Huayna Picchu: Journey Down the Stairs of Death

Updated: Mar 24, 2019

Huayna (Wayna) Picchu is the steep cone shaped mountain at the back of the ruins. This 2720m peak has ladders, caves, a small temple and very steep steps. The climb of Huayna Picchu is the best experience you can have in the Inca city of Machu Picchu and considered one of the best short hikes in the world. They are not only the steps but the places to which they lead We are certain that you will not be able to forget the stairs of death. I was fortunate to hike up Huayna Picchu in 2015. We were up early in the morning and the bus picked us up around 5am. It was about an hour ride to reach the iconic Macchu Picchu.


Only 400 people are allowed in a day to hike up Huayna Picchu and each group contains 200 people. The tickets needs to be booked in advance. We started hiking around 7:30 am and when sun started peaking through the clouds. It was absolutely amazing day for the strenuous hike. At that time, I had never heard of that famous death hike, and in addition I was not in the best shape either. But one thing I was very sure about is that this is going to be a once in a lifetime experience.

As we stepped onto the path leading from Machu Picchu to the peak of Huayna Picchu I laid my eyes for the first time on the small fortuitously built mud and stone stairs, some already crumbling before us, others interlaced with tree roots. The path of the mountain unfolded into zigzags up the side of the mountain and the trail was easy to follow. I realized later that to look where you step when you climb these stairs, You think everything will be fine, until you remember that the stairs that took you to the top, are your only way down.


The first steps on the Inca Trail leading to the top of Huayna Picchu

I was looking at the people who started earlier and how tiny they looked; like small ants , and measuring in my mind how far they must have climbed already. I kept on hiking at my own pace huffing and puffing with the climb. This climb is completely intimidating, but if you are in good health you can do it.

After an hour the climb become tougher and we grabbed hold onto everything that our hands met: tree roots, creeper plants and a metal rope that had been installed a very long time ago. All of these fulfilled their purpose and kept us on the track. I took a little break and craned my neck and saw the top Huayna Picchu peaking over me at its full height. The thoughts keep coming into the mind how much far we have to climb and keep saying that I can do it.



After a while of climbing we arrived to first view which seemed to be have been an eternity. Sun was up and we had bird's eye view of the Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu lay right below us. The view was phenomenal.

View of Macchu Picchu from Huayna Picchu

Now it was time to get back on the path to the summit. In front of us the Inca trail seemed has transformed into infinite tiny steps and was inviting us to climb. We were determined to not let these stairs prevent me from reaching the top, as well as knowing the fact something spectacular waiting for us at the top. After about a hour and half we had reached the summit of Huayna Picchu. The view from up above was just MARVELLOUS and it worth every drop of sweat and the anxiety we had gone through. You will realize that it is quite impossible to see the world without facing some risks.



View from the summit of Huayna Picchu

Here come the fun part of climbing down the stairs of death. To reach the Temple Moon we had to climb down about 150 or more steps which were sculpted more than 500 years ago on the side of the mountain. These steps are too tiny for our feet to fit and on one side of the steps there is nothing there to hold on to. One misstep will lead straight all down about 300m down to Urubamba river. Maximum concentration was needed to climb down these stairs. I don't know how long it took me to get down these dangerous stairs, but I died a hundred deaths and even cried.

Continuing down the rear of Huayna Picchu to the small Temple of Moon. The trail is easy to follow but involves steep sections, a ladder and an overhanging cave.

View of mountain range from well made ruin on the path

The descent took about and a hour, but the trail drops and climb steeply as it hugs the sides of Huayna Picchu before plunging into the cloud forest. Suddenly, we reached a clear area where the small, very well made ruins are found. Form here, another clear path lead us up behind the ruin and steeply onward up the backside of Huayna Picchu.


The stair case was surrounded by myths, how many deaths happened is uncertain. If you want to see Macchu Picchu from above and you are not afraid of heights and stairs at the edge of the cliff, its worth the view of summit. There is risk attached to enjoying the beautiful view, but if you are prepared well enough, you will be able to handle it.


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