Since 2001 the Peruvian government has applied the same strict regulations used on the Classic Inca Trail to the Short Inca Trail as well. The intention of these regulations is to preserve and protect the park and the environment surrounding the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
One of the most important aspects of these regulations is the limitation of visitors. Only 250 people are allowed to access the Short Inca Trail per day. This number includes tourists, guides, and porters.
Each person entering the Short Inca Trail is required to have a permit which is sold by the National Institute of Culture of Cusco. This needs to have been purchased by an authorized Inca Trail Tour Operator or authorized tour guide. Permits are sold on a first come, first served basis regardless of the hike to be trekked. At the time that a permit is purchased for the Short Inca Trail on behalf of a tourist, the tour operator or tour guide needs to provide information such as first name, last name, date of birth, gender, nationality, passport number, and ISIC Student ID Card in cases where the student discount is offered.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is open from March 1 to January 31 of the following year. During the month of February the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance and because this is the most rainy month of the year. Also, every year during the months of November and December all Inca Trail Tour Operators and guides are required to apply for an authorization to operate hikes along the Inca Trail.
This site provides relevant tips and FAQs regarding the Short Inca Trail.
Is hiking the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu worth it?
This short version of the Classic 4-Day Inca Trail allows the trekker to visit the Wiñayhuayna Site, which is one of the most beautiful ruins along the Classic version of the trek. The trek also allows the trekker to arrive at Machu Picchu in the late afternoon to enjoy the breathtaking sunset. This is absolutely a great option for travelers who are not willing to spend the night in tents but are willing to hike the original trail built by the Incas.
This trek is not as demanding as the Classic Inca Trail; however trekkers should be used to performing a demanding physical activity for a few hours (6 on average), should be acclimatized to high altitudes, and should be prepared with the correct gear. You do not need to be a super athlete, but it is important to be an active person who exercises or hikes quite often. Usually two days are good enough for most bodies to acclimatize to the altitude, but some bodies need longer than that. (Read more on our Altitude Sickness site.) For a list of gear, check out our What to Bring site.
How difficult is the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
The Short Inca Trail is considered an easy to moderate trek, the first 3 hours the most difficult because the majority of elevation is gained at this portion of the trek.
When is the best time to hike the Short Inca Trail?
The dry season is generally the best time to do the trek. The dry season runs from April to November, while the wet season runs from December to March. Even during rainy season it doesn’t usually rain all day long. June to September are the most popular months for treks. May and October offer the nicest weather. The Inca Trail is closed in February.
Could I hike the Short Inca Trail at any time?
Yes, as long as there is availability on the day you will start the trek. You don’t need to check for availability for all the days you will be on the trek, just the starting day. However, during the month of February the trail is closed for maintenance.
How far in advance should I book my Short Inca Trail?
Due to limited availability, we recommend that you book your Inca Trail trek at least 3 months in advance for the low season. If you plan to hike the Inca Trail during busy season (May through September), you should book it 5 or 6 months in advance.
Why do I need to check availability?
Availability for the Short Inca Trail is restricted by the Peruvian government. Only 250 people per day are allowed to hike the Inca Trail. This number includes guides, and porters.
We are in December and I want to book a permit for the month of May of next year. All companies show 0 or 250 permits available. Why is that?
The National Institute of Culture starts selling permits for the March to January season during the month of January. For instance, permits for March 2019 will be available for sale in November 2018.
Can I buy a permit for the Short Inca Trail on my own and hike the trail on my own?
No, you are not allowed to buy the permit or hike the trail by yourself. The National Institute of Culture sells permits only to authorized tour operators. The GoTrekPeru site lists authorized Inca Trail Tour Operators who have registered with us and are subject to reviews from fellow trekkers. Please click here to read about them.
Can I change my starting date for the Short Inca Trail?
Once the Inca Trail permit has been purchased, you cannot change the starting date without incurring an additional cost. The permits are issued by the Peruvian government and are non-refundable and non-transferable. If the permit has been issued and you need to change your starting date, you will lose your deposit and a new security deposit will be required.
What should I do if there is no availability for the days that I will be in Cusco?
There are alternative short treks in Cusco, but none of them compare to the Short Inca Trail. Some options are Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes trek or the Huchuy Qosqo Site trek, which starts and ends in the town of Lamay. You can also take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu. If you are planning on visiting Machu Picchu, we recommend spending the night in Aguas Calientes; that way you will have enough time to really enjoy the magic and mysticism of Machu Picchu.
How do I reserve a spot for the Short Inca Trail?
Verify availability of spaces, choose your departure date, and then select the BOOK NOW button.
