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Huayna Picchu Hike: For the best views of Machu Picchu

Of the 2,500 daily visitors to Machu Picchu, only 400 are permitted to scale Huayna Picchu, the peak that towers above the northern end of Machu Picchu. For the best views of Machu Picchu as well as the opportunity to discover seldom-visited areas of the site, the Huayna Picchu hike can be a memorable addition to your visit. You just need to make sure you book early!

Note: For more to do in Machu Picchu, see our list of things to do in Machu Picchu and also check out when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu.

Overview

There are two hiking routes around Huayna Picchu, a short route and a long route. The short hiking route takes you directly to the peak from where you can take in the views and snap a few photos before returning to the main site. A longer circuit takes in the summit as well as following a path around the back of the mountain, allowing you to see the far less commonly visited Temple of the Moon and the Great Cavern. While these sites might not be as spectacular as the main areas of Machu Picchu, the trek is rewarding and offers you a rare chance to escape the crowds that are inevitably ever-present.

Highlights

  • Spectacular views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area
  • Exclusivity – only 400 people permitted to climb per day
  • Visiting Great Cavern and Temple of the Moon where few tourists go
  • Cance to see unexpected and interesting wildlife
  • An extra addition to your day at Machu Picchu

Lowlights

  • Difficult to reserve a place
  • Trail to the Temple of the Moon and the Great Cavern can be congested because it is a small path.
Map of Huayna Picchu hike
An overview map of the Huayna Picchu hike

Huayna Picchu hike facts

Hike difficulty: Short trail: moderate; long trail: moderate to hard
Hike duration: Short trail: 45 minutes to 1 hour; long trail: 3 to 5 hours
Remoteness: Located right next to the ruins of Machu Picchu but the long trail to the Great Cavern and the Temple of the Moon receives far fewer visitors
Starting altitude: 2,430m at Machu Picchu
Maximum altitude: 2,693m at the top of Huayna Picchu
Best season: May – September as this is the dry season. November – April can be wet and it can be easier to slip, making it more dangerous
Start / end locations: Warden’s hut to the north of Machu Picchu behind the Sacred Rock
Permits required: Need to organize extra ticket beforehand. Since places are limited, it is necessary to reserve at least a couple of weeks ahead if possible.
Physical fitness: Moderate fitness for the short trail, good fitness level for the long trail. Although Machu Picchu is not at particularly high altitude and is lower than Cusco; climbing up and down the steep paths may leave you panting.
 

Huayna Picchu Hike: Short trail

The trail starts at the Warden’s Hut where you need to show your passport and ticket. From the Warden’s Hut, there is a walk of around 15 minutes or so to a place where the trail splits in two. At this point, you should follow the sign to the summit. After 10 more minutes, you reach the base of Huayna Picchu from where a steep ascent of around 40 minutes will take you to the peak. Just before the top, you will have to crawl through a narrow cave, after which you will finally attain the summit and be rewarded with fabulous views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. Once you are ready to head down again, another steep staircase will take you down to a place where you can join the original trail back to the Warden’s Hut.

Huayna Picchu Hike: Long trail

The long trail is a loop. First, follow the same path to the summit as for the short trail. When you are ready to descend, find the trail that leads down the back of Huayna Picchu – it is poorly marked and you may need to ask the warden at the top. From there, you simply follow the path all the way down to the Temple of the Moon and Great Cavern before returning to the Warden’s Hut. If you prefer to do the hike in the opposite direction, look for the signpost for the summit at the beginning, simply take the lower path. You are likely to see few other tourists on the part of the trail to the Temple of the Moon and the Great Cavern.

Huayna Picchu hike will introduce you to tough uphill trails
There are two hiking routes around Huayna Picchu, a long and a short one. We recommend taking the long trail which will provide astounding views of Machu Picchu and introduce rarely visited Inca ruins.

Alternative hike

If you do not manage to acquire the pass to climb Huayna Picchu, the alternative is Cerro Machu Picchu (Machu Picchu Mountain) at the other end of the ruins. This is free and does not require a reservation – and is also one of the least visited parts of the whole site. It takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to climb and descend again and offers good views of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu rising behind.

Views of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu hike trail
Views of Machu Picchu ruins from Huayna Picchu hike trail

Good to know

  • It is imperative to reserve tickets for Huayna Picchu in advance. If you try to reserve on the day of your visit, there is little chance that you will be able to acquire one. If you are booking the trip through an agency, they will be able to arrange tickets for you if you give them enough notice.
  • There are two entry times per day, 7 am – 8 am and 10 am – 11 am. On the long trail, people have reported seeing spectacled bears, among other wildlife (isn’t that exciting?). 
  • It is technically forbidden to take drinks and snacks into Machu Picchu. However, if you are planning on doing the Huayna Picchu hike, especially the long trail, you will need to take refreshments. Speak with your tour operator beforehand on how to arrange this. If you can, buy your supplies beforehand as they are expensive at the entrance to Machu Picchu. Leave absolutely no litter.
Huayna Picchu hike is rarely done by visitors to Peru
Aerial view of Machu Picchu as seen from Huayna Picchu mountain

An ascent of Huayna Picchu and potential hike down the Temple of the Moon and Great Cavern can make for an interesting and rewarding addition to any visit to Machu Picchu. The views from the top are spectacular while the trail leading to the temple and cave receives few visitors, allowing you to temporarily escape the crowds above. If you are planning for a Huayna Picchu hike, just make sure you book your ticket well in advance.

If you would like to go for a combination tour that includes a guided tour of Machu Picchu, one day Inca Trail hike, Huayna Picchu hike and a visit to Sacred Valley then we would recommend checking out this tour in Peru of 7 days tour.

2 Comments We welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours:
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Steve Wilson Travel Expert in Peru
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James Mackender Travel Expert in Peru
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    Ariele Gatti Jun 26, 2018 Reply

    Hi, I have a question. Hoping you can help :)
    I just booked a ticket for Huayna Picchu + Machu Picchu 10am slot. But I am so confused at how to get to the trail head! Can I come by train from Cusco? Do I need to stay the night before in Aguas Calientes and then get a taxi perhaps? If so, is there a train between Aguas Calientes and Cusco? Having trouble finding these answers online. Any help is much appreciated! Thank you!
    -Ariele

    1. Jane Andersen Bookmundi Staff Jun 27, 2018

      Hi Ariele,

      Thanks for the comment! My name is Jane and I will try my best to help you with your queries. :)

      Since you have bought an early morning ticket for visiting Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu, I would recommend that you catch an early morning train from Poroy Station. Poroy is a train station that provides train services to Machu Picchu and is situated 25 minutes away from Cusco. You can get there by either a taxi or a colectivo — I would prefer taxis for more reliability. The train from Poroy will take 3 hours 20 minutes to reach Aguas Calientes but the train will stop at Ollantaytambo once before it continues its journey to Aguas Calientes. Early morning trains are only operated by Peru Rail. You can check the train time table here: https://www.perurail.com/ . Reserving seats in advance will save you a lot of hassle later.

      From Aguas Calientes, you will need to take a shuttle bus to Machu Picchu. This is operated throughout the day and will only leave Aguas Calientes once the seats are full.

      Please check the time table from the link above and if you feel like the arrival time is quite late then maybe you should look into the option of staying at Aguas Calientes a night before and then continuing your journey the next day with the shuttle bus.

      I hope this has helped Ariele. We wish you good luck with the journey and hope you will make many wonderful travel memories.

      Happy travelling! :)

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