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 the hike, 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. Inside Huayna Picchu mountain, you will find steep, narrow stairs known as the "Stairs of Death." But it's not all scary - you'll also find 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

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, it is believed that the Incas constructed 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 weather 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.
  • Wet Season (October to April): The wet season in Huayna Picchu is characterized by increased rainfall and higher humidity. Rain showers are more frequent, and the surrounding vegetation appears lush and vibrant. The temperatures during this season are relatively mild, but it can still be chilly at higher elevations. It's essential to pack rain gear, such as a waterproof jacket and pants, and be prepared for muddy and slippery trails.

It's important to note that weather conditions in mountainous regions can be unpredictable, and there can be variations even within a single day. Fog and mist can also occur, which may affect visibility. It's advisable to check the weather forecast before your visit and be prepared for changes in weather conditions.

Meaning of Huayna Picchu in Quechua

In Quechua, the Inca language, Huayna Picchu means "young mountain." This name was given to the mountain 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 scholars believe it may also be a reference 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 times to Huayna Picchu Mountain

300 people hike to Huayna Picchu Mountain daily, and the entrance tickets sell out fast. For this reason, you need to book the tickets far in advance.

The Huayna Picchu Tickets will allow you to access Machu Picchu only through Circuit 4. Please note that Circuit 4 is through the Lower part of Machu Picchu; if you want to explore the upper part, the viewpoints of Machu Picchu, you need to buy another entrance with Circuit 1 or 2. 

There are 4 shifts available to hike Huayna Picchu every day:

Circuit 4 in Machu Picchu - Huayna Picchu Mountain Guide
Map of Circuit 4 in Machu Picchu

First Shift

Allows you to enter Machu Picchu citadel after 6:00 am and Huayna Picchu from 7:00 am to 8:00 am. You must stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes town the night before and take the early buses to Machu Picchu to arrive for this shift. Every day, there are 75 permits available for this shift.

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

Allows you to enter Machu Picchu citadel after 7:00 am and Huayna Picchu from 8:00 am to 9:00 am. We recommend booking this shift if you stay the night before in Aguas Calientes; you need to enter Huayna Picchu Mountain before 9:00 am. Please note that from the main entrance, there is still a 20-minute hike to the main entrance of Huayna Picchu. Every day is available; only 75 permits are in this shift. 

Recommended for: 

  • Travelers who have 6:00 am Machu Picchu tickets and want to connect with Huayna Picchu and return early.
  • Travelers visiting for a second time Machu Picchu and planning to hike only Huayna Picchu.
  • Travelers who have very early guided tours need to finish early.

Third shift

You can enter Machu Picchu citadel after 8:00 am and Huayna Picchu between 9:00 am and 11:00 am. This shift is perfect for Alternative Treks such as the Short Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Inca Jungle Trek, Tours by train, or any other trek that leads to Machu Picchu. This is because you need to explore the Citadel of Machu Picchu first, then you can hike the mountain. Every day is available; only 75 permits are in this shift.

Recommended for: 

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

Last shift

You can enter Machu Picchu after 9.00 am and Huayna Picchu; you can enter between 10.00 am and 11.00 am. This shift is perfect for the Classic Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, Inca Jungle Trek, Tours by train, or any other trek that leads to Machu Picchu. This is because you need to explore the Citadel of Machu Picchu first, then you can hike the mountain. Every day is available; only 75 permits are in this shift. 

Recommended for: 

  • Travelers who have a guided tour and want to hike Huayna Picchu slowly. 
  • Travelers arriving from the Inca trail.
  • Travelers finishing alternative treks or organized tours.

Please note that Huayna Picchu Mountain costs US$ 75, and buying this mountain separately is impossible. You can only enter through the lower part of Machu Picchu and cannot access the upper part where the best photo places are. These tickets will not allow you to re-enter.

To have the whole Machu Picchu experience and get the upper part's pictures, you must purchase a separate regular Machu Picchu ticket (US$ 50).

When you take a trekking tour, tour by train, or any other tour that Includes Machu Picchu entry, the regular entry to Machu Picchu is always included.

What to expect when hiking Huayna Picchu

The hike up to Huayna Picchu takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level. Once you pass the checkpoint in the northern area of Machu Picchu, you will start a steep 45-min to 1-hour ascend to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain. When you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with a 360° view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. 