Booking the Inca Trail through a Peruvian Tour Operator or a Foreign Travel Agency
Some Inca Trail informative websites are opposed to travelers’ booking the Inca Trail through a Travel Agency; however, using the services of a Travel Agency can be a smart thing to do when a traveler is looking for a small group and good service. Using the services of well-known Peruvian Tour Operators guarantees a good service and a group of 16 people. When travelers are looking for small groups with reputable companies that are not going to dump you on another operator because just one person signed up, the task can be complicated. In these cases, a smart thing to do is to book with a reputable Foreign Travel Agency which is going to offer you a good service. The use of a reliable Foreign Travel Agency usually means a higher price, but it will also usually mean complete satisfaction. It is more likely that a Foreign Travel Agency is going to give you a refund when services are not as advertised. Refunds are unfamiliar to most Peruvian Tour Operators.
Do all the tour operators provide the same service?
No. Make sure that you are hiring a professionally run tour operator that will take proper care of you and the environment. If you see prices that are too low, be careful. Some companies have hidden extra charges or fees. Also some companies won’t provide all the services they claim they are offering. Do not expect refunds if you are working with an Inca Trail Tour Operator based only in Peru.
Service provided during the Short Inca Trail
Since there are several Inca Trail Tour Operators, the service from one to another can be different, affecting the price that is charged. Some differences can be observed in the following areas:
What do I need to carry during the Short Inca Trail?
For the Short Inca Trail porters are not usually hired; therefore, trekkers need to carry all their belongings. Bring to the trek only what you will really need in a small backpack. If a porter is needed, you should contact and let us know at the time of booking this trek
Are there restrooms in the Short Inca Trail?
The Short Inca Trail offers basic restrooms at the Wiñaywayna campsite. Outside of Machu Picchu there are also restrooms.
Is water provided during the trek?
We will provide you a half liter bottle of water before starting the trek.
What should I bring on the trek?
PLEASE CHECK OUR WHAT TO BRING SITE.
Can I hike the Short Inca Trail the same day that I arrive in Cusco?
The main effects of altitude sickness show the first or second day. For that reason, we highly recommend that you hike the Short Inca Trail at least a couple of days after arriving in Cusco.
What should I do to avoid altitude sickness?
To avoid altitude sickness, give yourself time to acclimatize to the change in altitude (2 to 3 days). For instance, if you are trekking the Inca Trail, you should rest the day before. Try to avoid alcohol, and make sure you eat lightly and drink plenty of water. Make sure to stay hydrated, walk slowly, and take frequent breaks. Drinking coca leaf tea always helps. It is widely available, and your hotel in Cusco will probably offer it as well. For further details, please click here.
What should I do if I get altitude sickness in Cusco City or in the middle of the trek?
Drink plenty of liquids, (coca leaf tea will definitely help), take a nap, and try to rest.
If you are in the middle of the trek and start feeling dizzy, extremely tired, nauseated, and headachy, ask for advice from your guide. You will probably need to go back in search of a lower altitude. Usually symptoms go away once you are in a lower elevation. If not, you should contact a doctor.
Below is a suggested check list for the Short Inca Trail trek:
This short Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu takes the trekker from the well-preserved Incan ruins of Wiñaywayna to the amazing Gate of the Sun through a colorful Incan path. At the Gate of the Sun an amazing view of Machu Picchu will astonish you. This Inca Trail excursion is perfect for ones who are not avid trekkers or have limited time. Entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are limited. Extension Available!
Day 1: CUSCO - KM. 104 - WIÑAYWAYNA - AGUAS CALIENTES (About 16 Km. / 10 miles) (L), (D)
Day 2: MACHU PICCHU - CUSCO (B), (L)
DAILY DEPARTURES (Check availability of permits before booking)
The trek will continue to ascend, and you might be lucky and observe the Machu Picchu orchid. Unexpectedly, the amazing ruins of Wiñaywayna will appear in front of you. Your guide will show you this important Inca site located at about 8,692 feet above sea level. Here you will enjoy your lunch box. After lunch you will start a hike of about one hour and thirty minutes, which will take you to the Gate of the Sun or “Intipunku.”
After lunch, you will arrive at the control gate of Wiñaywayna where your passport and Inca Trail permit will be checked again. This portion of the hike can be completed in about three hours. From here, you will have an amazing view of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu, which is 7,875 feet above sea level. After a rest, you will walk another 40 minutes until you reach the entrance to Machu Picchu. From there, you may walk to Aguas Calientes Town or catch a tour bus that will drive you down to Machu Picchu town or Aguas Calientes (this bus ticket is included).
Once at the town, you will check in at the accommodation of your choice and then enjoy a delicious dinner at El Indio Feliz restaurant.
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be picked up to take the bus to Machu Picchu. Your guide will provide you a snack for the day and at Machu Picchu will give you a tour that will last about two and a half hours.
After your tour, you will be free to climb the Wayna Picchu Mountain (not included in tour price) or just wander around. Around midday, you should take the bus back to Aguas Calientes where you will enjoy a buffet style lunch.
At 15:22 or 16:22 hours, you will take the Expedition train to Ollantaytambo. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, you will be driven to your hotel in Cusco.
Price per person - USD
(2 people minimum per booking)
We offer daily departures for the Short Inca Trail (Before booking make sure there are available permits.)