Top 4 Hikes Starting at Machu Picchu
Many travelers to Machu Picchu love hiking but perhaps do not have the time (or the desire anymore to tent camp) to do the Inca Trail while visiting Peru. Hiking lovers, fear not! Here are four incredible hikes that you can do right from the Machu Picchu citadel that will surely bolster your experience of this magnificent world heritage site.
1) Huayna Picchu Mountain
Huayna Picchu means “Young Peak” in the Quechua language. With the mighty Urubamba River coursing at its base, it rises above the Machu Picchu citadel forming the famous verdant peak that lends to the backdrop of all the most famous photos of the archeological site. The Incas built a trail up the side of Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces at its peak. The top of the mountain was the residence for the high priest. Every morning before sunrise, the high priest would walk to Machu Picchu to signal the coming of the new day. The Temple of the Moon, one of the three major temples in the Machu Picchu area is nestled on the side of the mountain and is situated at an elevation slightly lower than Machu Picchu. Adjacent to the Temple of the Moon is the Great Cavern, another sacred temple with fine Incan stonework. Huayna Picchu is approximately 8,920 ft above sea level and is reached from the Machu Picchu citadel by a 1.2-mile trail that punches up roughly 1,180 ft.
Huayna Picchu Hike Fast Facts
– More strenuous and steep, affording excellent areal views of the Machu Picchu Citadel. Additional ruin sites.
– Trail is 1.2 miles (elevation gain: 1,180 ft)
– ADDITIONAL PERMIT REQUIRED (hard to obtain last minute)
2) Machu Picchu Mountain
Machu Picchu Mountain is an undeservedly overlooked Machu Picchu hiking option and therefore a trek that travelers with sudden hiking FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) will most likely find still has tickets available the day before their Machu Picchu tour. The scenic trail zigzags through high cloud forest and lush patches of orchids, begonias, and ferns. The first hour of the ascent is a gradual climb that steepens, narrows, and grows increasingly more challenging as you near the final ascent to the summit. As the tallest peak in the area, the summit offers unparalleled, 360-degree, panoramic views of the Machu Picchu citadel, Huayna Picchu peak and ruins, and the surrounding Putucusi Mountains.
Machu Picchu Mountain Hike Fast Facts:
– Less crowded but longer and more vertical gain with great views of surrounding valleys and Machu Picchu. Less archeology, more view and nature centric.
– 1.5 miles (elevation gain: 2,139 ft)
– ADDITIONAL PERMIT REQUIRED (usually easy to obtain last minute)
3) Inca Bridge Hike
A short and free to enter trek suitable for all ages and fitness levels, the Inca Bridge Trek follows an Inca Trail where you can observe an original draw bridge used to protect the western entrance to Machu Picchu. The trail head is located within the grounds of Machu Picchu close to the view point of the Caretakers Hut. Follow the trail, built into the side of a cliff and arrive at the stunning bridge with an impressive drop below it. Panoramic photographic opportunities of Machu Picchu are excellent close to the trail head.
Inca Bridge Hike Fast Facts:
– Suitable for all hikers
– Roughly .7 miles and no elevation gain
– NO additional permit required
4) Intipunku/Sungate Hike
For those who want all the glory of the Inca Trail Trek but don’t have the time, this is an excellent option. The Sungate Hike is a moderately challenging trail leading to the Sun Gate (Intipunku) that was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu and is now the finishing point of the traditional Inca Trail Trek. The hike to the Sun Gate follows an original Inca Trail that steadily climbs though Machu Picchu’s agricultural terraces high into the mountains directly south of the citadel. From the top of the trail experience sweeping vistas of the ancient city, Huayna Picchu and the surrounding cloud forest.
Sungate Hike Fast Facts:
– Moderate to challenging
– Roughly 1 mile from Machu Picchu and 951 feet of elevation gain
– NO additional permit required