Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain: Which Hike to Choose?

When visiting the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, you are also given the opportunity to explore some other sites with in the UNESCO world heritage site.

The two extensions you can add on to your day exploring Machu Picchu are hikes up to two different viewpoints - Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Many people ask which is better Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain? Below we describe some of the main differences between the two hiking options and details on each.

Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain sit on opposite sides of the main ruins of Machu Picchu. Getting to the top of either of these mountains gives the traveler 360 degree panoramic views of the region and surrounding landscape, both starting at the Machu Picchu citadel which lies at approx 2,430 meters (7,972 ft). Machu Picchu Mountain is the highest point in the ares sitting at 3,082 meters (10,111 ft).

Differences between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain:

Machu Picchu Mountain Hike:

The Montaña Machu Picchu is the highest mountain in the area at 3082 meters (10,111 ft.) This 2.4-mile (3.8 km) round trip hike from the Machu Picchu ruins is considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 3 hours to complete. This trail is great for seeing wildlife, birds, flowers, the local llamas, and if you a lucky the native sun bear! The best times to visit this trail are April through October. Note that dogs aren't allowed on this trail.

Km/Miles: 2.4 miles (3.8 km)

Elevation Gain: 1,801 ft (548m)

Estimated Time: 3-3.5 Hours

Huayna Picchu Mountain Hike:

This is a 3.1 mile (5 km) out and back hike from the Machu Picchu citadel site. It is a moderately challenging route with a steep ascent to the top, with a mix of Incan staircase and dirt trails with cables in most of the spots where you need them, taking approximately 2-3 hours to complete. The best times to visit this trail are April through October. Note that dogs aren't allowed on this trail.

Km/Miles: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Elevation Gain: 1,469 ft (447m)

Estimated Time: 2-3 Hours

Huayna Picchu Mountain:

Huayna Picchu, also known as Wayna Picchu, stands tall and proud at the northern end of the Machu Picchu ruins. Revered for its narrow and steep trails, the hike to Huayna Picchu is not for the faint of heart. It offers an adrenaline-pumping adventure, where every step counts. The trail ascends through dense vegetation, ancient staircases, and narrow stone paths, adding an element of mystery and thrill to the journey.

This is an ascending and very steep 2-3 hour round trip hike, from which you will enjoy an amazing panoramic side view of Machu Picchu. We do not recommend it for people who have vertigo or have knee problems as there are many stairs. There are four timeframes with a limit of 50 people each: the first one is starting at 7am, the second one at 8am, the third one at 9am and the last one at 10am. We recommend that you go to the entrance door 15-30min before your entrance time to be the first ones in line. This is a very popular hike, and therefore it is always very crowded. The extra cost for the entrance is US$ 85 per person.

Difficulty Level:The hike to Huayna Picchu is renowned for its challenging terrain, with steep ascents and descents that demand good physical fitness and sure-footedness. The round trip typically takes around 2 to 3 hours, depending on your pace, and involves navigating through precarious sections that cling to the cliff's edge.

Intimacy with the Ruins: One of the most significant draws of Huayna Picchu is its intimate connection with the Machu Picchu citadel. As you climb higher, the views of the ancient city become increasingly breathtaking, revealing panoramic vistas that will leave you awe-inspired. The perspective from Huayna Picchu offers a unique glimpse of the ruins, with vertigo-inducing viewpoints that few others get to experience.

Limited Permits: Due to the popularity of Huayna Picchu and the preservation efforts of the site, the Peruvian authorities strictly limit the number of hikers allowed per day. Acquiring permits in advance is crucial, adding an exclusive element to the hike.

4 Things that make the Huayna Picchu hike unique:

  1. Historical Significance: Huayna Picchu holds great historical significance in Incan culture. It is believed to have been a sacred place associated with rituals and ceremonies. Some historians suggest that it served as a residence for high-ranking Incan priests or royalty due to its strategic location and spiritual significance.
  2. Heart-pounding Ascent: The hike to Huayna Picchu begins near the famous Temple of the Moon and immediately challenges trekkers with a steep climb. As you ascend, the stone steps lead through narrow corridors, cave-like passages, and seemingly impenetrable foliage, adding to the sense of adventure and mystique.
  3. Inti Punku (Sun Gate) Perspective: At the summit of Huayna Picchu, hikers are rewarded with a unique perspective of the Inti Punku or Sun Gate. This is the main entrance point for the classic Inca Trail trekkers and offers a view of the famous citadel framed by the distant Andean peaks.
  4. The Great Cavern: An intriguing feature of the Huayna Picchu hike is the Great Cavern (Gran Caverna), a natural cave located along the trail. Exploring this cave adds an extra layer of excitement and provides a moment of respite from the sun, as well as a chance to immerse yourself in the history of the site.

