Here is your checklist: you have decided which travel agency to use (checked); taken time off from work (checked); gotten your appointment to see your doctor for medical advice (checked); and mentally prepared your packing list (checked) as you’re getting ready for your custom trip to Peru, the adventure of a lifetime. Before you forget, there is one more thing on your checklist that would require your decision: should you climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña during the Machu Picchu portion of the trip? Both of these options are offered as an additional hike during your visit to the ancient “lost city” of the Incas.
The citadel of Machu Picchu, in and of itself, is amazing. You will be able to experience the mystic beauty of these ruins “lost in time” simply by exploring the area with your private English-speaking guide. But you will, additionally, have the option of going on one of two great hikes up either of these two mountain peaks, Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña. In this article, I’ll lay out some of the differences between the two options, in order to help you and your companions choose which hike works best for you. Nevertheless, you should be in decent physical shape in order to take either hike.
First, let’s discuss Huayna Picchu, which, granted, is the more popular of the two hikes. The Huayna Picchu hike is the steeper ascent, and there will be places where you will need to use your hands. Going up Huayna Picchu, you’ll gain 290 meters (951 feet) in elevation, and the total hike up and down should take in the neighborhood of two hours. At its peak, you’ll reach an altitude of 2,720 meters (8,923 feet.) There are some very steep Inca staircases, ancient stonework, and tunnels on the way, and the last bit at the end has a stone ladder you’ll need your hands to climb. This hike will be the more crowded of the two, and the ascension is a bit steeper. The path is narrow, so it will be difficult to turn around and maneuver in any direction except forward and ahead, especially if there are quite a few other hikers present. There will be some sheer drops and scary moments along the route; however, once at the top, you’ll gain a wonderful panoramic view of the ruins.
On the other hand, Machu Picchu Montaña offers a more gradual ascent and takes a bit longer. There is more natural scenery, but fewer ruins and manmade features on this trek. This is a three-hour hike, during which you’ll ascend a total of 621 meters (2037 feet). There are fewer folks taking this option, so if avoiding other tourists is one of your priorities, this could be the better choice for you. Should you feel the need to turn back at any point, with fewer people and a somewhat wider path in most places, you will have that option. Machu Picchu Montaña ascends more gradually, but ends up at a higher altitude than Huayna Picchu (3051 meters at its peak, or 10,009 feet). So when you reach the top, you’ll be able to look down on Huayna Picchu Mountain and the entire citadel of Machu Picchu.
Both hikes will have some difficult places, sheer drops, and tricky moments.
And while both are somewhat challenging hikes, you will surely feel a sense of achievements when you reached the top of the peaks.
Huayna Picchu: more Inca stonework and ruins, less overall ascension, shorter, steeper hike, narrower pathways, amazing view, and more fellow travelers.
Machu Picchu Montaña: longer hike, more gain in altitude, fewer manmade (Incan) features, even more of a view than Huayna Picchu, and fewer fellow visitors to contend with.
Which you choose depends on your personal preference. Both choices offer a spectacular view of the incredible Inca citadel on your Peru Luxury Trip!
*A permit is needed for either hike, and must be arranged in advance, as each hike permits 400 visitors per day.