The highest peak that surrounds Machupicchu is precisely called Machu Picchu. It is located about 3,082 meters high, in the so-called Salkantay massif. The Incas built roads to reach its top. As well as the Huayna Picchu mountain, these roads are currently traveled by tourists. It is a challenging adventure full of beautiful landscapes, flora and fauna. From there you have a spectacular view of the entire Inca city.
The old mountain
According to various investigations, the real name of Machu Picchu is ‘Patallacta’. This Quechua word means ‘City in the heights’. That is how the Incas called it. Several centuries later, in 1911, researchers led by the American explorer Hiram Bingham called it ‘Machu Picchu’ after the high mountain that guards the citadel. The name is a Quechua word that means ‘old mountain’.
The high mountain that guards the citadel is called Machu Picchu. It is the highest in the place, after Huayna Picchu and Putucusi mountain. At some times of the year, from its top it is possible to appreciate the mighty Salkantay snow-capped mountain, the second highest in all of Cusco. To get to the top of the mountain, the Incas built stone paths that today offer a hiking route for adventurous tourists.
The location of the mountain
The top of the Machu Picchu mountain is at 3,082 meters above sea level. This means that it is about 600 meters higher than the Inca citadel of Machupicchu. To get to the top you have to walk about 2 kilometers along stone paths.
The Machu Picchu mountain was a rugged territory with lush vegetation on whose slopes lived a few families dedicated to agriculture and hunting. During the expansion of the Inca territory by Emperor Pachacutec (1418 AD – 1471 AD), this territory was annexed to the nascent Tahuantinsuyo empire. This Inca was the one who ordered the construction of the Inca citadel at the foot of the mountain in approximately 1450.
The Incas built roads to reach the top of the mountain. From there they could worship their gods (the sun, the mountains, the moon). But they could also have a privileged view that allowed them to watch out if an invader or visitor approached the citadel. The construction of platforms, roads and enclosures would have continued if it were not for the war between the Spanish and the Incas. The inhabitants of Machu Picchu had to abandon life and work in 1536.
Machu Picchu was abandoned little by little. The mountain was covered with vegetation. For more than 300 years it was forgotten in time until in 1911 the explorer Hiram Bingham gave the world news of its discovery. The local residents told him that the high mountain that guards the mountain was called ‘Machu Picchu’. The explorer took that same name to name the Inca city. Today, the mountain offers an alternative hiking route to the classic route through the archaeological site.
The hiking route
Reaching the top of Machupicchu mountain is not easy. You must travel 2 kilometers on roads with slopes of 30 degrees on average. It is estimated that there are more than two thousand stairs carved in stone. The Incas did not manage to build numerous platforms and enclosures or temples. Unlike the Huayna Picchu mountain, on the paths of this mountain there are no sections close to precipices. Therefore, entry is allowed to all people, including children. It is an adventure for the whole family. Depending on the physical condition of the visitor, it takes 1 or 2 hours to reach the highest point.
The starting point of the walk is inside the archaeological site of Machu Picchu, in the sector of the Guardian’s House. To get there you have to walk approximately fifteen minutes. There is a checkpoint there where the visitor must register their name. Then the hike uphill for 2 kilometers begins. Along the route there are viewpoints from where you have unbeatable views of Machupicchu (it is not necessary to reach the top to observe them). The return path follows the same route as the uphill section. When leaving the mountain, the exit of the mountain must be registered at the same checkpoint.
Machu Picchu mountain offers the highest and most panoramic view of Machu Picchu. From its summit it is about 2 kilometers away and 600 meters of altitude from the Inca city.
However, it is not mandatory to reach the top to appreciate the panoramic views of Machu Picchu from this mountain. Along the way there are about 3 or 4 viewpoints where you can have incredible landscapes. Some tourists, especially older adults, only seek to reach one of these viewpoints to appreciate the Inca city and then return.
Views include not only the Inca city of Machu Picchu but also the Huayna Picchu mountain, Putucusi mountain, the Vilcanota river, the town of Aguas Calientes, the Hydroelectric station, and the vast green landscape of the eastern Andes Mountains. .
Flora and fauna on the mountain
Machu Picchu mountain is also highly visited by bird watchers. There you can find interesting species such as the sword-billed hummingbird, the brown partridge, the Andean guan, the white-necked quail, the Andean parakeet, the royal churrete, the canastero, the blue and white swallows and even the famous Andean condor.
The most representative tree and flower species are: molles, cedars, queñuales, ferns and various species of orchids such as the waqanki flower, a Quechua word that means tears due to the beautiful dew on the petals of the flower.
The species of fauna that, with luck, can be appreciated in the mountain are: the Andean deer, the vizcacha, the spectacled bear or even the Andean puma. In addition, the numerous butterflies that fly over the place stand out.
The entrance to the mountain
The entrance to the Machu Picchu mountain is included in the ticket ‘Machupicchu + Mountain’. As the name suggests, the ticket also includes entry to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. When making your purchase you must choose one of these check-in times:
- Schedule 1: To Machu Picchu from 6 in the morning. To the mountain between 7 and 8 in the morning.
- Schedule 2: To Machu Picchu from 7 in the morning. To the mountain between 7 and 8 in the morning.
- Schedule 3: To Machu Picchu from 8 in the morning. To the mountain between 9 and 10 in the morning.
These are the ticket prices:
- General adult: 200 Peruvian soles.
- Adult from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia: 112 Peruvian soles.
- General university student: 118 Peruvian soles.
- University student from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia: 80 Peruvian soles.
- Under 18s: 118 Peruvian soles.
- Under 18s from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia: 80 Peruvian soles.
Tour guide on the mountain?
It is not mandatory to visit Machu Picchu mountain with a tour guide. The vast majority of visitors prefer to go alone, without the company of one.
However, touring Machu Picchu with a tour guide is mandatory. Tourists who make their visit on their own can get a tour guide at the entrance to the archaeological site.
The price of the shared tour guide service is $ 10 per person on average. The price in private service varies between 40 and 60 dollars per group.
More things you should know
The entrance to the Machu Picchu mountain can be purchased both in Cusco and online. This last option is the most recommended. Unlike the entrance to Huayna Picchu, the ticket to Machu Picchu mountain can be purchased two or three weeks in advance.
The entrance and tour of the mountain is allowed for people of any age, from children to the elderly. Children must be accompanied at all times by an adult. Older adults must have their doctor’s approval.
The rainiest season occurs in January, February and March. The rest of the year the rains are less frequent. The season with the least rainfall is May, June and July.
Inside the mountain, the use of tripods, selfie sticks, umbrellas or other utensils that impede easy transit on the roads is prohibited. In addition, it is forbidden to take detours outside the established and marked trails.
An excellent idea for your visit is to bring a backpack with fruits, snacks, sunscreen, a poncho in case of rain, an extra polo shirt or blouse, and personal items.