Huayna Picchu Hike: Conquering The Stairs of Death

Huayna Picchu Hike: Conquering The Stairs of Death

Without a doubt, getting to Machu Picchu and exploring its ancient ruins is an unforgettable experience in and of itself. But the adventure doesn’t have to stop there.

In fact, did you know that you can take a hike whilst at the lost city of the Incas?

On the north side of the archaeological site, you’ll find the breathtaking Huayna Picchu mountain. Hiking up the mountain is a great adventure for anyone looking for an unparalleled birds-eye view of the ruins and jaw-dropping panoramic vistas of the surrounding area.

Let’s walk through everything you need to know about hiking to the top of Huayna Picchu.

Table of contents:

What Does Huayna Picchu Mean?

Huayna Picchu, also called Wayna Picchu, means ‘young peak’ in Quechua. In the region, it is commonly believed that the mountain served as a surveillance point to protect the Machu Picchu sanctuary.


Where is Huayna Picchu?

The Machu Picchu site lies in between two mountains – the Huayna Picchu and the Machu Picchu mountain.

While they both offer exciting hiking routes, there are certain differences between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain that you need to keep in mind, including elevation, difficulty, and duration.

Woman Machu Picchu mountain

From both mountains you have a beautiful view of the Machu Picchu ruins and its surroundings.


Huayna Picchu is the majestic, cone-shaped mountain that you often see in the background of the most famous Machu Picchu photographs and postcards.

The Huayna Picchu hike is considered moderate to difficult, so it can be challenging at times. If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous, the Machu Picchu mountain hike can be a good option.

Regardless of which hike you end up choosing, gearing up with a comprehensive Machu Picchu travel guide is key for being well-prepared and ensuring a hassle-free adventure.

It’s also handy to remember that, because of the altitude difference at Machu Picchu, it’s highly recommended that you spend at least a couple of days acclimatizing in Cusco before embarking on any hike in the region.


What to Pack for the Hike

Although the hike to Huayna Picchu’s peak is relatively short, to ensure a more enjoyable experience, be sure to pack in the following items before you leave for Machu Picchu:

  • Entrance Ticket to Huayna Picchu: You’ll need your Macchu Picchu + Huayna Picchu ticket both at the entrance of the site and at the checkpoint at the beginning of the trail.
  • Snacks: The hike takes a couple of hours, so there are not many breaks along the way. To help you keep going, you may want to take a small snack, such as an energy bar, with you.
  • Sunscreen: Due to the high altitude, the UV intensity in the area is very high. To protect your skin from the sun rays, be sure to bring high-quality sunscreen with high SPF protection.
  • Water: Dehydration at high altitudes is common and can cause dizziness and even heat stroke. This is why it’s recommended that you carry a refillable 1L or 2L water bottle with you.
  • Bug Spray: The Cusco region has unpredictable weather, and there are insects all year round. Consider packing a quality insect repellent in your daypack.
  • Hiking Shoes: Because you’ll pass through different terrains, good hiking shoes are one of the most important things you need on your hike.


view of machu picchu with ruins

Before hiking Huayna Picchu, you’ll explore the incredible ruins of Machu Picchu.


The Huayna Picchu Hike

Because of its mesmerizing views, the demand to get an entrance ticket to Huayna Picchu is high, and the available slots fill up fast.

Just like the Inca Trail, hiking Huayna Picchu comes with a limited capacity – 400 hikers per day, divided into two groups of 200. Purchasing your ticket on time and taking your travel documents with you are some of the most important things to know before visiting Machu Picchu.

Hiking up the Huayna Picchu mountain takes about 1,5 – 2 hours in total. Generally speaking, there are no special preparations required. That said, the trail can get steep and narrow at places, so you need to be in good physical condition.

Note that Huayna Picchu is a rather steep mountain and is situated at an altitude of 8,923 ft (2,720 m). There are handrails and ropes to grab onto for extra support during the hike, but if you have vertigo or fear of heights this might not be the best option for you.

Let’s take a look at the three main sections of the hike.

Beginning of the Trail

The starting point of the Huayna Picchu hike can be found on the north side of Machu Picchu, behind the Sacred Rock. There, you’ll need to register and show your Macchu Picchu + Huayna Picchu ticket.

At the beginning of the trail, you’ll follow a path for about 20 minutes until the route splits into a high trail (stretching to the top of the mountain) and a low trail (going around the base of the mountain before climbing to the top).


The Stairs of Death

A portion of the high trail is commonly referred to as the Stairs of Death due to its steepness.

The stairs are carved into the side of a cliff and offer some spectacular views down the mountain. Despite their name, the stairs are not dangerous. While you should be cautious, there are terraces to the side of the stairs, giving you extra support.

huayna picchu stairs

The stairs to Huayna Picchu captured by traveler Valerie Hinojosa.


Huayna Picchu Summit

The closer you get to the top, the steeper the path will be. That said, you’ll also get to see impressive agricultural terraces and the Andeneria systems – a group of earth patches arranged in steps on the hills.

Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with the once-in-a-lifetime experience of witnessing a panoramic view of Machu Picchu, as well as the Urubamba River and the Templo de la Luna (the Moon Temple).


How To Safely Hike the Stairs of Death

While the lost city of the Incas is open all year round, if you plan to visit Huayna Picchu, certain times may be better suited.

Overall, the best time to visit the mountain depends on a number of factors, including your overall physical condition.

During the dry months, April to September, the region enjoys sunny days, making it easier to walk on the ancient paths of the Incas.

It is possible to hike up Huayna Picchu during the wet season, October to March, as well. One important thing to keep in mind, however, is that the paths might be wet and slippery. If you do not have much hiking experience, it might be a better idea to do the hike during the drier months.

Whenever you decide to go, be sure to check out the Machu Picchu weather before you embark on your journey.

Huayna Picchu mountain

A view of the spectacular Huayna Picchu ruins that were built on top of the mountain.


Is Hiking Huayna Picchu Worth It?

Huayna Picchu is one of the most popular hikes at the Machu Picchu site – and for good reason.

The most impressive sight you’ll see is undoubtedly the panoramic view of the Machu Picchu citadel, but the hike also has the added benefit of allowing you to witness even more Incan archaeological wonders, such as the Moon Temple.

All in all, if you’re looking for a beautiful hike with unique views, the trip to Huayna Picchu is well worth it.

Ready to discover the secrets of the region? Check out our 1-day tour by train from Cusco and kick-start your adventure.

  • 1 March, 2024 at 12:29 am

    Hi I‘m planing a Machu Picchu experience in Nov24 for 2 people(couple). Could you send me a quote?

    • 1 March, 2024 at 8:38 am

      Hi Mark, absolutely! We’ll send you an email right now.

      Looking forward to hearing back from you soon.


  • 15 June, 2022 at 12:43 am

    hi there,
    i am just curious if it’s possible to take my dog for the hike to one of the two mountains with me?

    • 16 June, 2022 at 1:25 am

      Hello Samantha,
      thanks for your comment, but you are not allowed to take your dog to the Machu Picchu ruins or one of the two mountains.
      Besides that, I highly recommend you to read our blog post about the 10 things to know before visiting Machu Picchu.

      Let me know if you have any further questions.

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