Huayna Picchu Hike: The Most Popular Hike at Machu Picchu
We have all seen these classic pictures of Machu Picchu, with the ruins and an elegant mountain in the background. This mountain is Huayna Picchu, “Young Peak” in Quechua, the language of the Incas. Who wouldn’t want to discover the view from up there, at 2720 m above sea level? I know I would, and did! And I am not alone, the Huayna Picchu hike is the most popular hike in Machu Picchu, apart from the ruins themselves.
Since climbing such a steep mountain can look pretty challenging, I have made this page to show you what everything looks like and give some advice from my own experience climbing the Huayna Picchu twice.
Unlike for my Machu Picchu Mountain hike, I had a glorious weather to climb the Huayna Picchu and could enjoy a perfectly clear view to the citadel and surrounding mountains, as you can see in the virtual tour above.
GPS: Start of the trail 13°9’41.77″S, 72°32’44.98″W | Top 13°9’21.90″S, 72°32’41.96″W
Entrance: 200 soles (62 USD) for Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu Mountain
Duration of the hike: About 2 hours
Best season: May to September
Official link: MacchuPicchu.gob.pe
Hotel recommendation: Hostal Cusy Qoyllor, Aguas Calientes.
What To Expect For The Huayna Picchu Hike?
Starting next to the Sacred Rock, the trail is at first quite easy to follow, until you reach the actual mountain, where things get much steeper! The same path is used for both going up and going down, except at the top of the mountain where it makes a loop.
Climbing the Huayna Picchu mountain can be quite challenging depending on how fit you are.
It is a rather short hike (it can be done in about 2 hours or a little more), but large parts of the trail is made of long stone stairways, with stairs varying a lot in size which is very tiring. In some parts, and particularly nearer to the top, the narrow stairs get really steep, so steep that most people use their hands to climb.
In addition to being steep, the trail and viewpoints are sometimes very exposed with big drop-offs. Most of the time, there is no protection preventing you from falling in the precipice. If you are afraid of heights, you might want to reconsider doing this hike!
Now that I have evacuated all the warning stuff, let’s talk more about the experience itself. Climbing the Huayna Picchu offers really fabulous views. You are totally immersed in the cloud forest environment. The views to the deep gorge of the Urubamba River, the Putukusi Mountain, the jungle-covered mountains all around, are spectacular.
A large part of the path is zigzagging up the mountain cliff, in the forest, with holes in the vegetation enabling you to spot the Machu Picchu citadel from above, with a totally new angle.
Nearer to the top, the Incas had built some terraces and houses, like privileged balconies to an exceptional scenery. The top of the mountain is made of large boulders that visitors have fun climbing.
From the top, starting to go down and before getting back on the main path, you will come across a couple of terraced viewpoints. I can tell you that the view from these viewpoints alone is worth the effort of climbing the mountain! It is definitely a highlight not only of your day at Machu Picchu, but of your whole trip in Peru.
How It is Organised: Group 1 or Group 2?
You can’t just show up anytime and climb the mountain just like you are visiting the ruins.
First of all, you need to buy a specific ticket the includes Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. At the time of my visit, this ticket cost 200 soles from the official website.
Secondly, there are only 400 persons allowed on the Huayna Picchu trail everyday, divided on two groups of 200 persons. Group 1 can start the hike between 7 and 8 am, and Group 2 can start between 10 and 11 am. So what group to choose?
Each group has its advantages and disadvantages, but my preference goes to Group 2. The first reason is the weather. On misty days, the earlier the more mist and on the later group you have higher chances to get clearer skies and enjoy a beautiful panorama.
A second reason is about the crowd. The Huayna Picchu is a very popular mountain and 200 persons is a lot. If you climb the mountain early with the first group, take your time at the top, there is a high chance to run into the Group 2 crowd going up while you are walking back down. You will need to share the same narrow path and it can quickly become annoying, and not great for your pictures either.
Of course, if you are climbing with the Group 2 you can also come across the Group 1 going down while you are going up, but then you will not have a big crowd at the top and when going down. The best is even to let the early Group 2 go ahead first and go at about 10.30, that’s what I did. But be careful, if you are late you will be denied entry!
Book your ticket early. As I said, the Huayna Picchu hike is very popular and in the high season, the 400 daily tickets can be sold out weeks or even months in advance. As soon as you know what day you will be at Machu Picchu, don’t hesitate to book.
Alternatives To The Huayna Picchu Hike
If the 400 tickets have already been sold or if you feel like doing something less popular and crowded, let’s look at some alternatives to the Huayna Picchu hike.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many mountains you can climb around Machu Picchu. When I visited Machu Picchu 10 years ago, I could climb the Putukusi mountain and enjoy the view to the Machu Picchu ruins from yet another angle. But as far as I know, the path and huge wooden ladders on the cliffs have been totally neglected and are now totally unsafe to climb.
Your best option outside of the Huayna Picchu is to climb the Machu Picchu mountain. The hike is a longer and the mountain is higher than Huayna Picchu, but the views are equally spectacular. The price is the same, but it is much less crowded.
By now you should have a good idea of what it takes to climb the Huayna Picchu! I hope this article will be valuable to you whether you are preparing your trip to Peru or just wanderlusting from your computer.
As usual, don’t hesitate to write to me for any comment or advice, using the comments section below.