Huayna Picchu Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Machu Picchu. Thousands of people arrive here every year, hike to Huayna Picchu, and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The hike is not particularly challenging, but it is steep in places and can be slippery when wet. It usually takes about two hours to complete it, and once you reach the top, you can see the entire Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.

Huayna Picchu Mountain General Information

What is Huayna Picchu Mountain?

Huayna Picchu Mountain, also known as Wayna Picchu, is the big mountain you see in the most famous photos of Machu Picchu, the classic postal pictures. This peak rises at 2,693 meters (8,835 feet), and it's located on the north side of Machu Picchu.

From the access point, it takes about 1 hour to reach the top and then 45 minutes down the same trail. In Huayna Picchu mountain, you will find steep, narrow stairs known as the "Stairs of Death," but there's also beauty to discover: terraces, temples, and loads of orchids, not to mention the fantastic views.

Local guides and historians say this mountain used to be home to an old high priest responsible for astronomical observations. It was also the hotspot for religious ceremonies and offerings to the local gods. 

Now, if you're looking to hike this mountain, you'll need to book entry tickets in advance. Keep reading to find out how.

Huayna Picchu Mountain - Everything You Need to Know | TreXperience

Location

Huayna Picchu is located in the Andes mountain range in the Cusco Region of Peru, South America. The mountain towers over the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which is situated in the Urubamba Province, approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of the city of Cusco. The site lies within the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary and is part of the larger Vilcabamba mountain range.

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu are nestled within a subtropical cloud forest at an altitude of around 2,430 meters (7,970 feet) above sea level, while Huayna Picchu itself rises to an elevation of 2,693 meters (8,835 feet) above sea level. The Urubamba River flows below the mountain, winding its way through the deep canyon known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

History

Machu Picchu was built around 1450 by the Inca emperor Pachacuti as a royal estate or retreat. The citadel is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley, which lies in the heart of the Andes. Huayna Picchu towers over the ancient ruins and provides an impressive backdrop to the site.

The exact purpose of Huayna Picchu remains unclear. Still, the Incas cleverly managed to build a series of terraces, temples, and other structures on the mountain, which were integrated into the larger Machu Picchu complex. Some researchers theorize that Huayna Picchu may have served as a religious site, a fortress, or a watchtower.

Weather

Like the rest of the Machu Picchu region, the weather in Huayna Picchu can vary throughout the year. Here's a general overview of the patterns you can expect:

  • Dry Season (May to September): This period is considered the peak tourist season due to the more favorable weather conditions. Days are usually sunny and clear, with minimal rainfall. However, temperatures can drop significantly, especially during the early morning and evening. It's recommended to dress in layers and carry a jacket or sweater to stay warm.
  • Rainy Season (October to April): The wet season in Huayna Picchu means more rain and humidity. Showers happen more often, making the greenery around you look extra lush and lively. The weather stays pretty mild, but don't be surprised if it gets chilly up in the heights. Make sure to bring waterproof gear like a jacket and pants, and be ready for some muddy, slippery trails.

Additional info: Weather up in the mountains can be unpredictable and can switch up fast, sometimes even in just a few hours. Fog and mist are also common, which can mess up visibility. It's a good idea to check the forecast before your visit and be ready for whatever the weather throws your way.

Meaning of Huayna Picchu in Quechua

In Quechua, the Inca language, Huayna Picchu means "young mountain." The mountain was named this because it was the site of an important Inca Temple, and the Inca believed that the spirits of their ancestors resided there.

There is some debate over the exact meaning of the name, as some experts believe it may also refer to the Inca emperor Huayna Capac. However, the most popular interpretation is that it simply refers to Huayna Picchu being a young mountain compared to the other peaks in the area. Whatever its true meaning, Huayna Picchu is undoubtedly an impressive sight, and it is one of Peru's most popular tourist destinations. 

Entry tickets to Huayna Picchu Mountain

Every day, 300 people hike to Huayna Picchu Mountain, and tickets sell out quickly. For this reason, you need to book the tickets far in advance. Each ticket costs 200 soles or US$ 55.00.

Your Huayna Picchu ticket allows you to access Machu Picchu only through Circuit 3, which covers the lower part of the site. If you want to explore the upper part and take in the classic views of Machu Picchu from the viewpoints, you’ll need to purchase additional tickets for Circuit 1 or 2. 

There are 2 shifts available to hike Huayna Picchu:

Circuit 3 in Machu Picchu - Huayna Picchu Mountain Guide
Click to expand

First Shift

This shift allows you access to Machu Picchu citadel after 6:00 am and Huayna Picchu from 7:00 am to 8:00 am. It’s the earliest time, so to ensure you’re there on time, you must stay overnight in Aguas Calientes town and take one of the early buses up to Machu Picchu.

