Many trekkers ask us about Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, and few know the difference between these 02 mountains that we climb in Machu Picchu.
It is located in the northeast and is famous because you can enjoy a beautiful landscape and Machu Picchu from the summit.
The ascent to Huaynapicchu has a steep trail that takes approximately 45 minutes to reach the summit.
When you get to the top, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and take unique pictures for a maximum time of 20 minutes, and this is because the top of Huayna Picchu does not have much space to walk and can not enter many people. We must give room for other travelers like us can enjoy the beautiful view; remember that to make this walk is necessary to make a reservation in advance.
Just let our travel specialist know, and you will be able to do this trek and not miss any detail of your Machu Picchu and Inca Jungle vacation. The cost per person is $75.00
Huayna Picchu is at an altitude of 2789 meters.
It is the highest mountain. To make the ascent, you need at least 03 and a half hours to enjoy the hike to this mountain.
Machu Picchu Mountain offers you a view of the different altitudes of Machu Picchu and an incredible panoramic view of all of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Hydroelectric, and other surrounding areas.
When you reach this summit, you can spend more time taking pictures since not many travelers usually reach this summit, and as always, if you want to visit this mountain, you must make a reservation in advance, which costs 60 dollars. This mountain is located at an altitude of 3240 meters.
|TYPE OF INFORMATION||HUAYNA PICCHU||MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN|
|Elevation||2720 masl (8923 ft)||3082 meters above sea level (10,111 feet)|
|Duration of the hike||The trip takes about 1 hour, and the return trip takes about 40 minutes.||The outbound trip takes about 1.20 hours, and the return trip takes about 45 minutes.|
|Course distance||From Machu Picchu to Huayna Picchu is 2 km (1.25 miles).||From Machu Picchu to Machu Picchu Mountain is 2.3 km (1.4 miles)|
|Archaeological sites||Andenes Agrícolas and the Temple of the Moon||None|
|Best panoramic view||Panoramic view of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu only.||The best panoramic view of all the mountains of the Archaeological Park, higher altitude, greater angle.|
|Admission hours||1st schedule: 07 am – 08 am and
2nd schedule: 10am – 11am
|1st schedule: 07 am – 08 am and
2nd schedule: 09am – 10am
|Number of visitors||400 tickets available per day (200 people per schedule)||800 tickets available per day (400 people per schedule)|
|The most popular||Huayna Picchu is the most popular because of the challenge it represents to climb and the years it has been on the market.||It is not so popular because it has only been in the market for a few years, but the route is rewarding.|
|The most beautiful route||—–||Machu Picchu Mountain has the most comprehensive, safest, and most beautiful route.|
|For adrenaline lovers||Huayna Picchu, You won’t be disappointed||—–|
|For families and children||—–||Machu Picchu Mountain is the most popular for family groups and children.|
I still have doubts about which mountain I should choose, here we will tell you according to your conditions.
Of course, you can do it, but you can’t buy the ticket online; you must purchase it in person or contact the Kondor Path Tours reservations team.
It would help if you also considered the schedule. It would help if you first visited Huayna Picchu, accessed in the first schedule from 7 am to 8 am and were back in the citadel of Machu Picchu at 10 am, and then accessed Machu Picchu Mountain before 10 am, and be back in the Inca citadel at approximately noon.
At noon approx. Leave outside the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu to meet your guide and re-enter Machu Picchu for the guided tour of the Inca citadel.
Although we are sure you will have a very tiring day, with our guide you will be on time at every place at every moment and you will not miss the breathtaking views, after all, how many times will you visit Machu Picchu?
Are you undecided and don’t know which colorful mountain to visit? Which is the best between Vinicunca and Palccoyo? Here you will find everything you need for a beautiful experience.
They offer breathtaking natural beauty; we recommend both, but if you don’t have much time, which one would you recommend?
Vinicunca Mountain, named by the local indigenous people but known in the tourist industry as the Seven-Colored Mountain of Peru, is a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride from the city of Cusco.
Vinicunca is located in the southern Andes of the Cusco region (Cordillera del Vilcanota); it was the first mountain to become very famous in the world of tourism; the natural beauty in the variety of colors is impeccable, so many also call it The Mountain of Seven Colors, this tonality of the mountain is given by a complex geological history of marine, lake and river sediments formed over millions of years.
Vinicunca Mountain is 5200 meters above sea level, where temperatures can vary between 5 and 35 °C. This depends a lot on weather conditions; it is clear that when it rains and there is a substantial wind, temperatures drop, but they can also rise dramatically when it is a super sunny day, up to 38 °C. Also, remember that you are 5200 meters from the sun.
Palcoyo is a group of rainbow mountains, one of the most apparent differences with Vinicunca mountain, which has only one colored mountain.
Palccoyo is about 3 hours by bus from Cusco; the route to Palccoyo is breathtaking. On the way to Palccoyo, you will find a stone forest, and there is a chance to see the famous red river; a better route than Palccoyo is impossible!
The Seven Colors Mountain of Palccoyo is located south of Cusco, at an altitude of 4,800 meters, not far from the snow-capped Ausangate in the Peruvian Andes, which means it is 400 meters lower than Vinincunca Mountain.
Visit Palccoyo in the rainy season, because if it rains a lot, it is perfect for your trip, because you will probably also see the Red River.
Visit Palccoyo if you want to guarantee a good experience, sometimes in the Andes it snows, and it can cover the mountain, in the case of Palccoyo there is no problem because there are many colorful mountains, there will always be one or two mountains where you can see this natural effect.
The Mountain of the 7 Colors, or Vinicunca, is crowded with tourists. At this point, taking a picture without other tourists appearing in the image is difficult, so you will have to resort to Photoshop.
Apart from this experience, Vinicunca remains the most beautiful colored mountain.
Palccoyo is a new itinerary we are promoting in InkanMilkyWay; on this tour to Palccoyo, you will not see many people, and you will be able to take all the pictures you want in the most beautiful places without crowds.
There are two main reasons why this route is not populated with tourists, firstly because this place is still very new in the market, and secondly, for marketing reasons, as many operators have been promoting Vinicunca mountain for many years, but let’s be honest here, Palccoyo has nothing on Vinicunca.
We’re sure you’ve seen countless photos of Rainbow Mountain on Instagram, and if you’re already in Cusco, it’s distinctive red, yellow, and orange seams will now be a common sight in all the city’s hostels and travel agencies.
Also known as Vinicunca, Winikunka, Montaña de Siete Colores, and Montaña de Colores, this Cusco tourist attraction has grown in popularity in recent years. It is arguably on the way to becoming the second most visited attraction in Peru after Machu Picchu.
If you want to know exactly what a day trip to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco entails (and is worth it), learn why the mountain has become so crowded, save big money, and understand how you can relate to the crazy height of Vinicunca – as well as appreciate some of the new realities of Rainbow Mountain day trips in 2020 – this is the only post you need to read.
