in this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the ancient Huayna Picchu.
Let’s get started.
Overview of Huayna Picchu
Huayna Picchu is located within the famed Machu Picchu complex in Peru. This mountain is situated to the north of the ancient Inca city, standing tall and proud over the archaeological site.
The mountain’s location holds great significance. Not only does it provide a stunning backdrop to the iconic images of Machu Picchu, but it also played a vital role in the layout and function of the ancient city.
The mountain was integral to the Incas’ sophisticated understanding of astronomy and geography, and it is believed to have been used as a lookout point to monitor the surrounding valleys for potential threats.
Huayna Picchu is also home to several important archaeological sites, including the Temple of the Moon, which is nestled into one of its caves. This temple was considered a ceremonial site by the Incas and offers fascinating insight into their rituals and beliefs.
Hiking Huayna Picchu provides visitors with a unique perspective of the Machu Picchu complex. From its peak, one can truly appreciate the ingenious urban planning of the Incas and the grandeur of their civilization.
The hike itself, while challenging due to steep inclines and narrow paths, is richly rewarding with breathtaking views and encounters with hidden archaeological treasures.
In essence, Huayna Picchu is more than just a geographical feature within the Machu Picchu complex. It is a symbol of Inca ingenuity, spirituality, and resilience, making it an essential part of the overall Machu Picchu experience.
Embarking on a journey to Huayna Picchu begins with reaching Machu Picchu itself. The town closest to Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes, often used as a base by travellers.
Here are the common routes and transportation options:
Flight to Cusco: Most international travellers start by flying into Peru’s capital, Lima, and then take a domestic flight to Cusco. The cost of a domestic flight varies but typically ranges from $70 to USD 200.
Train to Aguas Calientes: From Cusco, you can take a train to Aguas Calientes. There are two main train companies – PeruRail and Inca Rail. Ticket prices vary greatly depending on the level of comfort and service you choose, ranging from $60 to USD 400 round trip.
Bus/On Foot to Machu Picchu: From Aguas Calientes, you can either take a bus to Machu Picchu or hike along the railway tracks. The bus fare is approximately USD 24 for a round trip.
Once you reach Machu Picchu, getting to Huayna Picchu requires a bit more effort. The entrance to Huayna Picchu is located within the Machu Picchu site itself.
Entrance to Huayna Picchu is limited to 400 visitors per day split into two groups and needs to be booked in advance.
The combined ticket for Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu costs around 200 Peruvian Soles (USD 56) for adults and 125 Peruvian Soles (USD 35) for students & children.
Please note that these prices are estimates and can change based on various factors such as time of year, exchange rates, and changes in local pricing policies.
Huayna Picchu offers two main hiking routes, each providing a unique perspective of the surrounding landscapes and the ancient Inca ruins.
The Short Route: This is the more straightforward of the two routes and takes you directly to the summit of Huayna Picchu. Despite being shorter, it’s still quite challenging due to the steep inclines and narrow pathways.
You’ll need to use both hands and feet in some sections, making it an adventurous climb. The entire round trip usually takes about 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level.
The Long Route (Via the Great Cavern): Also known as the ‘Route to the Temple of the Moon,’ this trail takes you around the back of the mountain, passing through the Great Cavern which houses the Temple of the Moon.
This route is longer and more physically demanding, but it offers wonderful views of the surrounding valleys and the Urubamba River. Plus, you get to explore the lesser-known Inca ruins in the Great Cavern. The round trip for this route typically takes around 3-4 hours.
Both routes are considered moderately difficult due to the uneven steps, steep ascents, and high altitude.
It’s important to take your time, stay hydrated, and be cautious along the more precarious parts of the trails.
Preparing for the Hike
Hiking Huayna Picchu is an exhilarating experience, but it’s also a physically demanding one. Therefore, it’s crucial to prepare adequately before attempting the hike.
Packing Essentials – Your backpack for the hike should include:
Comfortable Hiking Gear: Wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support and non-slip soles. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather conditions. A waterproof jacket can be useful in case of rain.
Water: Hydration is key, especially at high altitudes. Bring at least 1.5-2 litres of water per person.
Snacks: Energy bars, dried fruits, and nuts are lightweight but provide a good energy boost.
Sun Protection: The sun can be intense at high altitudes. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with high SPF protection.
First Aid Kit: Include basics like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. If you’re prone to altitude sickness, consider bringing medication for that as well.
Hiking Huayna Picchu is an unforgettable adventure, but like any outdoor activity in a rugged environment, it does come with certain risks.
Steep Trails: The paths leading up Huayna Picchu are steep, narrow, and at times, precariously close to the edge of cliffs. Some sections even require you to use your hands for support. It’s vital to wear sturdy footwear with a good grip to prevent slips and falls.
Altitude Sickness: At nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, Huayna Picchu is high enough to cause altitude sickness in some individuals. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Dehydration and Heat Exposure: The hike can be physically demanding, and combined with the strong sun at high altitudes, there’s a risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable hike, consider the following precautions:
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the hike. Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of altitude sickness and fatigue.
Take Breaks: Don’t rush the hike. Take regular breaks to rest, catch your breath, and enjoy the scenery. This is especially important if you’re feeling the effects of the high altitude.
