Taking the train to Machu Picchu but you’re keen to take a crack at hiking whilst at the ruins? Walking the Inca Trail but you’re up for one final trek? Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain offer unparalleled birds-eye views of the ruins, as well as panoramic vistas of the surrounding peaks and valley. While both hikes are difficult, arguably making the decision of which mountain to climb is the biggest difficulty of all.
Huayna Picchu Mountain
The view from the Huayna Picchu Mountain summit (image source: Google street view)
Rising above the citadel of Machu Picchu in every classic image, Huayna Picchu is the infamous sugar-loaf mountain which sits at an elevation of 2,720m. While the trek is known to be a more challenging hike than its counterpart, Machu Picchu Mountain, it is the more popular choice of the two.
Read our blog to find out how Becky, our Australia sales manager, got on when she climbed Huayna Picchu.
The track – Huayna Picchu is very steep, narrow, and in many parts, you are required to use your hands for balance or use cables provided to hold onto. There are many stone steps and some stone ladders to climb up the cliff face along the way. Much of the track is exposed to drop offs; if you suffer from vertigo this may not be the hike for you. The summit itself is not flat but is instead rocky, therefore when the crowd picks up it can be a bit difficult to move around.
Difficulty – Due to the complexity and gradient of the trail, the hike is rather challenging.
Duration – Keeping in mind stopping along the way and admiring the view from the summit, the hike can take between 2 and 3 hours.
Elevation – The mountain’s summit sits at 2,693m, while the climb itself is 353m.
Machu Picchu Mountain
The view from the Machu Picchu Mountain summit (image source: Google street view)
While known as the not-as-steep and not-as-difficult hike, the less-frequented Machu Picchu Mountain offers arguably more spectacular views due to the difference in elevation. From the summit you are offered incredible vistas down to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, as well as the lush, surrounding valley.
Read about Luca's personal experience of climbing Machu Picchu Mountain in this blog.
The track – Machu Picchu Mountain begins as a wider path; however, the trail gets steeper and narrower along the way up. Compared to Huayna Picchu the ascent is more gradual, but reaches a higher elevation. The path doesn’t involve elements necessary on Huayna Picchu (e.g. ladders, the need to clamber with your hands), but instead is a mostly continual climb of stone stairs before reaching a stone gateway before the summit. The summit offers a rather extensive area to sit and enjoy the views, and is generally less-crowded than Huayna Picchu.
Difficulty – This hike is reasonably challenging, although arguably more manageable than Huayna Picchu as the climb is more gradual.
Duration – Keeping in mind stopping along the way and admiring the view from the summit, the hike can take between 3 and 4 hours.
Elevation – The mountain’s summit sits at 3,082m, while the climb itself is 652m.
Which do I choose?
While Huayna Picchu is a more dramatic and popular hike, Machu Picchu Mountain offers just as incredible (some argue paramount) views from the summit. As the mountains are facing one another, both hikes offer similar views of the surrounding landscape and incredible views of the citadel.
Both treks have exposed sections along the way, therefore those with a strong fear of heights or are prone to suffering vertigo may prefer to stick with a hike closer to the ruins such as to the Sun Gate. Both options are fairly challenging and require a moderate level of fitness, although Huayna Picchu may be the preference of the more adventurous. The climb is well worth the effort, and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views regardless of your choice.
If you are interested in hiking Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, talk to one of our Peru experts to find out which might be the better fit for you. Permits for each hike are limited to 400 a day and tend to sell out quickly, so we recommend purchasing these in advance. You can view all of our Machu Picchu Holidays here.