A Guide to Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña)
Machu Picchu Mountain is the most spectacular yet one of the most overlooked optional treks available at Machu Picchu. Located to the south-west of Machu Picchu citadel and towering 3,050 meters (10,007 feet) above sea level, the mountain trek offers unparalleled views of the famous Inca sanctuary and panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountain scenery. At its summit Inca priests once performed rituals on special dates as well as liturgical greetings to the Salkantay Apu.
Booking a tour including Machu Picchu Mountain
To trek Machu Picchu Mountain one has to be in Machu Picchu with a distinct combination ticket for both Machu Picchu itself and Machu Picchu Mountain, we will elaborate more in the content below. However should you wish to look for options for tours to Machu Picchu straight away have a look on this page on FindLocalTrips.com
Finding the Trail Head
From the main entrance of Machu Picchu follow the upper-trail heading in the direction of the Guardhouse. Small and newly erected wooden signs signal the start of the trail head, which is also the same path that leads to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). A couple of minutes from the Guardhouse, you need to turn right and follow the path which climbs up through the agricultural terracing. Following the trail for another 15 minutes you will arrive at the wardens hut, where you need to sign in showing your passport and entrance ticket. From the entrance of Machu Picchu to the wardens hut takes approximately 30 minutes.
Unlike Huayna Picchu or Putucusi Mountain treks, the Machu Picchu Mountain trek is wide and well-marked. After the wardens hut, the trail follows a fairly even ascent of about 30 – 35 degrees in angle for about 1 hour. Gradually and steadily gaining altitude, the views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains become ever-more impressive. There are several views and rest points along the way. As the trail gets closer to the base of Machu Picchu Mountain, the steps become steeper, narrower and more challenging. Winding on for another 30 minutes or so, the trail passes through a stone gateway, before following a narrow mountain ridge to the summit. A small round hut provides shelter and seating, whilst the view point (a few more yards on) offers awe-inspiring views of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Putucusi Mountains. The decent follows the same route, but takes about 20 – 30 minutes less.
The Machu Picchu Mountain trek is considered to be a moderate to challenging trek. Following an original stone Inca Trail and continuously ascending to the summit, a good level of fitness is required. During the wet season, the trail can become more slippery making it more challenging to traverse. It is not for people with a fear of heights. In places the trail is very steep and often follows the mountain edge with sheer drop offs.
Difficulty: moderate to challenging
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Time needed: ascent – 1h30 minutes accent, descent – 1 hour, 30 minutes at the summit.
Altitude of summit: 3,082 meters (10,111 feet) above sea level.
Height to climb from Machu Picchu: 652 meters (2,139 feet).
Terrain: Inca Trail stone path steps and in places grass/dirt.
Recommended footwear: Training shoes, light weight walking boots.
Entrance time: 7 – 11am.
Trail head: In the south-west of Machu Picchu citadel.
Tickets: Limited to 400 per day, tickets need to be purchased as a combination ticket with general entrance to Machu Picchu.
Sigh post to the trail head Gentle start to the trek Warden’s hut name regisry
Trail, first 30 minutes after the guard house View from half way up More challenging part of the trail (last 30 minutes).
Stone gateway, 20 minutes from the summit View from the top Hut at the summit
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Best Time to Trek
Machu Picchu Mountain is accessible all year round. During the wet season (November – April) there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall and the trail can become slippery and more challenging to traverse. The region has a sub-tropical feel throughout the year, with average daily temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F). During the dry season the humidity is around 40 – 45%, rising to 60 – 65% during the wet season. Entrance to the trek is permitted anytime from 7 – 11 am daily. Early morning trekking offers cooler temperatures and better shade from the sun. There are a litany of operators in Cusco offering every standard of trek to Machu Picchu however the quality and consistency of the offerings are regrettable. FindLocalTrips.com has some quality operators at competitive prices, you can view the options and different itineraries here.
The weather in this region of Peru can often be un-predictable any time of the year, so you must be prepared with clothing for rain and sun. The trail is mainly stone steps so comfortable lightweight training or hiking shoes are recommended. A light weight rain coat or poncho and sun protection is advised. If you want to read a bit more about the weather in other regions of Peru, just click here.
- 1 to 1.5 litres of water (2 – 3 personal bottles).
- Sun hat, sun glasses & sun block.
- Walking stick with rubber tip (if required).
- Strong insect repellent.
- Light weight rain coat or poncho.
- Small snacks.
- A change of t-shirt for the top.
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Coping with Altitude Sickness
For the bulk of travellers, principally those who acclimatize slowly, the consequence of being at a high altitude will be some shortness of breath and a slight headache. However, should any of these conditions worsen or fail to improve after several hours, it can be an extremely severe even life-threatening issue that must be responded to immediately.
It is important to plan ahead to make sure your health is taken care of every step of your trip.
