Martin McGuiness called it a “huge risk for peace”, though it is not clear whether the handshake will be taking place in public and private. The meeting is taking place after Sinn Fein refused the chance on the Queen historic visit last year.
The former IRA head added that "this is a chance to move Northern Ireland a whole step forward.”
Her Majesty will be visiting Belfast and County Fermanagh, and will begin the trip today with a thanksgiving service in Enniskillen, the scene of one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles when an IRA bomb killed 11 people on Remembrance Sunday in 1987.
She will be meeting McGuiness in Belfast tomorrow at an arts festival.
Despite the fact that this is seen as a step forward, protests from sections of the public in Northern Ireland are still expected at times. The Queen will also meet Ireland's head of state President Michael D Higgins and Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Mr McGuiness said of the visit, "It's another bit of history. It's about recognising, in terms of my own community where I come from, that there have been many people who have been badly hurt as a result of state violence.
"But it's also recognising that others have lost too - the British soldiers who were sent here by politicians have also lost their lives, members of the RUC, the UDR, the Queen herself lost someone who was a member of her family (Lord Mountbatten).”