The classic hike to Rainbow Mountain involved a long early morning bus ride from Cusco and a 15km round trip hike.
With a rudimentary new road carved into the hillside (specifically for coaches – no other traffic would have come beforehand), the actual ‘hiking’ part is now a much shorter round trip of around 7km. Unfortunately, the early morning bus ride remains!
Although some tours may start earlier or later, the standard Rainbow Mountain day trip includes the following:
As you can see, it’s a long, full day, with most of the time driving in and out of the mountains (although this takes you through some beautiful Peruvian scenery). Tours from 4:00 am to 4:30 am are less common but give you the best chance to avoid the big crowds later in the day.
If you don’t have your bike, it isn’t worth doing Rainbow Mountain independently, as the required transport links are too few and unreliable to make sense (trust us here, we always try to find independent options). Hikes, day trips, and in this case).
Although rainbows usually appear after the rain has fallen, wet weather isn’t your friend when it comes to experiencing Rainbow Mountain at its best.
We were blessed with perfect weather for our visit to Peru’s rainy season (which runs from November to April), but talking to others at our hostel in Cusco and on our route through South America confirmed that it could be a miserable and muddy experience. – and almost a waste of time – doing this hike in the rain and clouds. The main reason? Unsurprisingly, the mountain doesn’t look so good when everything (and everyone) is gray, wet, and miserable.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course, and you can’t fully control the weather on any trek in South America (we experienced four seasons on day hikes in Huaraz, northern Peru). ). However, if you are in Cusco for a limited time and the region has seen a lot of rain or rain is forecast, it’s probably best not to waste a day driving six hours in disappointment.
The biggest mistake you will make on Rainbow Mountain – paying more than $100 for the tour – is underestimating the altitude and its impact. If you hear someone say how difficult it was to walk or how bad they were, it’s almost sure they didn’t understand or adequately prepare for altitude sickness.
The entire hike to the viewpoint of Rainbow Mountain’s main summit takes place at a high altitude (starting at about 15,000 feet), and its summit is 16,000 feet above sea level; This altitude is no joke; it’s significantly higher than the highest altitude we experienced on our four-day Inca Trail trek and is the main reason you’re only allowed to stay 10-20 minutes at the summit. If you have just arrived in Peru or traveled directly from Lima to Cusco the day before, your body will not be used to these conditions (i.e., the thin air and a lack of oxygen).
Because of its popularity, Rainbow Mountain may be the only “hike” some people do in Peru. That’s why you’ll see many people walking around in sneakers and (don’t be fooled) flip-flops.
We hiked for about three weeks on our trip to Peru, so we already had a lot of gear with us; If you’re already packing essentials for the trek, it makes sense to use these.
Hiking shoes or hiking sneakers are best (and such footwear should already be in your backpack for Peru if you are ok), while for clothing, it makes sense to be prepared for any weather (and keep in mind that I will leave you). Cold Cusco is early in the morning, so please bring layers, a waterproof jacket or packable poncho, and a hat Sunscreen is essential due to the UV rays at this altitude, and plenty of water too.
If you are planning a series of treks in Peru, including the Inca Trail, we recommend reading 12 essential tips for trekking in Peru.
Ok, that’s most of the tedious prep stuff out of the way. Now for the fun part: This corner of the forest is lovely.
The famous mountain (many photos of which have been heavily Photoshopped to emphasize specific colors) is only part of the attraction, as the entire valley is blessed with snow-capped peaks and ridges and fantastic views over Ausangate.
The part that will worry some of you the most due to the altitude is the walk to the main viewpoint.
The good news is that it isn’t that far away and won’t cause many problems. The dirt road to the summit is about 75% flat, with a gradual climb for 15% and then a reasonably challenging steep climb for the last 10% or 200-300 meters. At this elevation above sea level, everyone will be a bit out of breath at the beginning and the last 10%. Still, if you are of reasonable fitness and have acclimatized, this shouldn’t be anything you can’t handle—a steady rhythm. To give you an approximate time, we are (with a few breaks along the way) in about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I was back on the bus in 45 minutes; Another 30 minutes for the ascent and descent is probably more realistic if you go slowly.
The trail is easy to follow, and most guides let tour members go at their own pace. However, the course quickly becomes a slippery, slippery, muddy swamp when it rains heavily.
And if that has left you sad or wondering whether you want to take that particular day trip from Cusco, as any responsible traveler should, then it’s worth noting that there are some great alternatives to Rainbow Mountain that you can choose from masses that will be carried away. However, you can still see the same or similar multicolored areas. You won’t be able to get that shot, but it might give you a more enjoyable experience overall.
The main alternative to Rainbow Mountain, a day trip to Palcoyo from Cusco, includes a much cheaper start time (7:30 am), far fewer people, a high-altitude hike, and the incredible scenery of three rainbow-hued mountains.
An eight-day, 69 km trek takes in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Andes. Starting at 12,000 feet and reaching high passes near 17,000 feet. Beautiful and remote, it retains the raw feel of an off-the-beaten-path adventure, taking you through the Ausangate region and very close to Rainbow (a short visit is possible) and a whole host of wonderful countryside and glacial lakes.
Although often part of the same Rainbow Mountain day trips, not all agencies offer the option to hike the extra 2 to 2.5 hours through the less crowded Red Valley; doing so can make the whole day trip experience worthwhile and memorable, but we imagine this particular trail will be just as popular as the original loop.
Now, if you don’t feel like Rainbow Mountain is something you want to visit while you’re in Cusco, consider some of the other best day trips from Cusco.
Whether you visit Rainbow Mountain or not, be considerate of your surroundings and local communities, respect the site, create memories and leave only footprints.
If you don’t know how to get to Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca Peru, we’ll tell you how we did it with information on everything you need to bring, the price of the tour, and how to climb it.
We recommend you visit it after spending several days in Cuzco to be acclimatized to the altitude and not have problems with altitude sickness. Think that Rainbow Mountain is the highest point where you will be on your route through Peru (and, in many cases, in your life), so the more time has passed, the better.
Like Rainbow Mountain, you may find several, including the Cordillera de los Siete Colores, but we are referring to Vinicunca or Winicunca.
How far is Rainbow Mountain or Arcoíris from Cusco, and how long does it take to get there?
It is only 140 kilometers from Cuzco to Rainbow Mountain. Still, in terms of time, which is what matters, it takes about 2 hours to Quesino (at 4,200 ms), the first stop for breakfast, and another hour until the beginning of the walk to reach Rainbow Mountain (at 4,400 ms).
So with 3 hours there and another 3 hours back, plus the 4-hour trek to Rainbow Mountain, it’s a full-day trip. But highly recommended, don’t let these data back you down.