This shift is recommended for: 

  • Travelers who have a short time to explore Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu and need to return very early.
  • Travelers who are visiting Machu Picchu for a second time and are planning to hike only Huayna Picchu.
  • Travelers who have a guided tour later in the day.

Second Shift

Grants you access to Machu Picchu after 8:00 am and Huayna Picchu between 9:00 am and 10:00 am. This shift is perfect if you're on an alternative trek to Machu Picchu, like the Short Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, the Lares Trek, the Inca Jungle, or a tour by train. This is because you need to explore the Citadel of Machu Picchu first, then hike the mountain.

Recommended for: 

  • Travelers who have early guided tours and want to hike Huayna Picchu slowly.
  • Travelers finishing alternative treks or organized tours.
  • Travelers who prefer to enjoy more time in Machu Picchu.

Places you can visit with your ticket:

  • Central Square (13)
  • Temple of the Sun (13)
  • 12 Spans (9)
  • The Sacred Rock (8)
  • The warehouses (10)
  • Water Mirrors (11)
  • Temple of the Condor (12)
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain

Tips to consider:

  • Huayna Picchu Mountain tickets only allow entry through the lower part of Machu Picchu and don't provide access to the upper part, where you can take classic photos. Remember, re-entry isn't permitted with these tickets.
  • If you want to explore the entire site and snap pictures from the upper part, you'll need to buy a separate, regular Machu Picchu ticket for 152 soles or $44.
  • When booking a trekking tour, train tour, or any package that includes Machu Picchu, travel companies usually provide the regular entry ticket. If you want to visit Huayna Picchu, make sure to ask them for an additional ticket. Just keep in mind that they’re subject to availability.

What to expect when hiking Huayna Picchu?

The hike up to Huayna Picchu is quite an adventure. It’s challenging with its narrow and steep steps, but it’s definitely doable and not as intimidating as you might think. Depending on your fitness level, it will take you about 2 to 3 hours to complete the climb up and down. 

You’ll start at the checkpoint on the north side of Machu Picchu and tackle a steep 45-minute to 1-hour ascend until you reach the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain. Once you’re at the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360° view of Machu Picchu and the beautiful landscapes that surround it.

After soaking in the views at the top, you’ll head back down the same trail to Machu Picchu. The descent usually takes around an hour, and you'll need another 30 minutes to make your way out of the Citadel.

The stairs of death

If you’re up for a real adrenaline-pumping hike, Huayna Picchu Mountain should definitely be on your list. The trail is known for its steep stone steps, so daunting that they're nicknamed 'the stairs of death' because of their extreme incline and the scary feeling they evoke. Some areas are so exposed that you’ll need to use your hands just to maintain balance. Fortunately, handrails are installed along much of the trail for safety. It’s a challenging climb, but the breathtaking views at the summit make every step worthwhile.

Hiking down Huayna Picchu Mountain | TreXperience
Photo: annes-de-pelenirage.com
Climbing Huayna Picchu Mountain | TreXperience
Climbing up Huayna Picchu

The views

The views from Huayna Picchu Mountain are among the most incredible in Peru. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. The mountain is enveloped by lush rainforest, and as you climb, you'll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. The scenery is truly spectacular and offers incredible photo opportunities:

Huayna Picchu Mountain | TreXperience
Views from Huayna Picchu. @brookebeyond_
Huayna Picchu summit | TreXperience
Views from Huayna Picchu Summit

The flora

The flora in Huayna Picchu Mountain is characterized by its diverse and lush vegetation, typical of the tropical Andean cloud forest ecosystem. Here are some of the common plant species you can find in the area:

  • Orchids: With their vibrant colors and intricate shapes, orchids are a highlight of the flora in this region.
  • Bromeliads: These plants have unique rosette-shaped leaves and often collect water in their centers, creating miniature ecosystems for insects and other small organisms.
  • Ferns: You can find different types of ferns, ranging from delicate and lacy fronds to larger and more robust varieties.
  • Mosses and lichens: The damp environment of Huayna Picchu supports the growth of mosses and lichens, which cover tree trunks, rocks, and the forest floor. They contribute to the lush green appearance of the mountain.
  • Trees: The cloud forest is dominated by a variety of tree species. Some common trees in the area include the Polylepis, Aliso, Queñua, and Chachacomo. These trees provide shade and serve as habitats for other plants and animals.
  • Epiphytes: Huayna Picchu is also home to numerous epiphytic plants that grow on other plants without parasitism. Epiphytes, such as bromeliads and orchids, attach themselves to trees and derive moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.
  • Medicinal plants: The cloud forests of the Andes are known for their abundance of medicinal plants. Many traditional remedies and herbal medicines are derived from plant species found in this ecosystem.