The suggested approach to acclimatization is to ascend bit by bit passing at least 24 hours at every 2000ft. advance in altitude. It is essential to create time to acclimatize in your itinerary while on your trip to Cusco and on to Machu Picchu. If journeying from Cusco to Lima, we strongly suggest following Peru Hop‘s route down along the coast and up to Cusco from the wonderful city of Arequipa. This route ascends gradually giving you some important acclimatisation time to adjust to the thinner air and help prevent any issues when visiting the UNESCO heritage site. Travelling on a bus is ideal as the slower ascent helps as opposed to immediately flying to a high altitude from sea level.
As you reach increased altitudes remember these easy steps:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol.
- Eat small meals
- Restrict exercise (initially)
Plan smart and don’t let your dream trip turn into a nightmare by having to fight altitude sickness.
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Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible
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A Guide To The Huayna Picchu Hike
The Inca Trail is a historic hiking trail in Peru that ends at one of the country’s most important ancient Incan sites, Machu Picchu. This site is about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Cusco and Huayna Picchu Mountain (which is also referred to as Wayna Picchu) is the peak that towers above it. The Huayna Picchu hike (also referred to as Wayna Picchu hike) offers one of the most impressive views over Machu Picchu and as such is one of the most exhilarating in Peru.
The word Huayna is a Quechua word meaning “young” while Picchu means “mountain”. While the name translates to Young Mountain in English, the ruins of Huayna Picchu are certainly not young because they date back to the 1400s.
While Machu Picchu gets all the attention, Huayna Picchu is just as popular. Perhaps it’s because of the views, or the need for a heart-pounding adventure, or the desire to keep going beyond the Inca Trail’s official end. Whatever the reason, many people climb Huayna Picchu each year. Scenery, wildflowers, temples, ancient ruins, and the chance to walk along the same path as the Incas make this trail a must-do.
If you are looking for information about the Huayna Picchu trek you are in the right place. I did this hike myself and loved it, and I am about to share everything you need to know to best prepare for it.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Do The Huayna Picchu Hike
To say that Huayna Picchu is spectacular is an understatement. Many visitors prefer it to Machu Picchu, while many say you can’t see one without seeing the other. Either way, if you choose to do this amazing hike, you might be left exhausted but you won’t be left disappointed!
When it comes to world heritage sites, Huayna Picchu is among the most important. When climbing a mountain, the ultimate goal is reaching the top to experience the views. And yes, the views from the top of this mountain are amazing and will take your breath away (that, and the altitude).
However, it’s the adventure of the climb that makes this hike so popular – ups and downs and turns and crawl spaces and ledges looking over a seemingly bottomless ravine. On your way to the top, you’ll also see pretty wildflowers, The Great Cavern, and Incan ruins, including an astronomical observatory and The Temple of the Moon.
At the top, you’ll see Machu Picchu from a whole new angle and the views are out of this world!
Technical Aspects Of The Wayna Picchu Hike
Overall distance and duration of the Wayna Picchu hike
Huayna Picchu is a loop trail that’s about five kilometers long (3.1 miles) and the average time it takes to complete the trail is around four hours there and back, and with plenty of stops. The trail starts with an altitude of 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) and ends at 2,720 meters (8,920 feet) above sea level.
Huayna Picchu tickets
You need to get Huayna Picchu tickets in advance if you wish to do the Huayna Picchu Hike or you won’t be allowed on the trail. The reason for this is to limit the number of people starting the hike at the same time without having to turn people away.
Only 200 people are allowed on the trail every day and visitors are grouped into four time slots with 50 people in each one. All time slots are in the morning at either 7:00, 8.00, 9:00, or 10:00 am
You’ll need to present your registration at a checkpoint and walk along a trail for about ten minutes before reaching the Huayna Picchu Trail.
Huayna Picchu tickets are 200 Peruvian Soles for foreigners (that’s around $39 USD). Huayna Picchu tickets can be purchased on the official website of Machu Picchu here. The site is actually only in Spanish, but it’s quite self explanatory so you shouldn’t have issues making your reservations.
These combined tickets to Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu are also available to book on Viator. For more information, click here.
How difficult is the Huayna Picchu Hike?
There’s no question that the Huayna Picchu Hike is difficult. But how challenging you’ll find it depends on a number of factors.
For avid hikers who are used to hiking on rough, steep terrain, and who are physically healthy and in good shape, the hike isn’t so bad. For visitors who don’t hike often and are not in tip-top shape, the hike will be more challenging, but doable. The only people who shouldn’t attempt this hike are people who are afraid of heights, are prone to vertigo, or have a heart condition that puts them at higher risk for severe altitude sickness.
The hike itself is classified as moderate and involves a lot of steep inclines and declines. Much of the trail is quite narrow but there are steel cables in some places to help you navigate particularly difficult areas.