All the outerwear you have; It’s cold up there, and you reach an altitude of 5,200 meters.
This excursion to Rainbow Mountain includes a full breakfast with tea, coke and oatmeal, bread, and jam. And once you have regained your strength, again by bus for a one-hour ride, you are taken to the checkpoint, where you buy your tickets and start the ascent on foot.
TIPS: If you suffer from vertigo, if you are afraid on the road, or if you do not feel comfortable if you do not drive, do not choose the seats closest to the driver. During the bus ride, there are moments when you may have a heart attack when you see the unpaved road, the unprotected curves, and the abyss below.
At the beginning of the excursion to the Rainbow Mountain
The buses drop you at the ticket booth, which they call the “Checkpoint,” From there, you have to walk 5 km up a spectacular valley to reach Rainbow Mountain.
They told us it would take a maximum of one hour at a slow pace, but it took us 1 1/2. So don’t rush; everything is planned; no matter how run the guides are, stroll at your own pace. The important thing is that you arrive because the hiking trail is very hard. We have done the most challenging mountain trekking, although, as mothers say with their children, “it compensates.”
The trek through Rainbow Mountain is challenging since it is at a high altitude, reaching approximately 5,200 meters. But don’t worry, you have help to climb if you want:
You can ride a horse almost to the top of Rainbow Mountain. The price from the beginning is 70 soles (more than the excursion). And when you’re upstairs, if you look bad, they ask you for 10.
But we tell you one thing if you want to climb Rainbow Mountain on foot but you see that you can’t take it anymore, it’s worth doing that last ride on horseback for that price. We didn’t do it, but if we had to do it again, we would leave that last effort to the horse 🙂
Trekking poles, the agency that organizes the excursion, will leave you a stick that helps and comes in handy.
During the journey to Rainbow Mountain, people sell drinks, fruit, and bars; you don’t have to carry a loaded backpack foolishly. At most, some nuts that, in our case, came from pearls and weighed nothing.
Although the people of the area knew of its existence, it was not until 2016 that it became known to tourism, and today it is a daily pilgrimage that reaches the Rainbow or 7-Color Mountain.
We were talking to a man who takes horses to the top, and he told us that the mountain was covered by snow, but with global warming, this beauty appeared.
Today, the municipality’s people carry out the exploitation with the horses and stalls along the way.
Walking through amazing valleys and colorful mountains along the 5 km until reaching Rainbow Mountain is worth it. In uppercase. Not only the Mountain of the 7 Colors is a spectacle. As much or more, all the way to get to her.
And the people who lead the horses, with traditional costumes made of alpaca and intense colors, different from those we saw in Cuzco, are also part of that picture that looks like a documentary. Great wherever you look.
Another cool thing is the alpacas, free, grazing, and running. Nothing to do with the ones that the women of Cuzco wear tied up for the photo that the tourist on duty pays for
If you want a good photo with an alpaca, wait until you get to Rainbow Mountain. The scenario you have in the background has no comparison, and it is responsible tourism with nothing to do with the other.
It is not easy; instead, it is hard. As we told you before, it is not the 5 km walk between valleys and mountains or the weather; more than anything, it is the altitude.
Rainbow Mountain is at 5,200 meters, and from the moment you start the trek, you find yourself at 4,600, much higher than Cuzco. But you also go up little by little until you reach the top through large slopes, so the effort combined with the lack of oxygen is even greater.
That is why it is essential to go loaded with coca leaves or have the Sorojchi on hand Pill, the pills sold in any pharmacy against altitude sickness.
Despite everything, and with coca leaves in our mouths at all times, it was hard for us, and although we reached the top without help or a horse, we warn you that it is not an easy walk.
But don’t let this turn you back either, because if everyone does it, you do too. And reaching the top is so unique that there are no doubts. You arrive safely
Palcoyo, the mountain range of colors or the rainbow mountains, is a set of 03 peaks that are located in the Andean mountain range, precisely in the district of Checacupe of the province of Canchis in the department of Cusco at an altitude of 4900 meters above sea level, framed in almost 9000 hectares of beautiful Andean landscapes, Its attractiveness lies in the similarity it has to the already famous Mountain of colors that is located about 20 kilometers away, because like this has a comprehensive mineral composition resulting in multiple colors that together resemble a rainbow whose background is a landscape of snowy mountain ranges to which once belonged because this impressive attraction is also a gift of global warming, as it was within sight when it thawed.
The Mountain of Palcoyo is located a few kilometers south of the famous 7 Colors Mountain. In the same mountain range of Vilcanota in the District of Pitumarca, province of Canchis, more than 110 km away.
|Duration of the hike.||From 1 to 1.5 hours (round trip)||From 4 to 6 hours, depending on the pace of the hike (round trip).|
|Physical difficulty||Download||High average|
|Maximum height||Approximately 4,900 masl.||Approximately 5,000 masl.|
|Best time of the year for the route||From April to November.||From April to November.|
|Weather||High altitude, low temperatures||High altitude, with low temperatures.|
Being located at 4,900 meters, the risk of suffering from puna is always present. However, since the hike is not steep and lasts a maximum of one hour, most travelers (regardless of age) will have no problems. The recommendation is always to spend at least two days in Cusco before traveling to Palcoyo to acclimatize the body. If you want more information on this subject, read our article on how to avoid altitude sickness. As for the cold, you must wear warm clothes due to the sub-zero temperatures in Palcoyo. A windbreaker is also recommended.
The physical effort and the time it takes to get to Palcoyo is much less than to get to Vinicunca; the latter also receives a large influx of tourists that detracts from the beauty of the natural landscape. With this, we do not mean that trekking to the Rainbow Mountain Vinicunca is not worth it if you are looking for a physical challenge; perhaps visiting Vinicunca makes more sense. The beauty of the Cordillera de Colores Palcoyo is that it is an excellent alternative for those who can’t or don’t want to wear themselves out physically to observe the same scenery they would see in Vinicunca.
When the number of visitors increased tremendously to the Mountain of the 7 Colors in 2017, the inhabitants of Palcoyo (an Andean community) realized that they, too, had an attraction that resembled the Mountain of the 7 Colors. They had the red Mountain of Palcoyo, which only they knew about.
They organized themselves internally. They understood the benefits of tourist activity. They began to promote and open the way to those red mountains, which are three in total, and still, as a plus, have their stone forest that completes the ornament of the landscape. This is how Palcoyo became known in 2018, traveled throughout Peru, and continued worldwide. Thanks to its visitors, more and more recommend an alternative tour to the Mountain of the 7 Colors.
As in the entire region, Palcoyo is governed by the two defined seasons that Cusco has; it is worth mentioning that the rainy season is between November and the first days of April, often accompanied by snow due to the altitude in which it is located, the remaining months, between the last days of April and the last days of October, the entire region is in a dry and cold period. Thus, considering the 4900 meters at which this place is located, it is customary to find an icy landscape whose thermal sensation does not exceed 15 degrees, even on one of the hottest days. Finally, due to the high altitude, don’t forget that solar radiation levels also increase considerably.
