Onward and upward: The hiking options in Machu Picchu


Onward and upward: The hiking options in Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru vacations, Peru For LessMachu Picchu in all its glory.
Photo by Boris G./Flickr

Travelers can explore 4 hiking trails around Machu Picchu. Two trails lead to the Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge, while the most popular options are the climbs up Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. Read more about each trail to determine the best option for your trip to Machu Picchu. The good news is that each trail offers breathtaking views!

Machu Picchu trails at a glance

Machu Picchu visitors can ask for a map when they arrive. It’s a helpful reference to the site’s numerous attractions and trails.

map of Machu PicchuFollow the stars to the 4 trails in Machu Picchu. (Click here for a larger view.)
Photo from australiatoperu.com

The black circle on the map above indicates the entrance/exit area of Machu Picchu. A footpath leads to the lower agricultural terraces: here visitors can make a left up the hill or continue straight. Turning left is the most direct route to the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu Mountain, and Inca Bridge trails. Continuing straight along the footpath leads to Huayna Picchu.

Trail to the Sun Gate

view from the top of the Sun GateAdmiring the view  at the top of the Sun Gate.
Photo by Eduardo Zárate/Flickr

Travelers that do the Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, or Inti Punca, and watch the sunrise. For those that don’t do this multi-day trek, it’s still possible to enjoy the impressive views from the Sun Gate without the cost of an additional ticket.

The trail is a gradual uphill climb with a few sections of stairs, which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a fear of heights. 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.

Trail to the Inca Bridge

exploring the Inca Bridge at Machu PicchuYou can look, but you cannot walk across.
Photo by Dan Doan/Flickr

The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of a mountain in the opposite direction of the Machu Picchu ruins. 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. It’s about a 20-minute hike along a fairly narrow path towards the bridge.  While the climb isn’t steep, some of the drop-offs along the edges may make some people uneasy.

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.  Crossing the bridge itself is strictly forbidden today for safety reasons, but you can take as many photos as you want.

On the return hike, 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.

Huayna Picchu (Ticket Required)

view of Machu Picchu fro Huayna PicchuView of Machu Picchu atop Huayna Picchu.
Photo by Marilyn Gonzalo/Flickr

Machu Picchu visitors looking to exercise their lungs clamor for Huayna Picchu. The ancient Inca footpath leading up Huayna Picchu -the dome-shaped peak rising up behind the Inca citadel – is the most sought after hike at Machu Picchu. Terraces and stone ruins cling to its mountainsides and compliment stunning views all the way to the top. Some of the higher sections of trail are narrow with steep drop-offs. There are handrails and ropes to grab onto, but it’s a frightening experience for anyone with a fear of heights.

Foot traffic along the trail is limited to 400 people each day. At the time of your ticket purchase, you have to decide if you want to hike the trail at 7:00 hr or 10:00 hr. Demand for Huayna Picchu tickets is high, especially during the dry season (April to October). Plan ahead and talk with your travel advisor early because tickets book up months in advance! A Huayna Picchu ticket must be purchased jointly with general Machu Picchu admission.

Machu Picchu Mountain (Ticket Required)

Looking down over Machu Picchu MountainIt’s quite the climb, but well worth the view!
Photo by Rachel Ricks

Machu Picchu Mountain (Montana Machu Picchu) is nearly double the height of Huayna Picchu. Large granite steps comprise most of its trail and wind all the way to the top. It’s a steep, but rewarding hike and the 360-degree views at the top are gorgeous.

When tickets for Huayna Picchu are sold out, the next best option is Machu Picchu Mountain. The tickets are actually cheaper and some people claim that the views are better than those from Huayna Picchu. Signs for Machu Picchu Mountain are about 500 feet (150 meters) past the Guardhouse.

You won’t be able to enter the trail without a ticket, so make sure to purchase one before your Machu Picchu visit.  A Machu Picchu Mountain ticket must be purchased jointly with general Machu Picchu admission. There are two morning entry time slots to select from: 7am-8am or 9am-10am.

Click here for first-hand tips and advice for hiking Machu Picchu Mountain.

Plan your own Machu Picchu hiking adventure

The experienced team at Peru For Less is ready to help you plan a dream trip to Machu Picchu. For more information about reserving tickets to hike Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountian, talk with an expert travel advisor today.


About Author

Britt is addicted to the spontaneous nature of travel and personal growth it inspires. She bought a one-way ticket to South America in 2012, starting her journey in Argentina and slowly traveled north through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Unable to shake her addiction of Latin America, she now happily calls Peru home.

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