I’m not even sure why we initially decided to hike up Huayna Picchu.
I certainly knew nothing of the amazing view in store at the top. I rarely ever go out of my way to climb mountains. Then there’s the fact that doing anything strenuous at high altitude becomes even more difficult as you find yourself constantly gasping for the low oxgen in the air. When you actually put it all down on paper, none of it made sense.
Thing is though (*spoiler alert* 😄), Huayna Picchu does have spectacular views over Machu Picchu. It’s one of the best views you’ll have of Machu Picchu (and everything else around it) and one mountain that will delight you in more ways that you’d have imagined.
For the uninitiated, Huayna Picchu is the mountain you see in the background of almost every single Machu Picchu photo. It’s also a very popular mountain to climb!
It’s so popular in fact that you can’t just rock up to it and start climbing – you have to book tickets to do the climb (it’s limited to only 400 people a day) – tickets which sell out months in advance! (No same day options for this one I’m afraid).
You can get tickets to climb with entry slots for 200 people at 7am – 8am or 10am – 11am. We went for the 7am slot.
Needing to climb at 7am meant having to arrive as soon as Machu Picchu opened at 6am so that we could squeeze in a walk through the citadel before climbing the mountain.
The bus ride takes 30 minutes so we had to be at the bus stop, at the very least, for 5.30am.We were then told that the bus queues would be crazy – so crazy that we would need to be there hours in advance.
All of this of course, culminated in our arriving at the bus stop for 4am, in the pouring rain and queuing for 2 hours before hopping aboard the bus and arriving at Machu Picchu. (Remember – from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu, it’s either the bus or you can do the 2 hour hike up).
The climb up the mountain is indeed strenuous but the trick is just to stop when you feel like. Climb as much as you can and then stop to catch your breath. Don’t be a hero and try to scale it all in record time. Remember the thing about stopping is that it actually forces you to take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you – and trust me, you’ll want to do that!
The entire hike up is beautiful (it took us about 1hr 45 mins to get up – going down is so much faster) and none of the trail is too scary to do, though there are some bits where you climb the side of some walls that might sphincter clench (these bits are at two different spots where you think you have reached the top but quickly realise that you still have a small bit left to climb).
At the top, you just can’t help but give yourself a little pat on the back. Not only have you made it to the top but you also have such an amazing perspective of how stunning, and truly intricate Machu Picchu is. It’s a perspective you could never get from being in the citadel, no matter how high you climbed through the citadel.
It’s absolutely incredible… and totally instagram/facebook-humble-brag photo worthy so cue the cheesy, celebratory, relieved photos of yourself standing in front of one of the most amazing places in the world. (Don’t forget to actually get one of the place itself without you in front of it – hehe!)
On the descent, you actually leave through a different route initially, which offers even more spectacular views…
…before eventually joining the path you followed all the way to the top.
By the time we got back down, the sun was out in full force and you’d never have guessed that this was the same place that had torrential rainfall earlier in the day.
We wandered through the citadel – explore it in more depth and at a much slower pace this time around…
…before giving up the incredibly raucous hunger pangs! (I’d been slowly eating my breakfast from the Inkaterra all day but by this point, we were all out of breakfast foods).
Machu Picchu was everything they said it would be and so much more and we were so pleased to not only have been able to visit it but to also have been able to experience it the way we did!
Some places are truly popular for a reason…