Although tour operators typically refer to this as the "Two Day Inca Trail", it actually only involves one day of hiking. The second day you visit Machu Picchu after spending the night in a hotel Aguas Calientes. The advantage of this two day itinerary is that you see Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate on the day that you hike, with the afternoon light and return to the ruins the next morning with the sunrise.

Some tour operators sell this as a one day itinerary, which means you need to walk quickly in the morning to be able to visit Machu Picchu in the afternoon of the same day.

If you want a lot of time at Machu Picchu, I recommend you choose the one day itinerary so you visit the ruins in the afternoon, and then stay an extra night in Aguas Calientes and buy a second Machu Picchu ticket to visit again the next morning.

This is best if you want to do an extra hike like Huayna Picchu, which is only available in the morning. If you visit Machu Picchu in the afternoon then you cannot hike Huayna Picchu or any of the other extra hikes.

KM 104

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: Six to seven hours' hiking

Distance: 11km

Max elevation: 2,500

Start/end point: Km 104 to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes Peru Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes town at the foot of Machu Picchu

The two-day trip will include a night’s lodging in Aguas Calientes to rest and relax after a full day of hiking. It’s a good idea to enquire about the class of hotel that is included, as you may want to upgrade. The following morning you will go up to Machu Picchu to have your citadel tour, beginning with the first morning light just as the main entrance opens. A return train to Cusco will also be included.

Besides arrival through the Sun Gate, another advantage to this trail is that it is relatively easy, so it’s a nice way to get the feel of hiking to Machu Picchu without needing to be in tip-top physical shape. Think of it as a bite-sized sample of the more rigorous classic Inca Trail experience. You start out at a lower altitude than other hikes and treks, and there is no huge change in elevation.

The trail begins at KM 104, hence the name for this hike. You will take the train towards Aguas Calientes but stop about half an hour before the train reaches town. There is no train station and you will just hop off the train when it stops at KM 104. Train attendants know who has tickets to KM 104 and will make sure you get off the train at the right spot. The walk takes you into the high jungle which surrounds Machu Picchu.

By foot to Machu Picchu, Inca-style

The KM 104 hike overlaps with the last stretch of the Four Day Classic Inca Trail, which brings you directly into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). There’s no doubt that it is an amazing feeling as you walk in through the same entrance that the Incas did more than 500 years ago, with the ancient city spread out below you.

What you’ll see

In addition to the beautiful scenery, you’ll also get the opportunity to visit a couple of Inca sites, Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna, before getting to Machu Picchu itself. Wiñay Wayna is one of the most spectacular Inca cities because it’s perched high on a steep canyon wall. It seems to float in space even more than Machu Picchu.

You’ll have lunch at Wiñay Wayna before walking the last hour to the Sun Gate for your first view of Machu Picchu. Hiking down from the Sun Gate, called Inti Punku in Quechua, you’ll visit the citadel on circuit five. This is the same route that people who hike the full Inca Trail take. You can download the map of each circuit here.

Length of the hike

The distance covered is 11 km and will take six to seven hours. The hike is considered to be of easy to moderate difficulty, as it’s an uphill route and involves a couple spots with steep steps.

How to book the KM 104 trek

Note that, as with the longer Inca Trail, this hike is permit-based and can only be booked through a travel agency and with a licensed guide. Not all tour agencies in Cusco are licensed to sell the Inca Trail, so make sure you book directly with a tour operator to get the most accurate information.

There is a separate booking system for the Two Day/KM 104 hike, with just 150 permits available per day. Although that does help with availability (as they are no longer part of the Classic Inca Trail permit system), it may still sell out months ahead of time.

Unlike the multi-day Classic Inca Trail trek, there’s no way to view permit availability online, so you’ll need to check with your tour provider. In order to secure your permit, your passport information will be necessary. Permits are taken in your name and with your passport number, and it is not possible to transfer the permit to someone else once purchased.

Hiking to the Sun Gate

In the past people who visited the main Machu Picchu citadel were allowed to hike up to the Sun Gate, called Inti Punku in Quechua. That was prohibited when Machu Picchu reopened after being closed most of 2020 for the Covid-19 travel restrictions. Now, you can only reach the Sun Gate if you hike the full Inca Trail from KM 82 or the partial Inca Trail from KM 104.

About the author

Hiking the KM 104 route

Heather Jasper

Based in Cusco, Peru, Heather is an expert on travel to Peru and South America. Heather writes on tourism, trekking, and social issues in Peru for publications including BBC Travel, Fodor’s Travel, Matador Network, Thrifty Nomads, World Nomads, Frommer's, Flashpack, and more. Heather co-founded the Covid Relief Project with Henry Quintano Loaiza to assist vulnerable families in the Cusco region.

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