River Explorers

If you’re travelling to Cusco, you may have heard about the new trail that recently opened to a small summit alongside the majestic Huayna Picchu peak. At 2497 metres (8,923 feet) above sea level, the summit is just 50 metres higher than the Inca site at Machu Picchu so you have great views of the archaeological site below.

Ruins at Huayna Picchu peak

Huayna Picchu, Montaña or Huchuy Picchu – Which is Best

It’s always great to have new options. Still, you may wonder how this hike compares to the famed Huayna Picchu and the hike up to Machu Picchu Montaña hike. These two peaks are on opposite sides of the Inca citadel so if you want to hike you must make a choice between one and the other.

Both peaks offer stunning views of the full archaeological site below. The path up the mountains takes you through stunning mountain vegetation against a backdrop of the majestic Andes. Birdsong will accompany you along the route. Look out for the orchids, there are more than 300 species of orchids that grow in this part of the world.
The hikes require permits and the authorities limit the number of people hiking on any particular day, so you will have to book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Before you book let’s compare the sites
Machu Picchu Mountains

Machu Picchu vs Huayna Picchu Mountains

Huayna Picchu is a popular choice so the permits for this hike are quickly sold out. Despite limited permits, the peak can become very crowded. If you don’t like crowds, you may be more comfortable on the hike up to the Machu Picchu summit.

You will encounter interesting archaeological sites on the path to the summit of Huayna Picchu. These include agricultural platforms and the Temple of the Moon. There are no ruins on the Machu Picchu Montaña hike. 

Hike to Huayna Picchu

The Hike

The hike up Huayna Picchu is steep but the elevation gain is half that of Machu Picchu Montaña, though the distance to the summit of Huayna Picchu is shorter. This makes Montaña the more challenging of the two hikes, also demonstrated by the time it takes. You can do the round trip up Huayna Picchu in just over two hours whereas the round trip up Machu Picchu will take you two and a half to three hours.

A warning: Both these hikes traverse treacherous terrain with steep sides and drop-offs. If you’re scared of heights, they could present a problem.

Height and Elevation

At 3,051 metres (10,111 feet) Machu Picchu is considerably higher than the summit at Huayna Picchu at 2,720 metres (8,923). When you reach the latter peak you will have climbed a total of 290 metres whereas you’ll climb 621 metres to get to the top of Machu Picchu.  

The Huayna Picchu summit isn’t flat and it is difficult to move around on the top especially when it is crowded. The top of Machu Picchu has a nice flat top which will afford you panoramic views from all sides. You’ll definitely get the best pictures from the top of Machu Picchu.

Permits and Times

There are only 200 permits issued for each of these hikes each day. Tourists book them well in advance and permits run out particularly quickly on the Huayna Picchu climb.

Both hikes leave twice a day as follows

  • Huayna Picchu
    • 7 to 8 am
    • 10 to 11 am
  • Machu Picchu
    • 7 to 8 am
    • 9 to 10 am

You will get great views from either summit, though from Machu Picchu, you will also enjoy views of Huayna Picchu because it is the lower of the two peaks.

Height and Elevation

At 3,051 metres (10,111 feet) Machu Picchu is considerably higher than the summit at Huayna Picchu at 2,720 metres (8,923). When you reach the latter peak you will have climbed a total of 290 metres whereas you’ll climb 621 metres to get to the top of Machu Picchu.  

The Huayna Picchu summit isn’t flat and it is difficult to move around on the top especially when it is crowded. The top of Machu Picchu has a nice flat top which will afford you panoramic views from all sides. You’ll definitely get the best pictures from the top of Machu Picchu.

Permits and Times

There are only 200 permits issued for each of these hikes each day. Tourists book them well in advance and permits run out particularly quickly on the Huayna Picchu climb.

Both hikes leave twice a day as follows

  • Huayna Picchu
    • 7 to 8 am
    • 10 to 11 am
  • Machu Picchu
    • 7 to 8 am
    • 9 to 10 am

You will get great views from either summit, though from Machu Picchu, you will also enjoy views of Huayna Picchu because it is the lower of the two peaks.

The New Hike up Huchuy Picchu

Huchuy Picchu mountain

Huchuy Picchu means little mountain in Quechua. This small mountain stands watch over the archaeological site at Machu Picchu. The hike along the mountain covers part of the route to the summit of the Huayna Picchu Mountain and leaves from the same registration centre.

Huchuy Picchu is an easy hike along a narrow dirt path. It is a kilometre in length with stone sections and steps built by the Incas in the 15th Century. The hike will take you an hour to an hour and a half for the round trip. You will return along the same path as the trip uphill. The steps are quite steep so you must be moderately fit to complete this hike.    

Huchuy Picchu lies just north of the Inca citadel and offers wonderful views of the architectural wonder.  

Combination Hike and Tour - Huchuy Picchu and Machu Picchu

With the opening of the new path up Huchuy Pichu, you can now enjoy a hike up this small summit and then visit Circuit 4 of the Inca archaeological site of Machu Picchu with a single ticket and for the same price as a tour of the Inca City.

You can add any of these hikes to whatever tour to Machu Picchu you booked, just make sure first to find availability. 

Only 200 people a day can do this trip so you will have to book well in advance. The tours run hourly from 6 am to 2 pm

Our view

Hikes up Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu are challenging and you should only embark on a hike such as this if you are fit and not too scared of heights. All of these hikes offer great views of the citadel but the path up Huayna Picchu is full of interesting features like the Inca steps, tunnels, and other Inca ruins. The trip up Machu Picchu is less crowded, offers better views from the peak and the flat top makes for a comfortable summit. Still, the hike is longer and the elevation substantially higher so this could present a challenge.

Choose Huayna Picchu if

  • You like a steep and treacherous climb
  • You don’t mind narrow paths
  • You’d like to see the archaeology along the way

Choose Machu Picchu Mountain if

  • You don’t enjoy crowds
  • You’re with your family. Only children over 12 can participate in the hike
  • You want a better view from a flat summit

Choose Huchuy Picchu if

  • You want an easy hike
  • You don’t have much time but you’d like a good view of the Citadel