Profile picture of Luis Velarde Mora, Peruguide

Totally Latin America’s expert guide Luis Jussyf Velarde Mora takes some time to answer many of the frequently asked questions we are asked about the 1-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. As a veteran of the trek, completing it more than 100 times, Luis is well placed to offer advice on this short hike to Machu Picchu.

Introduction

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world at more than seven thousand kilometers long and more than seven thousand meters in altitude at its highest points. The central Andes has the largest number of ecological floors thanks to varied elevations and its location in the tropics. According to experts 90% of the world’s ecology is found in these territories. All of this, combined with the Andean culture and history, make South America and its mountains a unique and incomparable destination. Peru alone is home to more than 3,000 glaciers among its mountain ranges, many of them easily accessible for lovers of hiking and outdoor activities.

The Short Hike to Machu Picchu on the 1-Day Inca Trail is a great option for adventure travelers that don’t want to camp, but still experience the awesome scenery and experience remote Inca ruins.

Why is the 1-Day Inca Trail such a great trek?

I believe that the 1-Day Inca Trail is a great trek because it allows hikers to gain access to the beautiful citadel of Machu Picchu in just one day. This is a luxury in terms of time and exclusivity. It is true that you’ll share the trail with other trekkers, but this is well managed which gives you the feeling that you are on a private trail with personalized service. It’s very interesting combining the train ride and the hike, especially when departing from the ancient Inca town of Ollantaytambo and later hiking among different types of mountain vegetation. The cultural atmosphere of the town turns into nature in just minutes, all this just by following the course of the Urubamba River, thus discovering Machu Picchu and its paths among the vegetation of the cloud forest. It is a unique experience! Even after hundreds of visits, I am still excited to take this short hike to Machu Picchu.

Photo of Inca Ruin with cloud-forest in the background

Wiñay Wayna Remote Inca Ruin

How Difficult is the Trek?

Like all physical activity, it has its degree of sacrifice, especially if it is sunny and ascending the steep parts of the trail. However, I know from experience that seniors, and people that walk from the house to the car, and the car to the office, and vice versa have achieved it. Sure, there might be a few moans and groans on route, but everyone succeeds! Of course, all ending with a great experience and memories in between. Trekking early with calm and plenty of water and food, it is a hike that can be accomplished by people with not much experience in trekking. All aspects of this short hike to Machu Picchu are discussed with the Guide at a pre-trek meeting, one day before.

What Equipment do I Need to Hike the Trek?

Day pack, water bottle, insect repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, camera, walking poles (at least one per person), waterproof hiking boots (already worn in), hiking socks (thick and soft), hiking pants with zippers, long sleeve shirt or one t-shirt (not cotton – polyester is ideal), sun-hat, warm-hat, gloves, light rain jacket or plastic poncho, personal medication and a fleece for the early morning.

Two hikers descending stone path on Inca Trail

Short Hike to Machu Picchu

How Long Does the Trek Take to Complete?

The trek is 7.8 miles (12.5 kms) with an average trekking time of six hours. The first two hours are uphill and the last two hours are more relaxed, with moderate ups and downs. The trek starts at an altitude of 7,380 ft (2,250 meters), the halfway point of Wiñaywayna is 8,695 ft (2,650 meters), the Sun Gate 9,020 ft (2,750 meters), Machu Picchu 8,040 ft (2,450 meters) and the town of Aguas Calientes (where you sleep) is 6,695 ft (2,040 meters).

What is the Best Part of the Trek?

For me, it must be the transition of ecosystems from the grasslands to cloud forest, this experience is unique and rewarding. This natural experience is crowned with a visit to Wiñaywayna, an almost intact archaeological center like Machu Picchu, but far less visited. This place represents the philosophy of Inca life, architecture and nature as a whole.

Looking down the ruins of Wiñay Wayna Inca Ruin

Wiñay Wayna Inca Ruin

What Tips Can You Offer About Hiking the Trek?

I would recommend that before trekking, you make a point of being a little more active. It is always good to be in shape, so that your body quickly adapts to changes in temperature and geography, allowing you to enjoy the trek fully.

It is important to try to get a good night’s sleep the night before the hike. There is no need to be worried, this hike is the shortest and easiest way to access Macchu Picchu. Be willing to embrace the weather on the trail, that’s nature! Remember, there is no bad weather, there is only bad equipment!

For the first 20 minutes of the trek, walk slowly and calmly. This will allow your body to adapt to the conditions without discomfort. You’ll notice that after this period your breathing quickly improves, allowing you to pick up more of a rhythm for the rest of the trek. Hydrate with one or two sips of water every 10 to 15 minutes. Calm deep breathing and regular hydration will help you hike with more ease. Your guide is trained to help you with these best practices on this short hike to Machu Picchu.

What is the Best Time of Year to Hike?

The best time to take this short hike to Machu Picchu is from the second half of March through until the end of November. Personally, I love March and November, as these months see a shift in climate, and the increase in rain brings about more color on the trail.

Lone Trekker on Stone Path (Inca Trail)

The Final Stretch to Machu Picchu

What is the Minimum Age for Children?

For this short hike to Machu Picchu, I would say the minimum age of children should be 9 years old. However, I did once trek with a family of Europeans who exposed their children at a young age to outdoor activities, and I was able to hike with children 6 and 8 years of age without any issues. Parents are the best people to judge their children’s ability and tolerance to complete a trek of this nature.

Group of trekkers overlooking Machu Picchu from a vantage point

Looking Down to Machu Picchu

What Other Short Treks do You Recommend?

San Blas – Inkilltambo:

Adventure travelers looking to avoid the crowds and in search of a unique experience should try the hike from San Blas (Cusco) to Inkilltambo. This is a great easy walk that allows your body to acclimate to the altitude of the region in a moderate way. The trek offers beautiful landscapes and cultural encounters.

Pumamarca – Ollantaytambo:

A easy downhill hike, ideal for families or seniors, or for people looking for off the beaten-path outdoor experiences. This hike includes nature and history in abundance and some epic Inca terracing just outside Ollantaytambo village that nobody ever visits. This can be combined with a visit to Ollantaytambo Ruins to make it a full day experience.

Palcoyo Mountain or Rainbow Mountain:

This is a relatively short hike (1h20m – 2h, roundtrip), but it does requires several hours of travel by road to get there and back. The trek reaches elevations in excess of 16,400 ft (5,000 meters), but only requires a low physical demand. This is an ideal hike for trekkers preparing for more arduous longer treks like the 4- or 5-days Inca trail, the Salkantay trek or Ausangate trek. The idea is to increase height, with little physical activity, but enough for the body to react and adapt better naturally.

Uchuyqosqo:

I recommend this walk for lovers of intercultural coexistence or experiential tourism. This walk can be managed in two levels of difficulty depending on the purpose or required experience: acclimatization, nature, history, living culture or astronomy. It can be done in one day, or with an overnight, camping or communal shelter.

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