Machu Picchu Hikes: Short Trails and Multi-day Treks

Travelers can hike one of four short trails within the Machu Picchu citadel or take a multi-day trek to the site itself. Pick from these Machu Picchu hikes to enhance your visit!
Aerial view from the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. Photo by Lizzie Thomas of Peru for Less.

Lace-up your shoes and start hiking! You can make your trip to Machu Picchu, the UNESCO Historic Sanctuary, even more rewarding with a hiking adventure. Discover the best Machu Picchu hikes, from short trails within the citadel to multi-day adventures through the Andes. 

Four self-guided hikes within Machu Picchu offer new perspectives of the tropical region that surrounds the archaeological site. The Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain hikes require a special entrance ticket purchased ahead of time. However, the Sun Gate and Inca Bridge hikes are great alternative options accessible with general entrance tickets.

Those with more time and a strong desire for adventure can choose a multi-day hike to Machu Picchu. Whichever you choose, it is sure to make your visit to Machu Picchu all the more memorable.

Table of Contents

This post was updated in October 2019 by Gina Cronin with the help of our head Machu Picchu guide Peter Cosio. This post was last updated by Melissa Dreffs in August 2020.

Important Planning Info

Tickets for Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are limited and demand is high, especially during peak season from April to October. Advanced planning is a must during these months to reserve your spot for one of these hikes. Tickets for both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain can sell out up to 4 months in advance. 

Hiking up to the Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge are more relaxed options. Since you don’t need a special entry ticket to do either hike—just your general Machu Picchu admission—these options allow you the flexibility to decide if you want to do them or not with limited advanced planning.

Keep in mind that with one general entry ticket to Machu Picchu, you will only have time for either the Inca Bridge OR the Sun Gate. There would not be enough time for both hikes and a guided tour.

For more time in the Inca ruins or to hike more than one trail, consider staying a night in Aguas Calientes and returning to the citadel the next day for more exploring.

Map of the four additional Machu Picchu hikes in relation to the entrance and citadel.

Map of Machu Picchu hike locations. Infographic by Peru for Less.

Huayna Picchu

Huayna Picchu is the dome-shaped peak that forms the iconic background seen ubiquitously in Machu Picchu photographs. This Inca footpath is the most sought after hike within the citadel.

A large granite monolith called the Sacred Rock, or Wank’a in Quechua, is positioned just before the checkpoint for Huayna Picchu. Here hikers must present their entry ticket and sign in before beginning the winding path up to its summit. They must also sign out when exiting the trail.

The path narrows towards the upper-section of the trail and goes up steep staircases and past stone ruins clinging to the cliffs. There are handrails and ropes to grab onto for extra support, but it’s a scary experience for anyone with a fear of heights. A good alternative hike with less steep sides is Machu Picchu Mountain.

At the very top of Huayna Picchu there is a rock shaped like a seat, called the “Throne of the Inca,” where you can take in an impressive view over Machu Picchu.

Aerial view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu. Cloudy skies and green mountains surround the site.

Aerial view from Huayna Picchu mountain. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

Duration

It generally takes hikers from 1 hour to 1.5 hours to reach the summit. Athletic types reach the top in 45 minutes. It takes about the same amount of time to descend, so it is good to give yourself 3 hours total

Special Entry Ticket Required

Only 400 tickets per day are available for Huayna Picchu. You must obtain a combination general entry + Huayna Picchu ticket in advance. Each Huayna Picchu permit allows one same-day reentry and up to 6 cumulative hours within Machu Picchu. 

At the time of purchase, you must choose between two time slots to begin the hike:

  • 1st group (200 people) is 7 am to 8 am
  • 2nd group (200 people) is 10 am to 11 am

To learn more about this hike, check out our complete guide to the Huayna Picchu hike here.

A wooden sign at the top of Huayna Picchu mountain says, "Montaña Waynapicchu" and the altitude.

Wooden sign found at the top of Huayna Picchu. Photo by Alicia Gonzalez for Peru for Less.

Machu Picchu Mountain

When it comes to hiking options within the famous Inca archaeological site, Machu Picchu Mountain typically plays second fiddle to Huayna Picchu, but this towering peak offers perks that should not be overlooked.