Visiting the mountains of Palcoyo is also a great experience, of all the attractions in Cusco. Here you walk away from the crowds of tourists. Palcoyo consists of three colorful mountains spread from south to north. All visitors from the beginning of the hike go up a path in the same direction until they reach the viewpoint of the third Mountain. From that point, there is the possibility to continue walking towards the striking peaks of sharp rock, known as the forest of stones, and otherwise return the same way.
If you want to reach the forest of stones, the highest point on this route is 4900 meters above sea level. You will have to follow the path that leads to it. The hike is partially light; only getting to the forest of stones demands a more significant effort, but it is not far; everything is possible. You can see the three mountains from the top and have a 360° view. If the day is clear, the snow-capped Ausangate will appear in the distance. So the experience of being in a quiet and serene place is the ultimate. You will find the presence of local people dressed in Andean costumes with one or two alpacas. If you dare to take a picture with them, you can ask for it and, in exchange, a small tip.
For some, the presence of the alpacas and their beauty, but the elegant landscape makes one think this is a small paradise. The llamas (lama glama), but mainly the alpacas (vicugna pacos), inhabit this area in greater quantity. It is not that they live their lives in the wild, but they are raised by the locals and serve as their sustenance. There are also foxes (dusicyon culpaeus) and chinchillas that rarely appear, and birds, such as the Cara Cara (phalcoboenus megalopteros), Huallatas (chloephaga melanoptera) Etc. And speaking of vegetation in Palcoyo and its surroundings, we can mention the abundant paja brava (Stipa ichu) and grasslands that are food for camelids, some cacti, and all kinds of herbs that grow at ground level.
Good hiking equipment is always necessary, no matter how easy the hike may seem. Never underestimate and walk confidently because we do not know what can happen. Here are the recommendations, the essentials you should bring to Palcoyo Mountain.
What can you see in Palcoyo?
The forest of stones of Palcoyo is a crucial component that embellishes, even more, this incredible landscape. It becomes exciting to pay attention to some of the rocks that compose it because, in them, we will find what seems to be some small fossilized marine creatures, which indicates that these rocks probably have a sedimentary origin, that is to say, that they come from a marine bottom but by the caprices of the geologic formation of the Andes ended up at this great height.
Three mountains of colors:
Yes, indeed, in Palcoyo, you will see not one but three mountains of colors that adorn this already magnificent high Andean landscape, which is why it has been called, as we said, the mountain range of colors.
Very close to Palcoyo, there is a small tributary of water that increases its flow during the rainy season, dragging with it the reddish soil of the land where it is located. With it, this river takes the same coloration that has attracted the attention of many visitors.
Located in the heart of traditional Andean communities, Palcoyo, it will be possible to see entire herds of llamas and alpacas that graze in the surrounding areas, which are an essential part of the local economy and even in the year 2o22 are still used as pack animals.
If you do not have a vehicle, you must take a bus in the direction of Combapata, which you can take from the coliseum closed house of the youth about 10 minutes from the historic center of Cusco. After the three hours of travel, you will do, upon arriving at the village, you must hire mobility that will take you to the same attraction that is located; once there, you will have to make a 40-minute walk and finally contemplate all the beautiful scenery in the appropriate time, and return by the same route until you finally arrive in the city of Cusco.
Remember that it is pertinent that you start your activity very early in the morning, around 4:30 am. Don’t forget to bring dried fruit, cookies, and water; likely, local food is not the best option.
With the services of a travel agency you can make this trip with peace of mind, with all services included, many companies are willing to provide the service, in our case we have the following itinerary:
The route that undertakes the journey in the direction of this impressive landscape will begin at approximately 4:00 am, making a journey of roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes to the town of Cusipata, where the related food services will be provided.
After the prudent time in the establishment, we will continue directly for one hour more, passing by the town of Pitumarca to finally enter and shortly after arriving at the main attraction, the colorful mountain ranges, a fascinating spectacle, you will not have to do more walking than necessary to properly appreciate the landscape because the mobility arrives in practice to the same attraction. After a prudent time in the place, we will return on the same route, making the corresponding stop to have lunch.
We will arrive in the city around 17:00 hours.
Some curiosities about Palcoyo
Who, when, and how was it discovered:
Vinincunca, or The original Mountain of colors, tube a great acceptance and an incredible growth of visitors, which awakened the residents of the surrounding communities of Palcoyo the initiative also to publicize the astonishing landscape with which they had. Between the years 2017 and 2018, we began to promote the place with the help of DIRCETUR CUSCO, And likewise to provide the site with the necessary infrastructure to facilitate visitors’ access to the area.
The colors of His Mountains:
The magic of Peru lies in its impressive Andean landscapes, and one of the great wonders of this country is Vinicunca, better known as the Rainbow Mountain Peru, a name given by the stripes of different colors that paint this rocky giant.
Rainbow Mountain Peru is a destination that attracts the eyes of tourists worldwide for the breathtaking scenery and beauty of its strips, whose explanation is the variety of minerals dating back millions of years ago when the landscape was covered with seawater.
If you are planning to visit Peru and have Vinicunca on your itinerary, here is all the information you need to know before you set out on your trip to this unique destination.
We know you are always looking for new adventures and unique destinations on your trip to Cusco. Today we introduce you to the 7 Colors Mountain. This marvel opens its way in the middle of the high Andean landscape and shines with its unique colors in an unsuspected contrast with the intense blue sky of the Peruvian highlands.
Over time, the sediments formed layers (with different grain sizes) that today look like the strips that attract so many tourists.
The movement of the tectonic plates in the area raised these sediments until they became mountains.
Then they acquired their striking colors due to the oxidation of their minerals, exerted by the area’s humidity, and their erosion, explains César Muñoz, member of the Geological Society of Peru (SGP) to BBC Mundo.
Muñoz and the Cultural Landscape Office study detail each strip’s composition according to its color.
According to Haydee Pacheco, from the Pitumarca district municipality, the inhabitants of Pitumarca say there was snow some 70 years ago.
Pacheco explains that the Mountain gained popularity thanks to the promotion of tourists who walked past the site on their way to Ausangate, a sacred mountain for the Cusco people.
Colombian magazine Semana attributes the phenomenon’s success to Instagram and Facebook users.
A July 2017 article says that “the images displayed (on the social network) are leading to people boarding a plane to replicate the photo.”
As you read this article, were you thinking about how many “likes” you would receive for a portrait with the solid rainbow behind it?
