Are you visiting the famous Inca citadel soon and looking for a cool hike and seeing the ruins from a different angle? Try the Machu Picchu Mountain hike! Most people don’t realize that Machu Picchu is actually the name of the mountain the citadel was built on.
I don’t know about you, but when I see mountains, the first thing that comes to my mind is how cool it would be to climb it – you can call that an obsession! If you are anything like me, know that there is a path that leads you all the way to the top of the Machu Picchu Mountain.
That’s a great opportunity to get a closer look at the cloud forest environment that surrounds Machu Picchu.
I have been three times to Machu Picchu and I have climbed the Huayna Picchu Mountain twice, the Machu Picchu Mountain, and the Putukusi Mountain, all three surrounding the Inca ruins. This page will be all about my experience climbing the Machu Picchu Mountain.
I didn’t have much luck with the weather. I started the hike with the ruins engulfed in the mist, and on the way up I couldn’t enjoy the view for more than a few seconds, and at the top only the inside of the clouds was to be seen.
Fortunately, on the way down I had pretty nice weather windows enabling me to enjoy an unforgettable panorama to the ruins of Machu Picchu from above… only to be welcomed by the rain when I got back at the ruins.
Nonetheless, the hike is one of my best memories at Machu Picchu and regardless of the weather, I definitely recommend it if you are a hiking enthusiast. After all, in the cloud forest, clouds are part of the game!
GPS: Start of the trail 13°9’59.7″S, 72°32’38.9″W | Top 13°10’28.6″S, 72°32’30.3″W
Entrance: 200 soles (62 USD) for Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain
Duration of the hike: 2 hours up, 1.30 hour down
Best season: May to September
Official link: MacchuPicchu.gob.pe
Hotel recommendation: Hostal Cusy Qoyllor, Aguas Calientes.
What to Expect for the Machu Picchu Mountain Hike
So you are tempted to climb this mountain, that’s great! But what can you expect exactly? What will it look like? I will try answering this question the best I can.
What to expect, you ask? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is… steps! Lots of steps. Unequal, uneven, endless rocky steps. If you have already played with the virtual tour at the top of this page, you have probably already noticed that. Inca trails are quite famous to be made of crazy stairways and this one is not exception.
Another thing I want to point out that is maybe a little more important, is the presence of drop-offs. In some parts (more towards the upper part of the mountain), the narrow trail was built directly on the steep slope of the mountain, and there is nothing to prevent you from falling deep into the valley. If you are really afraid of heights, I suggest skipping this hike.
Since this trail is less popular (see next section), you can expect to have plenty of space and avoid the crowd. The views from the Machu Picchu Mountain are truly unrivaled. The citadel and the Huayna Picchu mountain that we see on all the pictures look dwarf from the Machu Picchu Mountain. The view is very extended and you can really appreciate what the whole area looks like.
Well before you reach the top, you are already rewarded by such views and it definitely encourages you to keep going even when you get tired of stairs!
If you are a nature and wildlife enthusiast, this trail is great to get in contact with the lush flora of the Peruvian cloud forest with large amounts of flowers, ferns and bromeliads. It is common to see beautiful orchids in bloom, making a great foreground for your pictures.
Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu?
This question is often asked by first-time vitors to Machu Picchu and as I personally climbed both mountains, I will list here some key differences between the two mountains.
The first key difference is the difference of popularity between the two mountains. There is a quota of 400 persons per day allowed for Huayna Picchu, and 800 for the Machu Picchu Mountain. There are specific time slots to start the hike. For the Machu Picchu Mountain you can start the hike between 7 and 8 am (Group 1) or between 9 and 10 am (Group 2). For the Huayna Picchu Mountain, it can be 7 to 8 am (Group 1) or 10 to 11 am (Group 2).
The iconic Huayna Picchu, towering above the ruins, is way more popular. As a result, the Huayna Picchu hike is often quite crowded and can be fully booked weeks in advance during the high season. Basically, it means that for any time slot, you will need to queue to start your hike with up to 200 persons. On the contrary, the Machu Picchu Mountain hike is much less famous, much less crowded and is rarely full.
As for the hike itself, the experience is also a little different. The Machu Picchu Mountain hike lasts around 3 hours, which is longer than the Huayna Picchu hike, that can be done in about 2 hours. Climbing the Machu Picchu mountain is a longer effort, with less steep parts than on the Huayna Picchu but longer set of stairs. From the ruins of Machu Picchu, the elevation gain to the top of the Machu Picchu Mountain is twice the one to the Huayna Picchu. Both trails have some serious drop-offs on the side.
Since the Machu Picchu Mountain hike is longer, it also means less time to explore the ruins, so it is important to manage your time well to avoid frustrations.
Now let’s talk about the view! Both mountains offer fabulous views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains covered with untouched cloud forest. However, the angle is totally different from a mountain to another and it’s difficult to tell which one is the best. For the view of the citadel, I personally prefer the view from the Machu Picchu Mountain because this mountain is well higher than the surrounding landscape. As a result, you get a really beautiful bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu, nested in the mountains, with the loop of the Urubamba River around.
We are now reaching the end of this article, I hope it was useful to you if you are preparing a trip to Machu Picchu. Even though the weather was not very cooperative, I did my best to create a cool virtual tour and explain how it’s like to climb the Machu Picchu Mountain, so you know what to expect and prepare yourself better.
Don’t hesitate to write any question or comment you have in the comments section below!