A great alternative to Huayna Picchu, and one which does not sell out so quickly, is Machu Picchu Mountain. Higher than Huayna Picchu but a more up-and-down sort of climb, the hike to the top is longer and more gradual, although it will take longer.

While Huayna Picchu is the one most known for its photo opportunities of Machu Picchu, many feel that Machu Picchu Mountain actually offers some more impressive vistas.

Between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, it’s hard to say which is more difficult. Some feel that the up-and-down nature of the trail up Machu Picchu Mountain, combined with the longer distance, makes it more difficult. Machu Picchu Mountain also reaches a higher altitude–3,082m (10,112 ft) vs. Huayna Picchu’s 2,720m (8,924 ft). Others prefer Machu Picchu Mountain for its lighter traffic, wider path with less crumbling stairs, and less exposure to sheer drop offs than Huayna Picchu–although there are a few dicey spots.

Machu Picchu Mountain

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: Two to four hours

Max elevation: 3,082

Start/end point: The trail starts on the upper terraces of the Machu Picchu citadel

Machupicchu view peru

Stunning views over the ruins

What you’ll see

How to get to Machu PicchuThere are no ruins on this mountain. The climb is purely for the adventure of it, plus the fantastic views that you will get of Machu Picchu below. Another plus is that it is not as popular as Huayna Picchu so the path tends to be less crowded.

What's in a name?

The ancient city of Machu Picchu is named for the highest mountain that guards it. The phrase translates to “old mountain” in the Quechua language. It is highly unlikely that the Inca used this name for the archeological site we know today. Since the Spanish never saw Machu Picchu, there is no written record of the citadel’s original name. Most of the Inca’s oral history was lost to the destruction of the colonial period.

Length of the hike

To reach the top of the mountain, you will gain a little over 610m (2,000 ft) in altitude. You’ll need up to two hours to reach the top, and about an hour to hike back down. From there, it’ll take you some time to make your way back to the front gate, so be sure to allow for that when considering your return train.

How to book

As of 2023, entrance tickets to Machu Picchu Mountain are limited to 100 per day; 50 people may enter between 7 and 8 am, and 50 more between 8 and 9 am. This is a significant reduction compared to previous years, so be sure to check current regulations in case this changes again. If you buy Machu Picchu Mountain tickets, you will do circuit three through the citadel.

About the author

Machu Picchu Mountain

Heather Jasper

Based in Cusco, Peru, Heather is an expert on travel to Peru and South America. Heather writes on tourism, trekking, and social issues in Peru for publications including BBC Travel, Fodor’s Travel, Matador Network, Thrifty Nomads, World Nomads, Frommer's, Flashpack, and more. Heather co-founded the Covid Relief Project with Henry Quintano Loaiza to assist vulnerable families in the Cusco region.

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