Meaning ‘Young Peak’ in Quechua, Huayna Picchu is the steeply sloping hill that serves as the backdrop against which most iconic shots of the Machu Picchu ruins are framed. Rugged terraces and temple remnants crown the mountain’s summit, which can be reached via a steep trail that climbs over 1,000 feet higher than the ruins, treating climbers to a fantastic view of the temple complex below. The hike to the summit is very doable, taking most fit travelers about 2 hours roundtrip, though parts of the trail are exposed with unguarded drop-offs. Caution is a must, so this trail isn’t recommended for children (under 12 are not permitted by the governments) travelers in poor physical condition or those with a fear of heights or vertigo. As of 2011 the ability to hike Huayna Picchu has been governed by a permit system and permits are limited to 400 people per day, with half receiving an early morning hiking window commencing at 7 AM and the other half receiving a 10 AM entrance time. Permits must be confirmed at the time that entrance fees to Machu Picchu are purchased and cost approximately $15 per person additional. If you are interested in hiking Huayna Picchu, we highly suggest that you consider this during your second day at Machu Picchu when you have time to visit the ruins on your own. Travelers electing to hike Huayna Picchu on the day that the guided tour of the citadel occurs may have to miss part of the tour, especially if traveling in a group with non-hikers and one lead guide. Due to the permit availability and limited numbers, Wildland can’t always confirm the preferred time slot for hiking.
Machu Picchu Mountain is the largest hill that rises out of the Sanctuary complex and sits directly across the ruins from Huayna Picchu. Almost twice as high, Cerro Machu Picchu takes most travelers three hours to hike to the summit (a 1,850’ climb) and back. What it lacks in Incan ruins (aside from an ancient stone pathway) it more than makes up for with the lush forest surrounding the hike, lining the pathways with orchids, beautiful lichens and exotic birds. The views from the top are magnificent, though from a gentler angle than viewing the ruins from Huayna Picchu. Permits must be purchased in advance though numbers aren’t limited and entries are not timed. The trail is generally less crowded than the Huayna Picchu trail and is appropriate for families with younger, active children. Various caves that contained skeletons when found by Hiram Bingham’s expedition are located at the base of Cerro Machu Picchu, leading to the area being called the ‘Upper Cemetery.’