The 1 Day Inca Trail Hike

By shortinca
July 12, 2022
Machu Picchu


Why choose the one day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu?

Are you strapped for time on your trip to Peru, but you know you want to hike into Machu Picchu? The one day Inca Trail trek could be the answer you’re looking for.

The Inca Trail is world-famous, and a must do for many avid hikers across the world. The one day Inca Trail allows travelers to take on the final 1/3rd of the famous trek. This means that you can still see the most famous sites along your way (like Wiñay Wayna) and walk in to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.

The one day Inca Trail also arrives to Machu Picchu in the late afternoon. This is typically the quietest time in the citadel, so it offers you the chance to explore with fewer people around.


Please Note: The 1 Day Inca Trail is the same route as the 2 Day Inca Trail. You are just doing it quicker with less breaks and no overnight stay. You need to be in good physical condition to be able to do the trek and arrive at Machu Picchu Citadel in time for your full tour. If you think the trek may be too strenuous, consider the 2 day Inca Trail instead.



Times are approximate and depend on your fitness levels.

The adventure of a lifetime begins today. Your driver will pick you up at the crack of dawn (around 4am). We then drive to Ollantaytambo. It is still dark at this time so why not catch up on sleep with a nap before arriving to the train station in Ollantaytambo (pickups also available from Ollantaytambo).

We will arrive at the train station just as the sky begins to brighten. The train ride itself is magical, so grab a coffee while you’re waiting. The adventure is beginning.

On your left, the Urubamba River winds its way through the peaceful valley, and on your right rugged mountains guard you. Before you know it the mountains give way to thick, lush trees as the highland scenery transforms into thick jungle.

The Expedition Train takes you to KM104 (elevation 2,100m/6,927ft), the first checkpoint and starting point of your trek. Once you cross over the Urubamba River you will be surrounded by hikers all with the same goal as you.

At the checkpoint take the opportunity to use the restrooms, apply (and reapply) insect repellent and sunscreen, pack your box lunch, purchase any extra snacks you fancy, and fill up on water.

The first archeological site we will pass is just a few steps past the checkpoint. Learn the history and thriving culture of the Incas from your local guide as we pass by flora and fauna unique to the Inca trail. We continue our gentle uphill walk for three hours.

After these three hours we arrive at a waterfall, where we can stop for a break. Grab some photos or use this opportunity wash your face or to soak your feet in these calming, healing waters.

The waterfall represents the end of the easy part of the trek. From here, the path begins to steepen before our first steep climb. This climb is worth it though, as we come out at the archaeological site of Wiñayhuana, (2,650m/8747 ft).

The views from Wiñay Wayna are absolutely spectacular and the history is equally as fascinating, so take a moment to revel in your achievement and learn about the different areas from your guide. After you have learned your fill we continue to the campsite of Wiñay Wayna, where we stop to rest and enjoy our lunch.

The rest of the trip undulates with the mountain- right up until we reach the monkey stairs. These stairs demand climbers summit them while using their hands as well as their feet. This is the final challenge before we arrive to the Sun Gate and our first view of Machu Picchu.

From the Sun Gate you will have the chance to take as many photos as you like while overlooking the citadel. This is a really special place so make sure that you take a moment to soak in the atmosphere before continuing your hike down to the citadel.

As we arrive in Machu Picchu in the afternoon there will be less tourists than there is earlier in the day. If you have made good time on the hike then you will be able to enjoy your full guided tour lasting around 2 hours on circuit 3.

At around 4pm we will exit the citadel and take the bus down to Aguas Calientes. This bus journey is one of the best bus routes I have ever taken, so try to get a window seat! Once in Aguas Calientes you can explore the cobbled streets, hunting out some food and picking up some souveniers.

At 6:20pm you will return to Ollantaytambo on the Expedition Train before catching our private van back to Cusco. Estimated arrival 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 would like, 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

Times are approximate and depend on your fitness levels.

Packing List

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
  • Plastic rain poncho
  • Camera
  • Extra money for souvenirs and tips

Preparing for the weather on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Dry Season

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

Rainy Season

The rainy season begins usually in December and last until April. In the rainy season, there are frequent heavy tropical showers.

In the Cusco region, high altitude means rapidly changing weather – it can go from sunshine to rain showers within minutes. During dry season, if it does rain, the rain rarely lasts long. During the rainy season however it can rain all day. 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.

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



  • 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 and keep up your energy
  • You cannot do the trek by yourself – you must use a licensed tour operator
  • The 1 Day Inca Trail is the same route as the 2 Day Inca Trail, just in less time. You need to be in good 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 around 5 hours

Frequently Asked Questions


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 good physical condition to be able to do this trek and arrive at Machu Picchu Citadel with enough time for their tour. If you think the trek may be too strenuous, we recommend booking the 2 day Inca Trail.


The actual hike starts at KM104, from here to Machu Picchu is a 12km path.


Yes – government issued permits are required and can only be bought by licensed tour operators.
There are only 250 permits per day for the Short Inca Trail. All visitors and their guides need permits so we recommend booking as soon as you know when you want to travel.


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


Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level, which is much lower than the city of Cusco which sits at 3,400 meters or 11,152 feet. It’s likely you won’t suffer from altitude sickness if you’ve already spent time acclimatizing in Cusco.

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 all effective ways of dealing with the altitude.


Visiting Machu Picchu is best between the months of April and May or from September through October. The high-tourist season months are June, July and August when it doesn’t tend to rain but the tickets are likely to sell out.


Inca Trail Photos

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