Lace up your hiking boots and compliment your guided tour of Machu Picchu with an epic hiking adventure.
There are four options to choose between: Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain, the Sun Gate, and the Inca Bridge. These hikes summit towering peaks, gift new perspectives of the region’s subtropical beauty, and introduce you to lesser-known Inca temples and structures.
Which trail plucks at your hike-loving heartstrings?
Before you go, check out this Important Ticket Information for doing two of the hikes.
Huayna Picchu Hike
Huayna Picchu is the dome-shaped peak that forms the iconic background seen ubiquitously in Machu Picchu photographs, and the Inca footpath winding up to its summit 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 their upward journey and sign out when coming off the trail.
The path narrows towards the upper-section of the trail and goes up steep staircases and past stone ruins clinging to cliff precipices. There are handrails and ropes to grab onto for extra support, but it’s a frightening 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 admire the view over Machu Picchu. It generally takes hikers from 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit. Athletic types reach the top in 25 minutes.
Special Entry Ticket Required
- Only 400 tickets per day available
- You have to decide which time slot you want to begin Huayna Picchu. The first group (200 people) is 7-8am. The second group (200 people) is 10-11am.
Machu Picchu Mountain Hike
The Machu Picchu citadel rests high on a saddleback ridge bookended between two peaks: Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu.
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 some 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 Peru this Week. “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 its trail and wind all the way to the top. The steep climb is a challenging but rewarding hike and the 360-degree views at the top are a gorgeous reward.
Signs for the checkpoint of Machu Picchu Mountain are about 500 feet (150 meters) past the Guardhouse.
Special Entry Ticket Required
- Only 800 tickets per day available
- Similar to Huayna Picchu, you must decide from one of two time slots to start the Machu Picchu Mountain hike at the time of purchase. The first group (400 people) is 7-8am. The second group (400 people) is 9-10am.
Sun Gate Hike
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 iconic 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 entry 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 inclines gradually up the mountain away from the main citadel. It takes most people walking at a steady pace between 40-60 minutes to reach the top, figuring in time to rest and take photos. The surrounding mountains and beautiful valleys should be all the encouragement you need to reach the summit.
Inca Bridge Hike
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 the bridge. Most people reach the Inca Bridge in about 20 minutes. 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.
Important Ticket Information
Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are hikes that require a special entry ticket that must be purchased jointly with the general admission ticket to Machu Picchu in advance.
It’s important to start planning with your travel advisor as early as possible because availability for these hikes is limited and demand is high. Peak season at Machu Picchu is from April to October when it’s less likely to rain, and these tickets sell out sometimes 4 months in advance.
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