So you’re trying to decide which Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu works best for your schedule? I have 100% been there. You start by Googling “how long is the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu?” and then panic a little. You’re thinking to yourself that the Inca Trail is something you HAVE to do when visiting Peru, but all you know about is the multi-day hike. You don’t want to take up too much of your trip hiking the Inca Trail because you only have so many days you’ll be in Peru, and there’s just so much you want to see. Well, luckily for me (and now you) there is a perfect solution to this problem! And that is doing a 2 day Inca Trail hike.
I’m going to completely break down this review of the best 2 day Inca Trail hike into the following categories so you know what to expect and can make sure it’s the right experience for you:
- What Inca Trail Tour to Choose & Why
- Day 1 – Hiking the Inca Trail
- Day 2 – Exploring Machu Picchu
- What to Pack for Your Short Inca Trail Hike
- Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going
And before we continue, as a heads up I did partner with the tour company mentioned and received my tour for free in exchange for an honest review. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love. I either have bought or would buy all of these items/experiences with my own money.
Complete Guide – 2 Day Inca Trail Hike
You cannot hike the Inca Trail without a tour guide. So in order to make this famous trek, you have to join a tour group of some sort.
What Inca Trail Tour to Choose & Why
When I was doing research trying to find the best Inca Trail tour, there were a million different tour companies to choose from. I started my search to see if there was a short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu trek, since I only had 10 days total and didn’t want half the trip to be this trek. From there, it was narrowed down and I wanted to choose a local company to Peru, not an American or European company profiting off of the work of the locals.
That’s when I found Alpaca Expeditions. I was VERY into the fact that they were locally owned and run. After having completed the 2 day trek to Machu Picchu with them, I’m even more happy I chose them. Our guide talked about how the CEO is a former Porter; so he was the guy who hikes ahead of the groups to set up camp, bring food up, and then set everything up for the trekkers. Because of his experience as a Porter, he built a company that guides want to work for. I adored how passionately and positively our guide spoke about the company, and it made me very pleased with my choice. He was also the absolute best guide we could have ever asked for. His name is Walter and he was an absolute angel of a man.
Fortunately, Alpaca Expeditions offers two different short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu tours that fit my schedule and allowed me to decide how much I wanted to “rough it” out there.
2 Day/1 Night Inca Trek to Machu Picchu Tour Options
- 2 Day/1 Night – Hotel
- This is the route I went went for general comfort purposes
- I’m super glad I chose this option because the town we stayed in – Aguas Calientes – is BEYOND adorable and I honestly wish I had more time there
- 2 Day/1 Night – Camping
Also, if you’re a big hiker, request to get a permit for to hike Huaynapicchu when you book your tour as well. That’s the mountain behind the Machu Picchu citadel, and I’ve read magical things about the views from atop. I had gotten a permit but the weather didn’t hold out for me to hike it. Next time, right?
Check In Before You Go
The day before you leave for the trail, you need to check in at the Alpaca Expeditions offices and they give you a rundown of how everything will go. They provided the map below – which I held close to me at all times – that was wildly helpful. This meeting was super beneficial and helped me better understand how the whole trip was organized.
Day 1 – Hiking the Inca Trail
Wake Up & Travel to the Trailhead
Day 1 is a VERY early wakeup day. You’re picked up from your hotel around 4am and you begin the ride to the trailhead. You take a van from your hotel to Ollantaytambo, where you then hop on the train until the trailhead. Real talk? The train ride has to be one of the prettiest train rides in the world. I’d have loved to have been able to sleep but I wouldn’t dare miss that view.
You will bring everything you have with you onto the trail, so make sure to pack super light because no one will be carrying things for you.
What to Expect on the Trail
The first half of this hike is definitely the toughest. We struggled a little bit to be honest, but we admittedly, looking back, didn’t acclimate enough beforehand. However, pretty much all of the elevation gain in the first half, so once you make it through that, the rest is a breeze.
