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Hiking Huayna Picchu, the Mountain Behind Machu Picchu

Photo of us at Machu Picchu, the shot I wanted.

Hiking Huayna Picchu mountain, the iconic peak in the background of every visitor’s photos of Machu Picchu, is a short but strenuous undertaking.

What began as a miscommunication ended as a magnificent addition to our Peruvian adventure. 

For years, I’ve longed to see Machu Picchu in person. Dave had visited twice, first trekking in 2011 and again on a seven-day Machu Picchu tour he won.

When he discovered the ancient city in South America was high on my destination bucket list, he went into planning mode to make it happen.

That’s when the misunderstanding occurred. As we discussed the trip, I mentioned my desire for a picture with the ruins below me.

Photo of us at Machu Picchu, the shot I wanted.
Photo of us at Machu Picchu, the shot I wanted.

Dave interpreted this as a bird’s eye view. In the past, this required purchasing Huayna Picchu tickets in Cusco in addition to Machu Picchu tickets; however, the process has changed in recent years.

To get that shot today, we needed to buy Machu Picchu tickets for Circuit 4, the only route that provides access to climb Huayna Picchu (also spelled Wayna Picchu).

Only months later, Dave realized I meant the classic shot tourists take at the Machu Picchu citadel.

Too late, we were already in Aguas Calientes, Peru, and committed to climbing Huayna Picchu.

Pro Tip: While Machu Picchu is a year-round destination, be aware that the rainy season runs from November to March and brings a greater chance of wet weather.

However, Dave’s first two visits were in November and February, and he didn’t experience rain. If you want to play it safe, the best option is to plan for the dry season between May to September.

Huayna Picchu mountain towers over the ruins of Machu Picchu below (photo by Dave Lee)
Huayna Picchu mountain towers over the ruins of Machu Picchu below. (photo by Dave Lee)

About Huayna Picchu

While Machu Picchu is the big draw for visitors, you shouldn’t overlook an opportunity to hike Huayna Picchu. 

In Quechua (the language of the Incas), “Wayna Picchu” means “young mountain.” The peak looms in the background of most Machu Picchu tourist photos. 

The Incas utilized granite at Machu Picchu to build their massive citadel in the 15th century. Their superior stonework is also evident on Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind Machu Picchu. 

Terraces, like the ones found at the main site, were likely used for agriculture.

Stone dwellings were also built on Huayna Picchu, which locals believed housed the high priest, and may have also been used for religious services.

Machu Picchu mountain (left) and Huayna Picchu. (photo by Dave Lee)

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