Wayna Picchu (sometimes spelled “Huayna”) is the name of the mountain that towers above Machu Picchu. Many people don’t know that you can hike to the summit of this mountain. I didn’t know until I happened to stumble across it somewhere on the internet, and contacted the company that I hiked the Inca Trail with to find out about the permit required to do this.
The hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu is rigorous but rewarding. The estimated hike time is two-hours round trip, and you’ll constantly be hiking up cliff-side stairs along a trail that’s really only wide enough for one person (although others will attempt to pass you as they descend), and with only a railing drilled into the rock for safety measures. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu, then you’re probably wondering where this trail actually is on the mountain, just as I was as I stared up the cliffs to the summit I would be standing on 45-minutes later.
When I arrived to Machu Picchu and toured around for a while, I kept looking up to Wayna Picchu and all I could think was oh god no, no more stairs. I know this makes me sound like I’m incredibly out of shape, but like I said in my previous Inca Trail posts it had been a little while since I had done another multi-day hike before setting-out to do this one. And believe me, after completing Day Two, I didn’t want to see another staircase for at least a couple of weeks. If any of you are setting-out to do this hike, you’ll know what I mean soon enough!
I was actually close to skipping out on the hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu because I was just that exhausted– not to mention the fact that I wanted to head down to the town of Aguas Calientes with the rest of my group to celebrate the end of our Inca Trail trip over many beers. As I was about to back out of the hike, my inner traveler voice kicked in and reminded me that I may not ever come back to this part of Peru, that I may not ever get the chance to experience this again, and at that thought, I suddenly found a burst of energy enough to make it up the near-verticle stairs to the summit of Wayna Picchu. I’m glad I did too. The views that this trail has to offer were some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
If you’re planning a visit to Machu Picchu, whether you’re hiking the Inca Trail or taking the train, there are a couple of things to know about planning the hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu. If you’re interested, plan this as soon as you book your Inca Trail hike, or as soon as you can if you’re taking the train. Peruvian officials only allow a total of 400 people on the trail per day, in groups of 200 in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. The 400 people include the 500 hiking into Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail, and the amount of people who took the train for the day (I’d estimate at least a couple hundred more). The cost for the permit to do this is $75, and while I was touring around Machu Picchu I heard many people talking about how they regretted not purchasing this permit so that they too could see the sights from 1,000ft above Machu Picchu. If you think you have an interest in this hike, it is worth the $75 to book early. If you wait until the day you’re at Machu Picchu, you’ll probably be one of those tourists regretting their decision from below.