Inca trail permits for the first months of 2017 sold out quickly in January, and many people were disappointed at not being able to get their hands on a permit. Let’s not panic yet, what some people don’t know is that permits for the short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are still available. The short Inca Trail is an excellent choice for an alternative way to reach Machu Picchu by hiking. Many people underestimate this hike, thinking it won’t be as fun as the long version but they are wrong; the short Inca Trail is not short of adventure.
The Short Inca Trail is an adventure that anyone in decent physical condition should undertake. The whole tour takes two days and one night, and every minute of it is filled with so much fun. I recommend people to do a full Sacred Valley tour the day before the hike to acclimatize properly and to spend the night in the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo.
The first part of this hike is a pleasant train ride from Ollantaytambo to the 104 km. The slow speed of the train makes it easy for people to enjoy the view of the local farming communities and the ecological diversity along the way.
The scenery will take your breath away as you travel up the Machu Picchu canyon and watch it turn green and lush. As the valley narrows, you will be aware of the massive Veronica mountain looming over you and serving as a spectacular backdrop for this amazing adventure.
As the train makes its way alongside the Urubamba river, the temperature rises as you leave the high Andean mountains behind and enter the warmer cloud forest of the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Once you get to our stop at the 104Km, you will cross the bridge over the Urubamba River and arrive at a checkpoint where you will have to check in by showing your passports to the park rangers.
At the Chachabamba archaeological site, your guide will give you an introduction to what to expect for the rest of the day and how to make the most of the experience. I recommend that you put on sun block cream and drink plenty of water or some electrolytes before you start hiking.
The trek begins with a slow ascent towards the Incan site of Winaywayna. The high temperatures in this part of the cloud forest make the climb a bit difficult, but only for the first two hours. Along the way, there will be a couple of shelters that will shield you from the sun and give you some shade to cool you off. As the trail continues, you will have your first views of both the Machu Picchu mountain and the beautiful Incan site of Winaywaina. During this part of the hike, the trail will become easier and cooler than the previous hours; the dense vegetation giving you cover from the sun. You will see waterfalls, epiphytes, orchids, bromeliads, fungus, mushrooms, moss, lots of birds and butterflies as you complete this part of the hike.
The endless stairs to climb to the top of the Incan site of Winaywana will be a challenging climb but will be immensely rewarding as you will get an opportunity to explore this impressive and well-preserved Incan site, which is by far one of the most beautiful sites of the Inca Trail. At Winaywana, you will also be introduced to the history of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu; there is no better classroom for a history lesson than this fabulous location.
After the well-deserved lunch break, the trail continues toward the sun gate. This part of the trail is magical; it gives you the impression of being in a fairy tale, the stone paved Incan road leads the way to Machu Picchu, the abundant richness of birds and plants highlight the mysterious nature of the trail, as you join the last stretch of the longer Inca Trail
The arrival to the sun gate is a unique experience, The sun setting on the horizon shines its light over this wonder of the world. From the sun gate, you will have your first view of Machu Picchu. Perhaps this is the best part of this full day adventure. The solitude that one experiences at Machu Picchu are a privilege that thousands of others miss out on, due to the incorrect information they get. The arrival time to Machu Picchu is around 4 pm, and by then the crowds have left the city, and only a few people remain. You will be free to wander around the narrow streets and plazas of this magical city and experience it in a silence which will help you to truly understand the nature of this sacred Incan site, and appreciate its place in the hearts of the Peruvian people.
I recommend that you take as much time as possible observing Machu Picchu from the house of the guardian and its surrounding before you reluctantly leave for Aguas Calientes. The park rangers start asking people to abandon the city at 4:30 PM and you should be the last one to leave, to savor the tranquility of being alone at this world wonder, a treat only reserved for those who take the short Inca Trail.
The final part of this adventure will be held the next morning when you will return again to take the official tour of Machu Picchu. Usually, the walking tour takes 2 hours and is filled with amazing stories of the Incas and the secrets of this wonder of the world. If You are lucky enough to get a permit to climb the Wayna Picchu Mountain, then your memorable day would be crowned by a spectacular view of the whole site. A true adventure that you will always remember
Miguel Angel Gongora is a native Peruvian professional tour guide from Cusco, he has been leading tours throughout Peru for almost 20 years. He has a vast knowledge of the rich cultural and ecological diversity of his beautiful country. In 2003, Miguel traveled to the US to lecture at Hampshire College of Massachusetts on Cultural Appropriation. Miguel is a strong advocate of ecotourism and science. He values the role that tourists play in the development and protection of sensitive cultures and ecosystems and dedicates his work to raising the awareness of such players with the aim of furthering such a powerful tool. Also, he is the co-founder of Evolution Treks Peru a Cusco-based worker-owned travel company.