The Machu Picchu Mountain hike should definitely form part of your visit to the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru. Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain leads you to the summit of Machu Picchu, othwerwise known as Machu Picchu peak. After gaining plenty of elevation during the Machu Picchu Mountain climb, you’ll have an amazing view of the Machu Picchu citadel.
In this travel guide, we’ll cover how to climb Machu Picchu Mountain whilst visiting Machu Picchu. We’ll talk about the Machu Picchu Mountain hike itself, how to buy tickets and how to get there. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll tell you about other awesome Machu Picchu hikes and multi-day treks leading to Machu Picchu. Finally, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the Machu Picchu Mountain hike.
Overview: What Is Machu Picchu Mountain?
Machu Picchu Mountain is the tallest climbable mountain peak located next to the wondrous Machu Picchu archaeological site. Also known as Montaña Machu Picchu, Mount Machu Picchu, Montaña Picchu, Mountain Picchu and Machu Picchu Montaña, this epic peak sits just south of Machu Picchu. Essentially, if you’re looking at Machu Picchu from the northern part of the complex, you’ll see a huge mountain behind it. That’s Machu Picchu Mountain!
Where Is Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru?
Specifically, Machu Picchu Mountain is located in the Urubamba Province, which is roughly 80 kilometres northwest of Cusco, Peru. In fact, Machu Picchu Mountain forms part of the stunning Andes mountain range and is positioned above Sacred Valley (Urubamba Valley).
Machu Picchu Mountain Hike Preview and Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 3.3km
- Time: 2–2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 515m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Machu Picchu Mountain Registration Hut
Machu Picchu Mountain Elevation and Hike Difficulty
So, what is the elevation of Machu Picchu Mountain? The Machu Picchu Mountain height is 3,082 metres above sea level. In comparison, the height of Machu Picchu is approx. 2,430 metres. Roughly, the Machu Picchu Mountain elevation is 650 metres more than the actual Inca citadel. By looking merely at the Machu Picchu Mountain elevation gain, this hike is fairly challenging. But, if you’re relatively fit, with a bit of hard work, you’ll be able to reach the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain: Trail Description
At the Machu Picchu Mountain Registration Hut, you’ll register your details before starting the hike. You’ll also present your ticket. From here, you’ll follow a flat and leaf-covered trail passing through a shaded forested area. Although, the flat trail doesn’t last for long! Soon enough, the trail begins to steadily incline and weave its way from the shaded forest to a more exposed trail.
As you gain elevation, you’ll catch your first glimpses of Machu Picchu in the distance. Before even reaching the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll have sensational views of the Inca site. Once you’ve enjoyed the views, it’s time to continue your hard work, gaining more elevation towards the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Machu Picchu Peak
After a gruelling hike up, you’ll eventually reach the Machu Picchu summit! You’ll find a small shelter, which will bring welcome respite if you’re hiking in the blazing heat. You’ll also find a signpost that is labelled with the Machu Picchu peak elevation (3,082m). Indeed, the Machu Picchu Mountain hike brings you to the highest point of the Inca site. So, how are the views?
Machu Picchu Mountain Views
Honestly, the views of Machu Picchu from the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain are quite distant and far away. Don’t get us wrong, the views are still mindblowing. With the significant amount of elevation, you’ll have a drone-like perspective of the incredible Inca citadel. By climbing Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru, you’ll enjoy unique and special views of the Inca site. But, if your sight is poor, make sure to bring your glasses. You’ll need them!
Machu Picchu Mountain Range
Of course, the views of Machu Picchu are not the only views to enjoy from the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru. From the high elevation gained whilst hiking Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll enjoy phenomenal views of the surrounding Andes Mountains. Indeed, the Machu Picchu Mountain range is superb. Perched high above the Urubamba River, the mountains loom large amongst the famous Inca citadel. Specifically, you’ll have awesome views of Putucusi Mountain and Sacred Valley from the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Once you’ve enjoyed the stunning views from the peak of Machu Picchu, it’s time to retrace your steps to finish the trail. On the way down, Beck and I enjoyed a bit of speed hiking.
What’s speed hiking? It’s hiking in a higher gear! Find out about speed hiking here. It might be your new obsession!
Tickets For Machu Picchu Mountain Peru
To do the Machu Picchu Mountain hike, you’ll need to buy tickets online. You’ll find different online travel agencies selling tickets. But, to avoid the middle man, you should buy your tickets directly from the official Machu Picchu website. The website is quite user-friendly. But, when speaking with other travellers, many were confused about which Machu Picchu ticket to buy.