“At the top of Machu Picchu Mountain you look down on Huayna Picchu, and when it’s clear you can even see snow-capped mountains in the distance,” our expert guide Fabricio Ortiz said during an interview for an article featured in Living in Peru. “There’s a much better panoramic view at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain, and it takes just a little difference in time.”

Large granite steps comprise most of the trail all the way to the top. The steep climb is a challenging but rewarding experience. Go at your own pace and drink plenty of water. A gorgeous 360-degree view greets you at the summit.

Machu Picchu ruins and Huayna Picchu peak. Clouds pour in from all angles, blurring the view.

Aerial view from Machu Picchu Mountain. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

Duration

It generally takes hikers around 2 hours to reach the summit. Athletic types reach the top in 1.5 hours. It takes around 1.5 hours to go back down, so it is good to give yourself 4 hours total,  also factoring in time to enjoy the view. 

Special Entry Ticket Required

Only 400 tickets per day are available for Machu Picchu Mountain. Similar to Huayna Picchu, you must obtain a combination general entry + Machu Picchu Mountain ticket in advance. Each Machu Picchu Mountain permit allows one same-day reentry and up to 7 cumulative hours within Machu Picchu. 

At the time of purchase, you must choose between two time slots to begin the hike:

  • 1st group (200 people) is 7 am to 8 am
  • 2nd group (200 people) is 9 am to 10 am

Check out our blog with even more information on the Machu Picchu Mountain hike here.

A wooden sign atop Machu Picchu Mountain stating "Montaña Machupicchu" and the altitude.

Wooden sign found at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

Sun Gate (Inti Punku)

Once upon a time, imperial guards of the Inca Empire likely controlled passage into Machu Picchu at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku).

Today trekkers doing the Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu through this iconic stone gate on the last day of their adventure. Another way to visit the Sun Gate is to enter Machu Picchu with your general admission ticket and then hike up. No special ticket is required.

Beginning near the Caretaker’s Hut (or Guardhouse), wooden signs for “Inti Punku” point you in the direction of the hike’s cobbled trail with a few sections of stairs that incline gradually up the mountain away from the main citadel. The surrounding mountains and beautiful valleys should be all the encouragement you need to reach the summit.

A stone walkway leads to stone walls that make up the Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate. Photo by Lizzie Thomas of Peru for Less.

Duration

It takes most people between 40 to 60 minutes to reach the Sun Gate, figuring in time to rest and take photos.

Special Entry Ticket Not Required

Visitors to Machu Picchu with general entrance tickets have access to the trail to the Sun Gate. It is possible to complete this walk before touring the citadel.

A stone path with overgrown trees above leading to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.

The Sun Gate hike at Machu Picchu. Photo by Lizzie Thomas of Peru for Less.

Inca Bridge

The Inca Bridge – constructed of a few narrow logs perched above a sheer vertical drop – is believed to have served as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu.

The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain in the opposite direction of the Inca citadel. A special ticket is not needed to walk the path, although daily traffic to the Inca Bridge is documented. Each visitor must log their name in a book at the entrance and then sign out.

The walk follows a fairly even path to a lookout point to see the bridge. It’s not a strenuous hike, but some of the drop-offs along the edges of the trail may be scary for anyone who suffers from vertigo.

Crossing the Inca Bridge itself is strictly forbidden today for safety reasons, but you can take as many photos as you want. On the return, you’re likely to ponder whether or not you would have the “courage” to cross the bridge if you lived during the time of the Incas.

Along the side of a stone mountain, the Inca Bridge, a wooden plank, rests above a steep drop off.

The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

Duration

Most people reach the Inca Bridge in about 20 to 30 minutes.

Special Entry Ticket Not Required

Visitors to Machu Picchu with general entrance tickets have access to the trail to the Inca Bridge. It is possible to complete this walk before touring the citadel. 

A narrow, winding stone path leads to the Inca Bridge along the side of a mountain.

The path to the Inca Bridge. Photo by Lizzie Thomas of Peru for Less.

Machu Picchu Hiking Tips

Check out these insider tips from Peter Cosio, Peru for Less’ Head Guide at Machu Picchu. Cosio has been a tour guide for 15 years and a specialist guide at Machu Picchu for 10. He was born and raised in Cusco and spent his free time as a child playing around the awe-inspiring archaeological complex of Sacsayhuaman.