It is the second most visited tourist destination in Cusco after Machu Picchu. As its name suggests, it is a majestic mountain covered by colorful stripes that you would never expect to find on it. Visiting the 7 Colors Mountain will allow you to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, take a hike of unique beauty, meet local people, and learn a little about the fauna and flora. The 7 Colors Mountain or Vinicunca is a must-stop during your visit to the Imperial City.
The inhabitants know Vinicunca of nearby communities as Cerro Colorado, but the rest of the world knows it as Rainbow Mountain Peru. This natural jewel is located 100 kilometers from the city of Cusco, at an altitude of 5200 meters above sea level, making it a physically demanding adventure for visitors. Vinicunca is located between the Cusipata and Pitumarca districts in the Quispicanchis and Canchis, respectively, in the department of Cusco.
First, like many others in the Peruvian Andes, you should know that this destination is located at high altitudes. In the case of the Mountain, it rises to an impressive 5200 meters above sea level. For this reason, you must prepare yourself for dizziness caused by altitude sickness; therefore, you must do the tours as calmly as possible.
The climate can vary according to the time of the year, but in essence, it is pretty cold and can be felt even more due to the winds. The warmest season is between April and August, finding sunny days, dry weather, and no rain, while in the other months, the temperature can reach 0 ° C and present precipitation.
We recommend an early start, as the hike to Rainbow Mountain, Peru, takes several hours and is a physically demanding route due to the altitude at which it is located.
If you leave the city of Cusco, you should head towards the South Valley for about two hours until you reach Cusipata. From there, you must go to the community of Phulawasipata, where you can begin the ascent on foot. This community is located more than 4000 meters above sea level, so it is recommended that you take it easy and walk at a slow and steady pace, remember that you will climb more than 5000 meters to reach your destination.
The hike takes about 1:30 to 2 hours, and along the way, you can see some local animals such as llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas and enjoy the high Andean landscape full of ichu everywhere. You will be able to share with local people and talk to them while you learn more about their customs and traditions.
You will finally reach your destination, and all your effort will have been worth it; at the end of the day, you will return to the city with rainbow energy.
The 7 Colors Mountain is a tourist destination of incredible beauty, and no doubt you will be delighted with the visit, but this excursion will make you work hard, so you must be prepared and know what awaits you. So let me introduce you to:
The total distance of the hike is about 8 km.
The duration of the walk is about three and a half hours.
The altitude at the beginning of the walk is 4652 meters above sea level.
The height when you reach your destination is 5200 meters above sea level.
Due to the elevation, the degree of difficulty of this hike is 4 out of 5.
An essential part of the landscape along the hike to Rainbow Mountain, Peru, is the fauna and flora that can be seen. Among them are some animals, such as the Llama, the Vicuña, and the Alpaca, which, although related, are very different. You can also see along the way a plant that grows in the puna of Peru called Ichu.
Andean Cat: This majestic animal is historically considered a protective spirit of the Apus or mountains. It lives in the high Andean areas and is rarely seen in frigid regions. If you are fortunate and attentive to the landscape around you, you may be able to see an Andean Cat on your way.
Andean Peru Llama: They are the tallest American camelids and have long, leaf-shaped ears. Their coat is thinner and less uniform than their camelid cousins, which means that their wool, widely used in the textile industry in the highlands of Peru, is not the finest or the most expensive in souvenir stores. Llamas are a load-carrying aid and can support up to a quarter of their weight. In Inca times, they were used to transport various products and merchandise.
Alpaca: They are smaller than a llama, about half its size. They have very symmetrical, pear-shaped ears and are covered with a magnificent, more uniformly colored coat. They are most often seen gathered in herds in almost all Andean landscapes. Their wool is highly valued worldwide, as it is of excellent quality and very soft and is used to make high-quality scarves, coats, sweaters, and blankets.
Vicuña: Unlike alpacas and llamas, which are more domestic, vicuñas are wild. This is why it is possible to see them grazing on top of a hill, under a sunny blue sky, in the middle of nature. Vicuñas are shy creatures, challenging to eternalize in a photo, and an endangered species, which is why the State protects them against indiscriminate hunting.
Its wool can only be sheared every three years, so a garment woven with fiber can be costly. It is said that, like alpaca fiber, vicuña wool was reserved only for rulers and royalty during Inca times.
Ichu is the grass of the South American Andean highlands, used as fodder for livestock, mainly South American camelids. It measures between 40 and 80 cm. Due to its abundance in high Andean areas, for its resistance and impermeability, the inhabitants of the communities use this plant to manufacture their roofs or handmade bricks.
Although it has always been part of the route to the great Ausangate snow-capped Rainbow Mountain, Peru was not a tourist site. It was only known by the local people and by the hikers who went in search of the snow-capped Mountain and knew the Mountain well before it became such a popular destination.
But how is it that it has only recently become part of the tourist circuit, being the Mountain so unique and Cusco such a well-known destination? The Mountain was covered with ice and snow for a long time, but since a few decades ago, it has been revealing itself because of the thaw. In 2016, Rainbow Mountain officially became a must-see tourist destination.
The origin of colors of the Mountain is due to the minerals in the soil that forms it. Different sediments accumulated in the earth over time, even marine relics. These minerals have been transformed by rain, wind, and sun over time, generating an oxidation process on the surface that paints the Mountain as a beautiful rainbow.
Although it feels like magic, Rainbow Mountain Peru has a scientific explanation, where each color has a formula; for example, pink is produced from a mixture of red clay, mudstones, mud, and claystone (sand). Beige is obtained from quartz sandstone, rich in calcium carbonate. The red color is composed of claystone (iron) and clays of past eras. The green appears thanks to phyllites and clays rich in ferromagnesian. The brown tone is the product of a fluvial conglomerate composed of magnesium-bearing rock. And the mustard yellow color is due to calcareous sandstones rich in sulfide minerals—undoubtedly a kind of science for all those interested in visiting Rainbow Mountain, Peru, or Rainbow Mountain.
Any time is the best time to visit Cusco and live an experience like Rainbow Mountain Peru. But of course, the weather has its whims, and if you are going to make an expedition of this type, with a long walk at such altitude, you need all the help you can get, especially if it is from nature. Therefore the dry season between April and October is the most recommended to live this experience. Still, if you decide to travel in the rainy months, you will see a green and lively landscape, and you will only need a good poncho for the rain.
When you go on an adventure like this, you should be prepared for anything, so remember to take it with you:
The Rainbow Mountain Peru used to receive a few hundred people daily, but in 2016 it received up to 2000 people every day.
In August 2017, the website Business Insider, a global travel expert, placed Rainbow Mountain Peru on its list of the places you must see before you die.
In 2015, a mining exploration company applied to the Instituto Geológico Minero y Metalúrgico for permission to excavate in the area, with an area of 400 hectares in which the Mountain and the communities of Cusipata and Pitumarca were located, which was granted in 2018. The protests generated by such action managed to get the company to relinquish the concession a few months later that same year.
