How to Choose Between the Hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain
Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are short hikes that begin inside Machu Picchu National Park. We offer a description and comparison of the two hikes.
Tickets are required and hikers must sign in and out at the checkpoints. There are separate checkpoints for each hike. Tickets for Huayna Picchu hike are the most popular and always sell out in advance. Sometimes several months in advance during the busy season. (Easter to October) Some people buy tickets to Machu Picchu Mountain as a fallback if Huayna Picchu tickets are sold out.
People who are fearful of heights, drop-offs, ledges and steep stone ladders should not do either hike. If you're not sure, you can buy the tickets in advance and decide when you get there. It's not possible to get a refund or transfer your ticket to anyone else. If you don't hike, you spot will go empty. You can't buy your ticket to Machu Picchu and then decide later to buy the ticket to the hike. Tickets for the hikes cannot be "added" to the tickets to Machu Picchu. You can only buy them combined with entry tickets to Machu Picchu. Tickets for Machu Picchu with or without either hike can be purchased on the official Peruvian government website:
Here's what you need to know about the trails, elevations and difficulty of each hike.
- is the little mountain you see behind the ruins in all the classic shots of Machu Picchu
- there are 2 hikes per day. enter from 7 - 8 am and 10 - 11 am with a limit of 200 people in each time slot.
- there can be a waiting line to sign in but there is a 1 hour window for sign in.
- the elevation gain is about 1000 ft to the summit and can be reached in 30 minutes or less if you are very fit and acclimatized
- the trail begins with short descent through small trees and cloud forest plants then opens up to steep stone steps that descend into a little saddle
- from there the trail ascends with occasional steps and eventually a bird's eye view of Machu Picchu if the weather conditions are clear
- as you get closer to the summit the steps become narrow, very steep and it's necessary to use ropes installed into the granite walls to pull yourself up
- just before the summit, there are very steep stone ladders that may require the use of hands and feet to ascend
- the summit is not flat and you must maneuver around huge granite boulders to get across the top
- there is a short 1 way loop at the top that includes a walk through a short cave, then reunites with the original path for the descent back to checkpoint
- the average time for roundtrip hike is about 1.5 hours, up to 2 hours
Tips for hiking Huayna Picchu:
- avoid having anything dangling and swinging on your shoulders, waist or neck, as this is most likely to cause you to get snagged or lose your balance.
- keep your hands free and if you hike with a trekking pole there are really steep sections where it's best to stash the pole out of the way
Machu Picchu Mountain:
- located between Huayna Picchu and Sungate, but closest to the Sungate. Sungate and MP Mountain are both opposite to Huayna Picchu.
- there are 2 times for entry per day: 7 - 8 am and 9 - 10 am with a limit of 400 people during each time slot
- there is usually not a waiting line to enter, but when Huayna Picchu sells out during the busy season, this hike becomes more popular
- the trail is a steep climb straight up the mountain on uneven stone steps with a few sections of rustic stone paths like a creek bed. The majority of the trail, maybe 90%, is uneven, steep, stone steps.
- elevation gain is over 2000 ft, which is twice as high as Huayna Picchu. Although there are no sections where you need to hold on to ropes or chains, this hike is more difficult than Huayna Picchu because there are no breaks in the ascent and because the majority of the hike is on steps.
- views of Machu Picchu don't become visible until about 15 minutes into the hike, you will come to the first landing. Otherwise the lower part of the hike is shrouded in foilage. The higher you get the more frequently you will see Machu Picchu, but it's not until you get near the summit that you can expect sustained views of the citadel below.
- you hike the same path up and down
- on average the hike takes up to 1.5 -2 hours to the summit. The descent takes 45 minutes to an hour and requires concentration to avoid falling.
- the summit is completely flat, with 360 surround view including Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and the jungle on the backside of the ruins. It can be very windy on top.
Tips for hiking Machu Picchu Mountain:
- use a trekking pole. The risk of falling is high.
- bring additional water and a little food
- lighten your load and don't carry a backpack if possible
The decision to do one of these hikes may depend on the amount of time you have to spend in Machu Picchu. I don't recommend that you do these hikes at the expense of spending time up close and inside the citadel. If you have 2 days in Machu Picchu, then adding this hike can enhance your overall experience. Or if you are not able to hike the Inca Trail, these hikes can be a good faster option.