The Fauna

Huayna Picchu Mountain is rich in flora and supports diverse fauna. Although the dense forest and rugged terrain make it challenging to spot some species, here are some examples of the fauna you might encounter in the Huayna Picchu area:

  • Birds: You may spot colorful birds like the Andean cock-of-the-rock, golden-headed quetzal, hummingbirds, tanagers, Andean condors, and several species of toucans.
  • Mammals: Huayna Picchu supports a variety of smaller mammals. Some examples include spectacled bears (also known as Andean bears), mountain vizcachas (a type of rodent), squirrels, and several bat species.
  • Amphibians: You might encounter different species of frogs, including colorful poison dart frogs such as the Andean rocket frog and variable harlequin frog.
  • Insects and arachnids: Butterflies, moths, beetles, and various other insects inhabit the area. You may also spot tarantulas, praying mantises, and different types of spiders.
  • Reptiles: Snakes like the Andean coral snake and the Andean forest pit viper are among the reptiles you might encounter.
  • Invertebrates: The cloud forest is a haven for invertebrates, including numerous species of beetles, spiders, and other insects. Additionally, you may come across vibrant butterflies and moths, including the iconic blue morpho butterfly.

It's important to note that the wildlife in Huayna Picchu can be elusive. The best way to observe and appreciate the fauna is to respect their habitat and maintain a safe distance. Additionally, hiring a guide can greatly enhance your chances of spotting and learning about the various species in the area.

Huayna Picchu Mountain Top | TreXperience
The impressive buildings on top of Huayna Picchu

The Challenge

The Huayna Picchu Mountain hike is considered moderately difficult and involves steep and narrow sections. The trail has stone steps, stairs, and occasional exposed areas, so you'll need good fitness and agility to navigate the path safely. Some sections may be challenging for those who have a fear of heights.

Limited permits

Access to Huayna Picchu is limited to only 300 permits per day. This means you need to secure your ticket in advance, especially during the high season when they tend to sell out. Make sure to plan ahead and check for space before you set your heart on it.

Time restrictions

Specific time slots are allocated for entering Huayna Picchu, and you must begin your hike within the designated time frame stated on your permit. The hike typically takes around 2-3 hours round trip, but it may vary depending on your pace and fitness level.

Safety precautions

Due to the trail's steep and sometimes exposed sections, taking precautions and hiking carefully is essential. Use sturdy footwear with good traction, bring plenty of water, and consider using trekking poles for stability. Take breaks when needed, and be mindful of your physical limitations. 

Weather considerations

Huayna Picchu is located in the Andean region, and the weather can be unpredictable. Dress in layers, wear sunscreen, and carry rain gear, as rain showers are common. Be prepared for changes in temperature and weather conditions throughout the hike.

| See this full guide to Weather in Peru

Huayna Picchu Mountain view

Huayna Picchu Mountain FAQs

How challenging is the Huayna Picchu hike?

The hike to Huayna Picchu is considered moderately challenging. It has steep inclines, narrow trails, and some sections where you'll need to use your hands for support. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach the summit and 45 minutes to go down, depending on your fitness level and pace. Some portions can be exposed, so it's not recommended for those afraid of heights.

How much is the entry ticket?

The ticket costs 200 Soles or US$55 for foreign adult visitors and includes access to Machu Picchu Circuit 3 and Huayna Picchu. Discounts are available for students, children, and citizens of Andean Community countries (Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia).

Remember: Buy your tickets in advance, as daily access to Huayna Picchu is limited to 300 visitors. Tickets tend to sell out quickly, especially during the peak tourist season.

The same is true of Machu Picchu Mountain. To plan a perfect trip to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, you must book a more convenient shift depending on the activity you have planned for Machu Picchu.

Which tours can I take to hike Huayna Picchu?