The term Auquenid comes from Auchenia, a genus now in disuse created by Carl Peter Thunberg to classify the camelids of the American continent: alpaca, guanaco, llama, and vicuña, which had been classified as Camelus together with the camelids of the Old World.
The National Coat of Arms of Peru has among its treasures the image of a Vicuña. This symbolizes the animal wealth of this country.
Now that you know a little more about this incredible destination be prepared so that nothing will stop you once you start your adventure. Once you’ve reached the top of the Mountain, you’ll be ready to explore all of Cusco. Enter The Full Experience and choose all the experiences you want to live on your trip to Cusco. We make your trip a safe, exciting, and memorable adventure.
The ideal trip to Rainbow Mountain Peru is to take warm clothes, gloves, and raincoats if you go in rainy seasons, light equipment, drinks to hydrate yourself (about two liters), food, and snacks high in caloric content.
Vinucunca is located three hours from the city of Cusco, close to the town of Pitumarca. So if you are in Cusco, you should take the Longitudinal de la Sierra del Sur Peruano (PE-3s) road to the village of Checacupe and then take the fork to Pitumarca.
To make this tour, you must take a bus from the terminal near the Coliseum of Cusco to Pitumarca. Once in the village, take a cab to Pampachiri for about 25 USD round trip. This trip takes approximately one hour.
Once at your destination, you will have to pay the entrance fee to start the hike, which can take between two and two and a half hours, depending on your physical condition.
Another option to get to Vinicunca is to hire an agency that covers all transportation and entrance fees.
See how to get there, what you can do, and see in Cusco
As I think you might have guessed by now, the main activity at this destination is hiking. For this reason, it is vital that you evaluate yourself, consider your physical condition, and take the time to do the tour once you are there not to overexert your body.
On the hike, you will discover a breathtaking landscape; therefore, you should not skimp on the number of photos to take, including selfies.
Something important to keep in mind is that the trip can be more enjoyable with a guide. In this case, you should remember that prices may vary depending on services such as food, and horseback transportation, among others. If you pay for a private guide, it can cost between 150 and 250 USD, while if you hire a group guide, the price will be considerably lower, ranging between 40 and 50 USD.
The classic Inca Trail is the most famous trekking route in the Americas due to its historical importance, the indescribable beauty of its landscapes, and numerous archaeological sites. Many people want to hike this impressive route. That’s why Inca Trail Backpacker offers tips to prepare yourself physically before embarking on this remarkable adventure.
Preparation for the Inca Trail begins with a review of your current physical condition. It would be best if you were well organized; experts recommend starting preparations six months before the trip.
Work on your physical endurance: if you do not exercise regularly, you should start an aerobic exercise program as soon as possible, which is very important before this trekking circuit.
If you prefer another type of physical activity, running, swimming or cycling are good alternatives to train the whole body. It is essential to increase your heart rate for a more extended period so that your heart can stimulate blood flow to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles effectively. Exercise 4-5 times a week.
Strength training: Focus on your legs and core, including the entire abdominal region and lower back. Always remember that your leg muscles will be used a lot while hiking the Inca Trail and your heart, making it easier to maintain your body’s endurance and stability.
Since the trails are rocky and uneven, in many places, you will have to use more muscle groups that are not usually strengthened by traditional exercises. It is essential to train your leg and core muscles specifically.
Carry what you need in your pack; don’t carry too much. Although most groups doing this route carry carry-on luggage for tents, bags, utensils, and other items, you will need to take your backpack. Just ensure you have what you need for the hike so you don’t have to exert yourself unnecessarily.
You can train from your city with a backpack similar in weight to the one you will carry for the Inca Trail and climb all the hills you find nearby, wearing trekking shoes. This activity will surely help you since the challenge is in Cusco.
Acclimatize to the altitude: the Inca Trail hike takes place in the mountains, and your body must get used to the low oxygen levels before you start.
All hikers should spend at least two days in Cusco before starting the climb. Acclimatization is a priority. If you have to plan everything and for whom “improvisation” is not a word in your vocabulary, it would not be a bad idea to look for high-altitude areas in your city and spend one or two weeks there with all possible activities. This way, you can evaluate your body’s reaction to high-altitude sites.
Traveling is undoubtedly one of life’s pleasures, but you should always take the necessary precautions. This way, you can make the most of your trip and avoid emergencies. Contact Kondor Path Tours, a company that will give you the best support for all your trekking. Of course, always with the guarantee, responsibility, and security that distinguishes us.
For the more adventurous travelers, the trek to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu is the most exciting point of their trip. There are different hiking options to reach this historic sanctuary, but the Short Inca Trail is the most sought-after experience through the Peruvian Andes and high jungle.
The Short Inca trail was a network that connected the Tahuantinsuyo Empire during Inca times, along which the Incas built administrative, military, and religious centers to rest. It had an extension of 30,000 km and crossed regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.
Currently, the best-preserved part of this ancient road is the trail to Machu Picchu, which starts at km 82 of the Inca Trail. This adventure takes four days to complete and is considered a challenging hike.
As we mentioned before, the Incas built structures to ensure access to these places, and most of them remained hidden until their rediscovery in 1911. Luckily, while the Incas escaped from the Spanish conquerors, they avoided persecution to protect their village and holy places.
Today, the Short Inca trail remains one of the most popular activities in the Cusco region. Therefore, if you dare to this adventure, here we have listed some recommendations and answered some frequently asked questions so that you can organize your trip.
The excitement of finally booking the Short Inca trail trek is unparalleled, but planning the packing list is not that much fun. However, this trek will be much easier if you know what to take and leave behind.
All companies include porter services, but you will still have to carry a small backpack to store the essentials for the day’s route. Packing smart is not overpacking but knowing what you need for this hike.
Based on our experience as travelers and as a travel agency, we have prepared the best packing list so that you can start making your own according to your preferences. Remember that the porter carries your extra bag, where you will store your clothes and other supplies; they will have the bags at each campsite and pick them up the following day.
With that being said, we are going to start our Short Inca trail essential packing list with the most important things you should take with you at all costs:
Continuing with our essentials, this is the list of clothes that you must take for the walk:
When it comes to camping gear, most companies include everything. However, sleeping bags are not usually included in the price of the packages, but you can rent them at a store in Cusco or from the same company you are traveling with. Also, you may want to get a headlamp for night walks.
Trekking poles can be helpful in this adventure; they help balance your weight and will indeed prevent knee pain after the trek. We highly recommend carrying lightweight trekking poles; if they are retractable, they will be easier to store.
Yes, there are toilets and showers at each campsite. However, the bathrooms are a bit rudimentary, not to say that they are somewhat precarious, and the batteries are cold, although some camps offer hot water for an extra cost.
