Ever wondered about hiking the mountain behind Machu Picchu?

Terra Explorer
September 27, 2021

Some would argue that steep mountains are none of our business, that humans should stay within somewhat regular landscapes—we ditched nature for concrete-perfect geometry for a reason, right? Well, if you could ever ask an Inca architect, he (or she) would probably make a case for sky-high citadels where cliffs and sharp mountain slopes are part of the everyday engineering endeavors (Machu Picchu being the perfect example).

Although Machu Picchu—which, to most archaeologists, was not a city, but a state for Inca Emperor Pachacuti—is awe-inducing to multiple kinds of people for multiple reasons, hikers with a distinctive aesthetic appreciation for nature are especially in for a treat. Cloud-kissing mountains are filled with serpentine trails branching away from the center of the complex into lesser-known small archaeological sites. The jewel of this crown: the path to Huayna Picchu’s summit.

Here at Terra Explorer, we’ll go through the nitty-gritty of this hike. So you can have a sneak peek of what’s coming in case you want to make this part of your adventure holidays.

Related: What to pack for the Inca trail

HIKING THE MOUNTAIN ON EVERY MACHU PICCHU PHOTO

huayna picchu

The very narrow path on Huayna Picchu (sometimes spelled Wayna Picchu) is known as the Stairs of Death. Never-ending staircases rise to the top of the mountain reminding us of both the ingenuity of the Incas, as well as why we should never skip leg day. 

The trail is engulfed in amazonian foliage, still, vantage points are all over. The steepness varies: sometimes requiring you to go on all fours (yes, all fours), some other times the inclination and narrowness diminish, allowing you to take breaks alongside other goers. 

After a 45 minute walk—more like a workout, than a walk—the peak: To us, the best view of Machu Picchu, no questions about it. Being there does just as much for the eyes as it does for the soul. A grandeur-provoked feeling that artists and philosophers call “the sublime” invades you. Truly ethereal.

On an earthlier note, terraces mimicking human-made cliffs and small buildings are right on top of the mountain. At the highest point, protruding giant rocks make the perfect locale for photographers.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU 

April is the best time to go Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Rainbow Mountain, Inca Trail, and other Machu Picchu adjacent sites: right before tourists swarm to Peru, right after rain season is over. No one should hike on mud, more so when it could make you slip and fall (you don’t want to honor the name of the path).

You might be interested in Inca trail treks.

WHAT HOUR? 

We were not exaggerating when we said the Stairs of Death are narrow. At times, they only allow the passage of one person, so the best time to go—to avoid “traffic jams”—is as early as you can (have in mind the time of the descent too). 6, 7, or 8 a.m. will do.

There is plenty to see throughout the whole complex, so some people prefer to walk through the actual site one day (how long to see Machu Picchu? um, around 3 to 4 hours we’d say), and hike through the multiple trails the next. 

 

HIDDEN GEM: THE TEMPLE OF THE MOON

temple moon

If you’re feeling extra energetic, then, head to the Temple of the Moon—just a turn away from this trail. Although not as grand as some other attractions, the hike is way less filled with tourists. That makes it easier to enjoy the hike itself, soak in nature’s healing powers, and rest without peer pressure. 

The temple features a fine-masonry room built within a cave: an architectural rarity for the Incas. It is surrounded by some other minor constructions. It is believed that religious ceremonies dedicated to the Moon Goddess (Quilla in Quechua, the language of the Incas) took place there. Make this part of your Machu Picchu tour.

 

If you’re looking forward to this coveted hiking trail, look no further. We have the best team of outdoor-adoring professionals, archeologists, and historians to guide you through, to make this the perfect luxury hiking tour.

Disclaimer: Due to Covid-19 restrictions, as of September 2021, the trail on Huayna Picchu is closed until further notice.


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