Really early before dawn, travellers from all over queue up outside the bus station in Aguas Calientes, hoping to be one of the first persons to enter Machu Picchu because only the first 400 people who sign in are capable to climb Huayna Picchu (the green peak that appears in the background of almost all the Machu Picchu photos) Almost no one bothers to ascend the mountain located on the opposite end of the site, which is called Machu Picchu Mountain.
The entire site has been named after this mountain (Machu Picchu means Old Mountain) and together with Huayna Picchu creates a place where the site is located in. Machu Picchu Mountain used to not have a surcharge but now its 9 USD more on the Machu Picchu ticket.
The Machu Picchu Mountain trek is considered to be a moderate to challenging trek. Following an original stone Inca Trail and continuously acceding to the summit, a good level of fitness is required. During the wet season, the trail can become more slippery making it more challenging to traverse.
How to get there:
From the main entrance of Machu Picchu follow the upper-trail heading in the direction of the Guardhouse. Small and newly erected wooden signs signal the way the start of the trail head, which is also the same path which leads to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). A couple of minutes from the Guardhouse, you need to turn right and follow the path, which climbs up through the agricultural terracing. Following the trail for another 15 minutes you will arrive at the wardens hut, where you need to sign in showing your passport and entrance ticket. From the entrance of Machu Picchu to the wardens hut takes approximately 30 minutes.
Unlike Huayna Picchu or Putucusi Mountain treks, the Machu Picchu Mountain trek is wide and well marked. After the wardens hut the trail follows a fairly even ascent of about 30 – 35 degrees in angle for about 1 hour. Gradually and steadily gaining altitude, the views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains become ever-more impressive. There are several view and rest points along the way. As the trail gets closer to the base of Machu Picchu Mountain, the steps become steeper, narrower and more challenging. Winding on for another 30 minutes or so, the trail passes through a stone gateway, before following a narrow mountain ridge to the summit. A small round hut provides shelter and seating, whilst the view point (a few more yards on) offers inspiring views of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Putucusi Mountains. The decent follows the same route, but takes about 20 – 30 minutes less.
When skies are opening up will give way for some of the best photo moments you will encounter on the site. You can see the entire site (even parts of the slopes that cannot be seen from Huayna Picchu) and gasp down into the valleys on both sides of the site.
Important to know:
- Time needed: ascent – 1h30 minutes accent, descent – 1 hour
- Altitude of summit: 3,082 meters (10,111 feet) above sea level.
- Height to climb from Machu Picchu: 652 meters (2,139 feet).
- Terrain: Inca Trail stone path steps and in places grass/dirt.
- Entrance time: 7 – 11am.
- Tickets: Limited to 400 per day, tickets need to be purchased as a combination ticket with general entrance to Machu Picchu. They can be purchased from the official government website.
Machu Picchu Mountain is accessible all year round. During the wet season (November – April) there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall and the trail can become slippery and more challenging to traverse. The region has a sub-tropical feel throughout the year, with average daily temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F). During the dry season the humidity is around 40 – 45%, rising to 60 – 65% during the wet season.
What to bring:
- Camera (Remember there´s no such thing as too many pictures of Machu Picchu so make sure to bring an extra SD card)
- Sun hat, sun glasses & sun block.
- 1 to 1.5 litres of water
- Folding Walking stick with rubber tip (Some people feel it makes the climb easier, but keep it on your backpack until you get at least until the wardens hut cause sometimes at the entrance they find it inappropriate for the site)
- Light weight rain coat
- Small snacks (Protein bar or dry fruit work well)
- Lightweight training or hiking shoes are recommended.
The Machu Picchu Mountain trek is not for people with a fear of heights. In places the trail is very steep and often follows the mountain edge with thin drop offs.
Early morning trekking offers cooler temperatures and better shade from the sun but best time of day to visit this part of the site would be around noon.
Lima and Cusco might be the most visited but Arequipa has style. Whether it is its spicy cuisine or its majestic architecture and fine people, Arequipa is to be discovered, tasted and enjoyed like a fine piece of art. Don’t miss out on the hidden gem of the South when you visit Peru.