The main area of Machu Picchu is quite compact and a three-hour tour of the site allows plenty of time to explore this. However, Machu Picchu is much more than just the main ruins, and there are several other visits that can be made in the area. My favourite of all of these is the climb up Machu Picchu Mountain. This is hard work, but immensely rewarding, with the best views in the area.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain
You register for the walk at the check point, about 15 minutes from the entrance to Machu Picchu, on the way to the Sun Gate, and then the climb begins. This is steep all the way to the summit, although the path is in good condition and no clambering is required. The path wends its way around the mountain, sometimes covered by vegetation but often in the bright sunshine. At several points, the ruins of Machu Picchu peek through the trees, and there are many spots you can stop and rest, enjoying the views. As you climb higher, the views become more spectacular, with the curve of the Urubamba River enclosing the ruins below. About half way up, you are level with the top of the Huayna Picchu sugarloaf, on the other side of Machu Picchu, and as you continue to climb, you leave the nearby peaks below you.
Flora & Fauna
The path is mostly compacted earth, with the stones placed by the Incas only used where necessary, where the mountain path is particularly steep. In these sections, there are large drops to the side of the path, especially approaching the summit, where the path is at its steepest. However, there is also plenty of vegetation, including orchids, and there is also plenty of wildlife in the area. On the day I visited, a spectacled bear also decided to make the climb to the summit, and was rummaging in the vegetation below.
After about one-and-a-half to two hours, you reach the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain at 3,050 metres, which affords outstanding views, not only of the ruins of Machu Picchu far below, but also of the surrounding peaks, including the stunning snow-covered Apu Sanlkantay. After enjoying the views, you return to the checkpoint on the same path. The walk down takes about half an hour less than the ascent, but still needs to be taken calmly due to the steep descent.
If you are up for a challenging walk, this is one of the best ways of enjoying the Machu Picchu area.
To climb Machu Picchu Mountain, you need to purchase an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu including a permit for Machu Picchu Mountain. 400 permits a day are available: 200 to pass the checkpoint between 7am and 8am and 200 to pass the checkpoint between 9am and 10am. You will need your passport to register at the checkpoint.
The walk up takes approximately one-and-a-half to two hours and the guard at the top of the mountain starts to move people down the mountain at midday.
The total length of the walk up the mountain is less than two miles, but with a total vertical ascent of over 600 metres, this is a tiring walk, and requires a good level of fitness. The path is steep and narrow in places, with large drops, so is not suitable if you have a fear of heights.
To climb Machu Picchu Mountain, it is necessary to spend a night at Machu Picchu, entering the following morning.
The climb is steep and it is often hot, so take plenty of water. Snacks are also a good idea.
If you are interested in a trip to Machu Picchu, you can see our Peru holidays here, and our Machu Picchu excursion options here.
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