The Shortest Hike to Machu Picchu: A Quick Guide

Hiking to Machu Picchu is an adventure of a lifetime that many travelers dream of experiencing. But for those with limited time or physical abilities, the classic Inca Trail or other multi-day treks may not be feasible. Fortunately, there is a shorter hike to Machu Picchu that still offers stunning views and a glimpse into the history and culture of the region. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the shortest hike to Machu Picchu and provide tips to help you make the most of your journey.

Choosing Your Route

The shortest hike to Machu Picchu is the one-day hike along the last stretch of the classic Inca Trail, starting from the KM 104 train stop. This route is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and takes about 5-6 hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll pass through lush forests, cross the Urubamba River, and visit the impressive ruins of Wiñay Wayna before reaching Machu Picchu. This route requires a permit and must be booked in advance.

Preparing for the Hike

While the one-day hike to Machu Picchu is shorter than other routes, it’s still a moderately strenuous hike that requires proper preparation. It’s recommended to spend at least two days in Cusco or other high-altitude cities to acclimate to the altitude before starting the hike. You should also invest in high-quality hiking gear, including sturdy hiking boots, a warm jacket, and a waterproof backpack. It’s important to stay hydrated and bring snacks that will keep you energized throughout the day.

Booking your hike to Machu Picchu

Get a quote from our suggested Inca Trail to Machu Picchu trek

The Hike Itself

The one-day hike to Machu Picchu starts at the KM 104 train stop and follows a well-marked path through the mountains. Along the way, you’ll encounter steep ascents and descents, narrow paths, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The highlight of the hike is the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, which means “forever young” in Quechua and features impressive terraces, fountains, and religious buildings. From there, it’s a short hike to the Sun Gate, where you’ll get your first view of Machu Picchu in the distance.

Arriving at Machu Picchu

Finally, after a day of hiking, you’ll arrive at Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites. While you won’t have as much time to explore as those who hiked the longer routes, you’ll still have several hours to explore the ruins, learn about the history and culture of the Incan civilization, and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It’s recommended to arrive at Machu Picchu early in the morning to avoid crowds and take advantage of the stunning views of the sunrise.

In conclusion, the shortest hike to Machu Picchu offers a quick but unforgettable journey through the Andes mountains of Peru. While it requires proper preparation and physical fitness, it’s a more accessible option for those with limited time or abilities. With stunning views, rich history and culture, and the opportunity to create lasting memories, this hike is an experience that should not be missed.

How long is the hike to Machu Picchu?

The hike to Machu Picchu can vary in length and difficulty depending on the route you choose to take. The most popular and well-known route is the Inca Trail, which typically takes four days and three nights to complete, covering a distance of approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) through mountainous terrain and high-altitude passes.

However, there are other options for reaching Machu Picchu that do not require such a long and strenuous hike. For example, the most popular alternative is the train ride from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is located at the base of Machu Picchu. From there, visitors can either take a shuttle bus or hike up to the site itself, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours along a well-maintained trail with some uphill sections.

Alternatively, visitors can also take one of the many other hiking routes that lead to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek, which can range in length from 2 to 7 days depending on the specific route and itinerary.

Is Machu Picchu free?

No, Machu Picchu is not free to visit. Visitors must purchase a ticket to enter the site, and there are different ticket options available depending on the type of experience you want.

The cost of a ticket to Machu Picchu varies depending on whether you want to visit the site alone or as part of a guided tour, as well as whether you want to hike any of the surrounding trails, such as Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the cost of a basic entrance ticket to Machu Picchu for foreign visitors was around $60 USD. However, prices may have changed since then, so it’s always a good idea to check the official Machu Picchu website for the latest information.

Do you have to hike to Machu Picchu?

No, hiking is not the only way to reach Machu Picchu. In fact, most visitors to Machu Picchu arrive by train or bus rather than on foot.

The most common way to reach Machu Picchu is by taking a train from the city of Cusco or the town of Ollantaytambo to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is located at the base of the mountain where Machu Picchu is located. From Aguas Calientes, visitors can take a shuttle bus or hike up to the site itself.

There are several hiking trails that lead to Machu Picchu, such as the famous Inca Trail and alternative treks like the Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek, but these are not the only options. Visitors can also take a combination of train and bus or taxi to reach the site, or even hire a private car or take a helicopter tour for a more luxurious experience.