What to Do

Here are some tips for your Machu Picchu hike, straight from Cosio himself:

  • Wear training shoes or lightweight walking shoes.
  • Bring a minimum of 1 liter of water per person.
  • Pack a small snack.
  • Bring a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunblock—the high altitude sun is strong!
  • Use a strong insect repellent. 
  • Take a lightweight rain jacket or plastic poncho just in case. 
  • If needed, bring walking sticks. Keep in mind it is required for them to have rubber tips.
  • With the combination tickets (Machu Picchu + Machupicchu Mountain or Machu Picchu + Huaynapicchu Mountain), you can exit and reenter once. We recommend exiting after your hike to buy water and/or use the bathroom, and then reenter with your guide for the citadel tour afterward. 
Stone ruins atop the Huayna Picchu peak pierce the clouds above.

Huayna Picchu peak. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

What Not to Do

Cosio also provided some pertinent advice about some don’t dos on your hike: 

  • Don’t take pictures or record while walking.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or during the hike.
  • Avoid going off-trail.
  • Don’t take anything, including stones and plants. 
  • Avoid leaving anything behind, including plastic bottles, wrappers, chewing gum, or anything else. 
  • Be careful with selfie and jumping pictures, as these cause most of the accidents in the mountains.
A woman descends the Machu Picchu Mountain path, an uneven, stone path surrounded by green trees.

Trail along the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. Photo by Ana Castañeda for Peru for Less.

Hikes to Machu Picchu

If a short hike within the citadel isn’t long enough for you, don’t worry! There are plenty of longer hikes to Machu Picchu. Embark on a multi-day trekking journey through the Andes Mountains to reach the archaeological site. With treks ranging from two to ten days and varying difficulties, there is something for everyone. 

4-day Inca Trail 

The classic 4-day Inca Trail is one of the most famous hikes in the world. Ending with a grand entrance to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, this hike passes 28 miles (45 km) of Andean terrain. Pass by remote Inca ruins, sleep under starry night skies and follow the ancient path the Inca once used to reach Machu Picchu. 

Due to its popularity, the trek can sell out several months ahead of time. However, there are plenty of Inca Trail alternatives to consider.

Hikers walking along a narrow path on the Inca Trail with green mountains behind.

Trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in either a four or two day trek.

2-day Inca Trail 

For those with limited time but a strong desire to hike to Machu Picchu, consider the 2-day Inca Trail. This hike allows you to enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate after a 6 to 7 hour hike on the first day. That night, you can get some rest and return to Machu Picchu the following morning for a guided tour and a short hike within the citadel (see options above). 

Lares Trek 

Witness the unique ways of life in the Andean countryside passing through quaint Quechua villages in the Lares Valley. Follow the 4-day Lares trek to Machu Picchu for a look at rural life surrounded by picturesque scenery.

Lares and Inca Trail Combination Trek 

Combine the best of the Lares and Inca Trails on a 4-day adventure. The Lares and Inca combination trek takes you through indigenous villages and ancient ruins en route to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.

A blue lagoon surrounded by brown hills on the Lares Trek.

Pass by beautiful landscapes in the Lares Valley. Photo by Adriana Proaño of Peru for Less.

Choquequirao Trek 

Machu Picchu’s sister city, Choquequirao, is only accessible by foot. With architecture even more grand than Machu Picchu, visit this hidden gem while it is still relatively unknown. Embark on an 8 or 10 day Choquequirao trek where the Andes and Amazon Rainforest collide to visit both impressive ruins.

Vilcabamba Trek

Trek into the cloud forest on the Vilcabamba trek to Machu Picchu. Also known as the jungle trek, this 5-day path explores untouched Inca ruins while traversing diverse jungle and mountain landscapes. End the trek at Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of the Inca Empire.

Salkantay Trek 

This 5-day trek along the Salkantay path traverses incredible Andean terrain. Pass by snow-capped mountains and sleep under starry night skies en route to the Machu Picchu citadel.

Snow covered mountain in the distance behind brown and green hills on the Salkantay trail.

Snow-capped peaks quintessential to the Salkantay trek. Photo by Rachel Walker of Peru for Less.

Regulations at Machu Picchu have established different visitor circuits around the expansive archaeological site. For tips on how to best plan your visit to Machu Picchu and fit in one of these Machu Picchu hikes, contact our team of Travel Advisors now to receive a customized itinerary.