Hiking Machu Picchu is an extraordinary experience I hope everyone gets. Hiking the mountains on either side — Huayna Picchu protecting the New Wonder of the World to the north and Machu Picchu Mountain doing the same on the south — will only enhance your experience.
Back in the day, if anyone dared climb the surrounding mountains to catch a glimpse of this mightily built Inca structure, they would only see the backs of tree-filled mountains glaring right at them. That’s likely why this massive, intricately created structure that was built in the 1450s went undiscovered by the outside world until 1911, when American historian Hiram Bingham knowingly stumbled upon it.
By doing the hike to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and capping off your visit with the Machu Picchu Mountain hike or Huayna Picchu hike, you can capture a piece of the past as you ascend more than 2,000 feet, step by step on hand-laid stones carved and trotted on by the Inca people for hundreds of years.
From how long the hike is to admission ticket prices, elevation and if you’re allowed to hike without a guide, this is the only resource you’ll need to hike Machu Picchu!
What’s the Machu Picchu Elevation?
- Machu Picchu Ruins: 7,800 feet
- Huayna Picchu: 8,900 feet
- Machu Picchu Mountain: 10,000 feet
Mountain Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Admission Tickets
- Machu Picchu Ruins Only: $65
- Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu: $80
- Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain: $80
Best Time to Hike Machu Picchu
Hiking to the entrance of Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and general meandering around the ruins are best completed during the early morning hours.
This will give you a chance to peer on at the sunrise over the horizon as you make the ascent to the top. It also means there will be far fewer people inside the ruins of Machu Picchu, which will allow you to move at your own pace and enjoy the ruins mostly uninterrupted from those dreaded alpaca selfies.
If you can get up there quick enough and get the first entry of the day, you may even be lucky enough to snap a coveted shot of the sun rising upon Machu Picchu. Those photos are tough to come by, but you’ll gasp when you see one.
Machu Picchu Mountain Hike
You may read online that Machu Picchu Mountain is an easy hike. Don’t be fooled. It’s not all that easy, especially if you haven’t acclimated properly, you’re not in the best shape or you’re not used to high altitude altogether.
The entrance to Machu Picchu is located at about 7,900 feet above sea level and you must hike to about 10,000 feet above sea level to get to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain.
The funny thing is that the altitude increase isn’t even the toughest part (I started my hike in Aguas Calientes around 6,500 feet and summited Machu Picchu Mountain a few hours later at just over 10,000 feet, so I think I had gotten used to the altitude by the top).
The last stretch is the toughest part, which is where many, many stairs are on the edge of a cliff, you’re close enough to the top that you can taste it and close enough that tons of people have begun making their descent. Expect to dedicate two to four hours round trip for this hike, depending on how physically fit you are. Push through and you’ll get there!
How Long to Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?
Hiking from the ruins to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain will take you from two hours to four hours to climb and descent, depending on your level of fitness and how much you push yourself. The ascent is nearly 2,100 feet, so it’s a pretty steep climb up hand-laid stone steps and carved out dirt paths. It’s well worth every step!
Huayna Picchu Hike
The hike to the top of Huayna Picchu isn’t nearly as long, but some fellow travelers said it’s not for the faint of heart.
You’ll begin the Huayna Picchu hike at the same altitude as the Machu Picchu Mountain hike, but you’ll only be required to climb about 1,100 feet more to get to the top. So the summit is around 2,000 feet lower than the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain.
You’ll traverse part of the Inca Trail on stone paths and grassy/dirt areas — on some pretty steep terrain overlooking the mountain, so be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
How Long to Hike Huayna Picchu?
The hike to the top of Huayna Picchu is about half the ascension of Machu Picchu Mountain, so it’ll take you around 2 hours to climb and descend, depending on your level of physical fitness and how hard you push yourself.
How to Hike Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu ruins sit perched atop a 7,970-foot mountain in the Andes, overlooking two sides of the Sacred Valley in the Cusco region of Peru. It cuts the Urubamba River gracefully in half as it stares right back into the eyes of the world.
Hiking Machu Picchu has a few different sides. The first side is hiking to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek, the second involves hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes via the ancient path Inca settlers used and the third version involves doing a little hiking around the ruins, which is basically a requirement for everyone visiting who wants to get a good taste of history.
To hike to Machu Picchu, you’ll want to check out this article detailing just how to do so. But when it comes to the question of how to hike Machu Picchu’s Ruins, all you need to do is saddle up, get a good pair of shoes on and meander your way throughout the ruins on your own time.
How Long Is the Hike to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes?
Hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes takes about 2 to 3 hours, taking you from around 6,500 feet of elevation to about 8,200 feet — a 1,700-foot ascension. The hike is extraordinary, best done at the crack of dawn, and I highly recommend everyone who’s physically fit enough to do this hike!
How Hard Is the Machu Picchu Hike?
The Machu Picchu hike from Aguas Calientes to the ruins is pretty tough. It’s a 1,700-foot climb that is nearly straight up on a path of hand-laid stones that the Incas used before Machu Picchu was abandoned centuries ago. Even though the hike is hard, I did it on an empty stomach and about three hours of sleep, so you can get through it as well!
Can You Hike to Machu Picchu Without a Guide?
Yes, you can certainly hike to Machu Picchu without a guide if you take the route from Aguas Calientes to the ruins. However, you cannot hike the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek without a guide because the trails are maintained and monitored by the government and local guides.