Huayna Picchu vs Machu Picchu

Peru’s Andean landscape is adorned with archaeological wonders that transport visitors to the heart of ancient civilizations. Among these, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu stand as twin jewels, each with its unique allure and historical significance. In this exploration, we delve into the meaning behind their names, the experience of climbing Huayna Picchu, where to secure tickets, and the safety considerations that come with exploring these iconic sites.

What is Huayna Picchu?

The names themselves carry echoes of the Inca past. “Huayna Picchu” translates to “Young Peak” in Quechua, the language of the Inca. On the other hand, “Machu Picchu” translates to “Old Peak.” These names encapsulate the relationship between the two sites, with Huayna Picchu rising in the shadow of its elder sibling, Machu Picchu.

Comparing the Two Sites

Machu Picchu needs little introduction. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is an architectural marvel, a testament to the Inca’s advanced engineering and astronomical understanding. Its terraced fields, intricate stonework, and mystical aura make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a profound connection with history.

Huayna Picchu, though smaller in scale, boasts its own distinctive charm. Rising dramatically behind Machu Picchu, it offers a unique perspective of the ancient city. The hike to its summit is renowned for its challenging nature, rewarding those who conquer it with unparalleled views and a sense of accomplishment.

Can You Climb Huayna Picchu?

Yes, you can climb the Huayna Picchu, but the ascent is not for the faint of heart. The trail is steep, and at times, it involves navigating through narrow paths with dizzying drop-offs. The challenge is well worth the reward, as reaching the summit provides breathtaking panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains.

It’s important to note that due to the trail’s difficulty and limited availability, only a certain number of visitors are allowed to climb it each day. This restriction emphasizes the need to plan and secure tickets well in advance.

Where to Buy Tickets for Huayna Picchu?

Access to Huayna Picchu can be added to your general Machu Picchu Ticket, which officially are sold on the government website. When choosing your route, keep in mind that access to Huayna Picchu (called ¨Waynapicchu¨ on the website) is only combinable with Circuit 4 of Machu Picchu.

Alternatively, if you wish to avoid all the hassle, you can purchase a tour to Machu Picchu that includes Waynapicchu.

Is Huayna Picchu Dangerous?

While the allure of Huayna Picchu is undeniable, it’s crucial to acknowledge the challenges and potential risks associated with the climb. The trail is steep and involves navigating sections known as the “Stairs of Death,” a name that underscores the difficulty of these segments. The term may sound ominous, but with proper preparation and caution, many travelers successfully conquer this ascent.

Packing List and Tips for Climbing Huayna Picchu

  1. Sturdy Footwear: Given the uneven and steep terrain, wearing sturdy, comfortable hiking boots is essential. These provide the necessary grip and support for navigating the trail.
  2. Water and Snacks: Hydration is key, especially during a challenging hike. Carry an adequate supply of water and energizing snacks to fuel your climb.
  3. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: The climate around Machu Picchu can vary, so it’s advisable to check the weather forecast for the day of your visit. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing conditions.
  4. Sun Protection: The high altitude exposes you to intense sunlight. Pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.
  5. Small Backpack: A compact backpack to carry your essentials ensures you have everything you need while keeping your hands free for navigating the trail.
  6. Camera/Smartphone: Capture the awe-inspiring views from the mountain, but be mindful of your surroundings and safety while doing so.
  7. Permit and Identification: Ensure you have your ticket/pass and a valid form of identification with you. This is crucial for entering the site and participating in the climb.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to October. During this period, you can expect clearer skies and more favorable hiking conditions. The months of June to August are particularly popular, but advance planning is crucial due to increased visitor numbers.


Both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu are situated at high elevations. Machu Picchu itself is around 2,430 meters (7,970 feet) above sea level, and the summit of Huayna Picchu rises even higher. It’s important to acclimate to the altitude, especially if you’re arriving from lower elevations. Spending a day or two in Cusco before your visit allows your body to adjust gradually.

The Hike

The hike up Huayna Picchu is a challenging yet rewarding experience. The trail takes you through ancient stone steps, dense vegetation, and sections that require careful navigation. As you ascend, the landscape unfolds, revealing Machu Picchu below and the majestic Andean peaks in the distance. The journey itself becomes an integral part of the adventure, allowing you to connect with the natural beauty that surrounds these iconic sites.

The Stairs of Death

The infamous “Stairs of Death” on the younger mountain’s trail are a series of steep stone steps that add an element of thrill to the climb. While the name may evoke a sense of trepidation, many hikers view it as a challenging and exhilarating part of the experience. Climbing these stairs requires concentration and a steady pace, emphasizing the importance of being mindful of your surroundings.

In conclusion, the choice between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu depends on your preferences and the level of adventure you seek. While Machu Picchu enchants with its expansive terraces and archaeological wonders, Huayna Picchu offers a more challenging and intimate exploration. Whether you opt for the iconic ruins of Machu Picchu or the daring ascent of Huayna Picchu, both sites promise a journey through time and a profound connection with the awe-inspiring landscape of the Andes.

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