Royal Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2 Days: An Unforgettable Journey

machu picchu

Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, continues to captivate travellers with its enigmatic beauty and historical significance. For those who seek to experience this iconic destination but are constrained by time, the Royal Short Inca Trail offers a perfect solution. This 2 Day Inca Trail trek provides a condensed yet enriching experience, combining the allure of the ancient Inca paths with the majestic arrival at the renowned citadel of Machu Picchu.

Introduction to the Royal Short Inca Trail

The Royal Short Inca Trail, a branch of the longer, classic Inca Trail, provides an immersive journey through stunning Andean landscapes, cloud forests, and historical ruins, all culminating at the majestic Machu Picchu. This 2 Day Inca Trail is ideal for adventurers who wish to explore the Incan heritage without committing to the traditional four-day trek. It offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural history, making it an attractive option for those with limited time or physical constraints.

Day 1: From Cusco to the Trailhead and Beyond

The adventure begins in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, where trekkers are typically picked up early in the morning. The journey to the trailhead at Km 104 starts with a scenic train ride along the Urubamba River, offering breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley. This initial segment sets the tone for the adventure ahead, with lush greenery and imposing mountains hinting at the natural wonders to come.

Upon arrival at Km 104, trekkers pass through the checkpoint to begin their trek on the 2 Day Inca Trail. The first significant archaeological site encountered is Chachabamba, a ceremonial site that introduces trekkers to the rich Incan history. This site, nestled amidst verdant surroundings, offers a glimpse into the sophisticated agricultural practices and spiritual life of the Incas.

The trail then ascends gradually through a subtropical forest, leading to the stunning ruins of Wiñay Wayna. This name, which means “Forever Young” in Quechua, reflects the site’s enduring beauty. Wiñay Wayna, perched on a hillside, features agricultural terraces, religious temples, and a complex irrigation system, showcasing the ingenuity of Inca engineering. This location provides a perfect spot for a well-deserved rest and lunch, where trekkers can absorb the serene atmosphere and panoramic views.

Continuing from Wiñay Wayna, the trail weaves through lush vegetation and across small streams. The path is adorned with vibrant orchids and exotic birds, enhancing the mystical ambiance. After a few hours of trekking, trekkers reach the Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, the original entrance to Machu Picchu. From this vantage point, the first glimpse of the majestic citadel is truly awe-inspiring. Bathed in the soft light of the afternoon, Machu Picchu appears almost surreal, a sight that marks the culmination of the day’s efforts.

After soaking in the views from the Sun Gate, trekkers descend towards Machu Picchu. As the site is less crowded in the late afternoon, this is an excellent opportunity to capture photographs and relish the tranquillity before heading down to Aguas Calientes. The town of Aguas Calientes, nestled in the valley below Machu Picchu, offers comfortable accommodation and a chance to relax and recharge for the next day’s explorations.

Day 2: Exploring Machu Picchu

The second day of the short Inca Trail adventure is dedicated to a comprehensive exploration of Machu Picchu. An early morning bus ride from Aguas Calientes takes visitors back up to the entrance of the citadel. Arriving early ensures an opportunity to witness the sunrise over Machu Picchu, a sight that enhances the mystical allure of this ancient wonder.

A guided tour of Machu Picchu reveals the intricate details and architectural brilliance of the Incan civilisation. The tour typically includes visits to key areas such as the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana stone, and the Room of the Three Windows. Each structure within Machu Picchu holds historical and spiritual significance, reflecting the advanced knowledge and artistry of the Incas.

The Temple of the Sun, a semi-circular structure, was used for astronomical observations and ceremonies honouring Inti, the Sun God. The precision with which the stones are cut and arranged demonstrates the Incas’ architectural prowess. The Intihuatana stone, often referred to as the “Hitching Post of the Sun,” is believed to have been used as an astronomical clock or calendar. Its exact purpose remains a subject of research and debate, adding to the enigmatic nature of Machu Picchu.

After the guided tour, trekkers have free time to explore the site further or hike to additional viewpoints such as the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, both of which offer spectacular panoramic views of the citadel and its surroundings. These additional hikes require separate permits and are more strenuous, but the rewarding vistas make the effort worthwhile.

As the visit concludes, trekkers descend back to Aguas Calientes to catch the train returning to Cusco. This final leg of the journey offers a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences of the past two days. The combination of physical exertion, natural beauty, and historical immersion makes the Royal Short Inca Trail a truly unforgettable adventure.

Practical Information and Tips

  • Permits and Regulations: The 2 Day Inca Trail requires a permit, which is limited and often booked months in advance. It is advisable to book through a reputable tour operator who can secure the necessary permits and provide experienced guides.
  • Physical Preparation: Although shorter than the classic Inca Trail, the Royal Short Inca Trail still requires a moderate level of fitness. Trekkers should be prepared for several hours of hiking on varied terrain.
  • Packing Essentials: Light layers, sturdy hiking boots, rain gear, sun protection, and insect repellent are essential items. A small daypack is recommended for carrying personal belongings and snacks.
  • Altitude Considerations: Cusco sits at an elevation of 3,400 metres (11,150 feet), so acclimatisation is crucial to avoid altitude sickness. Spending a few days in Cusco before the trek can help with acclimatisation.


The Royal Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu offers an extraordinary way to experience one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites within a condensed timeframe. This 2 Day Inca Trail trek is a perfect blend of adventure, history, and natural beauty, providing a unique and fulfilling journey for those with limited time. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a history enthusiast, this trek promises an unforgettable encounter with the mystical allure of the Incan heritage and the breathtaking landscapes of the Andes.