VIEWS FROM HUAYNA PICCHU MOUNTAIN

Machu Picchu Mountain:

On the opposite side of the Machu Picchu ruins lies another majestic peak, Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña Machu Picchu). Though less famous than Huayna Picchu, this alternative trek offers a different kind of adventure, providing hikers with a more serene and contemplative experience.

This is an ascending 3-3.5 hour round trip hike where you will enjoy an amazing bird’s-eye view of the Citadel of Machu Picchu. There are two time frames to enter: from 7am and from 9am. Each time frame has a limit of 200 people, and so there is a 400 people limit per day. This hike is not well known and therefore less crowded. The extra cost for the entrance is around US$85 per person.

Difficulty Level: The trek to Machu Picchu Mountain is longer and less steep compared to Huayna Picchu. It generally takes 4 to 5 hours for the round trip, offering a more leisurely pace for hikers. The path is wider and more manageable, making it accessible to a broader range of travelers.

Seclusion and Solitude: Machu Picchu Mountain receives fewer visitors, contributing to a quieter and more introspective journey. The trail leads through lush cloud forests, showcasing diverse flora and fauna, providing a peaceful atmosphere to enjoy the natural beauty of the Andes.

Expansive Panoramas: As you ascend Machu Picchu Mountain, the vistas gradually unfold, revealing breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding valleys and mountain peaks. The mesmerizing views of Machu Picchu from this vantage point showcase the vastness of the ancient Incan civilization and the harmony of their architectural mastery with the surrounding environment.

4 Things that make the Machu Picchu Mountain hike Unique:

  1. Biodiversity: Machu Picchu Mountain's trail takes hikers through diverse ecosystems, including lush cloud forests that boast rich biodiversity. The region is home to numerous plant and animal species, including orchids, bromeliads, hummingbirds, and the elusive spectacled bear. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the opportunity to spot various avian species.
  2. Tranquility at the Summit: Unlike Huayna Picchu, the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain provides a more serene atmosphere due to the fewer number of visitors. This tranquility offers a chance for introspection, meditation, and the opportunity to absorb the grandeur of the ancient ruins in quiet contemplation.
  3. Sacred Peaks: Machu Picchu Mountain itself was considered sacred in Incan cosmology. It was believed to be a deity and an integral part of the Andean worldview. Ascending this mountain provides a sense of reverence and spiritual connection to the natural world.
  4. The Condor's Viewpoint: A fascinating feature of the Machu Picchu Mountain trek is the Condor's Viewpoint (Mirador del Cóndor). This strategic viewpoint offers the chance to witness the flight of Andean condors gliding majestically on thermal updrafts across the Urubamba Valley, adding an ethereal touch to the experience.

VIEWS FROM MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN

Planning Tips:

  1. Permits and Timing: Both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain hikes require separate permits, which can sell out quickly, especially during peak tourist seasons. It's essential to book your permits well in advance to secure your spot. Plan your hike to coincide with the time of day you prefer, as morning treks usually offer better visibility and cooler temperatures.
  2. Physical Preparation: While Machu Picchu Mountain is generally considered less physically demanding, it still involves a substantial amount of uphill walking. Prioritize cardiovascular exercises and leg strengthening workouts to prepare for either trek. Remember to acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco or Aguas Calientes before attempting the hike.

Final Toughts:

Both hikes offer stunning views, and neither will disappoint. The most popular trail is Huayna Picchu, which typically books out well in advance. This trial is more diverse with Incan ruins, steep staircases, and some interesting rock tunnels. Where as Machu Picchu Mountain has more expansive panoramic views as it is the highest summit in the park, it is also less busy making for a more remote experience away from the crowds as it is a more challenging and time demanding hike.

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