Throughout the hike you’ll see multiple sets of Incan ruins and after you’ve completed the tough portion of the trek, you get an INCREDIBLE lunch. It was honestly impressive everything that they made for us, and so delicious.
After lunch, the hike is relatively flat and then downhill until you reach the Sun Gate and see your first views of Machu Picchu. This moment is super magical and we hung out here for probably 30 minutes before hiking down to Machu Picchu. Arriving up close and personal to Machu Picchu was truly magical. We only hung out in the area with the iconic view (didn’t enter the full park because it wasn’t our tour day). But I’m super thankful we were able to enjoy this sunny day and view, because it was so stunning. Bucket list moment for sure.
After we were done with our mini Machu Picchu exploration, we took the bus down to Aguas Calientes and walked to our hotel.
We had a couple hours before dinner so do with that time what you will. I absolutely showered and took a nap.
We headed to dinner at a brewery in town and it was also very delicious. I was so exhausted from the long day that I headed home after dinner and went to bed. Day 1 of the 2 day Inca Trail hike ended probably around 8pm. No shame in my sleep game.
Day 2 – Exploring Machu Picchu
This is the day that makes all that hard work yesterday worth it. It is really, truly, magical to get to spend a day of your beautiful life in this even more beautiful place.
Getting Back to the Machu Picchu Citadel
Another wakeup call that is early, but not AS early as the day before. You can decide with your group how early you want to get up and visit, but it is recommended to go as early as possible. We left around 7am and probably got there around 8am.
You’ll walk to the bus stop and take it back up to the same spot you were at yesterday. By 8am, Machu Picchu was already busy. So if that matters to you, take that into consideration when making your plans for the day.
Exploring the Ruins
Day 2 of your 2 day Inca trail to Machu Picchu tour is less about hiking (unless you do Huaynapicchu) and more about exploring the ruins. Our guide walked us through the citadel and gave us such an incredible history lesson regarding everything around us. I feel like I learned so much and had such a genuinely good time learning the history of this magical place.
After You’re Done
Once we made it through Machu Picchu, we headed back to Aguas Calientes for lunch and to explore for an hour or two before heading back to the train station. From there, you’ll take the train back to Ollantaytambo and then the van back to your hotel.
What to Pack for Your Short Inca Trail Hike
You will need to bring your passport and your vaccine card with you (as of May 2022) in order to get into parks and onto transit. Outside of that, you will actually need to pack super light because you’re carrying everything with you on the trail. Truly, just pack the absolute necessities (including rain gear). Whatever you wear to hike on day 1 of your 2 day Inca Trail trek, what you’ll wear for your camping/hotel stay, and then your outfit for day 2 (which you can wear to dinner if you want to on night 1). Don’t overdo it, you will be miserable if you do.
Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going
- You need to acclimate for 2 or 3 days AT LEAST to be sure you’re not struggling with the altitude
- The first half of the trek feels like semi-constant stairs and you’re only really warned about two sets of them (because they’re more strenuous)
- It really does get so much easier after lunch; you’ll feel like a whole new person if you’re struggling on the upfront
- It takes a decent amount of effort to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back, and that makes me even more thankful for Alpaca Expeditions and how they organized our trip
- You move through Machu Picchu in a circle, and can’t turn back around once you’ve gotten through each section (meaning you only really have one chance to get the iconic shot)
- The weather can turn on a dime because you’re up in the mountains so be prepared for anything
So there you go!I know I haven’t done every tour, but I’ve gotta say, this Alpaca Expeditions 2 day trek to Machu Picchu has to be the best out there. Our guide was the absolute best I could imagine having, everything was taken care of, it was efficient and well organized, and I had the most magical time. If you have any additional questions, reach out as always. Follow me on TikTok and Instagram, and check out my Machu Picchu story highlights on Insta to see what the 2 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu looks like from the ground.