants and remote archaeological site of Wiñay Wayna

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, like a real monkey. Once you reach the top of Sun Gate Elevation (2,730mts/9,007ft) trust you me, the feeling you get is just indescribable. 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 guards gate, you will be able to take the famous picture perfect card photos that we all see.

Exploration of Machu Picchu

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 7th 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
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
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Packing Check List for the 1 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Here is a packing list for the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2 days:

  • Backypack: A small backpack (25 or 30L) to carry your personal belongings such as water, snacks, sunscreen, camera, and other essentials.
  • Hiking shoes: Good hiking shoes with a sturdy sole that provides good traction on uneven terrain.
  • Hiking socks: Wearing good quality socks can 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 can get cold at night, so it’s essential to pack warm layers such as a fleece jacket or down jacket.
  • Rain gear: It’s always a good idea to carry a rain jacket or poncho as it can rain anytime in the Andean region.
  • Hat and sunglasses: 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 is essential to carry insect repellent.
  • Water bottle: It’s important to stay hydrated, so bring a refillable water bottle.
  • Snacks: Bring some energy bars, nuts, or fruits to keep your energy levels up.
  • Personal medication: If you have any medical conditions or take regular medication, bring it with you.
  • Camera: Bring a camera to capture the beautiful scenery along the trail.
  • It’s important to pack light and carry only what you need as you will be hiking with your backpack.
  • *** You can leave an overnight bag at the Ollantaytambo train station to be sent by train directly to Aguas Calientes camp site.
  • Documents to carry with you on tour:
  • Original Passports
  • Original Studend ID: If you booked the Inca Trail 2 days as a student, you must present your original student ID card and passport at the checkpoint located at km 104 beginning of the Inca Trail

The weather on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu

On the Inca Trail, the weather depends on whether it is rainy season or dry season. The 1 day Inca Trail (Section) is at lower altitude than Cusco, by about 1,000 meters or 3,000 feet lower. Thus it tends to be a bit warmer during the day and at night.

However, 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 be much more intense tropical rain showers. The Inca Trail is made of stones laid in the ground so it can be more slippery to walk on in the rainy season.

One day Inca Trail safety tips

  • Most of the trek is uphill and with a fair number of precipices, steep cliffs, tons of STEPS (ups & downs), and its humid.
  • Tour operators must be licensed, there is NO WAY to do this hike by yourself, see above for recommended operators
  • The Hike covers 12km/ 7.5 miles which can be done in about 5 to 6 hours

Frequently Asked Questions

How difficult is the one day Inca Trail?

It is very important for potential trekkers for the 1 Day Inca Trail to understand that you are doing the same trail as the 2 Day Inca Trail, just more quickly. Trekkers 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, you may book the 2 day Inca Trail which arrives to Machu Picchu in one day but at a slower pace later in the day.

Where is the starting point of the hike?

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

Do I need permits for this hike?

YES, Government issued permits are required and can only be acquired from a licensed tour operator like Orange Nation Peru.
There are only 250 permits per day for the Short Inca Trail. All visitors and professional crew needs a permit. Tickets do sell out fast (Peak season sells out within days) 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, covering 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. But if you hike the 1 day Inca Trail it is about 2,700 meters (~8,858 feet) above sea level, so it is possible, especially whilst on the move. 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 also helps.

What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

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

When was Machu Picchu discovered?

Machu Picchu wasn’t exactly ‘discovered’ because local people have always known about its existence. In 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham made his findings public and -wrongly- called it ‘The Lost City of the Incas’.
Nine years before Bingham had arrived, the Peruvian Agustin Lizárraga had found the ruins and left his signature on one of the walls of the Three Windows Temple in the Citadel.

When is the best time to hike to Machu Picchu?

The best time to hike the Inca trail is in the Peruvian Winter season, from May, June, July and August… April & September are still good.


Because there’s NO RAIN and the weather is the best in comparison to the other seasons of the year.

*** The 1 – Day Inca Trail Information has been updated in September 2023!

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