Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Huayna Picchu
On your incredible vacation to Peru, I am sure you will be visiting the famous Inca site at Machu Picchu, but what about Huayna Picchu? In addition to Machu Picchu, hiking Huayna Picchu should also be included in your Peru itinerary. Hiking Huayna Picchu is not nearly as long or strenuous as the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but it is a fun and sometimes scary hike with stunning views you only dream of. With that said, there is a lot to know before hiking Huayna Picchu. Using our first-hand experience, we can confidently provide you with everything you need to know about hiking Huayna Picchu. This includes where to purchase Huayna Picchu tickets, conquering the insane Stairs of Death, what to expect at the top, the beautiful view, and more.
Huayna Picchu vs. Machu Picchu
It is very common for people to think Machu Picchu is the epic mountain that everyone takes an iconic picture of, but that mountain is actually Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu is simply the beautiful Lost City of the Incas – the ruins. So the next time you see the classic picture like the one below, know that Machu Picchu is the mountain with the city of ruins and Huayna Picchu is the majestic mountain.
How to Get Huayna Picchu Tickets
Before you start hiking Huayna Picchu, you must obtain tickets. Just like hiking the Inca trail, hiking Huayna Picchu only allows a certain amount of visitors per day – 400 to be exact. There are two groups to hike Huayna Picchu, the first group of 200 hikers are between 7-8am, while the second group of 200 hikers are between 10-11am. We highly recommend trying to be in the front of the group, so you have more time to explore the top of Huayna Picchu with fewer people. We were near the end of our group and though the view from Huayna Picchu was amazing, it was way too overcrowded.
If you are like us and just hiked a trail to Machu Picchu, then you will have to be in the second group. Since you do not even arrive to the Sun Gate or Machu Picchu until 7am. With this said, to obtain your Huayna Picchu tickets, you must book them when you book your hike to Machu Picchu. The tour company you choose to hike with will be able to provide you with the information you need (click here to read about the company we booked for the Inca trail).
For those who are not coming from another trail, you may obtain Huayna Picchu tickets when you purchase your tickets to Machu Picchu. This combined ticket will cost only $86 at this website.
Hiking Huayna Picchu
Peru has so many amazing hikes outside of the treks to Machu Picchu, such as Rainbow Mountain, Laguna 69 and Huayna Picchu. Hiking Huayna Picchu is a fun, but dangerous and steep climb to the top. We say fun because we enjoy a challenging hike, but it was definitely scary – almost life and death threatening. In fact, it is often named one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. So, here are a few things you should know to prepare yourself.
We apologize for having a lack of photos of this hike, but our priority was surviving, not capturing every moment on our cameras.
What is Huayna Picchu’s Elevation?
Huayna Picchu’s elevation is at 2,693 meters (8,835 ft) above sea level (260 meters higher than Machu Picchu). So we definitely recommend acclimatizing to the high altitude two days before you try hiking Huayna Picchu. There are plenty of hotels and things to see in the Sacred Valley making it a great option to begin your journey.
How Many Trails Does Huayna Picchu Have?
There are three different trails on Huayna Picchu for people to enjoy:
- Huchuypicchu – a short 45 minute round trip
- Great Cave – a 4 hour round trip to visit the Temple of the Moon
- Waynapicchu – a 2 hour round trip to the top of Huayna Picchu
Most people hiking Huayna Picchu are going on the Waynapicchu trek, as did we. Before you begin your trek on any trail, you must check in to Huayna Picchu’s gate with your tickets and sign in with the time you start. When you finish your trek, you then sign out with the time you finish. Our only guess as to why this is necessary is to keep track of the visitors because as we have said, this is a very dangerous hike.
A Dangerous Trek to the Top
We honestly cannot reiterate enough how dangerous it is to hike Huayna Picchu. Just like the Inca trail, the Waynapicchu trail is also built by the Incas, so the rocks vary in size and are sometimes unstable. Different from hiking the Inca trail, it is not required to have a guide. However, if you are an inexperienced hiker, we highly recommend you do hire a private guide.
The one hour trek to the top of Huayna Picchu is a very steep and narrow path. When we say steep, we mean almost vertical! There were plenty of times when we were climbing up the trail on all four. (If you plan to bring your GoPro, you will need a harness or head strap). When we say narrow, we mean everyone hikes one by one behind each other. For at least half of the hike, there is no space to pass anyone by, so hiking Huayna Picchu is all about being slow and steady.
In addition to the steep and narrow trail, during most of the hike to Huayna Picchu, you will either have the mountainside or a steel rail to help give you support. Furthermore, there will also be moments when you literally have no support. So, one slip can have you falling into the Urubamba River. We wish we were exaggerating, but we are not. We want to be clear that this hike is not for everyone.
Huayna Picchu Stairs of Death
The Stairs of Death are not for the faint of heart. Huayna Picchu is not only one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, but it also has one of the most dangerous stairs in the world. The name says it all, “Stairs of Death”. Though there is no official report of any deaths on these stairs, they are certainly scary enough to be named death. Huayna Picchu’s Stairs of Death are near the very end of the hike. If you thought the hike was steep before, think again.
Visitors must use both their hands and feet to help them trek up the Stairs of Death. For those daring, you can try and hike up using only their two feet, but better to be safe than sorry. As long as you stay focus and take your time, you will be okay. The good news is that you only need to ascend up the Stairs of Death. Once you make it to the top of Huayna Picchu, there is another path to descend down and connect you to the main trail.
View From Huayna Picchu
Everyone climbs to the highest point of a building or mountain to enjoy the grand views and the view from Huayna Picchu is no different. The 360° views from Huayna Picchu are breathtaking. However, we hate to disappoint anyone when we describe our unpleasant experience at the top.
The first platform you arrive to after you ascend the Stairs of Death is absolutely gorgeous and safe. The Andes Mountains are so close they feel like only an arm’s length away from you. Even after hiking the Inca trail, we were blown away by the continuous mountain range. They looked like an endless ocean, just never stopped. Though the mountains are stunning, this platform does not allow you to see Machu Picchu, so you must ascend up one more path.
This is when the danger continues because the very top of Huayna Picchu is severely unregulated. Maybe there was one Peruvian government officer, but with at least 50 people crowded around on the small surface, the officer might as well have been nonexistent. Once you make it to the top, you are essentially blocked by a line of people trying to take photos on a cliff hanging over the edge. It was a complete mess! We felt like sitting ducks because we could not move. It was not only crowded, but people were passing by in all different directions and trying to squeeze their way into the line to take photos.
The Peruvian government should highly consider a better method to allow a certain amount of people to enjoy the views from Huayna Picchu. It was very disappointing to us that we finally made it to the top and felt so unsafe. We quickly took photos in a different area from the crowd, but the whole process felt rushed. Other than us feeling unsafe and rushed, the views from Huayna Picchu were as breathtaking as everyone says.
Close Up Photos of Machu Picchu from the Top of Huayna Picchu
Is Hiking Huayna Picchu Worth It?
In our honest opinion, it truly depends. For us, we had just hiked for three and a half days and had an unpleasant experience at the top of Huayna Picchu. After our hike and disappointment of Huayna Picchu, we did not even want to re-enter Machu Picchu. So with that said, no, we did not feel like hiking Huayna Picchu was worth it. However, if you are only visiting Machu Picchu, enjoy hiking, and beautiful views, then we would say yes, it is worth it. Furthermore, if you are going to Machu Picchu with kids and considering hiking Huayna Picchu, I would take extra safety precautions.
Please enjoy our short video of hiking Huayna Picchu.
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