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My 4 Hiking Options at Machu Picchu

Decide what Machu Picchu hiking option is the best for you. Take the Sun Gate or Inca Bridge trails. Other options are the climbs up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
by Britt Fracolli

Lace-up your shoes and complement your exploration of the UNESCO Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu with a hiking adventure. There are four trails to choose from, each option ranging in difficulty and gift new perspectives of the tropical region surrounding the archaeological site.

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

Entry ticket for hike required:

No entry ticket for hike required:

Extras:

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.

DURATION. It generally takes hikers from 60 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the summit. Athletic types reach the top in 45 minutes. It takes around the same amount of time to go back down, so it is good to give yourself 3 hours total to also factor in time to enjoy the view.

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 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 admire the view over Machu Picchu.

Special Entry Ticket Required

  • To do Huayna Picchu, you must obtain a general entry + Huayna Picchu ticket for Machu Picchu in advance. At the time of purchase, you select between two time slots during which you are permitted to begin the hike.
  • Only 400 tickets per day available
  • Entry Times – Huayna Picchu
    • 1st group (200 people) is 7 am to 8 am
    • 2nd group (200 people) is 10 am to 11 am

Machu Picchu Mountain Hike

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.”

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 to also factor in time to enjoy the view.

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.

Special Entry Ticket Required

  • Similar to Huayna Picchu, you must decide when to start the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain when you purchase your general admission + hike ticket (in advance).
  • Only 400 tickets per day available
  • Entry Times – Machu Picchu Mountain
    • 1st group (200 people) is 7 am to 8 am
    • 2nd group (200 people) is 9 am to 10 am

Hike to Sun Gate

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 to 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.

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

 

Insider 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.

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

  • Park rangers invite you to retire from Huayna Picchu mountain at 12:30pm, and from Machu Picchu mountain at 12pm.
  • Training shoes or lightweight walking shoes highly recommended.
  • Minimum 1 liter of water per person.
  • Bring a sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock—the sun in Peru is strong!
  • Pack a small snack.
  • Have a lightweight rain jacket or plastic poncho just in case.
  • Strong insect repellent recommended.
  • Walking stick with rubber tip (if required).
  • With the Machu Picchu + Machupicchu Mountain and Machu Picchu + Huaynapicchu mountain ticket, you can exit after your hike to buy water and use the bathroom, and then afterward reenter with your guide for the citadel tour.
  • Also, some insight from Peru’s Ministerio de Cultura: Keep in mind, that with 1 regular entry ticket to Machu Picchu, you will only have time for either Inca Bridge OR Sun Gate. There would not be enough time for both. (For more time in the ruins, consider adding a night in Aguas Calientas and returning to the citadel for more exploring the next day.)

Don’t Dos

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

  • Don’t take pictures or record while you are walking.
  • Don’t drink alcohol during the hike.
  • Avoid going off-trail.
  • Be careful with selfie and jumping pictures, as these cause most of the accidents in the mountains.

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 when it’s less likely to rain. 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.

New regulations at Machu Picchu have established different visitor circuits around the expansive archaeological site. For tips on how to best plan your visit and fit in a hike, click Go Discover” now and receive a customized itinerary.

 

Summary
The Hiking Options at Machu Picchu
Article Name
The Hiking Options at Machu Picchu
Description
Learn the differences between the four hiking options in Machu Picchu. Will you opt for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, or one of the other trails?
Author
Peru For Less
Peru For Less