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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!
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.
- 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
- 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.
|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.|
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.