The Short Inca Trail is not a very challenging trek, but it makes itself felt with its steep ascents and descents. However, the primary key to successfully preparing for this hike is to acclimate your body before taking it on.
Even if you are an experienced hiker, we advise you to spend 2-3 days in Cusco to get used to the altitude. In addition, this ancient path will take you to places higher than 4,200 meters above sea level.
Exercising before coming to Peru would be best if you want to be in your best physical condition. Remember that there will be many walkers with different fitness levels in your group, so don’t see it as a competition, and take your time to enjoy it.
Due to the high altitude of this place, some travelers may experience dizziness, tiredness, headaches, and shortness of breath. These are the symptoms of the so-called Soroche or Altitude Sickness.
This condition affects most travelers above 2,500 meters of altitude, regardless of whether they have lived in higher areas or at sea level throughout their lives. However, we are not here to scare you but to clarify and make things easier for you:
Some medications help relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness; you can find Diamox or Soroche Pills in almost any pharmacy in Peru. However, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor before taking any of them.
It takes up to 4 days to complete this historic path to the citadel. Along the way, you will pass through the most remote Inca settlements, which offer a glimpse of what life was like in Inca times.
As mentioned above, a high level of fitness or being an experienced hiker is not required to complete it. However, achieving acclimatization a few days before starting this trip is key to avoiding inconvenience.
Unfortunately, you cannot trek the Short Inca Trail alone, as the permits can only be purchased through a certified tour company. The smallest group allowed is a minimum of two passengers plus guides and possibly porters.
To reduce the human impact on the trail, the Peruvian government has limited entry to 500 people per day; this includes hikers, porters, cooks, and guides. Therefore, we recommend booking the excursion six months in advance if you dare on this adventure.
It is worth mentioning that the Short Inca Trail permit is not transferable and that it is closed for maintenance during the rainiest month of the year (February).
The climate in this region is characteristic of the Peruvian Andean region, with a dry winter and a rainy summer. However, due to its geographical position, little rain is expected even during the dry season.
We want to mention that the cloud forest has a different climatic condition, and even though you are traveling during the dry season, you may experience occasional rain. Check this guide and learn everything about the weather in Peru.
The Short Inca Trail lasts only 2 Days and 1 Night. It begins at kilometer 104 of the Ollantaytambo railway road and passes through the archaeological sites of Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. The route continues towards the Intipunku (Sun Gate) to have an exceptional view of the Inca Citadel and then descends to Aguas Calientes to rest. The visit to Machu Picchu will take place the next day.
On the other hand, the Classic Inca Trail lasts 4 Days and 3 Nights, passing through different archaeological sites and the most impressive natural settings. Remember that this is a somewhat challenging hike, passing through points above 4,000 meters.
The Inca Trail is on the wish list of almost all travelers, not only because it is the most impressive trail in South America but also because it has great historical value. Dare to discover the secrets of the Inca civilization with this famous hike. Don’t forget to check out our Peru travel packages while you’re here!
The Inca Trail has become the most popular trek in the land of the Incas and one of the most sought-after in all of South America. With its unique combination of ancient ruins, fascinating history, and beautiful Andean mountain scenery leading to Machu Picchu, it attracts hiking enthusiasts worldwide.
Since Peru has become one of South America’s most visited countries, planning your trip is essential. This also applies to the Inca Trail. Knowing the best time to make the Inca Trail is vital to plan accordingly and make the most of your visit to Machu Picchu.
The best time for the Inca Trail is May and October. May is our favorite month because it’s just after the rainy season and just before the peak season, so the landscapes are still green and not crowded yet.
A good alternative is October. Although rainfall can be higher, conditions are usually perfect, and when the high season is over, there will be no overcrowding. May and October are warmer than the peak months of June, July, and August.
Whichever month you choose for the Inca Trail, you should never forget that Machu Picchu and the surrounding landscapes visited during the Inca Trail are located at high altitudes. This means that the weather in Cusco can change quickly, and you must be well prepared. The dry season and the rainy season are considered in more detail below.
The rainy season in Cusco usually begins in mid-November and lasts until the end of March. During these months, the number of tourists on the trail is significantly less than during the dry season, making it more attractive to some hikers.
In November, the conditions for hiking are more than reasonable, and the demand is not that great. The heaviest rains usually begin in December, while January and February are the wettest months (February in particular).
These are the busiest months in Cusco, not only for holidays but also for national holidays such as the Inti Raymi (Fiesta del Sol) in June and the National Holiday of Peru in July (July 28). In addition to international travelers, many locals also visit the city of the Incas.
From July to October, the air is drier, the temperatures are more relaxed, and the landscapes are not as green as in May or June.
Tour Options: Short Inca Trail and Classic Inca Trail
Depending on your time in Cusco, you can choose between the 2-day Inca Trail or the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The short version starts at kilometer 104 of the railway and includes a hike on the Inca Trail on the first day. Please look at the options and our Salkantay Trek vs. Inca Trail comparison.
You will see Machu Picchu from the Puerta del Sol Inti Punku, the official end of the Inca Trail and one of the most incredible places to photograph. Then, you will spend the night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), and you will have your guided tour of Machu Picchu on the second day. You can find more information in our Machu Picchu travel guide.
The 4-day Inca trail, the classic version, begins near Ollantaytambo at kilometer 88 on the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This 24-mile (40 km) trek takes you through the cloud-covered rainforest, beautiful Inca ruins, and campsites in some of the most picturesque Cusco mountain ranges. During this tour, you will enter the Machu Picchu complex through the Puerta del Sol Inti Punku on the fourth day and get unforgettable views that ordinary tourists cannot experience.
The maximum number of permits per day for the 4-day Inca Trail is 500, but only 200 are for tourists. The rest is for the guides, porters, and cooks. For the 2-day round, the number of day tickets is 250.
Because the Inca Trail is so famous, the demand for the trail is often so great that obtaining a permit is impossible. Because of this, many travelers opt for an alternative trek, such as the Salkantay Trek.
As mentioned above, not only do you need to be prepared for all weather conditions, but you also need to pack a few essentials no matter when you go hiking.
All agencies bring porters to the circuit carrying your belongings in a sports bag. Typically the allowed weight is around 5kg, which is more than enough for four days. You can pack the rest in your backpack.
Some essential items on your Inca Trail packing list are:
such as light trekking shoes with good ankle support, tennis shoes or sandals for comfortable camping, warm clothing (fleece and layers for different temperatures, especially at night), rain gear/raincoats, thermal underwear, shirts, and trekking pants, gloves/mittens, scarf,
The Inca Trail Cusco is an excellent option for trekkers, whether short on time and opt for the 2-day tour or the classic 4-day Inca Trail.
In addition to the available days, it is essential to remember that you must reserve your Inca Trail permits at least six months in advance. Also, be sure to consider the weather of the month of your visit to prepare appropriately.
