Hiking Huayna Picchu: The Complete Guide (Updated 2019)

Nov 30, 2018 | Machu Picchu

What is Huayna Picchu?

Huayna Picchu Mountain, also known as Wayna Picchu Mountain, is the slightly less famous mountain that soaks up the background in everyone’s picture of Machu Picchu. Huayna Picchu in Quechua means “Young Peak.” This spectacle played a pivotal role in Machu Picchu’s creation. Once you reach the summit of Huayna Picchu, you’ll notice a few Inca ruins at the top. A few gifted architects lived on the summit, and they designed Machu Picchu.

This perch is where they scoped out, mapped, and envisioned the Wonder of the World in South America we all admire. Macchu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas” likely wouldn’t exist or be the attraction it became without Huayna Picchu being in the perfect place that it is.

If you get the chance to strike this off your bucket list, climb this mountain. The views of Machu Picchu are stellar, and they only allow 400 people per day to buy tickets for this exclusive hike! Also, the view from the top makes this climb worth every difficult step.

PRO TIP: Book Huayna Picchu hike about 4 months in advance as it tends to sell out early. 

How do I Hike Huayna Picchu?

Before you can hike Huayna Picchu, you must first have a ticket for entry to Machu Picchu, and anyone under the age of 12 is not allowed to climb. There is some risk associated with this hike and is not for the faint of heart. The trailhead is inside the citadel through the entrance of Machu Picchu. You must have a combination ticket of both Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain.

Unfortunately, if you are visiting Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, you will still have to buy another Machu Picchu plus Huayna Picchu ticket, even though the Inca Trail secures your entrance to Machu Picchu. In 2019, it is $60 to purchase the ticket. You can learn how to secure your permits here. Because there are only 400 people permitted to hike per day, it is best to obtain the combination type of ticket weeks ahead of time if it is the low season, and months ahead if you will be going during the high season. You will need your passport with you as it will be checked against your Huayna Picchu ticket at the gate.

When is the Best Time of Day for Huayna Picchu?

Before 2011, as long as you had a ticket, you were allowed to enter the trail for Huayna Picchu at any time of the day. However, in 2011, the National Institute of Culture of Peru (INC) instituted regulations splitting the 400 tickets into a 7:00-8:00 am entrance and 10:00-11:00 am entrance group. So if you miss your entrance window, you will be out of luck to hike to the top.Man wearing a red ball cap standing on Huayna Picchu looking down on Machu Picchu on a Cloudy Day Prepare for an early morning if you are one of the 400 people that are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu Mountain. Two hundred of them are for a 7:00 am ascent, and the other two hundred for the 10:00 am time slot. These times are essential depending on how you get to Machu Picchu.

Pro Tip: The Government of Peru is very strict. Make sure you are at the entrance to the Huayna Picchu Mountain trek during your time slot or you will not be allowed to enter.

Early Morning vs Afternoon

The advantage of the 7:00 am hike is that it will be much cooler and much easier to hike the steep trail. The 10:00 am hikers are going to have much higher temperatures. They will need to take more breaks and need more water to climb all those stairs.

The disadvantage of going in the earlier group is that there tends to be more fog in the morning. This will make it much more difficult to get a good view of Machu Picchu. But if you get a clear day, that early sunrise Instagram photo is going to be a hell of a shot. Besides, the 7:00 am group does not have to contend with as many people at the top as the 10:00 am group starts to climb and get to the top of Huayna Picchu.

Whether you take the train from the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes or enter through the Sun Gate from the Inca Trail, you must book the 10:00 am morning session for Huayna Picchu. We recommend that starting with Macchu Picchu early in the morning and then climbing Huayna Picchu at the 10:00 am slot. Sure it may be hotter, but it allows you to enjoy the main Machu Picchu grounds with fewer people and allows you to avoid the risk of climbing Huayna Picchu and not being able to get a good picture of Machu Picchu from above as the fog might not have cleared off.

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What are the Huayna Picchu Trail Options?

 There are a couple of different ways to reach the top of this steep mountain. At the trail heading behind Sacred Rock, you will give your tickets to the warden. You will check in, register your name, and then check out after hiking down from the top. This is the process to keep tabs on possible missing people.

Not too long after starting your hike, the trail splits into a short and long path. The short trail takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is a steep and challenging climb. However, it does give you more time at the top! The long trail takes about 3.5 hours and continues around the base of the mountain to the Great Cavern and The Temple of the Moon before heading up. The longer path takes about two to three hours.

 

Pro Tip: Take the Long Trail because you don’t want to miss the Temple of the Moon.

Short Trail

Can you say steep climb? Wow, this trail is very steep. This path is approximately 45-60 minutes up and then another 45 minutes down. After registering at the Wardens Hut, you will follow the path for approximately 15 minutes. There will then be a sign leading to the summit. This is your path if you are following the short trail. After about 10 minutes you will be at the base of Huayna Picchu, and you will begin the 40-minute ascent up stone steps to the summit of Huayna Picchu, overlooking the Urubamba River.Ruins on Huayna Picchu on a cloudy day

Eventually, you will reach a narrow cave. This cave was used as a choke point for an invading army, slowing down the enemy as not as many people would be able to rush the complex at once. After climbing out of the cave, you will be at the summit of Huayna Picchu and will be able to look down on the beautiful view of Machu Picchu in all its glory.