When you hike the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will arrive on the last day of the trek to Sungate around 6:30 a.m.; continue to Machu Picchu for another hour, where the Inca Trail ends. After resting, you will start a guided tour of Machu Picchu from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; next, if you have the Huayna Picchu tickets, you will hike to the top of this mountain, reach the top, go back down, and take the bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch, then take the train back to Cusco. The tickets cost US$ 75, and you must always book the last shift from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Treks like the Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Inca Jungle Trek, Quarry Trek, Tours by train, and other tours include spending the night in Aguas Calientes and taking the early buses up to Machu Picchu. You must book an early Machu Picchu entrance (6:am or 7:am), explore the upper part of the Citadel with a guided tour, and use a second ticket to enter Huayna Picchu from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. By following this order, you will enjoy Machu Picchu to the fullest, have enough time to listen to the tour guides and explore on your own before climbing the big mountain.

If you are traveling from Cusco or Ollantaytambo on a full-day tour, take the early train options (4 a.m. to 8) and make it on time before 11 a.m. to enter Huayna Picchu Mountain. You must always book the second shift (10 to 11 a.m.); you can get one ticket for Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu included at US$ 75, or you can buy 2 tickets to enter Huayna Picchu (US$ 75) and another to explore the Citadel after the mountain (US$ 50). Please remember to enjoy Machu Picchu in no hurry; you need at least 2 hours. If you have later trains, you can also consider booking the last shift of Huayan Picchu from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

What's the best time of the day to hike Huayna Picchu Mountain?

The best way to experience Huayna Picchu is to explore Machu Picchu with a guide first and then make your way up to the Mountain. This is because Machu Picchu is the main attraction, and you’ll want to enjoy it before you start your climb. Once you’ve completed the hike, you can take a bus back to Aguas Calientes, enjoy some downtime, and then head back to Cusco.

What's the best time of the year to hike this mountain?

Huayna Picchu is open all year round, but there are a few things to consider when planning your perfect trip. Machu Picchu is located in the Cloud Forest, the wettest place in Peru. Rains are expected anytime, even in the driest months like June or July.

The best time to visit Machu Picchu and hike Huayna Picchu Mountain is in the shoulder seasons: April, May, September, October, and November. These are the transition months between the dry, cold, and warm-wet seasons.

What is Huayna Picchu elevation?

The mountain's top is at 2,693 meters (8,835 ft). The hike starts in Machu Picchu at 2,430 meters (7,972ft) and finishes at the same place.

Where is it located, and how to get there?

The mountain of Huayna Picchu is located on the north side of Machu Picchu. To reach the entrance, you will need to walk through Machu Picchu for around twenty minutes after entering the site.

Is the Mountain dangerous?

Huayna Picchu and Montaña are steep, open, exposed areas with sheer drops; however, Huayna Picchu is more vertical, and you will need to use handrails in some parts to keep your balance. Montaña is also steep, open, and exposed; however, it does not have the sheer drops that Huayna Picchu does. Use extreme caution when you are out on the trail to Huayna Picchu's top.

Is Huayna Picchu worth it?

The ascent hike is difficult because it is steep and narrow; you must stop and allow the people behind you to pass. The famous Stairs of Death will also add more difficulty to the hike. Despite the difficulties and possible risks involved, Huayna Picchu is absolutely worth it, not only for the challenge but also for the breathtaking vistas you get at the end.

The Temple of the Moon in Machu Picchu

Also known as the Great Cavern, the Temple of the Moon is a stunning sanctuary on the west side of Machu Picchu. The Incas shaped and adorned this natural cave with exquisite stonework and ceremonial niches carved directly into the rock. Historically, it's believed to have served as a sacred site for various rituals and ceremonies.

Temple of the Moon in Machu Picchu | TreXperience

What was its purpose?

The Incas believed caves were a medium to communicate with the dead. As a result, some scholars suggest that the Moon Temple might have been an important place for sacrifices, shedding light on the Incas' religious practices and architectural skills.

Can I visit it?

Yes, you can explore this mysterious place with a Circuit 3-Ticket that covers both Machu Picchu and The Great Cavern. If you're planning to hike Huayna Picchu and want to visit this site, too, you’ll need to buy a separate ticket for Huayna Picchu. Keep in mind, though, it’s only open from May to October during the high season.

Final tip:

Keep in mind: getting into Huayna Picchu and its spots might have some rules and restrictions set by the authorities. If you plan to visit Huayna Picchu and explore these areas, we recommend checking with the local authorities or your tour guide to make sure you can get in during your trip.

Is there anything we haven't addressed about Huayna Picchu? We'd be happy to answer your questions. Let us know in the comments.

 

Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu | TreXperience

 

Map of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Temple of the Moon

 


Submitted by Daryl on

Permalink

I've made this hike and the stairs are terryfing. Not a big issue if you climb slowly and bring good hiking shoes. The views at the end are absolutely worth it! I would just recommend to be on time, controlers can be really strict on site.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.