On your last day, you will arrive at Machu Picchu through the Puerta del Sol, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the “Lost City of the Incas.”
Kondor Path Tours recommends the month to make the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is May since this month offers suitable temperatures, no crowds, and beautiful green landscapes to behold. June, July, and August are the busiest months; January and March are usually the rainiest, so we recommend avoiding them. October is an excellent alternative to May as conditions are similar and slightly warmer.
In the end, we are convinced that, whichever month you choose, the experience will always be unique. Our Sacred Valley Tour will be a great option if you want to visit before starting the Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu: the reason you’re probably booking a flight to Peru.
It’s one of the world’s new seven wonders, and a first-time trip to Peru wouldn’t be complete without it.
There are many journeys to get to Machu Picchu, each with varying timelines and fitness level requirements. And with new regulations being implemented in 2023, planning is crucial to limit foot traffic further. Especially for hikes on the Inca Trail or climbs up Huayna Picchu.
This photographic travel guide will give you a sense of what a Machu Picchu itinerary looks like, along with my first-hand experience doing the Huayna Picchu hike. I’ll also provide tips on how to get there, where you can stay, how to help prevent altitude sickness, and much more.
One of the most important things to consider when planning a trip to Machu Picchu is how to get there.
After flying from Lima to Cusco, the best way to get to Machu Picchu is by train. PeruRail takes passengers on a day trip from Cusco and Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the closest city to Machu Picchu. If time is a factor or there’s no desire to hike, this is the best option.
There are three different trains, and it’s important to remember they all take the same route, so the views are identical.
The trains do offer different levels of service, comfort, and amenities. Here’s a breakdown:
The most basic option, though essential in this instance, is not too shabby. The seats are comfortable, the windows are enormous, and the views are the same as the other trains. Having been on this and the Vistadome, I would opt for the Expedition. I didn’t find the Vistadome to be worth the extra money.
This train, pictured above, gets its popularity from the windows extending above to give a panoramic view. While I appreciated this, I didn’t find myself looking up too much. The service on board was pleasant; there were snacks and hot beverages. They also had a live fashion show with a masked dancer. I found it a bit corny, but others enjoyed it.
This luxury train offers fine dining and an open-air deck in the back car. It’s about four times the price of the Vistadome. As a photographer, the deck was very tempting. However, an early sunset meant my return journey would only provide one hour of daylight on the train. The Belmond is known for its luxury and excellent service. If you’re tempted to splurge, consider the Belmond Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno.
Regardless of the train, everyone takes the same bus to and from the ruins. Lines are usually long and form early in the morning and mid-afternoon.
Pro Tip: Sit on the river side of the train for better views.
Hiking to Machu Picchu is a smart option. It allows you to follow in the footsteps of the Incas and breath in history.
There are an array of hikes and treks to choose from, which last anywhere from two-five days. They take hikers through remote villages, climbing the Andes and passing Inca ruins.
I opted for the short Inca trail hike, a two-day, one-night affair. The rationale was simple. I only had a short time exploring Peru and wanted to see more of the country. I also didn’t want to pack for a trek, but I enjoyed hiking and wanted to challenge myself.
Related Travel Guide
Please read about my experience on the Short Inca Trail and learn about other hiking options like The Salkantay Trek and the entire four-day Inca Trail.
Early in the morning, our guide, Eban from Llama Path Sustainable Tours, picked us up and brought us to the ruins.
The first hour of the tour was a history lesson covering everything from what was known about the Inca civilization, the Spanish invasion, and Hiram Bingham’s “discovery” of the site. We also learned about today’s challenges of the Peruvian government trying to reclaim the lost artifacts.
The Machu Picchu ruins have different houses. Some are fit for royalty, and others for regular people.
We passed alters, toilet facilities, storage spaces, and unfinished work.
It doesn’t matter how often I saw the pictures before visiting; seeing them in real life felt amazing.
The most impressive part was the construction of the buildings. Similar to other Inca ruins, we saw how they used large stones that fit perfectly into one another. The precision was so great that they didn’t even use mortar to seal the stones.
All of these details would have been lost to me without a guide. I recommend either doing research beforehand or getting a knowledgeable local tour guide.
It’s easy to think that since these stones have lasted such a long time, they’re immune to damage, but the truth is the oils from our hands and pressure from our feet are wearing them down. Avoid touching the stones and don’t stand or sit on any ruins.
10 am – CLIMBING HUAYNA PICCHU
While I spent the morning walking through the ruins, I also had this pit in the bottom of my stomach. We had purchased tickets months ago to climb Huayna Picchu, and I had second thoughts.
I won’t hide the fact that I’m not particularly good with heights. I had heard this hike described with words like “dangerous,” “death stairs,” and “steep.” I pictured myself clinging to tiny stairs on the side of a mountain and being blown off by a gust of wind. Ok, a bit dramatic, I know.
But I had the tickets, it would be a waste not to use them, and with the encouragement of my friends, we lined up for our 10 am climb.
I looked at the daunting mountain above me and thought, How the hell was I supposed to get to the top?
Unfortunately for you, my dear reader, I was so focused on making it alive that I didn’t stop for photos. So now I’ll do my best to describe that one hour.
The saving grace of the hike was that it was predominantly shady. The path to go up was very steep, but there was always sufficient space and bush to prevent me from falling to death.
It made me sweat, turned my legs to jello, and constantly out of breath, but I never once questioned if I could make it to the top.
The climb was essential to a promotion. It was stair after stair after stair of climbing. It was narrow enough for a single file but wide enough for the faster people to pass.
Everyone went at their speed. We encouraged each other and were respectful of everyone’s pace. Strangers started chatting; it felt like a team effort.
After an hour, we got to the top, and I finally pulled out my camera.
The top is the area where I suggest additional caution.
It was crowded, everyone wanted a selfie, and there was limited vertical space. So be patient and watch your step.
It was worth it, and I’m so happy I faced my fears.
GETTING TICKETS FOR HUAYNA PICCHU
Essential to book about 3-6 months in advance the entrance tickets for Huayna Picchu Mountain. Climbing times are split into two groups (early morning and late morning), so ensure that the time for the climb correlates to the time slot on the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.
If tickets are sold out, consider climbing Machu Picchu Mountain instead. These are sold in time slots, but the hike is less steep and twice as long as Huayna Picchu. While there are no Inca sights on this hike, it does provide great views with fewer people.
Book Tickets for Huayna Picchu with KONDOR PATH TOURS
WHERE TO SLEEP AT MACHU PICCHU
We only recommend products and services we trust. 🙂 When doing the guided hikes, the tour companies provide accommodation. For the Machu Picchu two-day hike, it was a three-star hotel in Aguas Calientes. For longer treks, it is camping sites and lodgments along the trail.