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Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: The Difference Between the Mountains

  |   Machu Picchu

Traveling to Machu Picchu is often synonymous with trekking. However, the options for trekking are far wider and varied than just the Inca Trail to the ancient Inca citadel- there are plenty of trails on the site itself that visitors can experience in just a couple of hours. For those don’t have the time or desire to trek for days (or those who are but want even more), make sure to check out Huayna Picchu or any of the multiple other hikes on the Machu Picchu site. Below you’ll find a description of the different treks, the difference between trekking on Machu Picchu versus Huayna Picchu, and every other bit of information you need to choose the adventure that’s right for you!


Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu vs. Huayna Picchu

All visitors will enter the main ruins of Machu Picchu, and from here will have options to access the various treks on top of the mountain. Huayna Picchu, though accessed from within Machu Picchu, requires a separate ticket that must be purchased in advance. It can not be accessed without this ticket, and only 400 passes are available per day.


All other treks on top of Machu Picchu are included in the main Machu Picchu entrance ticket, and only one needs to be reserved in advance (Machu Picchu Mountain). These treks range widely in difficulty and length, with a little something for everyone. 



Machu Picchu


Huayna Picchu

The famous peak in the back of every iconic Machu Picchu photo, summiting Huayna Picchu is always a top item on most Machu Picchu visitor’s lists. Along this trek you’ll see breathtaking views down onto the main Machu Picchu ruins, several additional ruins (including a temple only accessible by this trek), and get a special perspective onto the site that few see.


The Huayna Picchu trek is steep and has several slippery sections, and while short (it usually requires about an hour each way), it’s definitely challenging. Due to the steep slopes and dropping views, it’s not recommended for anyone with vertigo or a fear of heights. 


Huayna Picchu passes can be bought through a travel agent or the official website when you buy your entrance tickets to the main Machu Picchu ruins. Only 400 passes are available per day, and they can sell out anywhere from one to three months in advance. 


The Huayna Picchu trek is usually only open in the morning, so you’ll have to get up early but will then have the rest of the day to explore the main ruins. 


machu picchu


Machu Picchu

On Machu Picchu’s main site, there are several main treks included in the entrance ticket. If you plan to do these, keep in mind that (like the main site), they do not have any facilities on them. Make sure to bring snacks, water in a reusable bottle, and visit the restrooms outside the main entrance before your trek.


Outside the main entrance there is a restaurant, café and restrooms, and you are allowed to exit and re-enter at any time to visit them (but we suggest planning strategically to avoid getting stuck in the entrance line again!).



Machu Picchu Mountain

This trek is a great alternative to Huayna Picchu, ideal for those who don’t want the hassle of fighting for a ticket, or who were unable to get one. Technically, spaces for Machu Picchu Mountain are also limited to 400 per day, but it never sells out (not yet at least!). You simply need to reserve a space when you buy your entrance tickets, however this is possible up until the day before.


This trek is great because it will also take you high up like Huayna Picchu, offering great views down on the main ruins. This trek has an easier incline (also making it accessible for those who fear the heights of Huayna Picchu), but the path is much longer making it equally as challenging in it’s own way.


The trek to Machu Picchu Mountain takes anywhere from three to five hours round trip, depending on how speedily you do the entirely uphill hike. 



The Sun Gate (Inti Punku)

For those who haven’t done the Inca Trail, this is a great glimpse of the experience. The Sun Gate is the very end of the Inca Trail, through which the Incas would enter Machu Picchu. Hike up to it and see the same view they did when arriving at the site.


This trek is one of the best on Machu Picchu’s main site because it’s entirely no fuss. It is included with your main entrance ticket, there is no limit to how many people can do it, and you don’t need to reserve anything in advance. 


The Sun Gate is a great alternative to Machu Picchu Mountain because it is still an adventure but accessible to a wider range of fitness levels. The uphill walk takes about three to four hours to complete round trip, and you’ll see all type of travelers making the journey. 


Machu Picchu

Inca Bridge

Last but not least, the Inca Bridge. Unlike the other treks on top of Machu Picchu, this short walk with ancient ruins is a breeze. Great for families or those who want something to do without too much of a physical challenge, this short journey gives you views of the valley behind Machu Picchu Mountain and a glimpse of what remains of an ancient Inca Bridge used to access Machu Picchu.

Other Treks on Machu Picchu

When you arrive at Machu Picchu, you’ll be given a map with information on all of the main site treks listed above and a few other walks or points of interest. As none of these need to be reserved in advance (and sometimes vary seasonally), it’s best to arrive in the morning and allow a little wiggle room in your day should you choose to explore any.

Whether you trek any of the routes on Machu Picchu itself or book a trek up to Huayna Picchu, impressive sites and additional ruins can be found in every corner of Machu Picchu- all are sure to impress any traveler. Contact Us if you need help booking your Machu Picchu tour. 

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