Hiking up Machu Picchu Mountain

I recently returned home from an 11-day adventure in Peru. Each time I travel, the highlights seem to involve nature, hiking or wildlife experiences. This trip was no different. Peru is a stunningly beautiful country with colorful rolling mountains in the highlands, ancient Incan ruins, friendly people, incredible wildlife experiences in the Amazon, brightly woven tapestries, amazing hiking terrain and more!

Kayla Gazing at Ruins

On this last trip I traveled with four of my colleagues to Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon Rainforest. My colleague Dana’s blog post covers some of the highlights of our trip, including our luxury train ride on the Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu and our 3-night Amazon cruise with Aqua Expeditions. Both were unforgettable experiences!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was a 4-hour hike up Machu Picchu Mountain. My adventure buddies decided to pass on the opportunity for a big hike at 8,000+ feet of altitude, which I can totally understand! Even walking up a couple of flights of stairs can be a little bit challenging when you’re in the Peruvian highlands due to the high elevation. I was (for the most part) unaffected by the altitude, except that I experienced shortness of breath faster than I would at sea level. The idea of hiking up a mountain for 2-2.5 hours on ancient stairs built by the Incas was a little bit daunting, but I’m so glad I did it! This particular hike calls for an early morning wake up – around 5-5:30am so that you can be up at the gate to begin the hike around 6:30-7am. Starting this hike early is a must because once the sun is up and the clouds start to burn off it can get pretty hot and humid. I brought layers of clothing for the hike and was able to shed them along the way. The only other gear I brought with me for the hike was a mostly empty backpack, a small camera and a water bottle. As it warmed up I was able to shed layers and carry them in my pack.

My hiking guide’s name was Vilma. She affectionately explained, “It’s like the Spanish version of the Flintstone’s Wilma”. She was adorable and very sweet! I’m only about 5’3” and Vilma was almost a full foot shorter than me. That being said, she cruised right up the mountain like it was a piece of cake! Vilma told me stories about the Incans to distract me from the effort of hiking up the mountain, and she had lots of great techniques for making the hike easier, such as taking frequent breaks of 30-60 seconds or less so that your muscles don’t cool down. She encouraged me to drink a lot of water, and whenever we took a break she always suggested that I look down at how far we’ve come instead of focusing on how much further we had to go. She was both wise and entertaining – the perfect combination for a hiking companion.

At the top of the mountain there was quite a bit of cloud cover, so we couldn’t see the Machu Picchu ruins, but it was still beautiful! April is the tail end of the rainy season in Peru, so the landscapes were green and lush. Luckily, on the way back down the mountain the clouds began to burn off, and I was able to appreciate the vastness of the mountains and valleys around me. Maybe the next time I visit Peru I’ll work up the courage to hike the Inca Trail!

Kayla Atop Machu Picchu