Basically, there are four different Machu Picchu tickets. There’s ‘Llaqta of Machupicchu (Circuits 1, 2, 3, 4)‘, which is a general Machu Picchu entrance ticket. This ticket doesn’t give you access to Machu Picchu Mountain or any other hikes at Machu Picchu. Indeed, the other three options are specifically for hikes at Machu Picchu. Each of these other options also includes Machu Picchu entrance which involves one of the circuits around the Inca citadel. To purchase Machu Picchu Mountain tickets, simply select ‘Machu Picchu Mountain + Circuit 3‘.
Machu Picchu Mountain Ticket Times and Entrance Fees
Tickets are sold in two, one hour time slots starting and finishing with a 7–8am and 8–9am time slot, respectively. You’ll find 200 tickets are sold for each time slot. So, overall, a maximum of 400 people may climb Machu Picchu Mountain per day.
To hike Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru, you’ll pay S/200 ($53USD), plus S/5.40 ($1.50USD) for card payment. All up, you’ll pay S/205.40 ($54.50USD). Yes, the ticket to Machu Picchu Mountain is very expensive! But, is it worth it? Find out what we think here.
How to Get to Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru
To do the Machu Picchu Mountain hike, you’ll need to get to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town). Many people will visit Aguas Calientes from Cusco.
Getting to Aguas Calientes from Cusco
The easiest and quickest way to get to Aguas Calientes from Cusco is by train. Although, this is the most expensive option. Train costs are roughly S/260 ($70USD) per person one-way.
A cheaper option is to take a 1.5 hour colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo for S/10 ($2.50USD). Then, catch a train to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo. This train costs around S/185 ($50USD). An even cheaper option is to catch a 7 hour bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica for roughly S/60 ($18USD). From Hidroelectrica, you can walk approx. 10km along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. It’s a boring walk. But, it’ll keep the prices down!
Of course, another option is to hike to Aguas Calientes! Read the Treks to Machu Picchu section for more information.
Getting to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes
Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you basically have two options to get to Machu Picchu – bus or hike!
- Bus: leaves Aguas Calientes regularly from 5:30am onwards. The bus takes around 30–40 minutes and costs are $12USD per person one-way. The ticket office is located just off the main street of Avenida Hermanos Ayer. It’s super easy to find – look for the huge sign marked ‘BUS TICKET’. By the way, you’ll have to show your passport to buy your bus ticket.
- Hike: it’s an approx. 4km hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. But, it’s a steep climb with around 650 metres of elevation gain. The hike takes around 1.5–2 hours. It’s a gruelling hike. But, this is a popular option because it’s for free!
Otherwise, you could take the bus up to Machu Picchu and walk back down to Aguas Calientes. After doing the Salkantay trek, Beck and I were exhausted. Plus, we still had the Huchuy Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain hikes still to do. So, to conserve energy, Beck and I skipped the tough hike up by getting the bus. Then, to save dosh, we did the easy walk downhill to Aguas Calientes.
Is It Worth Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain?
Yes, we think hiking Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru is worth it. Given the peak elevation, Machu Picchu Mountain offers a unique view of Machu Picchu. Certainly, it would be a shame to travel all the way to this world-class attraction and miss out on the views on offer from the high Machu Picchu Mountain elevation. But, at around $55USD, you’ll have to pay through the roof for it! If you’re travelling on a shoestring, it’d be hard to justify hiking Machu Picchu Mountain.
So, is it actually worth it? Let’s compare the Machu Picchu Mountain hike with the other Machu Picchu hikes to help settle this score.
Other Machu Picchu Day Hikes
The two other main Machu Picchu treks are the Huchuy Picchu and Huayna Picchu hikes. Let’s specifically compare the Machu Picchu Mountain hike with these two other hikes to help you figure out which trail or trails to do!
Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu?
Will it be Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain? Well, the main differences between these hikes are the trail orientation and views of Machu Picchu, owing to their opposing position. First, let’s look at the main stats concerning the Huayna Picchu Mountain hike to see how it compares with the Machu Picchu Mountain hike.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 2km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 180m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Huayna Picchu Registration Hut
As you can see, hiking Huayna Picchu is shorter and has approx. three times less elevation than Machu Picchu Mountain! But, the elevation gain of Huayna Picchu is much steeper compared with the gradual incline of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Overall, it’s hard to determine which trail is most difficult. It really depends on your trekking preferences. If you find steep elevation challenging (which is what you’ll experience if you hike Huayna Picchu), then you might find Machu Picchu Mountain easier. But, if you lack fitness, you might find Machu Picchu Mountain harder. That’s because the Machu Picchu Mountain hike is longer with more elevation compared with Huayna Picchu.