Follow Trail Markers: The trails are well-marked, so stick to the path. Venturing off the trail not only risks getting lost but also damaging the fragile ecosystem.
Acclimatize: Spend a couple of days at a high altitude location before attempting the hike to allow your body to adjust to the lower oxygen levels.
Listen to Your Body: If you feel unwell, don’t push yourself to continue. Descend immediately if your symptoms don’t improve with rest.
Remember, while reaching the summit is a thrilling accomplishment, the real reward is in the journey itself. Stay safe, respect the mountain, and enjoy the experience.
Hiking Huayna Picchu is a true feast for the senses, offering an array of awe-inspiring landscapes, unique flora, and fascinating fauna.
Landscapes: As you ascend the steep trails of Huayna Picchu, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas that are nothing short of breathtaking.
The lush, green slopes of the Andes stretch out in all directions, with the Urubamba River winding its way through the valley below.
At the summit, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the iconic Machu Picchu ruins, nestled amidst the surrounding mountain peaks.
Flora: The mountain is home to a rich biodiversity of plants. You’ll traverse through cloud forests draped in moss and lichen, past towering ferns, and orchids in a palette of vibrant colours. Look out for the Kantu flower, Peru’s national flower, known for its spiralling red petals.
Fauna: Huayna Picchu is also teeming with wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of the Andean condor soaring overhead or the spectacled bear ambling through the undergrowth. Smaller creatures abound too, from brightly coloured butterflies to hummingbirds darting between flowers.
The final ascent to the summit of Huayna Picchu is known to be the most challenging part of the hike, but also the most rewarding.
This section, often referred to as the “Stairs of Death,” consists of a steep, nearly vertical set of stone steps carved into the mountainside by the Incas centuries ago.
The stairs are narrow and can be a bit intimidating, but safety cables along the side provide support.
As you climb these final steps, the air becomes thinner and the suspense builds. You’re greeted by a large stone at the top, known as the “Throne of the Inca,” which marks the summit.
And then, you see it – the reward for your efforts. Standing at the summit of Huayna Picchu, you are treated to an unparalleled view of the ancient city of Machu Picchu below, nestled within the verdant, cloud-shrouded Andean peaks.
The intricate network of terraces, plazas, and temples of the city unfolds in a spectacular panorama that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
From this vantage point, you can truly appreciate the architectural mastery of the Incas and the grandeur of their civilization. The Urubamba River snakes its way around the mountain base, accentuating the feeling of height and isolation.
The view from the summit of Huayna Picchu is often described as one of the most breathtaking sights in the world, a fitting reward for the challenging climb.
It’s a moment of serene beauty, a chance to reflect, and an experience that stays with you long after you’ve descended back down the mountain.
Exploring the Surroundings
Within the Machu Picchu complex, there are several other notable attractions that hikers and history enthusiasts should not miss:
Temple of the Moon: This is one of the most fascinating structures within the Great Cavern, located on the far side of Huayna Picchu.
It’s believed to have been a significant ceremonial site for the Incas. The temple features beautifully carved niches and trapezoidal doors, a signature of Inca architecture.
The Great Cavern: Also known as the “Great Cave,” this is an extensive network of natural caves that the Incas converted into habitable and ceremonial spaces.
As you explore the cavern, you’ll find intricate masonry and evidence of the Incas’ remarkable ability to adapt their architecture to the natural environment.
Intihuatana Stone: This carved rock, whose name translates to “Hitching Post of the Sun,” is believed to have been used by the Incas as an astronomical calendar or clock.
Temple of the Sun: One of the most important buildings in Machu Picchu, it’s renowned for its semi-circular construction and the precision of its stonework.
During the winter solstice, the sun shines through one of its windows and aligns perfectly with a sacred stone inside.
Agricultural Terraces: These stepped terraces were used by the Incas for farming and are proof of their advanced agricultural techniques. They also offer a unique perspective on how the Incas shaped the landscape to meet their needs.
Exploring these attractions provides a deeper insight into the rich history and innovative spirit of the Inca civilization.
Each site tells a story of a society that thrived amidst the rugged Andean peaks, leaving behind a legacy that continues to fascinate and inspire visitors from around the world.
Hiking Huayna Picchu is more than just a physical challenge, it’s an immersive journey through history, culture, and breathtaking natural beauty.
The trail takes you through cloud forests teeming with unique flora and fauna, past ancient Inca ruins steeped in mystery, and up to a summit that offers one of the world’s most awe-inspiring views.
As part of the Machu Picchu complex, Huayna Picchu holds a special significance. It’s not just a backdrop to the iconic city, but an integral part of it, offering a unique perspective on the architectural mastery of the Incas and their symbiotic relationship with the environment.
Embarking on this hike is a memorable adventure, a chance to step back in time, and an opportunity to challenge yourself. But as you tread these ancient paths, remember the importance of respecting and preserving the natural and cultural heritage of this extraordinary region.
It’s our collective responsibility to ensure that future generations can experience the magic of Huayna Picchu and the Machu Picchu complex.
So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your essentials, and set off on this unforgettable journey. And remember, it’s not just about reaching the summit, it’s about the lessons learned, the sights witnessed, and the memories made along the way. Happy hiking!