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If you’re looking for the best views of Machu Picchu, a view that reveals all of the citadel’s engineering brilliance and complexity, you’ll need the bird’s eye view from the top of Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the mountain that rises above Machu Picchu in the back of every photo you see of the famous ruins, but before you decide to hike it there are some things you need to know. Here is our guide to climbing Huayna Picchu.
In Quechua, the language of the Incas, Huayna Picchu means “young peak”, and it’s the mountain that looms over the ruins below. However, the destination isn’t just a lookout point as it is believed that it served as the home for the high priest and Inca virgins. They’d live on the top of the peak, catching a glimpse of the sun as it began to peak over the mountains. Today, if you buy the permit, you can take your Machu Picchu trip to the next level by hiking up to the top of Huayna Picchu.
As you can imagine by looking at the peak, it’s not exactly a walk in the park, but neither is getting around anything that the Incas built. Take the lower circuit from the entrance of Machu Picchu and follow the signs which will take you right to the entrance of the hike. From there the steep ascent towards your bird’s eye view begins. The hike is moderately steep and at times will require you to use your hands and your feet to continue the climb. It’ll take about an hour to make it to the top and 45 minutes to descend – and don’t forget to look for the Temple of the Moon, one of Peru’s most remarkable temples and which is built into the side of the Huayna Picchu.
Just remember that you can’t just show up to climb the peak. The days of when you could do whatever you wanted at Machu Picchu are over and it’s for the best. The requirement of permits limits access to both Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in order to limit the damage to the site and help preserve the famous ruins for future generations. It also ensures greater safety in the climb to the top – it’s no longer a mad house of people all scrambling up at the same time. They allow 400 people to climb up each day, but stagger the times so that two groups of 200 people go up together.
To buy a ticket to Huayna Picchu you’ll need to buy it with your Machu Picchu ticket, not separately. The cost of the permit for Huayna Picchu is around 150 soles or $50 USD, a fee which includes the entrance fee to Machu Picchu. There are no separate permits, it is included in your Machu Picchu ticket. This can be complicated if you’re hiking the Inca Trail because they will buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu for you. If you wanted to do the Inca Trail and climb Huayna Picchu, you’ll need to specify it to your tour operator.