After spending time at the top of Huayna Picchu, you will start descending through the same trail back to Machu Picchu; it takes around 1 hour to reach Machu Picchu and another 30 minutes to exit the Citadel. 

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 rewarded with 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. @jonhillstead

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 found 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 is wild and can be elusive. The best way to observe and appreciate the fauna is to be respectful of their habitat and maintain a safe distance. Additionally, hiring a knowledgeable guide can greatly enhance your chances of spotting and learning about the various species in the area.

The stairs of death

If you're looking for a genuinely heart-pounding hiking experience, look no further than the Huayna Picchu mountain in Peru. This hike is not for the faint of heart, as it features a nearly vertical stair climb that some have nicknamed "the stairs of death." But if you're up for the challenge, the view from the top is more than worth it.

The Challenge

The Huayna Picchu Mountain hike is considered moderately difficult and involves steep and narrow sections. The trail consists of stone steps, stairs, and occasional exposed areas. It requires 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 restricted, and only a limited number of 300 permits are issued each day. Securing your ticket in advance is important, as they can sell out quickly, especially during the high season. Make sure to plan ahead and check availability.

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. It's advisable to 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.

Huayna Picchu Mountain view

Huayna Picchu Mountain FAQs

How challenging is the Huayna Picchu hike?

The hike to Huayna Picchu is considered moderately challenging, with 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 who are afraid of heights.

How much is the entry ticket?

The ticket that includes access to Machu Picchu Circuit 4 and Huayna Picchu for foreign adult visitors is US$ 75. There are discounted rates for students, children, and citizens of Andean Community countries (Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia).

Remember to purchase 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 travel season.

The same is the case 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.

Which is the best time of the day to hike Huayna Picchu Mountain?

The best time to hike Huayna Picchu is after the guided tour in Machu Picchu. First, you must explore the Citadel with your tour guide and then climb Huayna Picchu Mountain. We recommend this because Machu Picchu is the main attraction, and you must enjoy it first. After Huayna Picchu, you take the bus to Aguas Calientes, enjoy a Cusqueña (Local beer), and return to Cusco.

Which is 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; we can have unexpected rainy days, even in the driest months like June or July.

  • Huayna Picchu during the dry season

From May to October in the Andes, less rainfall is expected in Machu Picchu. However, you must always carry rain gear, as the weather may change quickly. These months are also the busiest time of the year, especially from June to September when there will be long queues for buses, Machu Picchu, and trains.

  • Huayna Picchu during the wet season

From November to April. It is expected to rain in the mornings and late afternoon. However, the sun will come out around 9 to 10. However, in the cloud forest, the weather is unpredictable. Preparing for sunshine, rain, and cold weather is better.

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 known as Huayna Picchu can be found north of Machu Picchu; to reach the entrance to Huayna Picchu, you will need to trek 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 since it is steep and narrow; you must stop and allow the people behind you to pass. You will also encounter a series of steps called the Stairs of Death. These stairs got their name because they are very steep and require you to climb using your hands.

Despite the difficulties and possible risks involved, Huayna Picchu is absolutely worth it for its breathtaking vistas!

The Temple of the Moon in Machu Picchu

Also called the Great Cavern, the Temple of the Moon is an incredible building inside a natural cave with finely carved lithic structures. The Incas believed caves were a medium to communicate with the dead.

Some scholars of the Moon Temple believe there are reasons to think that sacrifices were made at this location. The only way to visit this place is by buying the combined entrance Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu in the first shift.

Access to the temple of the moon is currently closed until further notice. 

Temple of the Moon or Great Cavern

The Temple of the Moon, also known as the Temple of the Moon Cave, is an ancient Inca sanctuary located on the western side of Huayna Picchu. It is a natural cave that was modified and enhanced by the Incas. The cave contains intricate stonework and ceremonial niches carved into the rock walls. It is believed to have served as a sacred place for Inca rituals and ceremonies.

Visitors who choose to hike Huayna Picchu can explore the Temple of the Moon as part of the trail. The cave offers an intriguing glimpse into the Incas' religious practices and architectural achievements.

Great Cavern Huayna Picchu

It's important to note that access to Huayna Picchu and its features may be subject to certain restrictions and regulations imposed by the local authorities. If you plan to visit Huayna Picchu and explore these specific sites, we recommend checking with the relevant authorities or tour operators to ensure that they are accessible during your visit.

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