A list of four different options to see Machu Picchu from above, when all tickets are sold out for Huayna Picchu.
Huayna Picchu (sometimes spelled Wayna Picchu) is the famous mountain behind Machu Picchu. It will grant you the best bird’s eye view of the Inca ruins. But the entrance to the Young Peak is limited to 400 people per day. In addition, the entrance is limited to the morning hours (for detailed information on climbing Huayna Picchu click here).
If you can’t make it in time or the tickets are already booked out, here are four just as amazing alternatives to climbing Huayna Picchu. But before we go on, I’d like to stress that some of these hikes are fairly difficult, which really means you will have to pack more than just plain trainers (here is a very detailed Machu Picchu packing list that covers it all)
Still not sure where to stay? Check out my list of the best hotels in Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Your easiest alternative to seeing Machu Picchu from above is climbing Machu Mountain (Montaña Machu Picchu). You will need to book tickets for this option as well. Be aware that Machu Picchu Mountain is, at an altitude of 3,082 meters, considerably higher than Huayna Picchu and thus takes longer to hike (read this for a detailed analysis of the different altitude levels in Machu Picchu & how to prevent altitude sickness).
Calculate 3-4 hours for the full circuit. Tickets for Machu Picchu are limited to 400 per day (can be bought on the official website). Just like for Huayna Picchu there are two shifts, so you can enter any time between 7 and 8 am or 9 to 10 am. Still, it is an equally challenging hike.
• You are higher and thus will see even more parts of the ruins from above
• Not as crowded as Huayna Picchu
• Takes longer
• Not as good for photography because you will be photographing against the sun
Sun Gate (Inti Punku)
Not everyone will want to climb to extreme heights. There is still a way to see Machu Picchu from above, without facing a sheer vertical drop of 400 meters and more as in the case of Huayna Picchu or Machu Mountain. The Sun Gate (Inti Punku in Quechua) was the original entrance to Machu Picchu. Travelers taking the Inca Trail will actually still enter the ruins via this auspicious structure. But it is quite possible to hike up to the Sun Gate as well. The round trip will take you roughly 60 to 90 minutes. The Sun Gate is especially popular in the morning, as it is the first spot within the sanctuary of Machu Picchu that sees the sun rising (read more about the other free sites within my ultimate guide to Machu Picchu).
• No ticket needed
• Fairly easy to hike
• open all day
• Doesn’t grant a perfect bird’s eye view
• will be photographing against the sun
Sitting right opposite of Machu Picchu is another peak few people ever hear about. It is called Putucusi Mountain and absolutely free to enter. For those who have a spare morning in Aguas Calientes, this is actually a wonderful alternative to climbing Huayna Picchu. The trail starts behind the Sumaq Hotel in Aguas Calientes and is infamous for its huge wooden ladders and very challenging hiking passages. The round trip will take approximately 3 hours and take you up to an altitude of 2,500 meters.
• Seeing Machu Picchu from a totally new angle
• No ticket needed (not even a Machu Picchu ticket)
• Virtually no tourists
• Very (!) challenging hike
• Can be closed due to security reasons
The last option on this list of alternatives to climbing Huayna Picchu is in fact not a true alternative at all. Huchuy Picchu is the smaller peak right next to Huayna Picchu. It can only be climbed with valid tickets to Huayna Picchu. The difference is just, that being so small the hike is way shorter and not particularly challenging. Most people will head straight up to Huayna Picchu and will have no energy (or time) left to climb its smaller brother mountain as well. This is actually quite the mistake because Huchuy Picchu will offer you a totally new view of Machu Picchu. In particular, you will be so much closer to the ruins, which makes it ideal for photography.
• Seeing Machu Picchu from a new angle
• Easy to moderate hike
• Not as high as Huayna Picchu (so ideal for taking pictures)
• Tickets for Huayna Picchu needed
• No true bird’s eye view possible due to low altitude, but very good angle nevertheless
Further alternatives to climbing Huayna Picchu
In 2017 the local government changed its ticket policy and ticket prices for Machu Picchu. You can now either decide between a morning ticket or an afternoon ticket. The full day ticket is now considerably more expensive (152 soles). Read more about it here.
That being said, you should be aware that choosing the free options (meaning the Intipunku) means your visit to Machu Picchu will only cost 65 soles (~19 US-Dollar) instead of 200 soles (~60 US-Dollar). While I would argue that your trip to Peru probably costs a fortune and it’s a bad idea to starting saving money when visiting this unique UNESCO World Heritage site and prime highlight, not everyone is in that position. So, choose wisely :)
But don’t forget, that there are more Inca ruins in Peru. Ollantaytambo is only a couple of kilometers away and probably the best alternative to Machu Picchu. Read my guide on Ollantaytambo here. Tipon, Pisay, Morray…these are all worth a visit and depending on your itinerary it could be a smart move to actually cut your time in Machu Picchu to a minimum (tho I’d not do it and rather prolong my holiday).
That’s it. These were my alternatives to Huayna Picchu. If you got any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below. Oh, and don’t forget to pin this article.
Image Credits: Dimitry B., bobistraveling
“Pisay, Morray” – s/b Pisac and Moray. I’d also add Chinchero.
while great, they are not IN Machu Picchu ;-)