Should You Hike Huayna Picchu Mountain Or Machu Picchu Mountain?

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.

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.

Why You Should Hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain: Both of these hikes offer stunning birds-eye views of Machu Picchu ruins and the surrounding peaks and Urubamba River valley.

Why You Shouldn’t Hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain: The shortest amount of time you can expect to take doing a hike is 1.5 hours (a fast hike on Huayna Picchu). The hikes are always done after a fully guided tour of Machu Picchu Ruins. If you want time to explore the ruins on your own, you won’t have much time to do this if you go on one of the hikes.

It’s best to decide if you want to do one of these hikes before you confirm your Machu Picchu trip, especially for Huayna Picchu. You can always add on permits later, however, Huayna Picchu permits tend to sell out far in advance. Machu Picchu Mountain permits are generally always available, but we still recommend getting these in advance.

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.

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

Challenging. 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 and under boulders at the top. However, it is not technical rock climbing.

Challenging. Less use of hands, but a 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 unnerving. Don’t do this hike if you have a fear of 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 about 7,970ft / 2,430m

Summit: 8,924ft / 2,720m
Elevation Gained: 952ft / 290m

Summit: 10,010ft / 3,051m
Elevation Gained: 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 IF YOU’RE NOT HIKING THE INCA TRAIL OR ROYAL INCA TRAIL
Approximate & subject to change

US$15 per person. If you are adding this hike on after you have confirmed your trip and your entrances have already been purchased for you, the price will be US$80 per person, as you will need new entrances to Machu Picchu in addition to the hiking permit fee.

US$15 per person. If you are adding this hike on after you have confirmed your trip and your entrances have already been purchased for you, the price will be US$80 per person, as you will need new entrances to Machu Picchu in addition to the hiking permit fee.

PRICE IF YOU’RE HIKING THE INCA TRAIL OR ROYAL INCA TRAIL
Approximate & subject to change

US$80 per person.

US$80 per person.

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

One thought on “Should You Hike Huayna Picchu Mountain Or Machu Picchu Mountain?

  1. MadMex says:

    The hardest thing I ever did in my life was to climb mountain Huayna Picchu, I like to say. It was both frightening and exhilarating. Months before my trip I started to train myself by running the stairs at my local high school football stadium. Without that training, I would have never made it.

    Austin, TX
    Posted May 2018

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