The Death Defying Hike Up Wayna Picchu

“The last time I climbed Wayna Picchu, I cried at the top because I didn’t want to hike all the way back down,” my friend calmly told me before we tackled the mountain. At the time I thought nothing of it, that maybe she was exaggerating just a little bit. Little did I know that only a short while later, I’d be sitting on my bum making my way down the narrow steps, anxious to get back to the base of the mountain.

Wayna Picchu – the mountain directly behind the Machu Picchu ruins. A death defying hike I have no desire to ever repeat!

Wayna Picchu is the mountain seen in the background of the iconic Machu Picchu ruins, which were built by the Incas hundreds of years ago. Each day, the trail is open to 400 visitors, split into two entry groups, one at 8:00 a.m. and the other at 10:00 a.m. If this hike is something you plan to do, be sure to buy your ticket in advance. Tickets can be purchased online at

Many people seem to head out on this hike completely unprepared – flip flops, skirts, we saw it all! Make sure to wear clothes that are comfortable and easy to move around in.

Setting off on our treacherous hike up Wayna Picchu

I literally huffed and puffed my way to the top of Wayna Picchu, it definitely wasn’t a pretty sight.  My heart was pounding in my chest the entire way. The altitude, heat and sheer incline of the hike had turned my legs into jelly.

Machu Picchu – the view from above

We slowly made our way up the narrow steps, carved into the mountain hundreds of years earlier.  We set out shortly after eight a.m. and close to an hour later had made our way to the top. And boy, was it worth it!

No guard rails here!

I was filled with relief by the time we’d made it to the view point. Despite the breathtaking view, I was more than happy to make my way down, so that I could finally catch my breath again.

A not so safe route down

Once you reach the top, there’s nothing more than a sheer drop and open space. Numerous hikers sit on the large rocks, jostling for space. We quickly took a few photos, perched on the top. My heart was in my throat and all I could think was, “get me off this mountain!”  A number of people chose to take the not- so-safe route down, which involved sliding down the sheer rock-face. One wrong move and they would have gone flying right over the edge!

A very cautious descent

The nerves kicked into over-drive when it was time to head back. For the first few minutes, I sat down and scooched my way down the steps on my bum. Unconcerned about slowing people down, I just wanted to make it back in one piece. Completing the hike was a huge accomplishment – although it’s a challenge I’m not so sure I’d take on again…

The rest of the day was spent exploring the awe-inspiring ruins and capped off with a well deserved Pisco Sour at the beautiful SUMAQ Hotel. A drink has never tasted so good!

Some tips for hiking Wayna Picchu:

1. Dress appropriately.
2. Bring a small backpack with a bottle of water and a snack. You will need it!
3. Don’t show off and try and run to the top. You’ll never beat the record which is something   crazy (in the range of 12 – 15 minutes if I remember correctly).
4. This hike is NOT appropriate to do with babies or very young children.

Machu Picchu

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13 Comments on “The Death Defying Hike Up Wayna Picchu”

  1. restlessjo Says:

    It must have been an amazing experience! I can certainly equate to the bum shuffle. Nothing really prepares you for this kind of thing, does it, until you’re in the moment. Great post!


  2. phillegitimate Says:

    I hiked Wayna Picchu with a friend back in 2005. Only just found out that ever since then he’s been harbouring a fear of heights.

    I remember being kind of nervous about the climb down until I saw a group of sexagenarians – some with two walking sticks – plodding their way down, totally unfazed. Bruised my ego.


    • AdventuressAbroad Says:

      I can see how you could develop a fear of heights after experiencing Wayna Picchu. Honestly, my nerves were shot coming down. The anxiety level I felt during that hike compared to how I felt before skydiving! Maybe I’m a bit of a chicken…


      • phillegitimate Says:

        … probably didn’t help that my mate had already endured 3 days of intense altitude sickness on the Lares hike to get to MP. Quite the trooper.

        Wonder if the Incas were just as nervous about their own creations? Or if they just loved really strenuous stair climbing.

      • AdventuressAbroad Says:

        Your poor friend! That must have been terrible. I think the Incas had calf muscles of steel. Apparently the record for climbing to the top is something like 12 mins.

      • phillegitimate Says:

        Still remember when the altitude first hit me in Cuzco; was walking up some stairs and guys about a foot shorter than me while overtaking me while carrying bags of cement on their backs.

        That 12 minutes just killed me ego dead.

  3. Elle Says:

    Note to self, pack anxiety pills for the hike. Got it!


  4. janalinesmalman Says:

    This is still on my wish list!!!


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