Long Trail

The long trail is a nice loop with fewer crowds for those who have the time and fitness to complete this path. You will also be able to see the Temple of the Moon, which is a fantastic ruin site to explore, located in a cave. It is a more strenuous hike than the short trail as you are looking at 3 hours and 30 minutes for the path up. The trail starts at the split and follows the side of the mountain around to the Temple of the Moon. The long path is a full loop around Huayna Picchu Mountain before you ascend the stairs to the summit of Huayna Picchu.

How Difficult is the Huayna Picchu Hike?

There are some differences in difficulty between the short and long trail. One would require a reasonable level of moderate fitness if you’re going to do the short path and a higher level fitness if you’re doing the longer trail. You are looking at extensive elevation gain for either trail.

The short trail will require the use of both hands and feet as there is approximately a 60-degree angle of elevation at it’s steepest point. The longer path will need a higher level of fitness than the shorter trail as you will be hiking for a much more extended period and the hiking trail can be steeper in many portions. Additionally, the longer trail will require you to navigate a wooden ladder to continue the path.

What is the Elevation of Huayna Picchu?

The peak of Huayna Picchu trek is 8,924 feet or 2720 meters above sea level. From the Machu Picchu ruins, it is just over a 1,000 feet ascent. Huayna Picchu sits higher than Machu Picchu. As mentioned before, this is a very steep climb. If you have a fear of heights or any condition that causes you to lose balance, like vertigo, do not attempt this climb. 

Elevation makes strenuous activity more difficult. The oxygen in the air is thinner, therefore requiring you to breathe heavier. This adds to the difficulty of this hike. As with any trek at a higher altitude, you want to make sure that you are in decent physical shape. This helps keep you appropriately oriented for the hike. Here is a complete breakdown of Machu Picchu Elevation, or there’s a few comparisons below.

 

Elevation Comparisons

  • Huayna Picchu: 8,924 feet (2720 meters)
  • Machu Picchu: 7,971 feet (2,430 meters)
  • Cusco City: 11,152 feet (3,339 meters)

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What is the Difference Between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain?

There is another lesser known mountain to hike if you are not able to get tickets to Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu Mountain, also known as Cerro Machu Picchu, allows 400 people in per day to climb. Machu Picchu Mountain is a slippery and more challenging traverse with a view that some say is much better than Huayna Picchu. Once at the top of the mountain, there is a panoramic view of many snow-capped mountains as well as the Machu Picchu citadel. The path up Machu Picchu Mountain is nearly all granite steps.

Machu Picchu Mountain is where the Incas discovered water; specifically underground springs. This was another paramount decision of constructing the citadel where they did. Huayna Picchu serves as the drone view of the mountain, and Machu Picchu Mountain gave life to the complex.

What to Bring to Huayna Picchu?

Whether you are going in the wet or dry season, we highly recommend that you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes. Sneakers are likely not going to cut it for this trail. With so much elevation gain and the uneven terrain of the trail, you are going to want something sturdy to protect your feet. There are no bathrooms once you are inside. Therefore, if you are

Shoes overlooking Peru Inca Ruins at Nighthiking, especially the long trail, you will want some toilet paper with you. Just be prepared to travel off the path to find some privacy for the bathroom.

You should also bring a Camelbak or reusable water bottle. As of 2019 they no longer allow disposable waterbottles inside the grounds. Once the sun breaks through the fog, it will get hot. A camelback that you can throw into the back of your backpack is an excellent option, so you don’t have to hold your water bottle the entire time. Don’t forget to bring a small bag that you can carry all your items while you are trekking. Your pack must be smaller than 40 cm x 35 cm x 20 cm (15.7 inches x 13.7 inches x 7.9 inches) or they will not let you in. Finally, you should have a lightweight raincoat as it tends to rain frequently at Huayna Picchu Mountain.

What is the Temple of the Moon?

If you have the time, we highly recommend taking the longer trail on Huayna Picchu, as this will give you the opportunity the see the Temple of the Moon. The Temple of the Moon was discovered in 1936, 25 years after Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu. The Temple of the Moon is an Incan ceremonial temple placed in a cave.

At the center of the cave is a throne carved out of rock. No one is certain what the Temple of the Moon was for. Some believe that the Temple of the Moon was a royal tomb. Another theory is that it was a place for worship of the gods as caves were thought to be an entrance for the gods to a temple. Finally, another theory is that it was the center of a ceremonial bathing complex.

Warning

This is not a hike for the faint-hearted. If you are afraid of heights, DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE. This hike has absolute maximum exposure. As you hike up, you will pass along the Stairs of Death. And they are appropriately named. You will be going up over 183 meters of steps with large drop-offs to your side and no railing. If you were to fall it would mean certain death. Besides, the stairs can get quite steep, reaching a maximum of 60 degrees angle. At times it will feel as though you are going straight up. You are going to feel extremely vulnerable navigating this trail.

Conclusion

Huayna Picchu is a hike that should not be missed out on. If you have the time and the mental fortitude we highly recommend you trek the Stairs of Death to see Machu Picchu from this amazing vantage point. Hiking Huayna Picchu will provide an experience that will be remembered for a lifetime. 

Have you hiked Huayna Picchu to the summit? We want to hear about it in the comments. Let’s hear your best tips. 

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