Hiking Machu Picchu: Huayna Picchu and Huchuy Picchu

Posted by on April 29th, 2023

Located high in the Andes Mountains, overlooking the Urubamba River and surrounded by steep mountains, Machu Picchu is a testament to the architectural achievements of the Inca. It is recognized as one of the most important cultural sites in the world and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The ancient Inca city was built in the 15th century but was later abandoned during the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 16th century. Machu Picchu then remained mostly unknown until its rediscovery in 1911, making it one of the most well-preserved Inca cities today.

One of the best ways to experience Machu Picchu is by hiking to the top of one of the surrounding mountain peaks for a bird’s-eye view of the ancient city below and stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty. There are three mountain options to hike: Huayna Picchu, Huchuy Picchu, and Machu Picchu Mountain. All three hikes vary in difficulty, length, and the views offered from the top. On a recent trip to Machu Picchu, I had the opportunity to hike both the more famous Huayna Picchu trail as well as the nearby but lesser-known Huchuy Picchu peak, to make a direct comparison of the experience between these two great choices.

Looking up at Huayna Picchu from the start of the trail

Huayna Picchu

Huayna Picchu, or “young peak,” is located just to the north of Machu Picchu and is the iconic mountain seen in many photos. There is no doubt this is the most popular of the three mountain hikes! Looking up at the peak from the bottom, it is almost hard to believe there is a trail to take you to the top with no climbing involved. But the trail up Huayna Picchu is, in fact, just a hike. No climbing skills are required. Instead, the trail involves a lot of steep and uneven stairs formed out of large rocks. And in many spots, especially near the top, it is rather exposed. This is something to consider if you have a fear of heights. However, there are ropes or handrails in most of those areas to assist.

While the hike up Huayna Picchu is just a little over a mile roundtrip, it is still a difficult one. Expect the trip to take around 2-3 hours, depending on how much time you spend at the top to enjoy the views. The morning we hiked, we found a thick cloud cover blocking our view when we arrived at the top. So, we settled in and waited. After about an hour, our patience was rewarded as we watched the clouds lift to reveal the ruins below.

Huchuy Picchu

Huchuy Picchu, or “small peak,” is located next to Huayna Picchu and offers views similar to Huayna but from a lower viewpoint. This mountain rises less than 200 ft above the archaeological site as compared with Huayna (which rises around 850 ft above). Huchuy is also a newer trail that just opened in 2021, and it is the shortest and easiest option of the three choices to hike at Machu Picchu. On my trip, we reached the top in less than 10 minutes and were amazed by the views. And while the hike does still involve steep stairs, we found there were no sections of exposure similar to what is found on Huayna Picchu, and the trail is a fraction of the distance. The hike up Huchuy is a wonderful option for anyone not wanting to take on the challenge of Huayna!

Machu Picchu Mountain is another option for those who wish to hike. And while I didn’t have the opportunity to do this third trail on my own trip, our Sales Director, Gabrielle Venturi, has had the chance to hike it on a past trip. You can check out her blog and read more about her experience hiking Machu Picchu Mountain here.

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