Basics of Huayna Picchu
It towers over the main citadel and can be found on almost all images of Machu Picchu in existence. The mountain peak of the Huayna Picchu hike provides a wonderful backdrop to the ruins of temples and houses in the main site and has been a popular hiking trail for those who dare to climb it.
Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu means “young peak” in the local language of Quechua. The peak of the mountain was said to be home to high priests presiding over the sacred site below. At 2,270 meters (7,740 feet) at its summit, it is 360 meters (1,181 feet) higher than the city of Machu Picchu.
Is It Worth It?
Absolutely! The views along the trail of the Huayna Picchu hike alone are worth every pain and sweat I endured that day. What you see from the trails are views you normally will not see if you just stay on the main site. You also get to experience the incredible nature that surrounds the site. The variety of flora and fauna unique to the jungle of the Andes is definitely a sight to see and experience. In addition to the great views, you will also feel an even greater appreciation for the Incan people, not only for their genius and fortitude, but also for their dedication and loyalty. Lastly, the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit, as well as the completion of the hike, are two things you can always be proud of.
Preparing for the Huayna Picchu Hike
For many experienced hikers, the Huayna Picchu hike is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of difficulty, but for recreational hikers like myself, it was certainly a challenge. It was necessary to wear proper footwear, particularly one that has a good grip. In my case, it was also necessary to mentally prepare myself, especially after seeing images of some of the trail routes. Definitely bring sustenance: at least a couple of water bottles and healthy snacks (protein bars, nuts, dark chocolate) for the trip. It might also be prudent to carry medication for vertigo, slight pain or cramping, as well as altitude sickness in case of any emergency. If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, however, it might be best to skip the trek altogether and stick to the main citadel.
Limit and Controlled Access
In order to preserve and conserve the natural beauty of the mountain and the Huayna Picchu hike, the Peruvian government limits the number of visitors to the mountain to 400 per day. The first 200 are granted entrance starting at 7:00 AM and the second at 10:00 AM. There is a small fee required to climb the trail of the Huayna Picchu hike. It will be added to your Machu Picchu entrance fee for that day. Reserve as early as 60 days in advance. Considering its popularity and the limits imposed, the probability of last minute ticketing is practically nil.
For security measures, it is also imperative that anyone who has a ticket to climb must sign in and out of the trail. There are at least three control inspectors stationed at the guardhouse coordinating the entrance and exit processes to ensure that no one gets left behind on the trail.
Sights to See around the Huayna Picchu Hike
Almost everyone who chooses to climb this iconic mountain does so for the fantastic views of the valley, the surrounding mountains, the Urabamba River, and of the main archeological site of Machu Picchu. Nonetheless, there are a couple of temples, a few caves, and smaller agricultural sites scattered around the mountain. The most important of these sites is the one most hikers miss. The Temple of the Moon inside the Grand Caverna was said to be one of the most important temples in the site. There is a throne carved from a stone of the mountain as well as areas believed to have stored mummies. It is located on the other side of the mountain, in an elevation even lower than my hotel accommodation in Machu Picchu. To get there, you must take the longer route back down, encircling the backside of the mountain and descending down for at least an hour. There are a few signs leading you to the direction of the cave where it was incorporated.