If you are looking at traditional postcard pictures of Machu Picchu in Peru, you will surely come across at least a few that show a distinct mountain rising above the ruins. This most recognizable peak is known as Huayna Picchu, and among other things, it has the ability to add that extra special dynamic to your Machu Picchu photographs. Huayna Picchu soars almost 1,200 feet above the Machu Picchu ruins, and climbing Huayna Picchu is among the top pursuits for Machu Picchu visitors. All told, Huayna Picchu tops out at around 9,000 feet above sea level, and it affords amazing views of the ruins and of the surrounding Andes Mountains. Huayna Picchu translates to “young peak”, and the views it provides of Machu Picchu far below show just how strategically-placed the ancient city is and was.
When you enter the site of Machu Picchu in Peru, your journey starts on the side opposite of Huayna Picchu. As you pass the Caretaker’s House and the Funerary Rock, you will surely take some time out to study the impressive Temple of the Sun. Making your way through the heart of the village, there will be steps to climb, intriguing rock doorjambs to pass through, and plenty of open field space from which to admire things from all angles. As you explore Machu Picchu, you will surely feel the presence of Huayna Picchu, its steep slopes leading to a summit that beckons the curious. If you like to hike and want to see Machu Picchu from a privileged location, you will find that climbing Huayna Picchu is not something you can ignore. Only 400 people a day are allowed the chance to summit this magical peak. Visit Machu Picchu between June and August, and you will be there during the busy season, when sharing the ruins with 3,000 other visitors is not uncommon. This means you may have to get in line sooner, and wait a bit longer, if you want to try climbing Huayna Picchu.
As you make your way to wait in line and sign in at the Huayna Picchu kiosk, you will want to take some time out to observe the Sacred Rock just before you get to Huayna Picchu’s gated entry. This rock is extremely intriguing, as the top of it is carved following the natural pattern of the mountain peaks behind it. Many visitors like to hug the Sacred Rock, if not at least snap a photo of themselves next to it. The gates to Huayna Picchu, and the smaller Huchuypicchu, open at 7 am and close at 1 pm, and if you are climbing Huayna Picchu early, then you will likely avoid the crowd, which usually picks up considerably around 11 am. Wait until after 11 am, and you might just find yourself out of luck.
You should only consider climbing Huayna Picchu if you think that you can handle the sometimes precarious hike up. They don’t make you sign in and out at the bottom for no reason. It certainly is not a relaxed climb, and if it is wet out, extra care should certainly be taken along the way. Where the trail is most steep or narrow, you will find simple steps or rope handholds to help navigate. Near the summit of Huayna Picchu, there is a narrow cave that requires some crawling and crouching. People of all ages can be seen climbing Huayna Picchu, so by no means is it the most technical climb in the world. Just be advised that being in decent shape and wearing the correct footwear are part of the criteria. There are some breathtaking drop-off views along the route, but none compare to the panoramic scenes from the top.
You will notice that Huayna Picchu has its own ruins
strewn about its slopes and atop its peak. As you
climb, the most notable ruins you can access are those
of the Temple of the Moon. The Temple of the Moon
is a structure comparable in integrity to the Temple
of the Sun, and it is set within a large hillside
cave. To get to the Temple of the Moon, you can
take an alternative trail that leads you to the back of
the mountain, or just choose the easier one that is about
halfway up the primary Huayna Picchu summit path.
The Temple of the Moon side trip will add about an hour
to your Huayna Picchu hike. Visiting Machu Picchu
in Peru for just one day is only advised for those short
on time. If you have a few days, you can focus on
the ruins one day, and perhaps climb Huayna Picchu another.
It will shock you just how small Machu Picchu looks from
the top of this cherished mountain, and you should surely
save room in the camera for multiple photos. For
those looking for an easier climb, the smaller Huchuypicchu
takes less time to summit, and is far less steep.
Chances are that Huchuypicchu will also be far less crowded,
meaning you might get a chance to enjoy some quiet time
here. For more impressive Inca ruins within Peru’s Sacred Valley, consider
visiting the nearby towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Hike the Inca Trail, and
Machu Picchu is a most just end reward.