Huayna Picchu is the landmark peak at Machu Picchu from which the classic, shot-from-above postcard photos are typically taken. While the views are spectacular, of course, the trail is not easy, studded with precarious, sometimes uneven stone steps, and often directly flanked by sheer drop-offs (thus probably out of the question for anyone with a fear of heights). While most hike to the top and back, you can also go up and around to the other side, with a visit to the Temple of the Moon/Great Cavern along the way. Admittance to Huayna Picchu is limited and sells out two or three months in advance; pay for your entrance as part of your Machu Picchu admission.
Hike Huayna Picchu
Huayna Picchu, or “the Young Peak,” is the large mountain that sits right behind Machu Picchu. It has a steep peak, but is a very popular hike for visitors to Machu Picchu. In several sections of the trail, there are stone steps and steel cables to help you climb. The entire loop to the top and back down takes about one to two hours depending on your physical activity level. However, we were told the record for climbing Huayna Picchu was 14 minutes. Once you reach the peak, enjoy the incredible views of Machu Picchu-even better than from the Sun Gate, as you’re much closer. If you’re daring, you can get some pretty cool photos sitting on the edge of the cliff.
Climbing Huayna Picchu
While most people head to Machu Picchu to wander around the famous ruins, it’s well worth a trip up the mountain. Climbing Huayna Picchu is an incredible experience, and while the hike is tough the views are second to none. This is truly where to get the best-and unobstructed-views of Machu Picchu!
Climbing Huayna Picchu
It’s all uphill. 2,100 steps, give or take a few. With lungs clamoring for air, it’s hard to remember to count. Downhill isn’t any easier. After your legs propel you up the narrow, stone steps, mercifully on the shady side of the mountain, they pull a second shift supporting your weight on the equally steep downhill trek. The last 300 or so steps towards the entrance gate are uphill, again. I’m describing the 1,000’ elevation gain hike to the top of Huayna Picchu (El 8,835’) overlooking Machu Picchu. Trudging the half mile back to the bus loading zone adjacent the Sanctuary Lodge, my weary knees complain, my leg muscles beg for mercy. A feeling of relief comes over me as we motor down the switchback to Aguas Calientes. “Adventure fulfilled”, I write in my diary. Not quite yet, however. I discover there is another uphill walk, several hundred steps, to the PeruRail station. “Will it ever end?”, I mutter under my breath. Salvation arrives as the train pulls in. I thankfully slip into my seat for the three hour return trip to Cusco, and a deep night’s sleep. Oh, yes, the view? Out of this world, and worth all your effort. Only a few of the thousands of people who visit the Inca citadel annually make the climb. Don’t miss doing it.
Bird's Eye View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
If Machu Picchu is not on your bucket list, you need to add it! It is one of the most spectacular and magical places that I have visited. Thus, there are thousands of eager tourists buzzing over the grounds. Although you can avoid the crowds by going for the sunrise or late afternoon, it is still a very busy place. My suggestion is to sign up for the 400 person a day hike of Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain that you see behind all of the Machu Picchu landscape shots. It is a route that takes about 1+hr up and 1hr down through various ups and not many downs with countless stairs. Finally, you reach the top terrace where there are amazing overlooks of Machu Picchu below as well as an “Indiana Jones” obstacle course of caves to crawl, ladders to climb, and boulders to shimmy across. Tips: bring lots of water and snacks. Also, be prepared, there are no bathrooms. There are only two times to hike 7 am and 10 am. Afterwards, continue to the Sun Gate for another perspective of the site.
Hiking Huayna Picchu
The most sought-after ticket for Machu Picchu is the add-on to hike Huayna Picchu mountain, the charismatic backdrop to nearly every photograph of the ruins. Only 400 hikers are allowed per day and tickets may sell out months in advance. The hike takes you away from the main ruin complex toward the north and up to the very summit of the “Young Peak”. A ruin complex sits at the apex and excellent photographs of the Machu Picchu ruins are there for the taking. Hikers are only allowed in at either 7:00 or 10:00 am, so you end up hiking as a group. There is a nice community spirit with everyone encouraging each other through the huffing and puffing of hiking up at altitude. Buy your tickets early and make this 3-4 hour hike part of your Machu Picchu visit.
How to book the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Ticket
Visit the website of the Ministerio de Cultura - Peru, there you can find the spots available for the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain. There you will find the option “Lugar a visitar” (Site to visit), choose the Machu Picchu citadel. then on “seleccione la ruta”, Choose the Machu Picchu citadel, Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu. If you would like do only Machu Picchu, I recommend to book the first time, between 6:00 to 12:00, because, you can walk up early morning and you can see the sun rise. In case you want to do the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, I recommend to book the second time, because you can enter to Machu Picchu at 06:00 you can see the sunrise and after you can climb up the mountains. Please note that your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu/Machu Picchu Mountain always displays your name and passport details so it is NOT TRANSFERABLE to another person and NOT REFUNDABLE either. Last minute bookings of this trek will possibly miss out on permits in high season so please book and pay in advance.
Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain
Only 3,000 people are allowed to enter Machu Picchu each day. The government website lists how many tickets are available for each day. Also, if you would like to climb the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, you must book the ticket in advance and there is an additional fee to hike to the mountains. There is a limit of only 400 permits for climbing Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain and only 200 people are permitted to enter for each of the 2 sessions scheduled for 7am and 10 am. The guide will organise the tour of Machu Picchu to climb to the mountains depending on how many in the group have permits. Huayna Picchu Mountain Altitude: 2400 m / 7874 ft Walking: 1 hr 45 min (up or down) View from Huayna Picchu: Machu Picchu citadel and Vilcanota River and Putucusi Mountain. Machu Picchu Mountain Altitude: 3200 m / 10499 ft Walking: 3 hrs (up and down) View from Machu Picchu Mountain: Machu Picchu Citadel, Vilcanota River, Salkantay Mountain, Llactapata ruins (with binoculares), Putucusi Mountain, Santa Teresa town, Hydroelectric, a part of the Inca Trail and Inti Punko (Sun door).
Life On The Edge
Climbing to the summit of Huyana Pichu was exhausting and exhilarating. Especially the so-called “Stairs of Death” where one tiny rock separates you from a heck of a drop!