The Inca Trail is a world-famous hiking trail that forms part of the Ancient Inca Road Network. The 2 Day Short Inca Trail takes you on the last third of the Classic Inca Trail through the Sun Gate to the majestic Machu Picchu Citadel! The journey begins as soon as you cross the bridge at KM 104 over the Urubamba River. It offers impressive Inca ruins, expansive mountain views, lush subtropical vegetation and extraordinary ecological varieties.
As you hike on the flat stone steps walked by the ancient Incas, 600 years ago, you pass through cloud forests and finally into the subtropical vegetation of Machu Picchu. Upon arrival to the Guards Gate at Machu Picchu you´ll get to take the picture-perfect postcard photos of Machu Picchu Citadel. Discover multiple historical sites and all that nature has to offer. Find out of what to see on the short Inca Trail below.
The journey to the Short Inca Trail starts on the Expedition Train, stationed in the bustling small town of Ollantaytambo. Departure time is usually scheduled at 6:10am just as the sunrises over the mountains. The train tracks straddle the Urubamba River on the left, as it gently curves with the road. On your right are stunning views of the rugged mountains with snow hooded peaks. As the journey continues the ruggedness of the mountains transforms into lush vegetation with beautiful splashes of color. This is a sign that you are now approaching not only the high jungle, but KM 104 (2 100m/6 927ft), the starting point for the Short Inca Trail.
You can upgrade to the Vistadome train which has glass ceilings and windows, providing the most spectacular panoramic views of the stunning Andean landscape you pass on the way. The Vistadome also offers onboard entertainment and snacks.
List of What to SEE on the Short Inca Trail?
To get to the checkpoint of the Short Inca trail, you need to cross a suspension bridge over the Urubamba River. As soon as people disembark the train, they immediately create a small traffic jam. It’s the perfect spot to take those first pictures of this historical journey you are about to embark on. There is also no better vintage point to capture the full scope of the Urubamba River that originates in Puno flowing for a 724km before joining the Tambo River to form the Ucayali River (part of Amazon River). So, stop soak in this momentous occasion, you are about to follow in the footsteps of the masterful ancient Incas.
Chachabamba Archeological site
Chachabamba is only a stone’s throw away from the checkpoint of KM104. It was rediscovered in 1940. It sits at an elevation of 2 171m/6 995ft, surrounded by massive green mountains and lush vegetation typical in a subtropical Andean Forest. It’s located in a spot at the top of a mountain that appears to have somehow been flattened by the skillful builders that were the Incas. The structure of the buildings have been designed to conform to the shape of the terrain that it encompasses. The stone work is sturdy and impeccable in its built and design. There are a number of water baths around the site giving the impression that it could have been used as a religious site to worship water. This valley is very fertile and nature was very important to the ancient Incas, knowns for making seasonal sacrifices to Pachamama. As with most Inca sites, in the center you will find a religious altar carved out of natural rock. Another theory is that it was used as a guard house for people wishing to visit the great citadel of Machu Picchu. Because this valley is so fertile it played a very important agricultural role, they planted potatoes, cassavas and medicinal plants and herbs among other things.
About half way on your Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hike, you will encounter a small waterfall with its crystal-clear waters cascading into the rocks below. It proves to be a welcomed and much needed break before embarking on the only 2 challenging climbs on this trail. Splash your face or if time allows, take off your hiking boots and dip your toes into the ice-cold soothing waters. Take in the splendor nature has to offer, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Flora and Fauna on the Inca Trail
The trail is dotted with Flora and Fauna that’s unique to this region. So, feast your eyes on the many different species you will have the pleasure to see. We will provide short details of the most eye-catching and famous species. The Andean Bear / Spectacled Bear a herbivorous giant bear linked to many Andean myths and legends. The Puma/ Cougar, I don’t know about you but this scares me a lot, but don’t be afraid it really hates people and stays as far away from trail as possible. Cock-of-the-rocks is a colorful and strikingly beautiful national bird of Peru. They are solitary and silent birds. During mating season 50 birds gather on the rocks, hoping to be lucky one to be chosen by a female. The Giant Hummingbird is the biggest hummingbird in the world and you have very high chances of coming across one during your Inca Trail hike. Finally, is the famous Llamas. They were used to transport cargo by the Ancient Incas. Today they are domesticated animals, kept for their wool and delicious meat.
The Flora is just stunning. Winay Wayna is by far the most famous, with an ageless archeological site named after it. The name means ´Forever young´ in Quechua. Waqnki (tears in Quechua) is a close second. It tells the tale of an unsupported love affair between two people in different social classes in society. It’s a tearful Quechua love story. The Cendral Montana is a very popular cedar tree in this region. It’s been carved into many things like furniture, balconies and altars among other things. Then you have Molles, which is the most cultivated shrub in the Andean region. You will come across a lot of these bushes; its leaves are used for healing purposes.
Winay Wayna (2 650m/ 8 694ft) is an enigmatic Archeological site. It looks ageless, as though the construction was completed only recently. Its aptly named after the famous orchid found on the trail, with its name meaning ¨Forever Young¨ in Quechua. You get small glimpses of the site all the way from the suspension bridge, with the full effect of its magnificence making its presence felt on arrival. Climb up the chiseled steps until you reach the top, making stops along the way to discover the uses and importance of each section. At the top you will be met by panoramic views of the Urubamba Valley, snow-capped mountain peaks like Mt Veronica and the Vilcanota River gently flowing down stream. Learn the fascinating history behind this stunning Inca Site before stopping at a campsite of the same name nearby for some refreshments and use of restrooms. Click for more information!
Monkey Steps/ Gringo killer steps, whatever you choose to call them, they always stay true to the name. The name refers to these narrow steps found just before arriving at the Sun Gate and getting your first breath taking view of Majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu. There is only one way to get through this section, drop your inhibitions, get on all fours, and climb up like a monkey on its best day. It’s the safest, easiest and quickest way to get to your end goal. This section is very short but super steep, it has left a few gringos completely out of breath. Gringo is a term of endearment used for foreign travelers in most Latin countries.
The Sun Gate also known as Inti Punku stands at an elevation of 2 720m/ 8 924 ft overlooking one of the 7 wonders of the world, the great Machu Picchu Citadel. It was a kind of control gate for people entering and leaving the Inca City of Machu Picchu. Because of its remote and strategic location, it is believed that Machu Picchu only welcomed elite guests from the empire. It is a large place, with windows and doors supported by terraces. From the Sun Gate you can see the entire Inca City of Machu Picchu from the middle of the mountains. In the past, you would have been able to hike up to the Sun Gate from Machu Picchu. However, due to new government regulations, the only way to access the Sun Gate is via the Inca Trail Trek. All Inca Treks – whether it’s the 1 day or its longer variations – will pass the Sun Gate. For more information!
The Majestic Citadel of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by Yale University history lecturer Hiram Bingham. He incorrectly named it ´The Lost City of the Incas´, because the people that still lived up in the Andes mountains were fully aware of its existence. It’s a massive and enigmatic city, one of the 7 Wonders of The World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The brilliance, genius and precision of Incan engineering and construction is astonishing. The structures that remain give you a glimpse into the lives of the ancient Incas who once called this place home. Click on the following link to read about the different structures you get to visit on your exploration of Machu Picchu. Each site peels a layer into the historical, cultural and religious legacy of the vast Empire of the Incas: What to see in Machu Picchu
The What to SEE on the Short Inca Trail information has been updated on March 2023!