Other than difficulty, the main difference between hiking Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu is the views. Machu Picchu Mountain is positioned north of Machu Picchu. In contrast, Huayna Picchu is located south of the Inca complex. So, the views of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain are very different when compared with the views from Huayna Picchu.
For more information, read here: Huayna Picchu Hike – How to Climb This Mountain and Its Stairs of Death
Machu Picchu Mountain or Huchuy Picchu?
The main differences between the Machu Picchu Mountain and Huchuy Picchu hikes are the difficulty and views of Machu Picchu. Firstly, let’s look at some quick stats concerning the Huchuy Picchu hike to understand its difficulty.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 0.5km
- Time: 30 minutes
- Accumulated elevation gain: 60m
- Difficulty: Very easy
- Trailhead: Huayna Picchu Registration Hut
As you can see, the Huchuy Picchu hike is shorter and has far less elevation gain compared with Machu Picchu Mountain. In addition, the trail terrain is much easier on the Huchuy Picchu hike.
With a much lower peak (2,497m) compared with Machu Picchu Mountain (3,082m), your views of Machu Picchu from Huchuy Picchu won’t be as far-reaching and all-encompassing. Of course, compared with Huchuy Picchu, you’ll have to work much harder on the Machu Picchu Mountain hike for those epic views!
For more information, read here: Huchuy Picchu Hike – The Ultimate Guide to Huchuy Picchu Mountain
Treks to Machu Picchu
Other than Machu Picchu day hikes, there are many amazing multi-day treks finishing at Machu Picchu. As part of these multi-day treks, you can simply add on the Machu Picchu Mountain hike at the end when you visit Machu Picchu. That’s exactly what Beck and I did as part of the Salkantay Trek. Anyway, let’s look at the most popular multi-day trails to Machu Picchu!
Classic Inca Trail
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 35km
- Time: 4 days
- Accumulated elevation gain: 2,890m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Piskacucho
When it comes to multi-day trekking in Peru, there is none more well-known than the Classic Inca Trail. Before meeting Beck, back in 2016, I had the pleasure of doing the Classic Inca Trail. Indeed, it’s a phenomenal trek with many Inca sites to see along the way to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind, that this was a time before I used a decent camera. My apologies for the average photo quality!
Short Inca Trail
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 2 days
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,300m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Chachabamba
If you haven’t got time for the Classic Inca Trail, then there’s always the two-day Short Inca Trail. On this bite-sized Inca Trail adventure, you’ll still have the chance to experience Winay Wauna, Sun Gate and Machu Picchu. Best of all, with this shorter Inca trail version, you’ll have plenty of energy to tackle Machu Picchu Mountain once you arrive at the Inca site.
- Type: One-Way
- Distance: 79.7km
- Time: 5 days
- Accumulated elevation gain: 2,617m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Mollepata or Challacancha
The Salkantay Trek is popularly known as the alternative trek to Machu Picchu. Because the Inca Trail requires a permit and guided tour, places book out in advance. In contrast, the Salkantay Trek doesn’t require any of that. It’s a trek that you can do last minute. In contrast to the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek is more about the mountains and natural beauty than Inca sites and history.
For more information, read here: How To Hike The Classic Salkantay Trail To Machu Picchu: 5-Day Guide
Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek
- Type: One-Way
- Distance: 110km
- Time: 7–10 days
- Accumulated elevation gain: 9,400m
- Difficulty: Very hard
- Trailhead: Cachora or Capuliyoc
The Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is probably the hardest trail option to reach the famous Inca citadel. But, you get two spectacular Inca sites for the price of one! On the third day of the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek, you’ll explore the far-less explored Choquequirao ruins. Then, after an arduous climb through the mountains, you’ll finally arrive at Machu Picchu. If you have enough energy to climb to the Machu Picchu Mountain peak after this trek, you’re truly a hiking hero!
For more information, read here: Choquequirao Treks – All Options Explained Including How to Do in 3 Days
Machu Picchu Hiking Tours
You’ll find loads of trekking companies in Peru offering these multi-day treks to Machu Picchu as guided tours. Personally, Beck and I chose to do a guided Salkantay Trek with Apu Andino Travel Peru. They’re an amazing family-run Cusco-based tour company.
Admittedly though, Beck and I didn’t book Machu Picchu Mountain tickets directly through Apu Andino Travel Peru. Basically, we booked Machu Picchu Mountain tickets independently in advance. Then, we sought out a company that was offering the Salkantay trek on a specific date, based on the date we were doing the Machu Picchu Mountain hike (on the fifth day of the Salkantay Trek when we were to visit Machu Picchu). Absolutely, all of this requires a bit of advanced planning to find a Salkantay Trek leaving on your desired date.
