If you want to get the taste of Inca trail, but do not have much time to finish the classic trail, you may try this option. Here actually most of the route you will pass by train. At KM 104 you start you hiking. After a 3 hours of walk you will reach Winay Wayna. From their you will enter classic Inca trail route. then in 3 hours you will reach Machu Picchu, since you will reach Machu Picchu at the end of the day you may not get the full guided tour on this first day. From there you will go to Aguas Calientes and stay night there. Next day you will come back to visit Machu Picchu and get a full day to spend on Machu Picchu.
Lots of people like this short trail. Certainly there are some advantages. First thing is that you don't have walk too long (In regular 4 days trek you have to walk 45 km). Another thing is time. Not every people can spend that many days for the hiking. If you have shortage of time, but you are interested to get the test of the Inca Trail, then two days trail is a good one for you.
Most of the trekking operators start at KM 104. KM 104 means the location which is 104 km away from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Distance between Cusco and Machu Picchu is 112 so you see, only 8 km left. But you will not go along the same trek as train. So it will be littlie more than 8 km. First day you will be picked up from the hotel. They will arrange car or bus or train and take you to km 104. From this point you will start your trekking. At evening you will reach Winay Wayna. Afterwards you will trek up to Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night. Next morning you will start for Machu Picchu. After touring Machu Picchu you will take lunch at Aguas Calientes and come back by train to Cusco that evening.
Inca Trail Sketch Map
Do you want to have a clear idea of the trails ? I know it is confusing with all different places merging to Machu Picchu. You may visit my page on the sketch of the treks where I try to draw (!) something myself. the sketch is not very good one, but you get the idea of the route.
How costly this trail is !
Different tour operators offer different rates. Generally a moderate tour with maximum 16 persons should not be charged more than $ 300.00. There are some operators who are really cheap, if you susceptible to all conditions, you can make a tour with as low as $ 225.00. Of course there are some deluxe tours, where they will charge you even more than $ 500.00/ 600.00.Students will get 30.00$ discount, but they must carry the ISIC (International Student Identity Card) ( you may check the website of ISIC at http:/ www.isic.org) with them, otherwise will not get permission to enter the trail.