Two sections of the trail are the most difficult. The first area of concern is the narrow tunnel you have to go through. It’s a small space that may require you to crawl on your hands and knees for a short time. The other is the section known as the Death Stairs. These stairs are quite steep and there’s no railing. It’s harder going down these steps than going up!
The best way to navigate the difficulties is to take your time, stop when you need to and let other hikers pass you so there’s no pressure for you to press on at their pace.
Is the Huayna Picchu Hike dangerous?
Most visitors do this hike without any difficulties. I didn’t find it particularly challenging – or perhaps, I was just very motivated.
However, upon seeing Huayna Picchu Mountain and how steep it is, you’ll likely wonder if it’s even safe to do this hike. The answer is yes, it’s safe, but you need to be cautious and aware of the dangers that are present to prevent any accidents.
There have been several incidents involving falls over the years but most of these incidents involved hikers crossing the safety markings – which you should never do.
The trail itself runs along steep ravines that drop hundreds of meters with not much between you and the edge. That being said, if you take your time and stay within the safety markings, you’ll be fine. Taking selfies on the edge of the ravine isn’t recommended!
The other danger is slippery rocks. While much of the trail can be slippery very early in the morning and after heavy rains, it’s important to note that shady areas or places underneath outcroppings may remain damp for some time after the sun comes out.
If you start to feel sick while hiking, take note that the signs of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. If you experience these symptoms, don’t press on and seek help from one of the guides that are present along the trail.
Despite the dangers, the things that are most likely to cause you any harm are dehydration and sunstroke. Make sure to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat while on the trail.
When is the best time to hike Huayna Picchu?
Generally, the best time of year to do the Huayna Picchu hike is before or after the rainy season (which is January to April). June, July and August are the driest months, but this is also when the area will be most crowded. The weather also tends to be nice enough to hike in September, October, and November.
It has been said that May and October are the two best months to hike if you want the best weather and smallest crowds.
Late morning is the best time to hike for weather conditions, but if you want to be the first one on the mountain to get some nice pictures without the crowds, it’s best to try to book your hike for the first time slot of the day. However, many photographers claim that the early afternoon offers the best photo ops. So if time allows, it might be worth it to stick around on the mountain until the sun is high in the sky if you’re after some amazing shots of the area.
What should you wear for the Wayna Picchu hike?
As the hike is difficult and the weather is unpredictable, the most important thing you can do to ensure your comfort and safety on this hike is to dress appropriately.
First of all, hiking boots are necessary for the terrain. Make sure you wear socks that fit properly as there’s nothing worse than trying to climb the side of a mountain while your socks are slipping into your boots!
Temperatures vary in this area throughout the day and at various elevations. It can be cool on the mountain, especially early in the morning. However, once you start hiking, it won’t feel so cool. Dress in layers so you can add and remove items as needed.
Comfortable hiking pants or shorts are best to wear and because rain showers are common, having a light poncho will keep you dry. You should consider taking a hat with you because that mid-day sun gets very hot! Sunglasses are a good idea too.
What should you pack?
The most important thing to have with you while you do this hike is a small backpack. It shouldn’t be too big or heavy. Just big enough to hold the most important items you’ll need throughout the hike.
In your pack, you should have some healthy snacks, plenty of water, your cell phone and a camera. I can’t stress enough how important it is to wear sunscreen and to have extra to reapply mid-hike. That sun gets hot and it doesn’t take long to get a painful and dangerous sunburn in those conditions. Insect repellent is another important item to take along as there are mosquitoes that carry diseases such as zika and yellow fever.
Machu Picchu: Additional Hikes
There a several additional hikes available at Machu Picchu, some which are free and some which require an entrance ticket. Due to the mountain terrain of Machu Picchu all of the treks are moderate to challenging, with the exception of the Inca Bridge trek which is fairly short and level. The Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain treks are both limited to 400 people per day and require an advanced ticket to enter.
A popular trek that takes you to the view point and summit of Huayna Picchu Mountain. The rarely hiked lower trail also takes you to the Moon Temple […read more]
Machu Picchu Mountain
A trek that offers spectacular panoramic views of Machu Picchu & surrounding mountains. Inca priests once performed rituals & liturgical greetings at its summit […read more]
Sun Gate (Inti Punku)
A fairly gradual trail that takes you to the Sun Gate located high above Machu Picchu. The place where the famous Inca Trail arrives at Machu Picchu […read more]
Following one of the 7 original access trails to Machu Picchu, the Inca Bridge trek is an easy 15 minute trail that offers views of the mountains behind Machu Picchu […read more]
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Information on how to trek form the town of Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu or vice versa. Directions to the trail head and info on the trek itself […read more]
A much lesser known and free trek to the summit of Putucusi Mountain. A challenging trail that includes steep wooden ladders and views of Machu Picchu […read more]
To book a tour to Machu Picchu we recommend you use FindLocalTrips.com a search and comparison website for tours and treks across South America.
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