Before you confirm your trip to Machu Picchu, consider whether or not you want to do one of the two permitted hikes that start in the Machu Picchu complex. These optional, challenging hikes are rewarding for fit travelers, but are definitely not suitable for everyone. If you’re going to Machu Picchu and want to challenge yourself, these hikes will be right up your alley.

One of the hikes is Huayna Picchu Mountain, which is the small sugar loaf mountain you see in the immediate background of most photos of Machu Picchu (like the one above). The other hike is called Machu Picchu Mountain (not to be confused Machu Picchu Ruins), which is a higher mountain located on the opposite side of the ruins from Huayna Picchu. Below is a chart of the differences between the two hikes.

The view from Machu Picchu Mountain, looking down on the ruins and Huayna Picchu.

The view from Machu Picchu Mountain, looking down on the ruins and Huayna Picchu.

It’s best to decide if you want to do one of these hikes before you confirm your Machu Picchu trip. The hiking permits must be purchased in conjunction with your entrance to Machu Picchu; they cannot be purchased separately. If you book your trip and your trip operator purchases your Machu Picchu entrance without a hiking permit, and you decide later that you want to do a hike, you would have to purchase a new Machu Picchu entrance in addition to the hiking permit. See pricing in the chart below.

If you’re trekking the Inca Trail, either the full multi-day trek or the one-day short trek, there is a slightly different set of rules for you. The cost of the Inca Trail permit includes your entrance to Machu Picchu. Trekkers do not have the opportunity to add on one of the hiking permits to this combined Inca Trail and Machu Picchu permit. Therefore, if you want to do one of the hikes, you must purchase another Machu Picchu entrance in addition to the hiking permit of your choice.

Here are the differences between the Huayana Picchu Mountain and Machu Picchu Mountain hikes:

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF:


HUAYNA PICCHU MOUNTAIN


MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN


AVAILABILITY


400 permits available per day. Sells out most days, and sometimes months in advance.


Almost always available.


TOTAL ROUNDTRIP HIKING TIME


1.5 to 2 hours


2.5 to 3 hours


DIFFICULTY


Steep with big steps. In some places you do have to use your hands for balance. There are handrail wires to hold onto in some sections but not all. You have scramble over boulders at the top. However, it is not technical rock climbing.


Less use of hands, but a much longer hike. It’s not quite as steep on the whole, with less scrambling.


EXPOSURE


Very exposed in places with big drop offs. The top can get crowded and you can be jostled, which can be a bit unnerving if you do not like heights.


Very exposed in places. There are some narrow stone staircases sticking out of the rock, with nothing on the other side.


ELEVATION (for reference, Machu Picchu Ruins are at 7,970ft / 2,430m)


8,924ft / 2,720m


10,010ft / 3,051m


ELEVATION GAINED


952ft / 290m


2,038ft / 621m


WHEN YOU CAN START THE HIKE


Between 7am and 8am, or between 10am and 11am (200 permits available for each time slot). This is the time you can start the hike, you do not have to finish in an hour. You will not be rushed.


Anytime between 7am and 11am. This is the time you can start the hike, you do not have to finish in an hour. You will not be rushed.


VIEW


Fantastic. You look down over Machu Picchu ruins and down to the Urubamba River.


Also fantastic. You look fown over Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background.


PRICE (approximate & subject to change)


US$15 per person to be added to your Machu Picchu entrance if your entrance has not already been purchased. US$80 per person for a new entrance plus hiking permit (if your entrances have already been purchased) or if you’re trekking the Inca Trail, either the full multi-day trek or the one-day short trek.


US$15 per person to be added to your Machu Picchu entrance if your entrance has not already been purchased. US$80 per person for a new entrance plus hiking permit (if your entrances have already been purchased) or if you’re trekking the Inca Trail, either the full multi-day trek or the one-day short trek.


PROS OF THIS HIKE


Everyone has heard of it, so it’s easier to brag about. There are some partially completed Inca buildings on it. It’s a faster hike so you have more time to explore Machu Picchu.


It is more peace and a more unique experience as fewer people do this hike. You get a better view of the surrounding mountains as it’s higher in elevation.


CONS OF THIS HIKE


If you have a fear of heights, don’t do this hike. It can be very slippery when it’s wet and rainy. You start the hike with 200 other people, so it’s very crowded.


If you have issues with heights, consider not doing this hike. There are some exposed sections, but it’s not as bad as Huayna Picchu. The hike takes longer so you have less time to explore Machu Picchu Ruins.


Information provided by our partners at Amazonas Explorer

by Layna George

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