Anyway, it all worked out really well in the end. Apu Andino Travel Peru was really flexible in allowing us to modify the fifth day of the guided Salkantay Trek to allow us to do the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. To book a day tour, multi-day trek or any day trips around Cusco, with Apu Andino Travel Peru, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+51 984 609 485 or +51 984 067 472). Or, feel free to drop into their office in Cusco (Centro Commercial Imasumaq, Office #216) to find out more information about what tours they offer. Why not check them out on Facebook and Instagram?!
Machu Picchu Mountain Tours
Although it’s easy to book Machu Picchu Mountain tickets independently online, there’s always the option of booking a Machu Picchu Mountain tour. That way, you can leave the stress of organising tickets for someone else. Essentially, by booking a Machu Picchu Mountain tour, you’ll have a guided tour of both Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. Get Your Guide offer Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain tours, which are super easy to book online.
Thankfully, altitude sickness isn’t very common in those doing the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is an illness that can occur in people at high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. It’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness at higher altitudes previously, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it the next time!
You’ve probably read different tips online about how to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going too high, too fast! As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you fly to Cusco (3,400 metres above sea level), you should have three rest days before you explore or hike. This should give your body enough time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by this time, your body should be able to tolerate the 3,082 metres of elevation experienced at the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Besides this, there are other tips to help manage and reduce the chances of symptoms at high altitudes. Firstly, don’t rush. Chill out and walk slowly. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat them too fast. Thirdly, drink plenty of water. You can also consider coca tea and sweets. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, progressively reaching higher altitudes slowly over time, you shouldn’t need these.
Helpful Information: FAQs
How Long Does it Take to Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?
The Machu Picchu Mountain hike length is around 2–2.5 hours.
How High is Machu Picchu Mountain?
The peak elevation of Machu Picchu Mountain is 3,082m.
How Many Steps Up to Machu Picchu Mountain?
To reach the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll need to climb 1,600 steps.
Is it Necessary to Have a Guide to Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?
No, a tour guide isn’t needed to hike Machu Picchu Mountain. You can enter Machu Picchu to do the Machu Picchu Mountain hike independently without a guide. This is also the case for the Huayna Picchu and Huchuy Picchu hikes. Although, on official maps online, you’ll notice that it says, ‘it is recommended to hire a tour guide’. Effectively, a tour guide is only recommended and not mandatory.
What is the Best Time of Year to Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?
In Peru, there’s a dry and rainy season. The dry season goes from May to October. Your chances of rain are low and you can expect sunny days. On the other hand, the rainy season is from November to April. During this time, you can expect frequent rainfall. But, it’s slightly warmer throughout the day. Of course, you should hike Machu Picchu Mountain during the dry season to improve your chances of good weather.
Which is the Best Time of the Day to Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?
It’s common to have low-lying mist around the Machu Picchu site early in the morning. This holds true all year round, even in the dry season. So, to increase your chances of good views of Machu Picchu from the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, it’s best to avoid the earliest time slot (7–8am). If you can, choose the 8–9am time slot. Potentially, you could start the hike just before 9am. Then, by the time you reach the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, it’ll be around 10–11am. This is a great time to arrive at the summit of the mountain. At this time, you’re more likely to have unimpeded views of Machu Picchu. But, of course, mountain weather is unpredictable.
Is Machu Picchu a Mountain?
No, the Machu Picchu site is situated in and surrounded by the Andean mountain range.
Is Machu Picchu Mountain Dangerous?
No, the Machu Picchu Mountain hike isn’t dangerous. It’s Huayna Picchu and its stairs of death, which has a reputation for being dangerous.
Why do you need this?
See it in action
A great pair of lightweight hiking boots that suit the Machu Picchu Mountain hike perfectly
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A waterproof jacket is an absolute must if you hike Machu Picchu Mountain in the rainy season
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The GoPro Hero 9 is a fantastic action camera. We captured some great footage in Peru
When hiking to the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, you should also take water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
- There’s more to Peru than just Machu Picchu: of course, you should spend your days exploring popular places in Peru, such as Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Rainbow Mountain. But, make sure to also explore the lesser-known. Beck and I really enjoyed less-explored treks near Cusco such as the Huchuy Qosqo and Ausangate treks. We wished we had even more time to do other less-known hikes such as the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu.
- Machu Picchu Mountain altitude: if you’ve acclimatised in Cusco, the altitude of Machu Picchu Mountain isn’t likely to give you altitude sickness. But, given the potential for altitude sickness during other treks in Peru, you’ll want travel insurance. We recommend the reputable World Nomads!
The climb to Machu Picchu Mountain’s peak is truly epic. What’s your favourite hike in South America? Let us know in the comments below.
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